Custom and Myth
Page: 95In addition to picture-writing, Religion has fostered savage representative art. If a man worships a lizard or a bear, he finds it convenient to have an amulet or idol representing a bear or a lizard. If one adores a lizard or a bear, one is likely to think that prayer and acts of worship addressed to an image of the animal will please the animal himself, and make him propitious. Thus the art of making little portable figures of various worshipful beings is fostered, and the craft of working in wood or ivory is born. As a rule, the savage is satisfied with excessively rude representations of his gods. Objects of this kind—rude hewn blocks of stone and wood—were the most sacred effigies of the gods in Greece, and were kept in the dimmest recesses of the temple. No Demeter wrought by the craft of Phidias would have appeared so holy to the Phigalians as the strange old figure of the goddess with the head of a mare. The earliest Greek sacred sculptures that remain are scarcely, if at all, more advanced in art than the idols of the naked Admiralty Islanders. But this is anticipating; in the meantime it may be said that among the sources of savage representative art are the need of something like writing, and ideas suggested by nascent religion.