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Lecture 18. The Analogical and Psychological Schools.

Lecture 18.
The Analogical and Psychological Schools.
IF Comparative Mythology had been strictly confined to the minute analysis of mythological names it would perhaps not have become so popular a science but it would have done more real and lasting good. It would have remained a subject for specialists; and as little as people ignorant of Greek attempt to write Greek verse would scholars ignorant of Sanskrit have meddled with Comparative Mythology.

But the subject proved too attractive. When scholars and philosophers bad once perceived clearly that Zeus and Jupiter lived in the Veda as Dyaus no wonder that they wished to look for themselves in order to find out whether other Greek and Roman deities might not be discovered in the same hiding-place. Thus there arose very soon a new school of Comparative Mythologists which in order to distinguish it from the Etymological may be called the Analogical school. The name is perhaps not quite adequate but I cannot think of a better one. Its best known representatives in Germany were Welcker Preller von Hahn in France Bréal and Decharme in England first and foremost Sir G. W. Cox and more recently Professor John Rh±s in his Hibbert Lectures. They generally accepted the results of the etymological school though not without occasional protests and they did excellent work by showing how everything that seemed irrational and disjointed in classical mythology fell into its right place and assumed a new meaning as soon as the whole iners moles had been reanimated once more by the spirit so long buried and forgotten in the names of gods and heroes. And this revival affected not classical mythology only but the mythology of other Aryan nations also as shown in the German mythology of Grimm and in numerous more recent publications on Celtic Slavonic and particularly on Indian mythology.

