Myth, Ritual, and Religion/Volume 2/Chapter 12

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Gods of Australia—Chiefly birds—Yet with moral interests—Bushmen gods—Cagn, the grasshopper—Hottentot gods—"Wounded knee," a dead sorcerer—Melanesian gods—Qat and the spider—Aht and Maori beast-gods and men-gods—Samoan form of totem-gods—One god incarnate in many animal shapes—One for each clan—They punish the eating of totems.

Coming from the general to the particular, we may begin our sketch of mythical gods among undeveloped races with those of the natives of Australia. On so large a continent, peopled by tribes speaking so many different languages and dialects, it is to be expected that a considerable variety of myths will abound. But the natives of Australia were all, when discovered, and still (when uninfluenced by the teaching of missionaries) remain, on much the same low level of civilisation. The men, like the animals of this continent, appear in some respects to belong to an older world than ours. They are not only in an extremely rudimentary stage of material culture, but they show few if any signs of ever having been in a much higher condition. No people have less settled homes; destitute of the forms of agriculture practised by the natives of the other South Sea Islands, the tribes wander over large expanses of country, urged by the necessities of the chase, and attracted, now here, now there, by the ripening of wild berries or by the presence of edible roots. Houses they have none, and their temporary shelters or gunyehs are of the rudest and most fragile character. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate their barbarous condition than the entire absence of native pottery and of traces of ancient pottery in the soil. They have scarcely made any progress in domesticating animals. Their government is a democracy of the fighting men, tempered by the dictates of Birraark or sorcerers, and by the experience of the aged. Yet their social customs, rules of marriage, and etiquette are of a complexity apparently more ancient than even the similar rules among North American Indians, Kaffirs, and Polynesians. We have already seen (Chapter III.) that their conception of Nature and of the world is peculiar for the intensity of the belief in the universal kinship and equality of all things in the world as known to them, though some of the blacks have a comparatively scientific theory of the sun.[1] The mythical gods, if gods they can be called, of the natives of Victoria[2] are described thus in the large collection of Brough Smyth. There is a being with a sort of limited supremacy and priority, styled Pund-jel or Bun-jil. He is said to have "made all things," but it has been shown when we treated of the myths of the origin of things that this is too sweeping a statement. In Australian opinion, as in that of Topsy, most things "growed," rather than were made. This is an early form of the doctrine of evolution. Though in a sense the creator, Pund-jel is conceived of as the most eminent of a primeval race, notably endowed with the powers of "medicine" or magic. He has a wife "whose face he has never seen." Possibly this notion survives from one of those curious laws of etiquette which regulate and obscure the relations between husband and wife.[3] The name of Pund-jel is said to mean "eagle-hawk,"[4] and the eagle-hawk is a totem or kobong of importance among the tribes. On the Murray River, Pund-jel is simply a supernatural eagle-hawk sans phrase, with human attributes and magical accomplishments. As in the Greek myths which Aristophanes invented, or more probably adapted, birds are the oldest of gods, far earlier than men. "These birds had as much intelligence and wisdom as the blacks; nay, some say that they were altogether wiser and more skilful in all things." Pund-jel is not only a demiurge, but is also, from the point of view of religion, a being who punishes sin. "He very frequently sent his sons to destroy bad men and bad women … who had killed and eaten blacks."[5] In the North of Victoria, the natives believe that while creation has been the work of "very, very old ones" (Nooralie, elsewhere Nurrumbung uttias, or old spirits, these "old ones" precisely answering to the Ovakuru meyuru, or "old ones in heaven," of the African Ovahereros), "had severally the forms of the crow and the eagle."

