An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 68

Egyptians. Osiris.
[Pg 150]Babylonians. Oannes.
Greeks. Prometheus, Bacchus, Cadmus.
Celts (Irish). Nuada of the Silver Hand.
Teutons (Scandinavia). Wieland the Smith.
Japanese. Okikurimi.
Bushmen (South Africa). Cagn.
Zulus. Unkulunkulu.
Algonquins. Michabo or Manibozho.
Antis Indians (Brazil). Son of Ulé.
Arawaks. Kamu.
Carayas. Kaboi.
Caribs. Tamu (grandfather).
Cherokees. Wasi.
Chiapas. Votan.
Hurons. Joskeha.
Maya (Yucatan). Itzamna, Kukulcan.
Mexicans. Quetzalcoatl.
Orinoco Tribes. Amalivaca.
Paraguayans. Zumé.
Peruvians. Manco Ccapac; Viracocha arises from the depths
of Lake Titicaca on a civilizing mission.
Toltecs. Hueymactzin.
Australians. Pund-jel.
Melanesians. Qat.

TABOO MYTHS. Myths which relate the existence of, origin of, and necessity for certain taboos or forbidden things.

Hebrews. Adam, Eve, and the eating of the apple.


The myth of Cupid and Psyche.
Actæon turned into a stag for observing Artemis when

Teutons (Scandinavia). Lohengrin and Elsa (name taboo).

Ningphos (Bengal). Think they became mortal by bathing in tabooed water.

Australians. Death introduced by woman going to tabooed tree.

MYTHS OF DEATH. To account for death, regarded by some savage races as unnatural. Usually some custom or taboo is supposed to have been broken, or some ritual neglected[Pg 151] or mismanaged, and death has followed. The reasons given by the different races are as follows:

Greeks. Death comes from lifting cover off Pandora's box.

Hindus. Yama is pioneer to the Otherworld.

Southern India. Death (snake) bites men while God sleeps. God makes dog drive away snake; thus dogs howl at approach of death.

Ningphos (Bengal). Think they became mortal through bathing in tabooed water.

Bushmen. The mother of the little hare is dead. The moon strikes the hare on its lip, splitting it in two, and tells it that its mother is really dead and will not live again as the moon does.

Hottentots. The moon sends the hare to men to tell them that they will live again as he (the moon) does, but the hare forgets the message and tells men that they will surely die, for which mistake the moon burns a hole in his lip.

Namaquas. The hare and the moon's mother.

Central Africans. Sleep unknown; woman offers to teach man how to sleep; holds his nostrils; man never wakes; dying made easy.

Hurons. Atænsic (the moon) destroys the living,

Australians. Woman goes near a forbidden tree.

New Zealand. Mani was not properly baptized.

Fiji Islanders. The moon desired that men should die and live again like herself, but the rat opposed this, and so men die as rats do.

Polynesians. Mani tries to pass through Night, a little bird sings, night awakes, snaps up Mani, and "so men die."

Banks Islanders. Qat, Mate, Panoi, and Tangaro the Fool. Tangaro the Fool is set to watch the path taken by Death, that men may avoid it, but makes the mistake of pointing to men the path to Hades as that of the path of the upper world. So men have, perforce, to follow this road to Panoi and the dead.

Pentecost Islanders. Tagar makes man die for live days only and live again, but Suque causes them to die for ever.

Solomon Islanders. Koevari resumes cast-off skin.

SOUL MYTHS, (1) In which the idea is found that a person's life, heart, or soul may be separated from him as a[Pg 152] life-token or life-index, and that so long as this is kept safe or remains concealed, its owner is immortal. (2) Other myths dealing with the passage of the soul to the Otherworld.

Egyptians. Story of the two brothers.

Hebrews. Samson and Delilah.


Meleager and the firebrand.
Misus, King of Megara, and his purple hair.
Souls ferried across the Styx by Charon.

Romans. Silvia and the son of Mars.

Yorkshiremen. 'Brig o'Dread, nae braider than a thread.'

Mohammedans. Reach Paradise across bridge composed of a single hair.

Cingalese. Story of Thossakin, King of Ceylon, who kept his soul in a box when he went to war with Rama.

Ainu (Japan). The 'inao.'

Tinneh or Déné Indians. Etwa-eke and his stone hatchet.

Malays. Tree-trunk across boiling lake to 'Island of Fruits.'

Eskimos. Kujanguak and his life-lock (hair).

Universal. Belief in birth-trees.

FIRE MYTHS. In which the world is destroyed by fire.

Romans. Seneca (see Natur. Questiones, iii, cap. 27).

Hebrews. Bible belief.

Teutons (Scandinavia). The "Völuspá": "The sun shall grow dark, the land sink in the waters, the bright stars be quenched, and high flames climb Heaven itself."

