An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 42


The space allotted to this chapter would be greatly exceeded if we alluded to the numerous collectors of myth who have enriched the science with their labours. So far we have limited ourselves to the work of the great theorists, and we will now recapitulate their ideas, and draw therefrom our conclusions, accepting only what we believe to be correct and 'safe,' and adding our own inferences and deductions. Summarized, these ideas are as follows:

(1) The anthropological school showed that the identity between Aryan and savage myth could not be explained upon a linguistic basis.

(2) Tylor laid stress upon the value of the comparison of myth and the 'test of recurrence.' He did not entirely discount philological evidence, but denied the large place claimed for allegory.

(3) He showed that myth displayed a regularity of development not to be accounted for by motiveless fancy, but by laws of formation.

(4) The promulgation of the animistic hypothesis by Tylor is a landmark in mythic science.

(5) Robertson Smith showed that myth takes the place of dogma in primitive religions.

(6) Lang demonstrated the unsoundness of the 'disease of language' theory.

He laid stress on the irrational element in myth;

Indicated the complexity of mythic development;[Pg 101] Showed how the evolutionary theory may be applied to myth;

Pointed out that the persistence of myth was accounted for by religious conservatism;

Laid it down that the occurrence of identical myths may be accounted for by the universal prevalence of similar mental habits (this, however, will not account for long and intricate plots).

(7) Jevons points out the reflection of myth by ritual.

(8) The present writer believes:

(i) That myth is for the most part sacred in character,

(ii) That it is prior in origin to ritual and is not derived from it, except in a secondary sense,

(iii) That mythic conditions are capable of a more or less exact classification.

Having indicated our own attitude toward myth, we will now proceed to examine the manner in which the idea of the gods was evolved.