An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 84


(1) There exists a yawning abyss, bordered on one side by a realm of mist and cold, on the other by a region of fire.

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(2) A giant is brought into being through the melting of the congealing vapour in the place of cold by a spark of fire from the region of Muspelheim.

(3) This being becomes the progenitor of a race of giants.

(4) He has a cow which, by licking a brine-covered rock, produces the father of the gods.

(5) These gods slay the giant and all his progeny save two, and manufacture the earth from his corpse.

(6) Alternatively the gods lift the earth out of the primeval waters.

(7) The dwarfs fashion two figures out of trees, and the gods give them life and understanding.


(1) Two principles, creative and destructive, are alluded to.

(2) The latter dwells in an abyss.

(3) Atomic life originates through the spoken words of the creative principle.

(4) Man passes from the abyss to the earth-circle.


(1) Male and female elements separate from the original atom.

(2) These form an ovoid body containing germs from which heaven and earth are formed.

(3) A species of reed-shoot appears between them and is transformed into a god.

(4) Divine beings are born, two of whom unite and give birth to islands, seas, rivers, herbs, and trees, and the celestial bodies.

[1] Original Sanscrit Texts, London, 1868, vol. v, p. 356.

[2] See Budge, The Gods of Egypt (1904).

[3] See King, Seven Tablets of Creation(1902); and Babylonian Religion and Mythology (1899).

[4] Gomara, Conquista de Mejico, chap. ccxv (Madrid, 1749).

[5] Mendieta, Hist. Eccl. Ind., lib. i, chap. 2 (Mexico, 1870).

[6] See my The Popol Vuh, pp. 9-26 (London, 1908).

[7] W. H. Brett, Indian Tribes of Guiana, p. 378 et seq.(1865).

[8] This question has been dealt with at greater length elsewhere (see p. 158).

[9] His euhemeristic interpretations of the Mexican myths are as worthless as the materials he unearthed are priceless.

[10] Mexico, October 15, 1850.

[11] This has, in fact, quite as strong a resemblance to the cosmological account in the Satapatha Brahmana in some details.

[12] A disquieting circumstance attending such ignorant criticism is that those who criticize appear in many instances to be quite unable to apprehend the substantial difficulties in the way of barbarian borrowings. Thus a reviewer in a weekly journal of standing actually inferred that certain North American Indian myths presented by the author had been sophisticated by Greek and classical tales. However well the theory of borrowing may explain things, and although borrowing does at times occur, the difficulties in this especial instance are overwhelming. They were quite unappreciated, however, by the reviewer, whose experience of myth was, of course, obviously limited. Students of myth would do well to bear the point of virtual impossibility in mind, as it is of constant occurrence, and one regarding which no fixed or definite rules or laws can possibly obtain.

[13] Myths of the New World by Professor D. G. Brinton (Philadelphia, 1905).

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A place of reward and a place of punishment are ineradicably associated with mythology. The idea that the human soul must betake itself to a realm of brightness and bliss, where it will ever bask in the smile of the gods it has adored upon earth, or be tormented by beings—still god-like—in an atmosphere of suffering or torture, appears to be common to most mythological systems of an advanced type. Thus Egyptian, Indian, Babylonian, Hebrew, and Mexican mythology all possess a place of bliss and a region of sorrow. In Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, and Celtic myth, however, we have merely a Hades, an Otherworld, a place of the dead. Would it be true to say that it is only among those peoples in whom the moral standpoint is high that the places of reward and punishment are conceived, instead of the mere place of the dead, the abode of shadows? If so, the Aztec who delighted in human sacrifice was upon a higher ethical level than the cultivated Greek. Again, the myths of races of low civilization sometimes refer to a place of reward, although more often their abode of the dead is merely a shadowy extension of their mortal existence.