Characters common to Gods and Heroes of diferent Names.
The analogical school accepts the common origin of the mythologies of the various Aryan nations as an established fact and its best representatives have concentrated their work chiefly on collecting mythological stories which show the same general characteristics however different the names of the gods and heroes may be of whom such myths and stories are related. The names are of secondary consequence to them. What interests them chiefly are such broad mythological outlines as that the great heroes were often illegitimate children the father a god or a stranger the mother a native princess; that many of these heroes were believed to bring destruction to their father-in-law were exposed nursed by animals or by childless shepherds distinguished themselves in their youth among their play-fellows had to do menial service but generally returned victorious from their fights and labours killed their enemies liberated their mothers succeeded to the throne built a new city and generally died an extraordinary death. This as can easily be shown is the common frame that would fit the mythic legends of such heroes as Perseus Herakles Œdipus Amphion and Zethos Pelias and Neleus Leukastos and Parrhesios Theseus in Greece Romulus and Remus in Italy Siegfried Wittich and Wolfdidrich in Germany Kyros in Persia Karna and Krishna in India1.
Though I have always recognised the perfectly legitimate character of this line of mythological research I must confess that I have also on several occasions expressed my misgivings. If mythological names may be perfectly identical in two or more Aryan languages and yet when more closely examined turn out to spring from quite distinct sources the same characters may surely occur in different Aryan mythologies the same legends may be told of them and yet they may have started from very different beginnings. I still remember the time which has been so well described by Scherer in his book on Jacob Grimm when ‘every huntsman who in defence thrusts his fist into the jaws of a lion was said to remind us of Tyr the Teutonic god of war who as a pledge puts his hand into the mouth of the Fenris wolf2. Whenever closely-guarded women were carried off there could be no doubt that the god Freyr was hidden behind the thief and the beautiful giantess Gerda behind the stolen maiden. As soon as a giant was killed people sniffed the god of thunder. Whatever carried a red rag was strongly suspected of a mysterious connection with the red-bearded thunderer. The ass which vomited gold in two ways could be descended from Wodan only the divine giver of wealth till he turned out to be a harmless character borrowed from an Italian novel.’ Like Grimm therefore I have always said Let us distinguish as well as compare.
If we allow ourselves to be guided by analogy only there are few stories nay few historical events which could not be fitted into one or other of Hahn's frames. Mr. Tylor has shown how easily the nursery ‘Song of Sixpence’ could be interpreted as a solar myth and nearly all the more or less ponderous squibs that have been written of late years against Comparative Mythology are intended to show the dangers of the Analogical School. Napoleon Mr. Bright and even I myself have been dissolved into solar legends and it was soon perceived that so little ingenuity was required for this kind of witticism that many a heavy-laden soul has tried his hand at it. Here nothing can safeguard the mythologist but proper names and other more or less essential surroundings. If we read that ‘Helios goes to rest or to sleep’ we shall hardly in spite of Mr. H. Spencer's pleading think of a gentleman of the name of Helios; while if we read ‘the sun of Rome is set’ it is equally clear that we have simply to deal with an historical fact expressed metaphorically. Still we must be on our guard and more particularly against one danger of which our would-be satirists seem hardly to be aware namely our mistaking historical characters who axe spoken of in mythological language or who are actually introduced into the cycle of ancient mythology for mythological beings—I mean mythological in origin and name. Not only of ancient heroes such as Theodoric Karl der Grosse Friedrich Barbarossa but even of Friedrich der Grosse legends are told which belonged originally to purely solar heroes. If then their real names should by chance lend themselves to solar interpretations and if the circumstances of their birth and death the names of parents brothers and sisters should favour the same theory there might be real danger of mistaking reality for myth. But such accidents must be rare and I know as yet of none that has really happened while we know that there is hardly a country which has not taken its most ancient history from the treasures of mythology.
Rudra Apollon Wuotan
The analogical school differs however from the purely psychological of which we shall have to treat afterwards. It always presupposes a common historical origin of the mythologies as of the languages of the Aryan nations; and on that ground claims the right to look upon similar legends as mere varieties of one original type. It does not look upon mythological coincidences as simply the inevitable outcome of our common human nature but traces all coincidences back to a common historical source. Thus when Professor Leo in his History of the German People (1854 p. 27). tried to show that Wuotan or Odin closely resembles the Vedic Rudra and the Apollon of epic poetry he meant that all three sprang from one and the same original concept. Grimm too when speaking of Wuotan says3: ‘He resembles Apollon inasmuch as from him proceed contagious diseases and their cure; any severe illness is the stroke of God and Apollon's arrows scatter pestilence. The Gauls also imagined that Apollon drove away disease (“Apollinem morbos depellere” Caes. B. G. 6 17): and Wodan's magic alone can cure Balder's lame horse. The raven on the god's shoulder exactly fits Apollon and still more plainly the circumstance that Odin invented the poetic art and Saga is his divine daughter just as the Greek Muses though daughters of Zeus are under Apollon's protection and in his train.’
Now what does all this mean? We must try to think it out clearly. It may mean that originally there was a common Aryan concept of a Somebody sending diseases and curing diseases represented with ravens on his shoulders and as fond of poetry. Such a Somebody however could not assume any real personality without a name and we are asked to believe that whatever his original name may have been that name was lost and replaced afterwards by the name of Rudra in Sanskrit of Wotan in German and of Apollon in Greek. Unless we assume this we lose all historical continuity and our comparison becomes purely psychological which it is not meant to be.
In an article on Wuotan to which I have referred before we read4: ‘Whatever common traits the three gods Apollon Wuotan and Rudra offer such as their medical knowledge their relation to singing and poetry their correspondence reveals itself most decidedly in the conception of their natural appearance. All the three gods are represented as wild and mighty figures driving along with dishevelled hair in storms and clouds and hurling their fatal arrows on the earth. In the Iliad XX. 39 Apollon is called ἀκϵρσϵκόμης with unshorn hair. Like the night he descends from the heights of Olympus and sends from the fearful-sounding bow the deadly arrow among men and beasts. According to Kuhn's5 plausible explanation his epithet Αοξιας like Αοξώ the name of the daughter of Boreas defines him as the god approaching in a thunderstorm athwart the air. Rudra is called in the Veda kapardin with braided and knotted hair or kshayaduîra man-destroying. He is not as Leo supposes the welkin beneath the blue dome of heaven but the god of those destructive hurricanes which generally visit India several days before the setting in of the rainy season. Therefore the Indians implored him that his arrow fatal to men and cows might spare them. In the same way no one has failed to recognise in Wuotan when rushing through the air at the head of the wild hunt the god of snow and thunderstorms however his ethical character may even at the earliest time that we know have obscured his physical elements. Rückert it is true supposes the conception of Wuotan as the god of snow and thunderstorm to be a later corruption and discovers the elementary foundation of his character in the power residing in the higher regions of the welkin and likewise of the sun. As however the sun appears nowhere in the Veda as an attribute of Rudra but only of Siva a later development of Rudra it cannot have belonged either to the concept of that original god of whom Wuotan Apollon and Rudra are supposed to be only three different national representatives. What is common to all and helps to explain also their later ethical character is their dark approach in the hurricane and their weapon fatal to men and beasts. Their original elementary character therefore can only have been the storm.’
