Custom and Myth

Page: 4

The second essay, ‘The Bull-Roarer,’ is intended to show that certain peculiarities in the Greek mysteries occur also in the mysteries of savages, and that on Greek soil they are survivals of savagery.

‘The Myth of Cronus’ tries to prove that the first part of the legend is a savage nature-myth, surviving in Greek religion, while the sequel is a set of ideas common to savages.

‘Cupid and Psyche’ traces another Aryan myth among savage races, and attempts to show that the myth may have had its origin in a rule of barbarous etiquette.

‘A Far-travelled Tale’ examines a part of the Jason myth. This myth appears neither to be an explanation of natural phenomena (like part of the Myth of Cronus), nor based on a widespread custom (like Cupid and Psyche.) The question is asked whether the story may have been diffused by slow filtration from race to race all over the globe, as there seems no reason why it should have been invented separately (as a myth explanatory of natural phenomena or of customs might be) in many different places.

Apollo and the Mouse’ suggests hypothetically, as a possible explanation of the tie between the God and the Beast, that Apollo-worship superseded, but did not eradicate, Totemism. The suggestion is little more than a conjecture.

‘Star Myths’ points out that Greek myths of stars are a survival from the savage stage of fancy in which such stories are natural.

‘Moly and Mandragora’ is a study of the Greek, the modern, and the Hottentot folklore of magical herbs, with a criticism of a scholarly and philological hypothesis, according to which Moly is the dog-star, and Circe the moon.

‘The Kalevala’ is an account of the Finnish national poem; of all poems that in which the popular, as opposed to the artistic, spirit is strongest. The Kalevala is thus a link between Märchen and Volkslieder on one side, and epic poetry on the other.

‘The Divining Rod’ is a study of a European and civilised superstition, which is singular in its comparative lack of copious savage analogues.

‘Hottentot Mythology’ is a criticism of the philological method, applied to savage myth.

‘Fetichism and the Infinite,’ is a review of Mr. Max Müller’s theory that a sense of the Infinite is the germ of religion, and that Fetichism is secondary, and a corruption. This essay also contains a defence of the evidence on which the anthropological method relies.

The remaining essays are studies of the ‘History of the Family,’ and of ‘Savage Art.’

The essay on ‘Savage Art’ is reprinted, by the kind permission of Messrs. Cassell & Co., from two numbers (April and May, 1882) of the Magazine of Art. I have to thank the editors and publishers of the Contemporary Review, the Cornhill Magazine, and Fraser’s Magazine, for leave to republish ‘The Early History of the Family,’ ‘The Divining Rod,’ and ‘Star Myths,’ and ‘The Kalevala.’ A few sentences in ‘The Bull-Roarer,’ and ‘Hottentot Mythology,’ appeared in essays in the Saturday Review, and some lines of ‘The Method of Folklore’ in the Guardian. To the editors of those journals also I owe thanks for their courteous permission to make this use of my old articles.

To Mr. E. B. Tylor and Mr. W. R. S. Ralston I must express my gratitude for the kindness with which they have always helped me in all difficulties.