Algonquins. Michabo will stamp his foot, flames will devour the earth and only a chosen few (probably one pair) be left to re-people the new earth.

Arawaks (Guiana and N. Brazil). Aimon Kondi.

Aztecs. Extinguished every fire on last night of each cycle of fifty-two years. Then priests made new fire by friction. If this failed the end of the world had come.

Maya. World to be destroyed by ravening fire and the gods with it.

Peruvians. Amantas taught that some day an eclipse would veil the sun for ever, and earth, moon, and stars be wrapped in devouring flame.

Tupi-Guarani (Brazil). Monan, Irin Magé.

[Pg 153]

FLOOD MYTHS. A great deluge in which Heaven or the earth or both Heaven and earth are submerged in water and all living things drowned with the exception of one individual or family favoured by the god or gods.

Egyptians. Tem, Temu, Atem, Atmu.
Babylonians. Ut-Napishtim, the Babylonian Noah.
Hebrews. Noah.
Persians. Yima.
Greeks. Deucalion and Pyrrha.
Teutons (Scandinavia). Bergelmir and Ymir.
Hindus. Manu, son of the sun-god Vivasvat.
Ahts Indians (Vancouver Island). Wispohahp.
Algonquin Indians. Michabo or Manibozho.
Antis Indians (Brazil). Yurukares.
Arawaks. Sigu, Marerewana.
Aschochimi Indians (California). Coyote.
Caribs (Antilles). The ibis.
Hare Indians. Kunyan 'the intelligent,'
Mexicans. Atonatiuh (the Water-Sun) descends upon the earth.
Muyscas (Bogota). Chia or Chin, the moon, floods earth out of spite.
Peruvians. Re-creation after deluge at Tiahuanaco.
Tupi-Guarani (Brazil), Monan, Irin Magé.

MYTHS OF A PLACE OF REWARD (the celestial garden of God).

[Pg 154]

Country or RacePlace of Reward
GreeksThe Elysian Fields
RomansThe Fortunate Isles
CeltsThe Otherworld beyond or beneath
the sea. Tir-nan-og, Avalon, etc.
Teutons (Scandinavia)Valhalla
VedasAgni (or Pushan) conducts the souls
to the abodes of bliss
American IndiansHappy hunting grounds
AztecsTlalocan 'the east, the terrestrial
Paradise.' Tamoanchan, in the west
CaribsBraves feast in happy islands served
by Arawak slaves
Tonga IslandersIsland Paradise of Bolotu


Country or RaceName of place of
Name of presiding
Deity or Deities
BabyloniansSheol or AraluAllatu or Nergal
GreeksTartarus, HadesPluto and Persephone
Teutons (Scandinavia)HelHel
Ladaks (Tibet border)Bad men become
JapaneseLand of YomiEruma-o
Caribs'Bad' men (i.e.
cowards) become
slaves to Arawaks
in barren land
beyond the mountains
Gallinomero,'Bad' men become
Californian Indianscoyotes
Guatemalans (Kiches)XibalbaHun-Came and
MexicansMictlanMictlantecutli and


Egyptians. Osiris.

Babylonians. Descent of Ishtar through the Underworld.


Orpheus and Eurydice.
Persephone and Pluto.
The punishment of the Danaides.
[Pg 155] Alcestis is allowed to return from the Underworld.
Bacchus brings his mother Semele from the Underworld to Olympus.

Medieval Britain. The Harrying of Hell.

Japanese. Izanagi descends into Hades in search of his wife Izanami.

Chinooks (N.W. America). Blue Jay in the Supernatural Country.

Kiches of Guatemala. Adventures of Hun-Apu and Xbalanque in the Popol Vuh.

FOOD OF THE DEAD FORMULA. An individual 'dies' or is kidnapped, proceeds to the Otherworld, and, having partaken of the food there, is unable to return to earth.

Babylonians. Adapa loses his chance of becoming immortal by refusing the food and drink of life offered him by Anu, as he feared it was the food of the dead of which he had been warned by his father Ea.

Greeks. Persephone.

Finns. In the Kalevala.

Chinooks (North American Indians, N.W. coast). Found in shamanistic practice.

SUN MYTHS. The principal figures in sun myths are the following:

Egyptians. Ra and Horus.
Accadians. Amar-utuki or Amar-uduk.
Babylonians. Merodach and Shamash.
Greeks. Apollo (Helios) and Phaethon.
Celts. Lug.
Hindus, Agni.
Aztecs. Piltzintecutli.

MOON MYTHS. These are closely associated with flood myths. In many of the Indian myths deluges are said to have been caused by the moon falling on the earth. She is nearly always held to be the goddess of water, dampness, dews, rain, and fogs. Moon and water are both mythical mothers of the human race.