Here we have a clear statement of the leading principles of the analogical school. We begin with an elementary concept which of course like every concept must have had a name. That name however may be lost or at all events is not considered essential. The name changed after a time or was replaced by new dialectic or national names. The character also of the deity was modified yet in what such deities of different names and likewise of considerably modified characters share in common we have a right to recognise their original elementary concept.
This method of studying mythology is both interesting and useful; and yet I cannot overcome a certain uncomfortable feeling whenever I try to follow it and apply it myself. It is a feeling similar to that which a numismatist has when he sorts a number of coins which by their material their shape and their weight indicate with sufficient clearness what they are but which by continued wear and tear have lost every trace of their original image and superscription. If he is accustomed to coins one small remnant of a single letter in a certain place will tell him that it is say a coin of Alexander coined in India. Yet he will hesitate and wait and put his coin aside for a while as of doubtful origin. But now let the name of Alexander appear how different will his feelings be! It seems to me that there is the same difference between the determination of a myth with or without a name. Let the Haritas of the Veda he as different as possible from the Charites of the Greeks yet as soon as we know their etymology we know that they belong more closely together genealogically than even the Charites and the Horae.
It may be that my strong belief in the etymological origin of all human thought and my life-long researches into the etymologies of mythological names have made me rather prejudiced against what I call the analogical method. I see its usefulness as helping us to classify mythological characters under general categories as von Hahn for instance has done with great success. It may also help us in supplying defective portions of one myth by reference to a cognate and better preserved myth. Sir G. W. Cox has often thrown some very bright light on a dark cluster of Aryan mythology by this method and in several cases what he has achieved has served as a preparation for making us see the true genealogy of mythological names.
Myths agreeing in one and differing in other Names.
There is one class of legends which has not yet received all the attention which it deserves and which supplies a very strong argument in favour of the Analogical School; I mean those in which one name is the same while the other names are different.
Helena for instance is not only the cause of the Trojan war after having been carried off by Paris but she is likewise the cause of another great war which the Dioskuroi waged against Athens after Helena had been carried off by Theseus. Theseus had either himself carried off Helena from Sparta or had asked his mother Æthra to keep her safe in Aphidnae for Idas and Lynkeus the sons of Aphareus who had got possession of her. Her brothers the Dioskuroi attacked Athens at the time when Menestheus was trying to make himself ruler of Athens during the absence of Theseus. Akademos betrayed the secret that Helena was kept at Aphidnae the Dioskuroi took it rescued Helena and carried off Æthra the mother of Theseus.
Here we see that the myth of Helena is the same only that she is carried not to Troy but to Athens and that she causes the destruction not of Troy but of Aphidnae. Her safe conveyance to Ægypt or to Leuke under the escort of Hermes represents a third journey of the same famous heroine6.
Again the capture of Troy is not ascribed to Achilles only. We read in the Iliad itself how in former times Herakles7 had besieged and destroyed the city of Laomedon. When Laomedon after promising to Herakles as a reward for the deliverance of Hesione the horses which he had received from Zeus; declined to fulfil his promise Herakles with six vessels and a large number of companions besieged Ilion and destroyed it.
Services similar to those which Poseidon and Apollon had to render to Laomedon and for which Laomedon declined to pay them their stipulated wages were performed by Apollon to Admetos by Herakles to Eurystheus by Perseus Theseus and other heroes many of them no doubt of solar origin8.
If then we see that one name in a myth may change we can understand that two or three names may that in fact the same typical myth may be told of a number of mythical persons nay may in the end be ascribed to purely historical characters. This however is very different from supposing that any of these stories were originally told of Somebody and afterwards attached to this or that person. ‘No name no myth’ is what all mythology teaches us but it also teaches that as in modern so in ancient times the same stories are often told of very different persons.
In Finland where the collection of popular ballads and their arrangement as a complete epic poem has taken place within the memory of man we know as a matter of fact that stories told originally of one hero were afterwards told of another. Lönnrot who collected these ballads from the people themselves and published them under the name of Kalevala tells us that Leminkainen was substituted for Kauko who was the original hero in the second expedition to Pohjola (Songs 26–29) and that when one hero has become very popular in one locality marvellous exploits performed by others are told as if performed by him9.
And what applies to the myths of one people applies also to the myths of a whole family. It is possible that a myth told of Indra in the Veda may be told of Apollon in the Iliad and Odyssey because there was a time before the Aryan nations separated when the original both of the Vedic and the Greek myth may have been told of a person neither Indra nor Apollon though drawing his origin from the same source. In that case we have a right to speak of analogies between Indra and Apollon but we shall have to admit at the same time an independent element in both the concept namely which is embodied in their names before these names could become the stems on which some older myths were grafted.
I must confess that I often feel giddy when others mount up step by step to greater and greater heights and survey a larger and larger tract of country than I can span with my eyes. It may be the same in surveying the wide field of mythological ruins. Diversos diversa juvant and there is plenty of work for all of us.
Varuna and Ormazd.
In order to exhibit the difference between the etymological and the analogical methods of Comparative Mythology quite clearly I shall examine more in detail the supposed relationship between the Vedic God Varuna (Greek Ouranos) and Ormazd the supreme god of the Avesta.
What do we really mean if we say with M. Darmesteter and other Zend scholars that Varuna is the same as Ormazd? We must not forget what I had to point out again and again namely that Varuna and Ormazd are names—I never say mere names—but that they were names and that there never was an individual who by the Vedic Rishis was called Varuna and by Zoroaster Ormazd. Varuna meant the sky and was one of the many names by which the Aryans of India called the Unknown or the Infinite as manifested in the vault of the sky. Ormazd on the contrary the Zend Ahura Mazda means the Wise Lord10 and was from the beginning a more abstract concept giving but little indication of those marked physical characteristics which distinguish the earliest names of other Aryan deities.