Here already we find ourselves confronted by the omnipresent dualism of mythical cosmogonies.[6] "There was continual war between the crow and the eagle;" between these two ornithomorphic creators the strife was as fierce as between wolf and raven, coyote and dog, Ormuzd and Ahriman, or any other numina of Oriental or savage belief. The enmity of the crow and eagle finally led to the existence of the separate eagle and crow totem kindreds among men, an opinion which will be proved to have an American parallel. As there have always been wars in heaven between Devas and Asuras, gods and Titans, angels and devils, so peace did not rest on the ornithomorphic deities of Australia. After a hostile encounter about wives between Pund-jel and the crane, it chanced that Ballen-Ballen (the jay) waxed wroth, and by his magical powers he caused a mighty storm of wind, which carried "Pund-jel and nearly all his family up into heaven." As a punisher of wicked people, Pund-jel was once moved to drown the world, and this he did by a flood, which he produced (as Dr. John Brown says of another affair) "by a familiar Gulliverian application of hydraulics." Two human beings escaped from the flood by climbing a tree. From them the present race of mortals is descended. On the whole, the Australian views on Pund-jel may be summed up thus: He was the most remarkable and the most magically endowed of a primeval race, which to a certain extent constructed the world. The members of this race are occasionally styled "old ones" or "old spirits," and it is no doubt possible to argue that these "old spirits," still powerful and still existing (many of them in the shape of stars), were once ancestral ghosts.[7] In form Pund-jel is wavering, and, for whatever reason, whether on account of linguistic confusion or not, he is commonly regarded as having been, like his adversary the crow, bird-shaped. Doubtless it may be maintained that he owes his feathers to a confusion between Pund-jel, "an elder," and "Pund-jel" or "Bund-jel," an eagle-hawk. On the other hand, it may be replied that when Pund-jel, the eagle-hawk, became a divine name, it was applied as a title of respect to elders. However this may be, the vast number of ornithomorphic deities in American and other legends seem to prove that bird-gods in Australia rather represent a widespread early human fancy than owe their origin to a special linguistic confusion in a single instance. "Wavering in form and quality as he is between man, god, and bird, Pund-jel is yet credited with a certain superintendence of morality; indeed, as far as our information goes, he is quite an exemplary person for a god. We hear of nothing nearly so bad about Pund-jel as about Indra, Zeus, Heitsi Eibib, and other Greek, Indo-Aryan, and Hottentot divinities. But Pund-jel is a far more savage conception of deity than the divine being of the aborigines of West Victoria, Pirnmeheal. He is briefly described by Mr. Dawson[8] as a "gigantic man, living above the clouds, of a kindly disposition, seldom mentioned, but always with respect. His voice, the thunder, is listened to with pleasure. . . . The missionaries and Government protectors have given them a dread of Pirnmeheal," who, as far as he is revealed to us here, rather answers to the Zulu "lord" in heaven than to a purely mythical deity. Devils or evil malignant spirits, such as Muuruup, the Australians possess in legions, but these, though practically malignant, play little part in myth. The Australians have been somewhat childishly represented as believing in a Trinity, Brewin, Bullumdut, and Baukan. Brewin is really a baddish spirit, a familiar of sorcerers. Bullumdut and Baukan "are not so bad as Brewin." Mr. Howitt asked some natives who had come under the influence of missionaries what they thought of Brewin. At first they said they "thought he must be Jesus Christ," but being told to reconsider their verdict, replied, "We think he must be the devil." As Brewin is a name imposed on highly esteemed sorcerers,[9] it may be argued by some inquirers that Brewin is merely the ghost of an ancestral medicine-man; but there are not data enough to settle the question. "Birds and beasts," says Mr. Brough Smyth, "are the gods of the Australians." We have seen the bird-gods in myths; the native bear is an object of considerable reverence in practice. Like the North-American Indians, they have a myth which sets forth how the bear "did not die" when attacked, a curious example of a similar fancy in widely-severed races.[10] Why should the bear be chosen in particular to inherit (as among the Finns in the Kalewala) this repute of deathlessness? And how did the belief get attached, at such a distance from America and Finland, to the Australian indigenous beast most resembling the bear?

A pleasing view of Baiame, a god of the Namoi, Barwan, and other tribes on the Darling, is given by Mr. Ridley. Baiame is called "the great master;" he made the world and man; he sends rain; he welcomes the virtuous dead to a paradise in the Milky Way, and he "destroys the bad." Though "immortal, powerful, and good," Baiame assists at the initiatory mysteries, about which the less said the better.[11] