The Homeric Hymns - A New Prose Translation; and Essays, Literary and Mythological
by Andrew Lang
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Transcribed from the 1899 George Allen edition by David Price, email


[Bust of Athene. Forming a vase; found at Athens now in the British Museum. (Fifth Century B.C.): langi.jpg]


To Henry Butcher A Little Token of A Long Friendship


To translate the Hymns usually called "Homeric" had long been my wish, and, at the Publisher's suggestion, I undertook the work. Though not in partnership, on this occasion, with my friend, Mr. Henry Butcher (Professor of Greek in the University of Edinburgh), I have been fortunate in receiving his kind assistance in correcting the proofs of the longer and most of the minor Hymns. Mr. Burnet, Professor of Greek in the University of St. Andrews, has also most generously read the proofs of the translation. It is, of course, to be understood that these scholars are not responsible for the slips which may have wandered into my version, the work of one whose Greek has long "rusted in disuse." Indeed I must confess that the rendering "Etin" for [Greek text] is retained in spite of Mr. Butcher, who is also not wholly satisfied with "gledes of light," and with "shieling" for a pastoral summer station in the hills. But I know no word for it in English south of Tweed.

Mr. A. S. Murray, the Head of the Classical Department in the British Museum, has also been good enough to read, and suggest corrections in the preliminary Essays; while Mr. Cecil Smith, of the British Museum, has obligingly aided in selecting the works of art here reproduced.

The text of the Hymns is well known to be corrupt, in places impossible, and much mended by conjecture. I have usually followed Gemoll (Die Homerischen Hymnen, Leipzig, 1886), but have sometimes preferred a MS. reading, or emendations by Mr. Tyrrell, by Mr. Verral, or the admirable suggestions of Mr. Allen. My chief object has been to find, in cases of doubt, the phrases least unworthy of the poets. Too often it is impossible to be certain as to what they really wrote.

I have had beside me the excellent prose translation by Mr. John Edgar (Thin, Edinburgh, 1891). As is inevitable, we do not always agree in the sense of certain phrases, but I am far from claiming superiority for my own attempts.

The method employed in the Essays, the anthropological method of interpreting beliefs and rites, is still, of course, on its trial. What can best be said as to its infirmities, and the dangers of its abuse, and of system-making in the present state of the evidence, will be found in Sir Alfred Lyall's "Asiatic Studies," vol. ii. chaps. iii. and iv. Readers inclined to pursue the subject should read Mr. L. R. Farnell's "Cults of the Greek States" (Clarendon Press, 1896), Mr. J. G. Frazer's "Golden Bough," his "Pausanias," and Mr. Hartland's work on "The Myth of Perseus." These books, it must be observed, are by no means always in agreement with my own provisional theories.



"The existing collection of the Hymns is of unknown editorship, unknown date, and unknown purpose," says Baumeister. Why any man should have collected the little preludes of five or six lines in length, and of purely conventional character, while he did not copy out the longer poems to which they probably served as preludes, is a mystery. The celebrated Wolf, who opened the path which leads modern Homerologists to such an extraordinary number of divergent theories, thought rightly that the great Alexandrian critics before the Christian Era, did not recognise the Hymns as "Homeric." They did not employ the Hymns as illustrations of Homeric problems; though it is certain that they knew the Hymns, for one collection did exist in the third century B.C. {4} Diodorus and Pausanias, later, also cite "the poet in the Hymns," "Homer in the Hymns"; and the pseudo-Herodotus ascribes the Hymns to Homer in his Life of that author. Thucydides, in the Periclean age, regards Homer as the blind Chian minstrel who composed the Hymn to the Delian Apollo: a good proof of the relative antiquity of that piece, but not evidence, of course, that our whole collection was then regarded as Homeric. Baumeister agrees with Wolf that the brief Hymns were recited by rhapsodists as preludes to the recitation of Homeric or other cantos. Thus, in Hymn xxxi. 18, the poet says that he is going on to chant "the renowns of men half divine." Other preludes end with a prayer to the God for luck in the competition of reciters.

This, then, is the plausible explanation of most of the brief Hymns—they were preludes to epic recitations—but the question as to the long narrative Hymns with which the collection opens is different. These were themselves rhapsodies recited at Delphi, at Delos, perhaps in Cyprus (the long Hymn to Aphrodite), in Athens (as the Hymn to Pan, who was friendly in the Persian invasion), and so forth. That the Pisistratidae organised Homeric recitations at Athens is certain enough, and Baumeister suspects, in xiv., xxiii., xxx., xxxi., xxxii., the hand of Onomacritus, the forger of Oracles, that strange accomplice of the Pisistratidae. The Hymn to Aphrodite is just such a lay as the Phaeacian minstrel sang at the feast of Alcinous, in the hearing of Odysseus. Finally Baumeister supposes our collection not to have been made by learned editors, like Aristarchus and Zenodotus, but committed confusedly from memory to papyrus by some amateur. The conventional attribution of the Hymns to Homer, in spite of linguistic objections, and of many allusions to things unknown or unfamiliar in the Epics, is merely the result of the tendency to set down "masterless" compositions to a well-known name. Anything of epic characteristics was allotted to the master of Epic. In the same way an unfathered joke of Lockhart's was attributed to Sydney Smith, and the process is constantly illustrated in daily conversation. The word [Greek text], hymn, had not originally a religious sense: it merely meant a lay. Nobody calls the Theocritean idylls on Heracles and the Dioscuri "hymns," but they are quite as much "hymns" (in our sense) as the "hymn" on Aphrodite, or on Hermes.

To the English reader familiar with the Iliad and Odyssey the Hymns must appear disappointing, if he come to them with an expectation of discovering merits like those of the immortal epics. He will not find that they stand to the Iliad as Milton's "Ode to the Nativity" stands to "Paradise Lost." There is in the Hymns, in fact, no scope for the epic knowledge of human nature in every mood and aspect. We are not so much interested in the Homeric Gods as in the Homeric mortals, yet the Hymns are chiefly concerned not with men, but with Gods and their mythical adventures. However, the interest of the Hymn to Demeter is perfectly human, for the Goddess is in sorrow, and is mingling with men. The Hymn to Aphrodite, too, is Homeric in its grace, and charm, and divine sense of human limitations, of old age that comes on the fairest, as Tithonus and Anchises; of death and disease that wait for all. The life of the Gods is one long holiday; the end of our holiday is always near at hand. The Hymn to Dionysus, representing him as a youth in the fulness of beauty, is of a charm which was not attainable, while early art represented the God as a mature man; but literary art, in the Homeric age, was in advance of sculpture and painting. The chief merit of the Delian Hymn is in the concluding description of the assembled Ionians, happy seafarers like the Phaeacians in the morning of the world. The confusions of the Pythian Hymn to Apollo make it less agreeable; and the humour of the Hymn to Hermes is archaic. All those pieces, however, have delightfully fresh descriptions of sea and land, of shadowy dells, flowering meadows, dusky, fragrant caves; of the mountain glades where the wild beasts fawn in the train of the winsome Goddess; and the high still peaks where Pan wanders among the nymphs, and the glens where Artemis drives the deer, and the spacious halls and airy palaces of the Immortals. The Hymns are fragments of the work of a school which had a great Master and great traditions: they also illustrate many aspects of Greek religion.

In the essays which follow, the religious aspect of the Hymns is chiefly dwelt upon: I endeavour to bring out what Greek religion had of human and sacred, while I try to explain its less majestic features as no less human: as derived from the earliest attempts at speculation and at mastering the secrets of the world. In these chapters regions are visited which scholars have usually neglected or ignored. It may seem strange to seek the origins of Apollo, and of the renowned Eleusinian Mysteries, in the tales and rites of the Bora and the Nanga; in the beliefs and practices of Pawnees and Larrakeah, Yao and Khond. But these tribes, too, are human, and what they now or lately were, the remote ancestors of the Greeks must once have been. All races have sought explanations of their own ritual in the adventures of the Dream Time, the Alcheringa, when beings of a more potent race, Gods or Heroes, were on earth, and achieved and endured such things as the rites commemorate. And the things thus endured and achieved, as I try to show, are everywhere of much the same nature; whether they are now commemorated by painted savages in the Bora or the Medicine Dance, or whether they were exhibited and proclaimed by the Eumolpidae in a splendid hall, to the pious of Hellas and of Rome. My attempt may seem audacious, and to many scholars may even be repugnant; but it is on these lines, I venture to think, that the darker problems of Greek religion and rite must be approached. They are all survivals, however fairly draped and adorned by the unique genius of the most divinely gifted race of mankind.

The method of translation is that adopted by Professor Butcher and myself in the Odyssey, and by me in a version of Theocritus, as well as by Mr. Ernest Myers, who preceded us, in his Pindar. That method has lately been censured and, like all methods, is open to objection. But I confess that neither criticism nor example has converted me to the use of modern colloquial English, and I trust that my persistence in using poetical English words in the translation of Greek poetry will not greatly offend. I cannot render a speech of Anchises thus:—

"If you really are merely a mortal, and if a woman of the normal kind was your mother, while your father (as you lay it down) was the well- known Otreus, and if you come here all through an undying person, Hermes; and if you are to be known henceforward as my wife,—why, then nobody, mortal or immortal, shall interfere with my intention to take instant advantage of the situation."