Egyptians. Isis. All maladies were traced to her anger.
[Pg 156] Babylonians. Sin, the moon-god.
Greeks. Selene.
Romans. Diana or Luna.
Algonguins. Moon, night, death, cold, sleep, and water (same word).
Aztecs. Constantly confounded Citatli and Atl (moon and water). Painted moon two colours—beneficent dispenser of harvests and offspring, goddess of night, dampness, cold, ague, miasma, and sleep; the twin of Death. Also known as Metztli, Yohualticitl, or Teciztecatl.
Brazilian Indians. Mothers shield infants from rays which are said to cause sickness.
Hidatsa. Midi is both moon and water.
Hurons. Atænsic is the moon (also water).
Muyscas. Chia the moon floods earth out of spite.
Peruvians. Mama Quilla.
Bushmen. Sun cuts moon down by degrees, but leaves a piece from which a new complete moon grows, and so on.

STAR MYTHS. In both primitive and later myths the stars are metamorphosed men, women, or beasts; in some cases ancestors, in others gods. The belief that the good at death become stars is very widely spread.

Egyptians. Plutarch was shown Isis and Osiris in the sky.
Babylonians. Many gods are represented by stars. Babylonian
astrology favoured the evolution of gods into planets.
Greeks. The Pleiades are young girls.
Castor and Pollux are young men.
Hindus. Prajapati and his daughter become constellations.
Bushmen. Metamorphosed men.
American (Chinook Indians, N.W. Coast). Aqas Xenas Xena.
Indians (North American). Ursa Major is a bear.
Mexicans. Quetzalcoatl becomes a planet—our Venus.
Peruvians. Beasts, anthropomorphic gods, and stars are
confounded together.
Eskimos. Regard stars as ancestors.
**Australians. The Pleiades are young girls.**

South American star myths have not been added to this list as full reference has been made to them in the text.

[Pg 157]

MYTHS TO ACCOUNT FOR CUSTOMS OR RITES (ætiological myths), such as the general belief that water is the mother of all things. This accounts for sacred fountains, lakes, and rivers, baptism, etc. A few examples only can be given.

Greeks. Myth of Dionysus and Pentheus, to explain festival of the former. See Euripides, The Bacchæ.

A-Kikuyus (Bantu tribe, E. Africa). To explain sacrifices to Ngai (rain-god).

Todas (Southern India). To explain why the sacred dairyman sacrifices calf to Notirzi.

Blackfeet Indians. To explain sun-dance.

Pawnee Indians. To explain skull-dance, buffalo-dance, bear-dance (dramatized myths).

Wiradthuri tribes (Australia). Dhuramoolun and the bull-roarer.

Almost universal. Belief in ghosts accounts for funeral rites to prevent ghosts' return.

[Pg 158]



The efforts of man to account for his existence and that of the world in which he lives—in a word, for the origin of Heaven and earth and all that is in them—are among the most deeply interesting manifestations of human mental activity and progress. To his speculations the science of comparative mythology has given the name cosmogony (Greek cosmos, 'world,' and gignesthai, 'to be born'), of which the best literal translation is 'world-birth.'

Before speculating upon the reason for the similarity between cosmogonic myths in all parts of the globe, or how far they have been coloured one by another or sophisticated by modern culture, we shall find it profitable to study the chief creation tales themselves, so that when we come to discuss their likeness or unlikeness we shall be well furnished with examples in support of the views we adopt. This course is wise in the study of tradition; for unless the student is well furnished and abundantly fortified with 'instances,' he will never thoroughly apprehend the greater issues of traditional science, never fully grasp its spirit.

Some one has said that quotations are "ready armour, offensive and defensive," and the simile might well be employed of 'instances' in folklore and mythology, where the ability to cite copious parallels is of the highest assistance in argument.

With this in view, then, we shall look at the most important of those tales which relate to the creation of the world and man before analysing them.

[Pg 159]


India furnishes manifold ideas concerning the origin of the universe and man. At the first, says the Rig-Veda, there was neither non-entity nor entity, and all was water wrapped in gloom. "Then desire (Karma) arose in it, which was the primal germ of mind ... the bond between entity and non-entity." The following hymn from the Rig-Veda,[1] the vigorous translation of which is by the late Dr Muir, gives some account of the process:

There was neither aught nor naught, nor air, nor sky beyond.
What covered all? Where rested all? In watery gulf profound?
Nor death was then, nor deathlessness, nor change of night and day.
The One breathed calmly, self-sustained; naught else beyond it lay.

Gloom, hid in gloom, existed first—one sea, eluding view.
That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew.
Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind,
Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find.

The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss—
Was it beneath? or high aloft? What bard can answer this?
There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove—
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.

Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had then been born—who then can e'er the truth disclose?
Whence sprang this world, and whether framed by hand divine or no—
Its lord in heaven alone can tell, if even he can show.