It is perfectly true that Varuna in many of the hymns addressed to him stands before us quite divested of his physical nature as a supreme all-wise and all-powerful deity and that many of those attributes of divine supremacy belonged to him in common with Ormazd.
But are we to suppose that Zoroaster changed the name of Varuna into that of Ormazd and that his followers after having formerly invoked Varuna determined to invoke their old god in future by the new and more spiritual name of the ‘Wise Lord’? If that is done as it often is in the case of religious revolutions or in the case of conversions should we say that Jehovah for instance was the same god as Jupiter because the same people who formerly called their highest god Jupiter called him afterwards Jehovah? I think not. Both gods no doubt would receive from their worshippers the highest attributes of divinity but when we speak of the two gods as historical products of the human mind we should never say that the Semitic Jehovah was the same as the Aryan Jupiter.
Suppose however that a Roman brought up to believe in Jupiter as his supreme god had later in life settled in Greece and adopted the worship of Zeus; in that case whether he himself knew the original identity of Zeus and Jupiter or not we should be justified in saying that his new god Zeus was the same as the god of his infancy Jupiter. It is quite possible that a Roman might be shocked at the thought that his Jupiter Optimus Maximus should be believed to be the same person as the popular and somewhat immoral Greek Zeus; yet however different in character the two synonymous gods might be they can be treated by us with the knowledge which we possess as originally the same.
These questions must be reasoned out carefully otherwise we shall never understand each other. In one sense M. Darmesteter is no doubt justified in saying that the Vedic Varuna is the Avestic Ormazd. They both represent the highest conception of supreme deity reached respectively by India and Persia. They betray also the earlier stages of religious thought traversed by their worshippers by some of the attributes which the poets of the Veda and the poets of the Avesta assign to them. In that sense therefore they are the same. But in the same sense Jehovah also might be said to be the same god as Varuna and Ormazd nay all supreme gods may be said to be the same.
When we speak of Varuna we can mean no more than what is expressly comprehended under this name by Vedic poets; and when we speak of Ormazd we can mean no more than what is expressly comprehended under that name by Zoroaster and his followers. And if we do that we shall have to admit that the name Varuna which forms the centre of a large cluster of religious and mythological thought was different from the very beginning from the names of Ormazd and Jehovah which were formed out of totally independent religious and mythological thought in Persia and in Judæa.
After we have come to this understanding nothing can be more interesting and instructive than to compare Varuna and Ormazd just as we might compare Karna and Cyrus Vasishtha and Zoroaster.
Varuna shows his physical origin (l.c. p. 52) by his name which like the Greek Οὐρανός means the vault of heaven. The sun is called his eye the waters his wives the lightning his son (apâm napât).
Ormazd (l.c. p. 30) though his name is purely spiritual shows traces of earlier and more material conceptions in being likewise represented as having the sky for his vestment the sun for his eye the waters (âpô) for his wives and the lightning (apâmnapât) for his son.
Varuna is likewise represented as the maker11 and supreme ruler of the world as the lord of Rita or law as omniscient as a supreme king of heaven and earth. He is called Asura the living god.
And Ormazd also is addressed as the maker and supreme ruler of the world as the lord of Asha or law as revealed to Zoroaster as omniscient (mazdâo) as the supreme King of heaven and earth. He is called Ahura the lord.
Other points of similarity between Varuna and Ormazd have been collected by M. Darmesteter in his learned essay on Ormazd and Ahriman. Ormazd for instance is the first of a class of deities called Amesha-speiñta i.e. Immortal benefactors. Their number at first is uncertain but was afterwards fixed at seven still later at thirty-three. Varuna is the first of a class of deities called Âdityas the sons of Aditi—the Infinite whose number uncertain at first is fixed afterwards at seven or eight12 while the number of all the deities of the Veda is frequently given as thirtythree.
Varuna in the Veda is generally associated with Mitra the two if thus united representing darkness and light night and day heaven and earth while formerly Varuna alone embraced everything the three heavens and the three earths13. Ormazd too in the Avesta is associated with Mithra but he had already become so supreme that no other god could be called his match; and Mithra not even counted as one of the Amesha-speñtas had to become one of his sons. Yet traces remain to show that this was not always so. Mithra-Ahura (l.c. p. 65) occurs in the Avesta as a divine dvandva just like the Vedic Mitrâ-Varunau and the sun is actually called the eye of Ahura Mazda and Mithra14.
Though we might match many of these attributes both physical and metaphysical with passages in the Psalms there is this great difference between Varuna and Ormazd on one side and Jehovah on the other that the former share certain names in common such as Asura and Ahura and are surrounded by synonymous characters such as Âpah and Âpô the Waters apâm napât and apâm napât the Lightning while Jehovah lives in a language peculiarly his own.
It will now be clear what is meant by calling the relationship between Varuna. Ormazd and Jehovah psychological that between Varuna and Ormazd analogical while the relationship between Dyaus and Zeus between the Sanskrit apâm napât and the Zend apâm napât is etymological that is genealogical and perfect—is in fact not relationship but real original identity.
The analogical school would not only identify the Vedic Varuna with the Ormazd of the Avesta but likewise with the Greek Zeus. While the etymological school identifies Zeus with the Vedic Dyaus and tries to explain the later modifications which the one underwent in India the other in Greece the analogical school would boldly identify Zeus not with Dyaus but with the Vedic Varuna who is like Zeus the creator and ruler of the world omniscient and omnipotent (Darmesteter l.c. p. 78). But what becomes in that case of all the legends told of Zeus not one of which would agree with the spiritual and highly moral character of Varuna? The very foundations of Comparative Mythology would be shaken if we followed this principle. Zeus having become in Greece the supreme deity would naturally share many attributes which in the Veda belong to Varuna. But as little as Indra is the same as Varuna in the Veda though he too becomes supreme in many Vedic hymns and is actually introduced as disputing the supremacy of Varuna can Zeus be said to have been originally the same as Varuna and Ahura Mazda.
The same scholar who thus attempts to identify Varuna and Zeus does not shrink from identifying the Vedic Dyaus with the Greek Ouranos. Where would this lead to? By all means let us study how Dyaus and Zeus Varuna and Ouranos starting from common centres did arrive at such widely distant points that the Vedic Dyaus should on some points resemble the Greek Ouranos while the Vedic Varuna resembles the Greek Zeus. That is a study worthy of a true historian and a true psychologist.