That kind of speech, though certainly long-winded, may be the manner in which a contemporary pastoralist would address a Goddess "in a coming on humour." But the situation does not occur in the prose of our existence, and I must prefer to translate the poet in a manner more congenial, if less up to date. For one rare word "Etin" ([Greek text]) I must apologise: it seems to me to express the vagueness of the unfamiliar monster, and is old Scots, as in the tale of "The Red Etin of Ireland."


The Hymn to Apollo presents innumerable difficulties, both of text, which is very corrupt, and as to the whole nature and aim of the composition. In this version it is divided into two portions, the first dealing with the birth of Apollo, and the foundation of his shrine in the isle of Delos; the second concerned with the establishment of his Oracle and fane at Delphi. The division is made merely to lighten the considerable strain on the attention of the English reader. I have no pretensions to decide whether the second portion was by the author of the first, or is an imitation by another hand, or is contemporary, or a later addition, or a mere compilation from several sources. The first part seems to find a natural conclusion, about lines 176-181. The blind singer (who is quoted here by Thucydides) appears at that point to say farewell to his cherished Ionian audience. What follows, in our second part, appeals to hearers interested in the Apollo of Crisa, and of the Delphian temple: the Pythian Apollo.

According to a highly ingenious, but scarcely persuasive theory of Mr. Verrall's, this interest is unfriendly. {13} Our second part is no hymn at all, but a sequel tacked on for political purposes only: and valuable for these purposes because so tacked on.

From line 207 to the end we have this sequel, the story of Apollo's dealings as Delphinian, and as Pythian; all this following on detached fragments of enigmatic character, and containing also (305-355) the intercalated myth about the birth of Typhaon from Hera's anger. In the politically inspired sequel there is, according to Mr. Verrall, no living zeal for the honour of Pytho (Delphi). The threat of the God to his Cretan ministers,—"Beware of arrogance, or . . . "—must be a prophecy after the event. Now such an event occurred, early in the sixth century, when the Crisaeans were supplanted by the people of the town that had grown up round the Oracle at Delphi. In them, and in the Oracle under their management, the poet shows no interest (Mr. Verrall thinks), none in the many mystic peculiarities of the shrine. It is quite in contradiction with Delphian tradition to represent, as the Hymn does, Trophonius and Agamedes as the original builders.

Many other points are noted—such as the derivation of "Pytho" from a word meaning rot,—to show that the hymnist was rather disparaging than celebrating the Delphian sanctuary. Taking the Hymn as a whole, more is done for Delos in three lines, says Mr. Verrall, than for Pytho or Delphi in three hundred. As a whole, the spirit of the piece is much more Delian (Ionian) than Delphic. So Mr. Verrall regards the Cento as "a religious pasquinade against the sanctuary on Parnassus," a pasquinade emanating from Athens, under the Pisistratidae, who, being Ionian leaders, had a grudge against "the Dorian Delphi," "a comparatively modern, unlucky, and from the first unsatisfactory" institution. Athenians are interested in the "far-seen" altar of the seaman's Dolphin God on the shore, rather than in his inland Pythian habitation.

All this, with much more, is decidedly ingenious. If accepted it might lead the way to a general attack on the epics, as tendenz pieces, works with a political purpose, or doctored for a political purpose. But how are we to understand the uses of the pasquinade Hymn? Was it published, so to speak, to amuse and aid the Pisistratidae? Does such remote antiquity show us any examples of such handling of sacred things in poetry? Might we not argue that Apollo's threat to the Crisaeans was meant by the poet as a friendly warning, and is prior to the fall of Crisa? One is reminded of the futile ingenuity with which German critics, following their favourite method, have analysed the fatal Casket Letters of Mary Stuart into letters to her husband, Darnley; or to Murray; or by Darnley to Mary, with scraps of her diary, and false interpolations. The enemies of the Queen, coming into possession of her papers after the affair of Carberry Hill, falsified the Casket Letters into their present appearance of unity. Of course historical facts make this ingenuity unavailing. We regret the circumstance in the interest of the Queen's reputation, but welcome these illustrative examples of what can be done in Germany. {16a}

Fortunately all Teutons are not so ingenious. Baumeister has fallen on those who, in place of two hymns, Delian and Pythian, to Apollo, offer us half-a-dozen fragments. By presenting an array of discordant conjectures as to the number and nature of these scraps, he demonstrates the purely wilful and arbitrary nature of the critical method employed. {16b} Thus one learned person believes in (1) two perfect little poems; (2) two larger hymns; (3) three lacerated fragments of hymns, one lacking its beginning, the other wofully deprived of its end. Another savant detects no less than eight fragments, with interpolations; though perhaps no biblical critic ejusdem farinae has yet detected eight Isaiahs. There are about ten other theories of similar plausibility and value. Meanwhile Baumeister argues that the Pythian Hymn (our second part) is an imitation of the Delian; by a follower, not of Homer, but of Hesiod. Thus, the Hesiodic school was closely connected with Delphi; the Homeric with Ionia, so that Delphi rarely occurs in the Epics; in fact only thrice (I. 405, [Greek text]. 80, [Greek text]. 581). The local knowledge is accurate (Pythian Hymn, 103 sqq.). These are local legends, and knowledge of the curious chariot ritual of Onchestus. The Muses are united with the Graces as in a work of art in the Delphian temple. The poet chooses the Hesiodic and un-Homeric myth of Heaven and Earth, and their progeny: a myth current also in Polynesia, Australia, and New Zealand. The poet is full of inquiry as to origins, even etymological, as is Hesiod. Like Hesiod (and Mr. Max Muller), origines rerum ex nominibus explicat. Finally, the second poet (and here every one must agree) is a much worse poet than the first. As for the prophetic word of warning to the Crisaeans and its fulfilment, Baumeister urges that the people of Cirrha, the seaport, not of Crisa, were punished, in Olympiad 47 (Grote, ii. 374).

Turning to Gemoll, we find him maintaining that the two parts were in ancient times regarded as one hymn in the age of Aristophanes. {18} If so, we can only reply, if we agree with Baumeister, that in the age of Aristophanes, or earlier, there was a plentiful lack of critical discrimination. As to Baumeister's theory that the second part is Hesiodic, Gemoll finds a Hesiodic reminiscence in the first part (line 121), while there are Homeric reminiscences in the second part.

Thus do the learned differ among themselves, and an ordinary reader feels tempted to rely on his own literary taste.

According to that criterion, I think we probably have in the Hymn the work of a good poet, in the early part; and in the latter part, or second Hymn, the work of a bad poet, selecting unmanageable passages of myth, and handling them pedantically and ill. At all events we have here work visibly third rate, which cannot be said, in my poor opinion, about the immense mass of the Iliad and Odyssey. The great Alexandrian critics did not use the Hymns as illustrative material in their discussion of Homer. Their instinct was correct, and we must not start the consideration of the Homeric question from these much neglected pieces. We must not study obscurum per obscurius. The genius of the Epic soars high above such myths as those about Pytho, Typhaon, and the Apollo who is alternately a dolphin and a meteor: soars high above pedantry and bad etymology. In the Epics we breathe a purer air.

Descending, as it did, from the mythology of savages, the mythic store of Greece was rich in legends such as we find among the lowest races. Homer usually ignores them: Hesiod and the authors of the Hymns are less noble in their selections.

For this reason and for many others, we regard the Hymns, on the whole, as post-Homeric, while their collector, by inserting the Hymn to Ares, shows little proof of discrimination. Only the methods of modern German scholars, such as Wilamowitz Mollendorf, and of Englishmen like Mr. Walter Leaf, can find in the Epics marks of such confusion, dislocation, and interpolations as confront us in the Hymn to Apollo. (I may refer to my work, "Homer and the Epic," for a defence of the unity of Iliad and Odyssey.) For example, Mr. Verrall certainly makes it highly probable that the Pythian Hymn, at least in its concluding words of the God, is not earlier than the sixth century. But no proof of anything like this force is brought against the antiquity of the Iliad or Odyssey.

As to the myths in the Hymns, I would naturally study them from the standpoint of anthropology, and in the light of comparison of the legends of much more backward peoples than the Greeks. But that light at present is for me broken and confused.

I have been led to conclusions varying from those of such students as Mr. Tylor and Mr. Spencer, and these conclusions should be stated, before they are applied to the Myth of Apollo. I am not inclined, like them, to accept "Animism," or "The Ghost Theory," as the master-key to the origin of religion, though Animism is a great tributary stream. To myself it now appears that among the lowest known races we find present a fluid mass of beliefs both high and low, from the belief in a moral creative being, a judge of men, to the pettiest fable which envisages him as a medicine-man, or even as a beast or bird. In my opinion the higher belief may very well be the earlier. While I can discern the processes by which the lower myths were evolved, and were attached to a worthier pre-existing creed, I cannot see how, if the lower faiths came first, the higher faith was ever evolved out of them by very backward savages.

