Page:The American Indian.djvu/245

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199
RELIGIOUS CONCEPTIONS

whole complex, and the Tupi Zume seems to have been but little different. With the exception of the bison area group, we have practically continuity of distribution, and so far the whole complex has not been found outside of these limits. As Brinton has stated, we can find lesser units of this complex more widely distributed, but his effort to show that these facts of distribution prove that each group devised the conception independently to explain the phenomena of the sun, dawn, etc., is not convincing, for it seems far more probable that the complex was evolved in one locality and thence diffused. Perhaps one of the most striking traits of this character is that in contrast to most other gods of the New World, he is a person, not an animal or an astronomical monster. To our mind, this one fact is a strong argument for diffusion as against the independent origin theory.

Another widely diffused concept is that of the culture hero trickster.[1] The most notorious of these are the Raven of the North Pacific Coast, the Coyote of the great western highlands, and the Rabbit of the eastern forest region. The peculiarity of this character is that while he gives us the order of the world, he stoops to the most vile pranks that can be conceived and frequently passes as the most guileless of dupes. Several investigators[2] have tried to harmonize these, to us, incompatible traits, but it remains simply a fact of observation and may be set down as one of the general characteristics of New World mythology.

Of lesser imaginary beings, the most unique are the thunderbird and the plumed or horned serpent. The former is widely distributed in the United States and Canada; the latter is found from Chile to Lake Superior.

The conception of a deluge destroying the world and its immediate restoration in the present order, is almost universal. It is found in the highlands of Peru and Mexico as well as in the lowlands of both continents.

We have already commented upon the animal-like beings that visit a supplicant in his lonely fast, which is an aspect of the fundamental belief in the animation of nature. Animism,[3] in the broadest sense of the term, was universal and funda-

  1. Boas, 1914. I.
  2. Boas, 1914. I.
  3. Tylor, 1889. I.