However wide apart Dyaus and Zeus and Jupiter may be—and on some points they are almost diametrically opposed to each other—we know as a matter of historical certainty that one unbroken thread holds them together and that if only we follow that thread far enough it will lead us on to the true vital germ namely the original name out of which the whole entangled growth of Jovian mythology arose. It might have been said with perfect truth by an orthodox Roman that the Homeric Zeus was not his Jupiter and yet neither his native Jupiter nor the foreign Zeus could have been fully understood unless they were traced back to a common origin. Nor does it make any difference to us if we are told that the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus must have been the same god because the Roman youth believed them to be so. If that faith had been founded on true etymological studies the case would be different. But that was impossible in the time of Cato and Varro. The mere teaching of Greek schoolmasters and philosophers that their Greek gods were the same as the Roman gods was wrong even where it was right. It was accidentally right in the case of Zeus and Jupiter it was accidentally wrong in the case of Demeter and Ceres Poseidon and Neptunus. The same process of mythological and religious compromise may be watched at present among the Himalayan hill tribes. ‘On more than one occasion’ as Mr. Oldham writes (Contemp. Rev. March 1885) ‘I have heard wandering religious devotees assure the people of a village that their Deota (godhead) was identical with Siva or some other orthodox divinity. The rustics are flattered to find their god is so famous and are persuaded without much difficulty to adopt the new title.’ Of course if there is a similarity in name or in character between the two deities the process of amalgamation becomes all the easier.
But to say that because Ouranos embraces the Earth therefore he is not Varuna but Dyaush-pitâ the husband of Prithivî mâta would be a kind of reasoning15 which would identify the planet Budha (Mercury) with Buddha the prophet because both have nearly the same name. Si duo faciunt idem non sunt iidem ought to be a fundamental principle of comparative mythology whether etymological historical or psychological while if we only go back far enough the fundamental principle of our science will never mislead us viz. idem nomen idem numen.
We now have to consider a third school of Comparative Mythologists which declares itself entirely independent both of etymology and analogy and which nevertheless seems to me to have rendered most excellent service to the students of mythology. The followers of that school do not confine themselves to the study of the mythology of one linguistic family only whether Aryan Semitic African Australian American etc. but they consider the mythological stage as a necessary phase in the psychological growth of man in every part of the world and therefore look for analogies not only where the common origin of nations and languages possessing certain myths in common has been proved but where no such relationship seems possible. This study has been cultivated with great success during the last fifty years and is generally known on the Continent as a branch of l Völker-psychologie. I have often been blamed both for having been too enthusiastic an advocate and for having been too critical a judge of this new branch of mythological research but I can plead Not Guilty to both these charges.
Advantages in England: India Colonies Missionary Societies.
Living in England I naturally tried to avail myself of the splendid opportunities which this country offers for linguistic and ethnological studies. India to me the most interesting of all countries in the world is now divided from England by a three weeks' journey Only and through a number of eminent Englishmen who spend their lives in India and a number of promising young men whom India sends to be educated in England there is now so close an intercourse between the East and the West that at Oxford for instance it is almost as easy to study the language manners and customs of the Veddahs as of the Gaels.
Besides India there are the Colonies and there is or at all events there ought to be no difficulty in obtaining through the Colonial Office any information that could be of use for the study of civilised or uncivilised tribes from Canada to New Guinea.
Lastly there is the wonderful net which Missionary enterprise has spread from England over the whole world and which might so usefully be employed not only for its own most excellent purpose but likewise for gathering valuable information for the proper study of mankind.
Though I have often bad to complain of the small encouragement which ethnological researches receive in England where they ought to flourish and abound I feel bound to express my sincere gratitude for the kindness and the intelligent interest with which the Directors of the old East-India Company and the authorities at the India Office the Colonial Office and the Missionary Societies have listened to my constant and sometimes no doubt somewhat impatient appeals.
In India much has been done not only for the study of its ancient classical literature and the exploration of its antiquities but likewise for studying the numerous living dialects collecting legends registering customs studying religions and superstitions. The publication of the Rig-veda the oldest book of the Aryan race in six quarto volumes and the series of translations of the Sacred Books of the East entrusted to my editorship bear sufficient witness that my appeals for help have not always been in vain.
If I have been less successful in stimulating ethnological research in the Colonies it has not been altogether my fault. At one time I made. During Lord the first step at least had been made. During Lord Granville's tenure of office an official invitation was sent to all the Colonies requesting all who took an interest in the history of native races to collect their languages to note down their religious practices their customs and laws to describe their antiquities their idols their weapons and tools and to send accounts to the Colonial Office in London. The invitation was well responded to and my hope was that these papers after careful examination might have been published from time to time as ‘Ethnological Records of the English Colonies.’ But alas a new king arose which knew not Joseph. The papers were either allowed to accumulate in forgotten pigeon-holes or were handed over to some learned societies and under the cold water that was persistently poured upon it the scheme that had been started with every prospect of success was finally extinguished. Languages which have lived for thousands of years are now allowed to die out without being recorded; laws dating from the first beginnings of social organisation are forgotten; religious customs which might have thrown light on many a dark page in the history of other religions become extinct before our eyes because the official correspondence became troublesome to the permanent staff of the Colonial Office and because the expenditure of a few thousand pounds was considered too extravagant for preserving the historical records of the English Colonies. Some good however has come of this agitation though it was less than what was hoped for. In several of the Colonies local grants have been made for archaeological and linguistic research and at the Cape a professorship has actually been founded for South African Philology which in connection with the important linguistic library given by Sir George Grey will make Cape Town I hope a permanent home of African studies16.
Work done in America.
Most excellent work is now being done in America also. There had been in the United States too some remissness and some failures and waste of money. But when at last it was perceived that the preservation of whatever can still he known about the aboriginal tribes of America forms a kind of national duty the funds were soon forthcoming and the best scholars were found to carry out this work most thoroughly. By Act of Congress of March 3 1879 the United States Geological Survey was established and a Bureau of Ethnology was started under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution with an excellent Director Mr. J. W. Powell and an efficient staff of able assistants. The work was divided into four departments—arts institutions languages and opinions. But as Mr. Powell remarks in his Report ‘these four departments must work together and throw light on each other. The study of arts is but the collection of curiosities unless the relations between arts institutions and language are discovered. The study of institutions leads but to the discovery of curious habits and customs unless the deeper meaning thereof is discovered from arts languages and opinions. The study of language is but the study of words unless philological research is based upon a knowledge of arts institutions and opinions. And the study of opinions is but the collection of mythic stories if their true meaning is not ascertained in the history of arts institutions and languages.’