On the other side, in the case of Australia, Mr. Tylor writes: "For a long time after Captain Cook's visit, the information as to native religious ideas is of the scantiest." This was inevitable, for our information has only been obtained with the utmost difficulty, and under promises of secrecy, by later inquirers who had entirely won the confidence of the natives, and had been initiated into their Mysteries. Mr. Tylor goes on in the same sentence: "But, since the period of European colonists and missionaries, a crowd of alleged native names for the Supreme Deity and a great Evil Deity have been recorded, which, if really of native origin, would show the despised black fellow as in possession of theological generalisations as to the formation and conservation of the universe, and the nature of good and evil, comparable with those of his white supplanter in the land." {23a} Mr. Tylor then proceeds to argue that these ideas have been borrowed from missionaries. I have tried to reply to this argument by proving, for example, that the name of Baiame, one of these deities, could not have been borrowed (as Mr. Tylor seems inclined to hold) from a missionary tract published sixteen years after we first hear of Baiame, who, again, was certainly dominant before the arrival of missionaries. I have adduced other arguments of the same tendency, and I will add that the earliest English explorers and missionaries in Virginia and New England (1586-1622) report from America beliefs absolutely parallel in many ways to the creeds now reported from Australia. Among these notions are "ideas of moral judgment and retribution after death," which in Australia Mr. Tylor marks as "imported." {23b} In my opinion the certainty that the beliefs in America were not imported, is another strong argument for their native character, when they are found with such striking resemblances among the very undeveloped savages of Australia.

Savages, Mr. Hartland says in a censure of my theory, are "guiltless" of Christian teaching. {24} If Mr. Hartland is right, Mr. Tylor is wrong; the ideas, whatever else they are, are unimported, yet, teste Mr. Tylor, the ideas are comparable with those of the black man's white supplanters. I would scarcely go so far. If we take, however, the best ideas attributed to the blacks, and hold them disengaged from the accretion of puerile fables with which they are overrun, then there are discovered notions of high religious value, undeniably analogous to some Christian dogmas. But the sanction of the Australian gods is as powerfully lent to silly, or cruel, or needless ritual, as to some moral ideas of weight and merit. In brief, as far as I am able to see, all sorts of ideas, the lowest and the highest, are held at once confusedly by savages, and the same confusion survives in ancient Greek belief. As far back as we can trace him, man had a wealth of religious and mythical conceptions to choose from, and different peoples, as they advanced in civilisation, gave special prominence to different elements in the primal stock of beliefs. The choice of Israel was unique: Greece retained far more of the lower ancient ideas, but gave to them a beauty of grace and form which is found among no other race.

If this view be admitted for the moment, and for the argument's sake, we may ask how it applies to the myths of Apollo. Among the ideas which even now prevail among the backward peoples still in the neolithic stage of culture, we may select a few conceptions. There is the conception of a great primal anthropomorphic Being, who was in the beginning, or, at least, about whose beginning legend is silent. He made all things, he existed on earth (in some cases), teaching men the arts of life and rules of conduct, social and moral. In those instances he retired from earth, and now dwells on high, still concerned with the behaviour of the tribes.

This is a lofty conception, but it is entangled with a different set of legends. This primal Being is mixed up with strange persons of a race earlier than man, half human, half bestial. Many things, in some cases almost all things, are mythically regarded, not as created, but as the results of adventures and metamorphoses among the members of this original race. Now in New Zealand, Polynesia, Greece, and elsewhere, but not, to my knowledge, in the very most backward peoples, the place of this original race, "Old, old Ones," is filled by great natural objects, Earth, Sky, Sea, Forests, regarded as beings of human parts and passions.

The present universe is mythically arranged in regard to their early adventures: the separation of sky and earth, and so forth. Where this belief prevails we find little or no trace of the primal maker and master, though we do find strange early metaphysics of curiously abstract quality (Maoris, Zunis, Polynesians). As far as our knowledge goes, Greek mythology springs partly from this stratum of barbaric as opposed to strictly savage thought. Ouranos and Gaea, Cronos, and the Titans represent the primal beings who have their counterpart in Maori and Wintu legend. But these, in the Greece of the Epics and Hesiod, have long been subordinated to Zeus and the Olympians, who are envisaged as triumphant gods of a younger generation. There is no Creator; but Zeus—how, we do not know—has come to be regarded as a Being relatively Supreme, and as, on occasion, the guardian of morality. Of course his conduct, in myth, is represented as a constant violation of the very rules of life which he expects mankind to observe. I am disposed to look on this essential contradiction as the result of a series of mythical accretions on an original conception of Zeus in his higher capacity. We can see how the accretions arose. Man never lived consistently on the level of his best original ideas: savages also have endless myths of Baiame or Daramulun, or Bunjil, in which these personages, though interested in human behaviour, are puerile, cruel, absurd, lustful, and so on. Man will sport thus with his noblest intuitions.

In the same way, in Christian Europe, we may contrast Dunbar's pious "Ballat of Our Lady" with his "Kynd Kittok," in which God has his eye on the soul of an intemperate ale-wife who has crept into Paradise. "God lukit, and saw her lattin in, and leugh His heart sair." Examples of this kind of sportive irreverence are common enough; their root is in human nature: and they could not be absent in the mythology of savage or of ancient peoples. To Zeus the myths of this kind would come to be attached in several ways.

As a nature-god of the Heaven he marries the Earth. The tendency of men being to claim descent from a God, for each family with this claim a myth of a separate divine amour was needed. Where there had existed Totemism, or belief in kinship with beasts, the myth of the amour of a wolf, bull, serpent, swan, and so forth, was attached to the legend of Zeus. Zeus had been that swan, serpent, wolf, or bull. Once more, ritual arose, in great part, from the rites of sympathetic magic.

This or that mummery was enacted by men for a magical purpose, to secure success in the chase, agriculture, or war. When the performers asked, "Why do we do thus and thus?" the answer was, "Zeus first did so," or Demeter, or Apollo did so, on a certain occasion. About that occasion a myth was framed, and finally there was no profligacy, cruelty, or absurdity of which the God was not guilty. Yet, all the time, he punished adultery, inhospitality, perjury, incest, cannibalism, and other excesses, of which, in legend, he was always setting the example. We know from Xenophanes, Plato, and St. Augustine how men's consciences were tormented by this unceasing contradiction: this overgrowth of myth on the stock of an idea originally noble. It is thus that I would attempt to account for the contradictory conceptions of Zeus, for example.

As to Apollo, I do not think that mythologists determined to find, in Apollo, some deified aspect of Nature, have laid stress enough on his counterparts in savage myth. We constantly find, in America, in the Andaman Isles, and in Australia, that, subordinate to the primal Being, there exists another who enters into much closer relations with mankind. He is often concerned with healing and with prophecy, or with the inspiration of conjurers or shamans. Sometimes he is merely an underling, as in the case of the Massachusetts Kiehtan, and his more familiar subordinate, Hobamoc. {30} But frequently this go-between of God and Man is (like Apollo) the Son of the primal Being (often an unbegotten Son) or his Messenger (Andaman, Noongaburrah, Kurnai, Kamilaroi, and other Australian tribes). He reports to the somewhat otiose primal Being about men's conduct, and he sometimes superintends the Mysteries. I am disposed to regard the prophetic and oracular Apollo (who, as the Hymn to Hermes tells us, alone knows the will of Father Zeus) as the Greek modification of this personage in savage theology. Where this Son is found in Australia, I by no means regard him as a savage refraction from Christian teaching about a mediator, for Christian teaching, in fact, has not been accepted, least of all by the highly conservative sorcerers, or shamans, or wirreenuns of the tribes. European observers, of course, have been struck by (and have probably exaggerated in some instances) the Christian analogy. But if they had been as well acquainted with ancient Greek as with Christian theology they would have remarked that the Andaman, American, and Australian "mediators" are infinitely more akin to Apollo, in his relations with Zeus and with men, than to any Person about whom missionaries can preach. But the most devoted believer in borrowing will not say that, when the Australian mediator, Tundun, son of Mungun-gnaur, turns into a porpoise, the Kurnai have borrowed from our Hymn of the Dolphin Apollo. It is absurd to maintain that the Son of the God, the go-between of God and men, in savage theology, is borrowed from missionaries, while this being has so much more in common with Apollo (from whom he cannot conceivably be borrowed) than with Christ. The Tundun-porpoise story seems to have arisen in gratitude to the porpoise, which drives fishes inshore, for the natives to catch. Neither Tharamulun nor Hobamoc (Australian and American Gods of healing and soothsaying), who appear to men as serpents, are borrowed from Asclepius, or from the Python of Apollo. The processes have been quite different, and in Apollo, the oracular son of Zeus, who declares his counsel to men, I am apt to see a beautiful Greek modification of the type of the mediating Son of the primal Being of savage belief, adorned with many of the attributes of the Sun God, from whom, however, he is fundamentally distinct. Apollo, I think, is an adorned survival of the Son of the God of savage theology. He was not, at first, a Nature God, solar or not. This opinion, if it seems valid, helps to account, in part, for the animal metamorphoses of Apollo, a survival from the mental confusion of savagery. Such a confusion, in Greece, makes it necessary for the wise son of Zeus to seek information, as in the Hymn to Hermes, from an old clown. This medley of ideas, in the mind of a civilised poet, who believes that Apollo is all-knowing in the counsels of eternity, is as truly mythological as Dunbar's God who laughs his heart sore at an ale-house jest. Dunbar, and the author of the Hymn, and the savage with his tale of Tundun or Daramulun, have all quite contradictory sets of ideas alternately present to their minds; the mediaeval poet, of course, being conscious of the contradiction, which makes the essence of his humour, such as it is. To Greece, in its loftier moods, Apollo was, despite his myth, a noble source of inspiration, of art, and of conduct. But the contradiction in the low myth and high doctrine of Apollo, could never be eradicated under any influence less potent than that of Christianity. {34} If this theory of Apollo's origin be correct, many pages of learned works on Mythology need to be rewritten.


