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Custom and Myth

Page: 78

The first step in Mr. Max Müller’s polemic was the assertion that Fetichism is nowhere unmixed. We have seen that the fact is capable of an interpretation that will suit either side. Stages of culture overlap each other. The second step in his polemic was the effort to damage the evidence. We have seen that we have as good evidence as can be desired. In the third place he asks, What are the antecedents of fetich-worship? He appears to conceive himself to be arguing with persons (p. 127) who ‘have taken for granted that every human being was miraculously endowed with the concept of what forms the predicate of every fetich, call it power, spirit, or god.’ If there are reasoners so feeble, they must be left to the punishment inflicted by Mr. Müller. On the other hand, students who regard the growth of the idea of power, which is the predicate of every fetish, as a slow process, as the result of various impressions and trains of early half-conscious reasoning, cannot be disposed of by the charge that they think that ‘every human being was miraculously endowed’ with any concept whatever. They, at least, will agree with Mr. Max Müller that there are fetiches and fetiches, that to one reverence is assigned for one reason, to another for another. Unfortunately, it is less easy to admit that Mr. Max Müller has been happy in his choice of ancient instances. He writes (p. 99): ‘Sometimes a stock or a stone was worshipped because it was a forsaken altar or an ancient place of judgment, sometimes because it marked the place of a great battle or a murder, or the burial of a king.’ Here he refers to Pausanias, book i. 28, 5, and viii. 13, 3. {223} In both of these passages, Pausanias, it is true, mentions stones—in the first passage stones on which men stood οσοι δικας υπεχουσι και οι διωκοντες, in the second, barrows heaped up in honour of men who fell in battle. In neither case, however, do I find anything to show that the stones were worshipped. These stones, then, have no more to do with the argument than the milestones which certainly exist on the Dover road, but which are not the objects of superstitious reverence. No! the fetich-stones of Greece were those which occupied the holy of holies of the most ancient temples, the mysterious fanes within dark cedar or cypress groves, to which men were hardly admitted. They were the stones and blocks which bore the names of gods, Hera, or Apollo, names perhaps given, as De Brosses says, to the old fetichistic objects of worship, after the anthropomorphic gods entered Hellas. This, at least is the natural conclusion from the fact that the Apollo and Hera of untouched wood or stone were confessedly the

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