In 1877 appeared the ‘Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages’ with words phrases and sentences to be collected by J. W. Powell; second edition 1880.
The first Report of the Bureau of Ethnology 1879 to 1880 published in 1881 contained exceedingly valuable contributions from the Director Mr. Powell and from several of his follow-workers17.
Volunteers came forward from many parts to help in this noble work as soon as it became known that their contributions would be published with due credit and that objects of savage and barbaric art might be safely deposited in a National Museum.
In 1881 appeared the important and comprehensive work of Hon. Lewis H. Morgan on ‘Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines’ (Vol. IV of Contributions to American Ethnology) containing most careful observations on two great periods in the growth of early society of which we know next to nothing in other parts of the world. Mr. Morgan's great work ‘Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity’ had appeared in 1871 published by the Smithsonian Institution and had laid a solid foundation for a new branch of ethnological study. But this new essay deserves equal attention. It treats of two periods the Older and the Middle period of barbarism the former represented by the Iroquois and similar tribes in the North the latter by the Aztecs of Mexico and the Indians of Yucatan and Central America. Mr. Morgan tries to show that during those periods the family being too weak a unit to face the struggle of life it was thought prudent and necessary to form combinations of families living together in large houses and that this led to a curious social and governmental organization to a certain communion in living and respect for hospitality and peculiar kinds of kinship all of extreme interest to the student of ethnology. Mr. Morgan's death is a severe loss to ethnological science and we ought not to forget that as Mr. Brinton remarks (‘American Languages’ 1885 p. 6) the life-work of that eminent antiquary was based entirely on linguistics.
Linguistic studies occupy the foremost place in the work now being carried on under the auspices of the Bureau of Ethnology18 because as Mr. Powell truly remarks ‘Without a fundamental knowledge of those languages which can still be successfully studied all other anthropologic peculiarities of the tribes speaking them will be imperfectly understood.’
The second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology for 1880–1881 published at Washington in 1883 contains besides Mr. Powell's report the following papers: Frank H. Cushing ‘Zuñi Fetiches’; Mrs. Erminnie A. Smith ‘Myths of the Iroquois’; Henry W. Henshaw ‘Animal Carvings from the Mounds of Mississippi Valley’; Dr. Washington Matthews ‘Navajo Silversmiths’; W. H. Holmes ‘Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans’; James Stevenson ‘Illustrated Catalogue of the Collections obtained from the Indians of New Mexico and Arizona in 1879 and 1880.’
I have since received two more volumes each full of valuable information. The Report for 1881 to 1882 published in 1884 contains among other papers one by Mr. Cyrus Thomas ‘On certain Maya and Mexican Manuscripts’ another by Mr. J. Owen Dorsey ‘On Omaha Sociology’ and another by Dr. Washington Matthews ‘On Navajo Weavers.’ The Report for 1882–1883 published in 1886 gives us an essay by Mr. Garrick Mallery ‘On Pictographs of the North-American Indians’ and several papers on ceramic art by Mr. W. H. Holmes and Mr. Frank Hamilton Cushing.
Works of this kind are of the greatest importance for the study of anthropology and particularly for that branch of it which we call mythology. I know that in trying to encourage the study of the languages the customs and the religions of uncivilised races we may sometimes incur the suspicion of unduly exaggerating the importance of the results likely to be obtained from such researches; nor can it be denied that researches of this kind may often lead only to an accumulation of curious facts which unless they can be interpreted by themselves or used to interpret other facts axe considered by the public at large as mere rubbish. If properly sifted and classified however such rubbish has yielded already the most valuable grains of gold and those who doubt it have only to read that one truly classical work Anthropologic der Naturvölker by Waitz in order to see how much may be learnt from what that great scholar rightly calls not ‘Savages’ but ‘the People of Nature.’
The True Meaning of Manito.
The mythology and religion of these People of Nature require however the same critical treatment which is demanded for the study of Greek and Roman Mythology. There is a difference between being pedantic and being honest. It is pedantic to exact from a writer on North American religions the same familiarity with the languages of the Mohawks which Gottfried Hermann possessed with Greek or the same critical accuracy in their treatment of the religion and philosophy of these nomadic races which Munro brought to the study of Lucretius. Nor should we forget that a critical study of languages and religions has been making such rapid progress of late and has assumed such large proportions that a writer on anthropology is not at once to be set down as ignorant or dishonest because he writes in ignorance of the most recent essay published it may be in the Transactions of some local society. What is dishonest or at all events unscholarlike is to write dogmatically on any subject of which we have not made a special study and at the same time wilfully to ignore or even to ridicule the work which specialists have devoted to it.
It is not fair for instance to blame writers on anthropology if they have hitherto ascribed to the. North-American Indians as is generally done a kind of primitive monotheism. The ‘Great Manito19’ has been so often represented by men who had long been living among the Red-Indians as the Supreme Spirit in all but his name identified with Jehovah that it required some courage to question this view. Some of the earliest missionaries such as Roger Williams had pointed out that Manito was rather a pantheistic than a monotheistic concept and Lahontaine had remarked long ago that it was applied to all that surpasses their understanding and proceeds from a cause that they cannot trace20. It was reserved however to those scholars who of late have studied the languages of America with the same analytical acumen which has given us our grammars of Sanskrit Greek and Latin to bring out clearly the original intention of the Great Manito. Manito they tell us means simply the Beyond21 and was in fact one of the many names which we find among nations where we should least expect it as the first vague expression of the Infinite22. Scholarship only could have established this fact and while not blaming anthropologists for not having discovered what was really outside their domain one may at the same time remind them that they ought to appreciate more highly the services which scholarship and scholarship alone can render to their studies.
It is curious to observe in how many different ways this word Manito has been translated as spirit demon god devil mystery magic and even medicine23. The etymological or original meaning of Manito as explained by Trumbull has been discussed in my ‘Lectures on the Science of Religion’ p. 193. Another word for Manito in Algonkin is oki in Iroquois oki and otkon in Dakota wakan in Aztec teotl in Quichua huaca and in Maya ku. They all express as Brinton says the idea of the supernatural in its most general form as that which is above the natural. Wakan as an adverb means above oki is the same as oghee and otkon seems allied to hetken all having the same signification. Whether all these words have a common origin must as yet remain doubtful but it deserves at least to be pointed out how closely they resemble each other ku in Maya kue-ya in Natchez kauhwu in the Uehee of West Florida okha in Otomi okee in Mandan ogha waughon wakan in Sioux waka and huaca in Quichua quaker24 and oki in Iroquois oki in Algonkin vaghalt in Eskimo being all intended to express that which is above the sky and what is above the sky. The Indians themselves find it difficult to explain what they mean by this word. The Hurons from whom possibly the Iroquois borrowed the word declared that they meant by it a demoniac power ‘that rules the seasons of the year that holds the winds and the waves in leash that can give fortune to their undertakings and relieve all their wants.’ The Aztecs and Quiches attempted to express more fully what they mean by using at the same time such phrases as ‘Head of the Sky’ ‘Lord of the Sky’ ‘Prince of the Azure Planisphere’ ‘the Above All’ ‘the Soul of the Sky.’