[Hermes with the boy Dionysos. Statue by Praxiteles, found at Olympia: lang35.jpg]

The Hymn to Hermes is remarkable for the corruption of the text, which appears even to present lacunae. The English reader will naturally prefer the lively and charming version of Shelley to any other. The poet can tell and adorn the story without visibly floundering in the pitfalls of a dislocated text. If we may judge by line 51, and if Greek musical tradition be correct, the date of the Hymn cannot be earlier than the fortieth Olympiad. About that period Terpander is said to have given the lyre seven strings (as Mercury does in the poem), in place of the previous four strings. The date of Terpander is dubious, but probably the seven-stringed lyre had long been in common use before the poet attributed the invention to Hermes. The same argument applies to the antiquity of writing, assigned by poets as the invention of various mythical and prehistoric heroes. But the poets were not careful archaeologists, and regarded anachronisms as genially as did Shakespeare or Scott. Moreover, the fact that Terpander did invent the seven chords is not beyond dispute historically, while, mythically, Apollo and Amphion are credited with the idea. That Hermes invented fire-sticks seems a fable which robs Prometheus of the honour. We must not look for any kind of consistency in myth.

The learned differ as to the precise purpose of the Hymn, and some even exclude the invention of the cithara. To myself it seems that the poet chiefly revels in a very familiar subject of savage humour (notably among the Zulus), the extraordinary feats and tricks of a tiny and apparently feeble and helpless person or animal, such as Brer Rabbit. The triumph of astuteness over strength (a triumph here assigned to the infancy of a God) is the theme. Hermes is here a rustic doublure of Apollo, as he was, in fact, mainly a rural deity, though he became the Messenger of the Gods, and the Guide of Souls outworn. In these respects he answers to the Australian Grogoragally, in his double relation to the Father, Boyma, and to men living and dead. {37a}

As a go-between of Gods and men, Hermes may be a doublure of Apollo, but, as the Hymn shows, he aspired in vain to Apollo's oracular function. In one respect his behaviour has a singular savage parallel. His shoes woven of twigs, so as not to show the direction in which he is proceeding, answer to the equally shapeless feather sandals of the blacks who "go Kurdaitcha," that is, as avengers of blood. I have nowhere else found this practice as to the shoes, which, after all, cannot conceal the direction of the spoor from a native tracker. {37b} The trick of driving the cattle backwards answers to the old legend that Bruce reversed the shoes of his horse when he fled from the court of Edward I.

The humour of the Hymn is rather rustic: cattle theft is the chief joke, cattle theft by a baby. The God, divine as he is, feels his mouth water for roast beef, a primitive conception. In fact, throughout this Hymn we are far from the solemn regard paid to Apollo, from the wistful beauty of the Hymn to Demeter, and from the gladness and melancholy of the Hymn to Aphrodite. Sportive myths are treated sportively, as in the story of Ares and Aphrodite in the Odyssey. Myths contained all conceivable elements, among others that of humour, to which the poet here abandons himself. The statues and symbols of Hermes were inviolably sacred; as Guide of Souls he played the part of comforter and friend: he brought men all things lucky and fortunate: he made the cattle bring forth abundantly: he had the golden wand of wealth. But he was also tricksy as a Brownie or as Puck; and that fairy aspect of his character and legend, he being the midnight thief whose maraudings account for the unexplained disappearances of things, is the chief topic of the gay and reckless hymn. Even the Gods, even angry Apollo, are moved to laughter, for over sport and playfulness, too, Greek religion throws her sanction. At the dishonesties of commerce (clearly regarded as a form of theft) Hermes winks his laughing eyes (line 516). This is not an early Socialistic protest against "Commercialism." The early traders, like the Vikings, were alternately pirates and hucksters, as opportunity served. Every occupation must have its heavenly patron, its departmental deity, and Hermes protects thieves and raiders, "minions of the moon," "clerks of St. Nicholas." His very birth is a stolen thing, the darkling fruit of a divine amour in a dusky cavern. Il chasse de race. {39}


The Hymn to Aphrodite is, in a literary sense, one of the most beautiful and quite the most Homeric in the collection. By "Homeric" I mean that if we found the adventure of Anchises occurring at length in the Iliad, by way of an episode, perhaps in a speech of AEneas, it would not strike us as inconsistent in tone, though occasionally in phrase. Indeed the germ of the Hymn occurs in Iliad, B. 820: "AEneas, whom holy Aphrodite bore to the embraces of Anchises on the knowes of Ida, a Goddess couching with a mortal." Again, in E. 313, AEneas is spoken of as the son of Aphrodite and the neat-herd, Anchises. The celebrated prophecy of the future rule of the children of AEneas over the Trojans (Y. 307), probably made, like many prophecies, after the event, appears to indicate the claim of a Royal House at Ilios, and is regarded as of later date than the general context of the epic. The AEneid is constructed on this hint; the Romans claiming to be of Trojan descent through AEneas. The date of the composition cannot be fixed from considerations of the Homeric tone; thus lines 238-239 may be a reminiscence of Odyssey, [Greek text]. 394, and other like suggestions are offered. {41} The conjectures as to date vary from the time of Homer to that of the Cypria, of Mimnermus (the references to the bitterness of loveless old age are in his vein) of Anacreon, or even of Herodotus and the Tragedians. The words [Greek text], [Greek text], and other indications are relied on for a late date: and there are obvious coincidences with the Hymn to Demeter, as in line 174, Demeter 109, f. Gemoll, however, takes this hymn to be the earlier.

About the place of composition, Cyprus or Asia Minor, the learned are no less divided than about the date. Many of the grounds on which their opinions rest appear unstable. The relations of Aphrodite to the wild beasts under her wondrous spell, for instance, need not be borrowed from Circe with her attendant beasts. If not of Homer's age, the Hymn is markedly successful as a continuation of the Homeric tone and manner.

Modern Puritanism naturally "condemns" Aphrodite, as it "condemns" Helen. But Homer is lenient; Helen is under the spell of the Gods, an unwilling and repentant tool of Destiny; and Aphrodite, too, is driven by Zeus into the arms of a mortal. She is [Greek text], shamefast; and her adventure is to her a bitter sorrow (199, 200). The dread of Anchises—a man is not long of life who lies with a Goddess—refers to a belief found from Glenfinlas to Samoa and New Caledonia, that the embraces of the spiritual ladies of the woodlands are fatal to men. The legend has been told to me in the Highlands, and to Mr. Stevenson in Samoa, while my cousin, Mr. J. J. Atkinson, actually knew a Kaneka who died in three days after an amour like that of Anchises. The Breton ballad, Le Sieur Nan, turns on the same opinion. The amour of Thomas the Rhymer is a mediaeval analogue of the Idaean legend.

Aphrodite has better claims than most Greek Gods to Oriental elements. Herodotus and Pausanias (i. xiv. 6, iii. 23, I) look on her as a being first worshipped by the Assyrians, then by the Paphians of Cyprus, and Phoenicians at Askelon, who communicated the cult to the Cythereans. Cyprus is one of her most ancient sites, and Ishtar and Ashtoreth are among her Oriental analogues. She springs from the sea—

"The wandering waters knew her, the winds and the viewless ways, And the roses grew rosier, and bluer the sea-blue streams of the bays."

But the charm of Aphrodite is Greek. Even without foreign influence, Greek polytheism would have developed a Goddess of Love, as did the polytheism of the North (Frigga) and of the Aztecs. The rites of Adonis, the vernal year, are, even in the name of the hero, Oriental. "The name Adonis is the Phoenician Adon, 'Lord.'" {44} "The decay and revival of vegetation" inspires the Adonis rite, which is un-Homeric; and was superfluous, where the descent and return of Persephone typified the same class of ideas. To whatever extent contaminated by Phoenician influence, Aphrodite in Homer is purely Greek, in grace and happy humanity.

The origins of Aphrodite, unlike the origins of Apollo, cannot be found in a state of low savagery. She is a departmental Goddess, and as such, as ruling a province of human passion, she belongs to a late development of religion. To Christianity she was a scandal, one of the scandals which are absent from the most primitive of surviving creeds. Polytheism, as if of set purpose, puts every conceivable aspect of life, good or bad, under divine sanction. This is much less the case in the religion of the very backward races. We do not know historically, what the germs of religion were; if we look at the most archaic examples, for instance in Australia or the Andaman Islands, we find neither sacrifice nor departmental deities.

