Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 2).djvu/29

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15
ANIMALS IN BUSHMAN MYTH.

The peculiarity of Bushman mythology is the almost absolute predominance of animals. Except "an old woman," who appears now and then in these incoherent legends, their myths have scarcely one human figure to show. Now, whether the Bushmen be deeply degenerate from a past civilisation or not, it is certain that their myths are based on their actual condition of thought, unless we prefer to say that their intellectual condition is derived from their myths. We have already derived the constant presence and personal action of animals in myth from that savage condition of the mind in which "all things, animate or inanimate, human, animal, vegetable, or inorganic, seem on the same level of life, passion, and reason" (Chap. iii.) Now there can be no doubt that, whether the Bushman mind has descended to this stage or not, in this stage it actually dwells at present. As examples we may select the following from Dr. Bleek's Bushman Folk-lore. Díalkwāin told how the death of his own wife was "foretold by the springbok and the gemsbok." Again, for examples of living belief in community of nature with animals, Díalkwāin mentioned an old woman, a relation and friend of his own, who had the power "of turning herself into a lioness." Another Bushman, Kábbo, retaining, doubtless, his wide-awake mental condition in his sleep, "dreamed of lions which talked." Another informant explained that lions talk like men "by putting their tails in their mouth."

This would have pleased Sydney Smith, who thought that "if lions would meet and growl out their observa-