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The Homeric Hymns A New Prose translation and Essays, Literary and Mythological

Page: 17

We may be inclined to doubt, however, whether the task before the genius of Greece, the task of making Proserpine out of a porker, was really so colossal. The primitive mind is notoriously capable of entertaining, simultaneously, the most contradictory notions. Thus, in the Australian “Legend of Eerin,” the mourners implore Byamee to accept the soul of the faithful Eerin into his Paradise, Bullimah. No doubt Byamee heard, yet Eerin is now a little owl of plaintive voice, which ratters warning cries in time of peril. {65} No incongruity of this kind is felt to be a difficulty by the childlike narrators. Now I conceive that, starting with the relatively high idea of a Spirit of the Grain, early man was quite capable of envisaging it both spiritually and in zoomorphic form (accidentally p. 66conditioned here into horse, there into goat, pig, or what not). But these views of his need not exclude his simultaneous belief in the Corn Spirit as a being anthropomorphic, “Mother Earth,” or “Mother Grain,” as we follow the common etymology; or that of Mannhardt (ζεια (dæa) μητηρ=“barley-mother”). If I am right, poetry and the higher religion moved from the first on the line of the anthropomorphic Lady of the Harvest and the Corn, Mother Barley: while the popular folk-lore of the Corn Spirit (which found utterance in the mirth of harvesting, and in the magic ritual for ensuring fertility), followed on the line of the pig. At some seasons, and in some ceremonies, the pig represented the genius of the corn: in general, the Lady of the Corn was—Demeter. We really need not believe that the two forms of the genius of the corn were ever consciously identified. Demeter never was a Pig! {66} p. 67

“The Peruvians, we are told, believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine being who causes their growth,” says Mr. Frazer. {67} The genealogical table, then, in my opinion, is:—

Divine Being of the Grain.
            |
  +---------+--------------------------+
  |                                    |
(Anthropomorphized).             (Zoomorphised).
Mother of Corn.                    Pig, Horse,
    Demeter.                         and so on.

Thus the Greek genius had other and better materials to work on, in evolving Demeter, than the rather lowly animal which is associated with her rites. If any one objects that animal gods always precede anthropomorphic gods in evolution, we reply that, in the most archaic of known races, the deities are represented in human guise at the Mysteries, though there are animal Totems, and though, in myth, the deity p. 68may, and often does, assume shapes of bird or beast. {68}

Among rites of the backward races, none, perhaps, so closely resembles the Eleusinian Mysteries as the tradition of the Pawnees. In Attica, Hades, Lord of the Dead, ravishes away Persephone, the vernal daughter of Demeter. Demeter then wanders among men, and is hospitably received by Celeus, King of Eleusis. Baffled in her endeavour to make his son immortal, she demands a temple, where she sits in wrath, blighting the grain. She is reconciled by the restoration of her daughter, at the command of Zeus. But for a third of the year Persephone, having tasted a pomegranate seed in Hades, has to reign as Queen of the Dead, beneath the earth. Scenes from this tale were, no doubt, enacted at the Mysteries, with interludes of buffoonery, such as relieved most ancient and all savage Mysteries. The allegory of the year’s death and renewal probably afforded a text for some p. 69discourse, or spectacle, concerned with the future life.

Among the Pawnees, not a mother and daughter, but two primal beings, brothers, named Manabozho and Chibiabos, are the chief characters. The Manitos (spirits or gods) drown Chibiabos. Manabozho mourns and smears his face with black, as Demeter wears black raiment. He laments Chibiabos ceaselessly till the Manitos propitiate him with gifts and ceremonies. They offer to him a cup, like the beverage prepared for Demeter, in the Hymn, by Iambê. He drinks it, is glad, washes off the black stain of mourning, and is himself again, while Earth again is joyous. The Manitos restore Chibiabos to life; but, having once died, he may not enter the temple, or “Medicine Lodge.” He is sent to reign over the souls of the departed as does Persephone. Manabozho makes offerings to Mesukkumikokwi, the “Earth Mother” of the Pawnees. The story is enacted in the sacred dances of the Pawnees. {69} p. 70


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