Religion there is mainly a belief in a primal Being, not necessarily conceived as spiritual, but rather as an undying magnified Man, of indefinitely extensive powers. He dwells above "the vaulted sky beyond which lies the mysterious home of that great and powerful Being, who is Bunjil, Baiame, or Daramulun in different tribal languages, but who in all is known by a name the equivalent of the only one used by the Kurnai, which is Mungan-ngaur, or 'Our Father.'" {45} This Father is conceived of in some places as "a very great old man with a long beard," enthroned on, or growing into, a crystal throne. Often he is served by a son or sons (Apollo, Hermes), frequently regarded as spiritually begotten; elsewhere, looked on as the son of the wife of the deity, and as father of the tribe. {46a} Scandals connected with fatherhood, amorous intrigues so abundant in Greek mythology, are usually not reported among the lowest races. In one known case, the deity, Pundjel or Bunjil, takes the wives of Karween, who is changed into a crane. {46b} This is one of the many savage aetiological myths which account for the peculiarities of animals as a result of metamorphosis, in the manner of Ovid. It has been connected with the legend of Bunjil, who is thus envisaged, not as "Our Father" beyond the vault of heaven, who still inspires poets, {46c} but as a wandering, shape-shifting medicine-man. Zeus, the Heavenly Father, of course appears times without number in the same contradictory aspect.

But such anecdotes are either not common, or are not frequently reported, in the faiths of the most archaic of known races. Much more frequently we find the totemistic conception. All the kindreds with animal names (why adopted we do not know) are apt to explain these designations by descent from the animals selected, or by metamorphosis of the primal beasts into men. This collides with the other notions of descent from, or creation or manufacture out of clay, by the primal Being, "Father Ours." Such contradictions are nothing to the savage theologian, who is no reconciler or apologist. But when reconciliation and apology are later found to be desirable, as in Greece, it is easy to explain that we are descended both from Our Father, and from a swan, cow, ant, serpent, dog, wolf, or what you will. That beast was Our Father, say Father Zeus, in animal disguise. Thus Greek legends of bestial amours of a God are probably, in origin, not primitive, but scandals produced in the effort to reconcile contradictory myths. The result is a worse scandal, an accretion of more low myths about a conception of the primal Being which was, relatively, lofty and pure.

Again, as aristocracies arose, the chief families desired to be sons of the Father in a special sense: not as common men are. Her Majesty's lineage may thus be traced to Woden! Now each such descent required a separate divine amour, and a new scandalous story of Zeus or Apollo, though Zeus may originally have been as celibate as the Australian Baiame or Noorele are, in some legends. Once more, syncretism came in as a mythopoeic influence. Say that several Australian nations, becoming more polite, amalgamated into a settled people. Then we should have several Gods, the chief Beings of various tribes, say Noorele, Bunjil, Mungan- ngaur, Baiame, Daramulun, Mangarrah, Mulkari, Pinmeheal. The most imposing God of the dominant tribe might be elevated to the sovereignty of Zeus. But, in the new administration, places must be found for the other old tribal Gods. They are, therefore, set over various departments: Love, War, Agriculture, Medicine, Poetry, Commerce, while one or more of the sons take the places of Apollo and Hermes. There appears to be a very early example of syncretism in Australia. Daramulun (Papang, Our Father) is "Master of All," on the coast, near Shoalhaven River. Baiame is "Master of All," far north, on the Barwan. But the locally intermediate tribe of the Wiraijuri, or Wiradthuri, have adopted Baiame, and reduced Daramulun to an exploded bugbear, a merely nominal superintendent of the Mysteries; and the southern Coast Murring have rejected Baiame altogether, or never knew him, while making Daramulun supreme.

One obvious method of reconciling various tribal Gods in a syncretic Olympus, is the genealogical. All are children of Zeus, for example, or grandchildren, or brothers and sisters. Fancy then provides an amour to account for each relationship. Zeus loved Leto, Leda, Europa, and so forth. Thus a God, originally innocent and even moral, becomes a perfect pattern of vice; and the eternal contradiction vexes the souls of Xenophanes, Plato, and St. Augustine. Sacrifices, even human sacrifices, wholly unknown to the most archaic faiths, were made to ghosts of men: and especially of kings, in the case of human sacrifice. Thence they were transferred to Gods, and behold a new scandal, when men began to reflect under more civilised conditions. Thus all these legends of divine amours and sins, or most of them, including the wanton legend of Aphrodite, and all the human sacrifices which survived to the disgrace of Greek religion, are really degrading accessories to the most archaic beliefs. They are products, not of the most rudimentary savage existence, but of the evolution through the lower and higher barbarism. The worst features of savage ritual are different—taking the lines of sorcery, of cruel initiations, and, perhaps, of revival of the licence of promiscuity, or of Group Marriage. Of these things the traces are not absent from Greek faith, but they are comparatively inconspicuous.

Buffoonery, as we have seen, exists in all grades of civilised or savage rites, and was not absent from the popular festivals of the mediaeval Church: religion throwing her mantle over every human field of action, as over Folk Medicine. On these lines I venture to explain what seem to me the strange and repugnant elements of the religion of a people so refined, and so capable of high moral ideas, as the Greeks. Aphrodite is personified desire, but religion did not throw her mantle over desire alone; the cloistered life, the frank charm of maidenhood, were as dear to the Greek genius, and were consecrated by the examples of Athene, Artemis, and Hestia. She presides over the pure element of the fire of the hearth, just as in the household did the daughter of the king or chief. Hers are the first libations at feasts (xxviii. 5), though in Homer they are poured forth to Hermes.

We may explain the Gods of the minor hymns in the same way. Pan, for instance, as the son of Hermes, inherits the wild, frolicsome, rural aspect of his character. The Dioscuri answer to the Vedic Asvins, twin rescuers of men in danger on land or sea: perhaps the Evening and Morning Star. Dionysus is another aspect of the joy of life and of the world and the vintaging. Moon and Sun, Selene and Helios, appear as quite distinct from Artemis and Apollo; Gaea, the Earth, is equally distinct from Demeter. The Hymn to Ares is quite un-Homeric in character, and is oddly conceived in the spirit of the Scottish poltroon, who cries to his friend, "Haud me, haud me, or I'll fecht!" The war-god is implored to moderate the martial eagerness of the poet. The original collector here showed lack of discrimination. At no time, however, was Ares a popular God in Greece; in Homer he is a braggart and coward.


The beautiful Hymn to Demeter, an example of Greek religious faith in its most pensive and most romantic aspects, was found in the last century (1780), in Moscow. Inter pullos et porcos latitabat: the song of the rural deity had found its way into the haunts of the humble creatures whom she protected. A discovery even more fortunate, in 1857, led Sir Charles Newton to a little sacellum, or family chapel, near Cnidos. On a platform of rock, beneath a cliff, and looking to the Mediterranean, were the ruins of the ancient shrine: the votive offerings; the lamps long without oil or flame; the Curses, or Dirae, inscribed on thin sheets of lead, and directed against thieves or rivals. The head of the statue, itself already known, was also discovered. Votive offerings, cheap curses, objects of folk-lore rite and of sympathetic magic,—these are connected with the popular, the peasant aspect of the religion of Demeter. She it is to whom pigs are sacrificed: who makes the fields fertile with scattered fragments of their flesh; and her rustic effigy, at Theocritus's feast of the harvest home, stands smiling, with corn and poppies in her hands.

[Mourning Demeter. Marble statue from Knidos. In the British Museum: lang54.jpg]

But the Cnidian shrine had once another treasure, the beautiful melancholy statue of the seated Demeter of the uplifted eyes; the mourning mother: the weary seeker for the lost maiden: her child Persephone. Far from the ruins above the sea, beneath the scorched seaward wall of rock: far from the aromatic fragrance of the rock-nourished flowers, from the bees, and the playful lizards, Demeter now occupies her place in the great halls of the British Museum. Like the Hymn, this melancholy and tender work of art is imperfect, but the sentiment is thereby rather increased than impaired. The ancients buried things broken with the dead, that the shadows of tool, or weapon, or vase might be set free, to serve the shadows of their masters in the land of the souls. Broken as they, too, are, the Hymn and the statue are "free among the dead," and eloquent of the higher religion that, in Greece, attached itself to the lost Maiden and the sorrowing Mother. Demeter, in religion, was more than a fertiliser of the fields: Kore, the Maiden, was more than the buried pig, or the seed sown to await its resurrection; or the harvest idol, fashioned of corn-stalks: more even than a symbol of the winter sleep and vernal awakening of the year and the life of nature. She became the "dread Persephone" of the Odyssey,

"A Queen over death and the dead."

In her winter retreat below the earth she was the bride of the Lord of Many Guests, and the ruler "of the souls of men outworn." In this office Odysseus in Homer knows her, though neither Iliad nor Odyssey recognises Kore as the maiden Spring, the daughter and companion of Demeter as Goddess of Grain. Christianity, even, did not quite dethrone Persephone. She lives in two forms: first, as the harvest effigy made of corn-stalks bound together, the last gleanings; secondly, as "the Fairy Queen Proserpina," who carried Thomas the Rhymer from beneath the Eildon Tree to that land which lies beyond the stream of slain men's blood.

"For a' the bluid that's shed on earth Flows through the streams of that countrie."

[Silver denarius of C. Vibius Pansa (about 90 B.C.). Obv. Head of Apollo. Rev. Demeter searching for Persephone: lang56.jpg]

Thus tenacious of life has been the myth of Mother and Maiden, a natural flower of the human heart, found, unborrowed, by the Spaniards in the maize-fields of Peru. Clearly the myth is a thing composed of many elements, glad and sad as the waving fields of yellow grain, or as the Chthonian darkness under earth where the seed awaits new life in the new year. The creed is practical as the folk-lore of sympathetic magic, which half expects to bring good harvest luck by various mummeries; and the creed is mystical as the hidden things and words unknown which assured Pindar and Sophocles of secure felicity in this and in the future life.

The creed is beautiful as the exquisite profile of the corn-tressed head of Persephone on Syracusan coins: and it is grotesque as the custom which bade the pilgrims to Eleusis bathe in the sea, each with the pig which he was about to sacrifice. The highest religious hopes, the meanest magical mummeries are blended in this religion. That one element is earlier than the other we cannot say with much certainty. The ritual aspect, as concerned with the happy future of the soul, does not appear in Iliad or Odyssey, where the Mysteries are not named. But the silence of Homer is never a safe argument in favour of his ignorance, any more than the absence of allusion to tobacco in Shakspeare is a proof that tobacco was, in his age, unknown.

We shall find that a barbaric people, the Pawnees, hold a mystery precisely parallel to the Demeter legend: a Mystery necessarily unborrowed from Greece. The Greeks, therefore, may have evolved the legend long before Homer's day, and he may have known the story which he does not find occasion to tell. As to what was said, shown, and done in the Eleusinia, we only gather that there was a kind of Mystery Play on the sacred legend; that there were fastings, vigils, sacrifices, secret objects displayed, sacred words uttered; and that thence such men as Pindar and Sophocles received the impression that for them, in this and the future life, all was well, was well for those of pure hearts and hands. The "purity" may partly have been ritual, but was certainly understood, also, as relating to excellence of life. Than such a faith (for faith it is) religion has nothing better to give. But the extreme diligence of scholars and archaeologists can tell us nothing more definite. The impressions on the souls of the initiated may have been caused merely by that dim or splendid religious light of the vigils, and by association with sacred things usually kept in solemn sanctuaries. Again, mere buffoonery (as is common in savage Mysteries) brought the pilgrims back to common life when they crossed the bridge on their return to Athens; just as the buffooneries of Baubo brought a smile to the sad lips of Demeter. Beyond this all is conjecture, and the secret may have been so well kept just because, in fact, there was no secret to keep. {59}

Till the end of the present century, mythologists did not usually employ the method of comparing Greek rites and legends with, first, the sympathetic magic and the fables of peasant folk-lore; second, with the Mysteries and myths of contemporary savage races, of which European folk- lore is mainly a survival. For a study of Demeter from these sides (a study still too much neglected in Germany) readers may consult Mannhardt's works, Mr. Frazer's "Golden Bough," and the present translator's "Custom and Myth," and "Myth, Ritual, and Religion." Mr. Frazer, especially, has enabled the English reader to understand the savage and rural element of sympathetic magic as a factor in the Demeter myth. Meanwhile Mr. Pater has dealt with the higher sentiment, the more religious aspect, of the myth and the rites. I am not inclined to go all lengths with Mr. Frazer's ingenious and learned system, as will be seen, while regretting that the new edition of his "Golden Bough" is not yet accessible.

If we accept (which I do not entirely) Mr. Frazer's theory of the origin of the Demeter myth, there is no finer example of the Greek power of transforming into beauty the superstitions of Barbarism. The explanation to which I refer is contained in Mr. J. G. Frazer's learned and ingenious work, "The Golden Bough." While mythologists of the schools of Mr. Max Muller and Kuhn have usually resolved most Gods and heroes into Sun, Sky, Dawn, Twilight; or, again, into elemental powers of Thunder, Tempest, Lightning, and Night, Mr. Frazer is apt to see in them the Spirit of Vegetation. Osiris is a Tree Spirit or a Corn Spirit (Mannhardt, the founder of the system, however, took Osiris to be the Sun). Balder is the Spirit of the Oak. The oak, "we may certainly conclude, was one of the chief, if not the very chief divinity of the Aryans before the dispersion." {61} If so, the Aryans before the dispersion were on an infinitely lower religious level than those Australian tribes, whose chief divinity is not a gum-tree, but a being named "Our Father," dwelling beyond the visible heavens. When we remember the vast numbers of gods of sky or heaven among many scattered races, and the obvious connection of Zeus with the sky (sub Jove frigido), and the usually assigned sense of the name of Zeus, it is not easy to suppose that he was originally an oak. But Mr. Frazer considers the etymological connection of Zeus with the Sanscrit word for sky, an insufficient reason for regarding Zeus as, in origin, a sky-god. He prefers, it seems, to believe that, as being the wood out of which fire was kindled by some Aryan-speaking peoples, the oak may have come to be called "The Bright or Shining One" (Zeus, Jove), by the ancient Greeks and Italians. {62} The Greeks, in fact, used the laurel (daphne) for making fire, not, as far as I am aware, the oak. Though the oak was the tree of Zeus, the heavens were certainly his province, and, despite the oak of Dodona, and the oak on the Capitol, he is much more generally connected with the sky than with the tree. In fact this reduction of Zeus, in origin, to an oak, rather suggests that the spirit of system is too powerful with Mr. Frazer.

He makes, perhaps, a more plausible case for his reduction of dread Persephone to a Pig. The process is curious. Early agricultural man believed in a Corn Spirit, a spiritual essence animating the grain (in itself no very unworthy conception). But because, as the field is mown, animals in the corn are driven into the last unshorn nook, and then into the open, the beast which rushed out of the last patch was identified with the Corn Spirit in some animal shape, perhaps that of a pig; many other animals occur. The pig has a great part in the ritual of Demeter. Pigs of pottery were found by Sir Charles Newton on her sacred ground. The initiate in the Mysteries brought pigs to Eleusis, and bathed with them in the sea. The pig was sacrificed to her; in fact (though not in our Hymn) she was closely associated with pigs. "We may now ask . . . may not the pig be nothing but the Goddess herself in animal form?" {64a} She would later become anthropomorphic: a lovely Goddess, whose hair, as in the Hymn, is "yellow as ripe corn." But the prior pig could not be shaken off. At the Attic Thesmophoria the women celebrated the Descent and Ascent of Persephone,—a "double" of Demeter. In this rite pigs and other things were thrown into certain caverns. Later, the cold remains of pig were recovered and placed on the altar. Fragments were scattered for luck on the fields with the seed-corn. A myth explained that a flock of pigs were swallowed by Earth when Persephone was ravished by Hades to the lower world, of which matter the Hymn says nothing. "In short, the pigs were Proserpine." {64b} The eating of pigs at the Thesmophoria was "a partaking of the body of the God," though the partakers, one thinks, must have been totally unconscious of the circumstance. We must presume that (if this theory be correct) a very considerable time was needed for the evolution of a pig into the Demeter of the Hymn, and the change is quite successfully complete; a testimony to the transfiguring power of the Greek genius.

We may be inclined to doubt, however, whether the task before the genius of Greece, the task of making Proserpine out of a porker, was really so colossal. The primitive mind is notoriously capable of entertaining, simultaneously, the most contradictory notions. Thus, in the Australian "Legend of Eerin," the mourners implore Byamee to accept the soul of the faithful Eerin into his Paradise, Bullimah. No doubt Byamee heard, yet Eerin is now a little owl of plaintive voice, which ratters warning cries in time of peril. {65} No incongruity of this kind is felt to be a difficulty by the childlike narrators. Now I conceive that, starting with the relatively high idea of a Spirit of the Grain, early man was quite capable of envisaging it both spiritually and in zoomorphic form (accidentally conditioned here into horse, there into goat, pig, or what not). But these views of his need not exclude his simultaneous belief in the Corn Spirit as a being anthropomorphic, "Mother Earth," or "Mother Grain," as we follow the common etymology; or that of Mannhardt ([Greek text]) [Greek text]="barley-mother"). If I am right, poetry and the higher religion moved from the first on the line of the anthropomorphic Lady of the Harvest and the Corn, Mother Barley: while the popular folk- lore of the Corn Spirit (which found utterance in the mirth of harvesting, and in the magic ritual for ensuring fertility), followed on the line of the pig. At some seasons, and in some ceremonies, the pig represented the genius of the corn: in general, the Lady of the Corn was—Demeter. We really need not believe that the two forms of the genius of the corn were ever consciously identified. Demeter never was a Pig! {66}

"The Peruvians, we are told, believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine being who causes their growth," says Mr. Frazer. {67} The genealogical table, then, in my opinion, is:—

Divine Being of the Grain. + -+ + (Anthropomorphized). (Zoomorphised). Mother of Corn. Pig, Horse, Demeter. and so on.

Thus the Greek genius had other and better materials to work on, in evolving Demeter, than the rather lowly animal which is associated with her rites. If any one objects that animal gods always precede anthropomorphic gods in evolution, we reply that, in the most archaic of known races, the deities are represented in human guise at the Mysteries, though there are animal Totems, and though, in myth, the deity may, and often does, assume shapes of bird or beast. {68}

Among rites of the backward races, none, perhaps, so closely resembles the Eleusinian Mysteries as the tradition of the Pawnees. In Attica, Hades, Lord of the Dead, ravishes away Persephone, the vernal daughter of Demeter. Demeter then wanders among men, and is hospitably received by Celeus, King of Eleusis. Baffled in her endeavour to make his son immortal, she demands a temple, where she sits in wrath, blighting the grain. She is reconciled by the restoration of her daughter, at the command of Zeus. But for a third of the year Persephone, having tasted a pomegranate seed in Hades, has to reign as Queen of the Dead, beneath the earth. Scenes from this tale were, no doubt, enacted at the Mysteries, with interludes of buffoonery, such as relieved most ancient and all savage Mysteries. The allegory of the year's death and renewal probably afforded a text for some discourse, or spectacle, concerned with the future life.

Among the Pawnees, not a mother and daughter, but two primal beings, brothers, named Manabozho and Chibiabos, are the chief characters. The Manitos (spirits or gods) drown Chibiabos. Manabozho mourns and smears his face with black, as Demeter wears black raiment. He laments Chibiabos ceaselessly till the Manitos propitiate him with gifts and ceremonies. They offer to him a cup, like the beverage prepared for Demeter, in the Hymn, by Iambe. He drinks it, is glad, washes off the black stain of mourning, and is himself again, while Earth again is joyous. The Manitos restore Chibiabos to life; but, having once died, he may not enter the temple, or "Medicine Lodge." He is sent to reign over the souls of the departed as does Persephone. Manabozho makes offerings to Mesukkumikokwi, the "Earth Mother" of the Pawnees. The story is enacted in the sacred dances of the Pawnees. {69}

The Pawnee ideas have fallen, with singularly accurate coincidence, into the same lines as those of early Greece. Some moderns, such as M. Foucart, have revived the opinion of Herodotus, that the Mysteries were brought from Greece to Egypt. But, as the Pawnee example shows, similar natural phenomena may anywhere beget similar myths and rites. In Greece the donnee was a nature myth, and a ritual in which it was enacted. That ritual was a form of sympathetic magic, and the myth explained the performances. The refinement and charm of the legend (on which Homer, as we saw, does not touch) is due to the unique genius of Greece. Demeter became the deity most familiar to the people, nearest to their hearts and endowed with most temples; every farm possessing her rural shrine. But the Chthonian, or funereal, aspect of Chibiabos, or of Persephone, is due to a mood very distinct from that which sacrifices pigs as embodiments of the Corn Spirit, if that be the real origin of the practice.

We should much misconceive the religious spirit of the Greek rite if we undertook to develop it all out an origin in sympathetic magic: which, of course, I do not understand Mr. Frazer to do. Greek scholars, again, are apt to view these researches into savage or barbaric origins with great distaste and disfavour. This is not a scientific frame of mind. In the absence of such researches other purely fanciful origins have been invented by scholars, ancient or modern. It is necessary to return to the pedestrian facts, if merely in order to demonstrate the futility of the fancies. The result is in no way discreditable to Greece. Beginning, like other peoples, with the vague unrealised conception of the Corn Mother (an idea which could not occur before the agricultural stage of civilisation), the Greeks refined and elevated the idea into the Demeter of the Hymn, and of the Cnidian statue. To do this was the result of their unique gifts as a race. Meanwhile the other notion of a Ruler of Souls, in Greece attached to Persephone, is found among peoples not yet agricultural: nomads living on grubs, roots, seeds of wild grasses, and the products of the chase. Almost all men's ideas are as old as mankind, so far as we know mankind.

Conceptions originally "half-conscious," and purely popular, as of a Spirit of Vegetation, incarnate, as it were, in each year's growth, were next handled by conscious poets, like the author of our Hymn, and then are "realised as abstract symbols, because intensely characteristic examples of moral, or spiritual conditions." {72} Thus Demeter and Persephone, no longer pigs or Grain-Mothers, "lend themselves to the elevation and the correction of the sentiments of sorrow and awe, by the presentment to the senses and imagination of an ideal expression of them. Demeter cannot but seem the type of divine grief. Persephone is the Goddess of Death, yet with a promise of life to come."

That the Eleusinia included an ethical element seems undeniable. This one would think probable, a priori, on the ground that Greek Mysteries are an embellished survival of the initiatory rites of savages, which do contain elements of morality. This I have argued at some length in "Myth, Ritual, and Religion." Many strange customs in some Greek Mysteries, such as the daubing of the initiate with clay, the use of the [Greek text] (the Australian Tundun, a small piece of wood whirled noisily by a string), the general suggestion of a new life, the flogging of boys at Sparta, their retreat, each with his instructor (Australian kabbo, Greek [Greek text]) to the forests, are precisely analogous to things found in Australia, America, and Africa. Now savage rites are often associated with what we think gross cruelty, and, as in Fiji, with abandoned license, of which the Fathers also accuse the Greeks. But, among the Yao of Central Africa, the initiator, observes Mr. Macdonald, "is said to give much good advice. His lectures condemn selfishness, and a selfish person is called mwisichana, that is, 'uninitiated.'" {74a}

Among the Australians, Dampier, in 1688, observed the singular unselfish generosity of distribution of food to the old, the weak, and the sick. According to Mr. Howitt, the boys of the Coast Murring tribe are taught in the Mysteries "to speak the straightforward truth while being initiated, and are warned to avoid various offences against propriety and morality." The method of instruction is bad, a pantomimic representation of the sin to be avoided, but the intention is excellent. {74b} Among the Kurnai respect for the old, for unprotected women, the duty of unselfishness, and other ethical ideas are inculcated, {74c} while certain food taboos prevail during the rite, as was also the case in the Eleusinia. That this moral idea of "sharing what they have with their friends" is not confined merely to the tribe, is proved by the experience of John Finnegan, a white man lost near Moreton Bay early in this century. "At all times, whether they had much or little, fish or kangaroo, they always gave me as much as I could eat." Even when the whites stole the fish of the natives, and were detected, "instead of attempting to repossess themselves of the fish, they instantly set at work to procure more for us, and one or two fetched us as much dingowa as they could carry." {75} The first English settlers in Virginia, on the other hand, when some native stole a cup, burned down the whole town.

Thus the morality of the savage is not merely tribal (as is often alleged), and is carried into practice, as well as inculcated, in some regions, not in all, during the Mysteries.

For these reasons, if the Greek Mysteries be survivals of savage ceremonies (as there is no reason to doubt that they are), the savage association of moral instruction with mummeries might survive as easily as anything else. That it did survive is plain from numerous passages in classical authors. {76a} The initiate "live a pious life in regard to strangers and citizens." They are to be "conscious of no evil": they are to "protect such as have wrought no unrighteousness." Such precepts "have their root in the ethico-religious consciousness." {76b} It is not mere ritual purity that the Mysteries demand, either among naked Australians, or Yao, or in Greece. Lobeck did his best to minimise the testimony to the higher element in the Eleusinia, but without avail. The study of early, barbaric, savage, classical, Egyptian, or Indian religions should not be one-sided. Men have always been men, for good as well as for evil; and religion, almost everywhere, is allied with ethics no less than it is overrun by the parasite of myth, and the survival of magic in ritual. The Mother and the Maid were "Saviours" ([Greek text]), "holy" and "pure," despite contradictory legends. {77} The tales of incest, as between Zeus and Persephone, are the result of the genealogical mania. The Gods were grouped in family-relationships, to account for their companionship in ritual, and each birth postulated an amour. None the less the same deities offered "salvation," of a sort, and were patrons of conduct.

Greek religion was thus not destitute of certain chief elements in our own. But these were held in solution, with a host of other warring elements, lustful, cruel, or buffooning. These elements Greece was powerless to shake off; philosophers, by various expedients, might explain away the contradictory myths which overgrew the religion, but ritual, the luck of the State, and popular credulity, were tenacious of the whole strange mingling of beliefs and practices.

* * * * *

The view taken of the Eleusinia in this note is hardly so exalted as that of Dr. Hatch. "The main underlying conception of initiation was that there were elements in human life from which the candidate must purify himself before he could be fit to approach God." The need of purification, ritual and moral, is certain, but one is not aware of anything in the purely popular or priestly religion of Greece which exactly answers to our word "God" as used in the passage cited. Individuals, by dint of piety or of speculation, might approach the conception, and probably many did, both in and out of the philosophic schools. But traditional ritual and myth could scarcely rise to this ideal; and it seems exaggerated to say of the crowded Eleusinian throng of pilgrims that "the race of mankind was lifted on to a higher plane when it came to be taught that only the pure in heart can see God." {78} The black native boys in Australia pass through a purgative ceremony to cure them of selfishness, and afterwards the initiator points to the blue vault of sky, bidding them behold "Our Father, Mungan-ngaur." This is very well meant, and very creditable to untutored savages: and creditable ideas were not absent from the Eleusinia. But when we use the quotation, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," our meaning, though not very definite, is a meaning which it would be hazardous to attribute to a black boy,—or to Sophocles. The idea of the New Life appears to occur in Australian Mysteries: a tribesman is buried, and rises at a given signal. But here the New Life is rather that of the lad admitted to full tribal privileges (including moral precepts) than that of a converted character. Confirmation, rather than conversion, is the analogy. The number of those analogies of ancient and savage with Christian religion is remarkable. But even in Greek Mysteries the conceptions are necessarily not so purely spiritual as in the Christian creed, of which they seem half-conscious and fragmentary anticipations. Or we may regard them as suggestions, which Christianity selected, accepted, and purified.



In what has been said as to the Greek Mysteries, I have regarded them as of native origin. I have exhibited rites of analogous kinds in the germ, as it were, among savage and barbaric communities. In Peru, under the Incas, we actually find Mama and Cora (Demeter and Kore) as Goddesses of the maize (Acosta), and for rites of sympathetic magic connected with the production of fertile harvests (as in the Thesmophoria at Athens) it is enough to refer to the vast collection in Mr. Frazer's "Golden Bough." I have also indicated the closest of all known parallels to the Eleusinian in a medicine-dance and legend of the Pawnees. For other savage Mysteries in which a moral element occurs, I have quoted Australian and African examples. Thence I have inferred that the early Greeks might, and probably did, evolve their multiform mystic rites out of germs of such things inherited from their own prehistoric ancestors. No process, on the other hand, of borrowing from Greece can conceivably account for the Pawnee and Peruvian rites, so closely analogous to those of Hellas. Therefore I see no reason why, if Egypt, for instance, presents parallels to the Eleusinia, we should suppose that the prehistoric Greeks borrowed the Eleusinia from Egypt. These things can grow up, autochthonous and underived, out of the soil of human nature anywhere, granting certain social conditions. Monsieur Foucart, however, has lately argued in favour of an Egyptian origin of the Eleusinia. {82}

The Greeks naturally identified Demeter and Dionysus with Isis and Osiris. There were analogies in the figures and the legends, and that was enough. So, had the Greeks visited America, they would have recognised Demeter in the Pawnee Earth Mother, and Persephone or Eubouleus in Chibiabos. To account for the similarities they would probably have invented a fable of Pawnee visitors to Greece, or of Greek missionaries among the Pawnees. So they were apt to form a theory of an Egyptian origin of Dionysus and Demeter.

M. Foucart, however, argues that agriculture, corn-growing at least, came into Greece at one stride, barley and wheat not being indigenous in a wild state. The Greeks, however, may have brought grain in their original national migration (the Greek words for grain and ploughing are common to other families of Aryan speech) or obtained it from Phoenician settlements. Demeter, however, in M. Foucart's theory, would be the Goddess of the foreigners who carried the grain first to Hellas. Now both the Homeric epics and the Egyptian monuments show us Egypt and Greece in contact in the Greek prehistoric period. But it does not exactly follow that the prehistoric Greeks would adopt Egyptian gods; or that the Thesmophoria, an Athenian harvest-rite of Demeter, was founded by colonists from Egypt, answering to the daughters of Danaus. {84} Egyptians certainly did not introduce the similar rite among the Khonds, or the Incas. The rites could grow up without importation, as the result of the similarities of primitive fancy everywhere. If Isis is Lady of the Grain in Egypt, so is Mama in Peru, and Demeter need no more have been imported from Egypt than Mama. If Osiris taught the arts of life and the laws of society in Egypt, so did Daramulun in Australia, and Yehl in British Columbia. All the gods and culture heroes everywhere play this role—in regions where importation of the idea from Egypt is utterly out of the question. Even in minute details, legends recur everywhere; the phallus of a mutilated Australian being of the fabulous "Alcheringa time," is hunted for by his wives; exactly as Isis wanders in search of the phallus of the mutilated Osiris. {85a} Is anything in the Demeter legend so like the Isis legend as this Australian coincidence? Yet the Arunta did not borrow it from Egypt. {85b} The mere fact, again, that there were Mysteries both in Egypt and Greece proves nothing. There is a river in Monmouth, and a river in Macedon; there are Mysteries in almost all religions.

Again, it is argued, the Gods of the Mysteries in Egypt and Greece had secret names, only revealed to the initiated. So, too, in Australia, women (never initiated) and boys before initiation, know Daramulun only as Papang (Father). {85c} The uninitiated among the Kurnai do not know the sacred name, Mungan-ngaur. {85d} The Australian did not borrow this secrecy from Egypt. Everywhere a mystery is kept up about proper names. M. Foucart seems to think that what is practically universal, a taboo on names, can only have reached Greece by transplantation from Egypt. {86a} To the anthropologist it seems that scholars, in ignoring the universal ideas of the lower races, run the risk of venturing on theories at once superficial and untenable.

M. Foucart has another argument, which does not seem more convincing, though it probably lights up the humorous or indecent side of the Eleusinia. Isocrates speaks of "good offices" rendered to Demeter by "our ancestors," which "can only be told to the initiate." {86b} Now these cannot be the kindly deeds reported in the Hymn, for these were publicly proclaimed. What, then, were the secret good offices? In one version of the legend the hosts of Demeter were not Celeus and Metaneira, but Dusaules and Baubo. The part of Baubo was to relieve the gloom of the Goddess, not by the harmless pleasantries of Iambe, in the Hymn, but by obscene gestures. The Christian Fathers, Clemens of Alexandria at least, make this a part of their attack on the Mysteries; but it may be said that they were prejudiced or misinformed. {87a} But, says M. Foucart, an inscription has been found in Paros, wherein there is a dedication to Hera, Demeter Thesmophoros, Kore, and Babo, or Baubo. Again, two authors of the fourth century, Palaephatus and Asclepiades, cite the Dusaules and Baubo legend. {87b}

Now the indecent gesture of Baubo was part of the comic or obscene folk- lore of contempt in Egypt, and so M. Foucart thinks that it was borrowed from Egypt with the Demeter legend. {87c} Can Isocrates have referred to this good office?—the amusing of Demeter by an obscene gesture? If he did, such gestures as Baubo's are as widely diffused as any other piece of folk-lore. In the centre of the Australian desert Mr. Carnegie saw a native make a derisive gesture which he thought had only been known to English schoolboys. {88a} Again, indecent pantomimic dances, said to be intended to act as "object lessons" in things not to be done, are common in Australian Mysteries. Further, we do not know Baubo, or a counterpart of her, in the ritual of Isis, and the clay figurines of such a figure, in Egypt, are of the Greek, the Ptolemaic period. Thus the evidence comes to this: an indecent gesture of contempt, known in Egypt, is, at Eleusis, attributed to Baubo. This does not prove that Baubo was originally Egyptian. {88b} Certain traditions make Demeter the mistress of Celeus. {88c} Traces of a "mystic marriage," which also occur, are not necessarily Egyptian: the idea and rite are common.

There remains the question of the sacred objects displayed (possibly statues, probably very ancient "medicine" things, as among the Pawnees) and sacred words spoken. These are said by many authors to confirm the initiate in their security of hope as to a future life. Now similar instruction, as to the details of the soul's voyage, the dangers to avoid, the precautions to be taken, notoriously occur in the Egyptian "Book of the Dead." But very similar fancies are reported from the Ojibbeways (Kohl), the Polynesians and Maoris (Taylor, Turner, Gill, Thomson), the early peoples of Virginia, {89a} the modern Arapaho and Sioux of the Ghost Dance rite, the Aztecs, and so forth. In all countries these details are said to have been revealed by men or women who died, but did not (like Persephone) taste the food of the dead; and so were enabled to return to earth. The initiate, at Eleusis, were guided along a theatrically arranged pathway of the dead, into a theatrical Elysium. {89b} Now as such ideas as these occur among races utterly removed from contact with Egypt, as they are part of the European folk-lore of the visits of mortals to fairyland (in which it is fatal to taste fairy food), I do not see that Eleusis need have borrowed such common elements of early belief from the Egyptians in the seventh century B.C. {90} One might as well attribute to Egypt the Finnish legend of the descent of Wainamoinen into Tuonela; or the experience of the aunt of Montezuma just before the arrival of Cortes; or the expedition to fairyland of Thomas the Rhymer. It is not pretended by M. Foucart that the details of the "Book of the Dead" were copied in Greek ritual; and the general idea of a river to cross, of dangerous monsters to avoid, of perils to encounter, of precautions to be taken by the wandering soul, is nearly universal, where it must be unborrowed from Egypt, in Polynesian and Red Indian belief. As at Eleusis, in these remote tribes formulas of a preservative character are inculcated.

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