It was through the Missionaries however that Manito and the other names for the Beyond were for the first time taken as names of the Good Spirit in the Christian sense of the word; and it is stated positively in the ‘Jesuit Relations’ that there was no one immaterial god recognised by the Algonkin tribes when first brought into contact with Europeans and that the title the Great Manito was introduced first by themselves in its personal sense25 while the name of the Supreme Iroquois deity triumphantly adduced by many writers to show the monotheism underlying the native creeds viz. Neo or Hawaneu is strongly suspected of being nothing but an Indian corruption of the French Dieu and le bon Dieu26.
Every kind of excuse I know quite well has been used in order to escape from the drudgery of philological study. Its results have been called uncertain and changing and no grapes have ever been called so sour as those that produce the intoxicating wine of Comparative Philology. The most honest excuse has always been one in which I can fully sympathize that life is too short to learn the grammars even of the seventy-five languages of North America only. No doubt it is but it is not too short to teach us a certain amount of circumspection before we declare like Mr. Herbert Spencer that the North American languages are still in such a state that they cannot be spoken in the dark or before we pronounce an opinion that they cannot possibly possess a name for the Infinite.
I know of course that when I have from time to time availed myself of the traditions of non-civilised races in elucidation of Greek Roman and Vedic mythology I have laid myself open to the same criticism which I have so freely addressed to others. The subject seemed to me so important that I was willing to incur a certain risk while trying to attract the attention of others to the valuable results likely to be obtained from it and while encouraging younger scholars to study such languages as Hottentot or Mohawk in the same spirit in which they had studied Greek and Latin. I myself had but little time to bestow on the study of these non-literary languages yet I may say this in self-defence that whenever I have ventured to write about the religious mythological and moral ideas of uncivilised races and the light which they throw on dark chapters have Aryan always Semitic religion mythology or ethics tried to gain beforehand a certain insight into their language or to claim the assistance of competent scholars in order painfully myself ll the of me of entirely wrong though painfully aware all the time of the thinness of the ice on which I ventured.
Before I wrote on the mythology of North-American Indians I had availed myself of the opportunity of learning the elements of the Mohawk language from my young friend M. Oronyhateka when an undergraduate at Oxford. I wrote down at the time the outlines of a Mohawk grammar which perhaps may still be published some day27.
It was my friendship with the late Bishop Patteson of Melanesia which led me to take an interest in Melanesian and Polynesian grammar. He sent me lists of words and grammatical outlines which threw strange rays of light on the thoughts of these primitive islanders. After his death I enjoyed the great benefit of being able to go through the intricacies of Polynesian mythology with Mr. W. W. Gill who as a missionary has acquired a complete mastery of some of the Polynesian dialects. At a still later time I could avail myself of the explanations which the Rev. R. H. Codrington one of the highest authorities in this branch of philology was good enough to give me as to the mental capacities of these interesting races. It was only after receiving such valuable help that in my Preface to ‘Myths and Songs from the South Pacific’ by the Rev. William Wyatt Gill 187628 I ventured to call attention to the lessons which Comparative Mythologists might learn even in the small island of Mangaia and to the curious coincidences between Polynesian and classical myths and customs.
It may no doubt seem bold to classical scholars to endeavour to make the myths of Greek poets and the theories of Greek philosophers as to the marriage between Heaven and Earth more intelligible by a reference to the crude traditions of the New Zealanders29 still more to trace the sensus numinis and the first apprehensions of the Infinite to the Mana of the Melanesians. Still under proper safeguards and more particularly with the advice of the best authorities accessible at present such boldness may be forgiven and may possibly encourage others who are better qualified than I am to prosecute researches which have already yielded some fruit.
As to the African languages they were brought near to me many years ago through my personal intercourse with the late Dr. Bleek and afterwards with his gifted successor Dr. Hahn. But again I should have hesitated to avail myself of the rich materials which the folk-lore of African races supplies to the student of mythology had I not been able to confer personally with such scholars as Dr. Callaway and Dr. Hahn on every point on which I wished to speak as elucidating dark corners in the mythology of India and Greece. It was under such guidance that I felt encouraged to write what I have written on South African mythology on the metaphorical meaning of Uthlanga30 on the Mythology among the Hottentots31 and on the Languages of Africa in general32.
We have thus examined the three schools of Comparative Mythology the Etymological the Analogical and the purely Psychological and we have seen what kind of work has been done and may be asked why mythology should deserve so laborious a study. In former times mythology was studied chiefly to enable the classical scholar to understand the frequent allusions to gods and goddesses to heroes and heroines which occur in Greek and Latin authors. It was also considered a part of general education so far as it enabled ladies and gentlemen to recognise the character and meaning of ancient statues in our museums and the right pronunciation of the names of classical gods and heroes so often introduced into their writings by modern poets. But that mythology should possess an interest of its own that it should mark an important period in the history of language and thought and therefore in the history of the human race was never thought of.
So long as we knew of Greek and Roman mythology only this was intelligible. The Greeks and Romans were always looked upon as exceptional people and it was ascribed to their peculiar poetical genius that they should have invented so strange a collection of fancies and horrors as their mythology.
But when it was found that almost every nation whether civilised or uncivilised possessed something like mythology and that these various mythologies presented the most startling coincidences philosophers could not help admitting that there must be something in human nature that by necessity led to mythology nay that there must be some reason in all the unreason that goes by the name of myth.
That something was discovered to be language in its natural progress from roots to words; in its being forced to use roots expressive of human activities in naming the most striking phenomena of the objective world and in many cases in its forgetfulness of the original purport of such names. Mythology which at first seemed like a kind of madness that had come over the human race at a certain period of its development has now been recognised as an inevitable phase in the growth of language and thought for the two are always inseparable. It represents what in geology we should call a metamorphic stratum a convulsion of rational intelligible and duly stratified language produced by volcanic eruptions of underlying rocks. It is metamorphic language and thought and it is the duty of the geologist of language to try to discover in the widely scattered fragments of that mythological stratum the remains of organic life of rational thought and of the earliest religious aspirations.

  • 1.

    Hahn, Sagwissenschaftliche Studien, p. 340.

  • 2.

    Jacob Grimm, von Wilhelnm Scherer, 2 Aufl.; 1885, p. 287.

  • 3.

    Teutonic Mythology, vol. i. p. 149.

  • 4.

    Kuhn's Zeitschrift, x. p. 272.

  • 5.

    Kuhn's Zeitschrift, iii. p. 335. Fröhde (Bezzenberger, Beiträge, iii. 8) derives Loxias from the root laksh, to aim. I doubt whether this root exists outside Sanskrit, but Kuhn's etymology also is doubtful.

  • 6.

    See F. De Duhn, De Menelai Itinere Ægyptiaco. Bonnae, 1874.

  • 7.

    Il. V. 638; XIV. 250; XV. 25; XX. 144.

  • 8.

    Powell, Mythology of North-American Indians, p. 24; Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1881.

  • 9.

    See Athenaeum, Oct. 20, 1888.

  • 10.

    Darmesteter, Ormazd et Ahriman, p. 29.

  • 11.

    This, though doubted, is clearly implied in passages like IV. 42, 3, ‘Like a clever carpenter I have fashioned all things, and supported heaven and earth.’

  • 12.

    See M. M., Rig-veda Sanhitâ, translated, pp. 223–51.

  • 13.

    Rv. VI. 67, 5; VII. 87, 2.

  • 14.

    On the great differences between the Vedic Mitra and the Zoroastrian Mithra, see Muir, Sanskrit Texts, v. p. 71; Geiger, Civilisation of Eastern Iranians, p. xxxiii; on their original identity, see Windischmann, Mithra, ein Beitrag zur Mythengeschichte des Orients, 1857.

  • 15.

    I see that M. Darmesteter himself, in his Notes Additionelles, has modified this statement. ‘Cette répartition,’ he says. ‘n'a pas cependant été absolue.’

  • 16.

    Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 275.

  • 17.

    The most important papers were:—Dr. H. C. Yarrow, ‘Contribution to the study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians,’ a continuation of a former paper, called ‘Introduction to the study of Mortuary Customs’; E. S. Holden, ‘Studies in Central American Picture Writing’; Colonel Garrick Mallery, ‘Sign-Language among North American Indians.’ There is also at the end of the volume a useful catalogue of linguistic MSS. in the library of the Bureau of Ethnology, by Mr. James Pilling, the same scholar who is preparing a complete Bibliography of North American Philology, containing a chronological list of all works written in or upon any of the languages of North America.

  • 18.

    The following grammars, we are informed, are in preparation, and will soon be published:—The Cegiha Language, by the Rev. J. Owen Dorsey; The Klamath Language, by A. S. Gatschet; The Dakota Language, by the Rev. S. R. Briggs. These will be followed by a Grammar of several of the Iroquois Dialects, by Mrs. Erminnie A. Smith, and by a Grammar of the Chata Language, by Prof. Otis T. Mason.

  • 19.

    I see it stated by Mr. E. Farrer (Mail, Toronto) that Kitchi-Manito, which is generally translated by ‘the Great Spirit,’ is a mere mistake, and that the true form is Giste-Manito, which means ‘the Spirit of the Day.’ Gijig is the day, the light, the shining. Hence gigieb, the morning. The root is giji, to warm, to heat, to cook, to ripen, and from it gitsis or kezis, the sun, as well as gitse, the day. The moon is called tibi-gitsis, the night-sun, or the night-shine, and gitsiis is the month. How many analogies are here supplied with Sanskrit words!

  • 20.

    M. M., Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 195.

  • 21.

    M. M., l.c., p. 196.

  • 22.

    M. M., Hibbert Lectures, p. 55, Mana, a Melanesian name for the Infinite.

  • 23.

    Brinton, Myths of the New World, p. 45.

  • 24.

    Gallatin (Transactions of the American Antiquarian Society, vol. ii.) is led to suppose that the Eastern tribes derived their first notions of a Supreme Being from the Quakers; Brinton, p. 48, note.

  • 25.

    Relations de la Nouvelle France, pour l'an 1637, p. 49; Brinton, l.c., p 53.

  • 26.

    Études Philologiques sur quelques langues sauvages de l'Amerique. p. 14, Montreal, 1866; Brinton, l.c., p. 53. Mr. Garrick Mallery, in his paper on the Pictographs of the North-American Indians (Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1882–83, p. 191, says: ‘The statement that the Indians worshipped one “Great Spirit” or single overruling personal god is erroneous. That philosophical conception is beyond the stage of culture reached by them, and was not found in any tribe previous to missionary influence. Their actual philosophy can be expressed far more objectively and therefore pictorially.’ But see also Shea, Dict. Français Onontagué, preface.

  • 27.

    Cf. The Literary Faculty of the Native Races of America, by John Reade, Trans. Roy. Soc. Canada, Sect. II. 1884, p. 17; The Huron-Iroquois of Canada, by Daniel Wilson, Trans. Roy. Soc. Canada, Sect. II. 1884, p. 87.

  • 28.

    Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 248.

  • 29.

    India, what can it teach us? pp. 150–56; Hibbert Lectures, p. 55.

  • 30.

    Introduction to the Science of Religion, 1882, p. 40.

  • 31.

    Ibid., p. 273.

  • 32.

    Ibid., p. 236.

From the book: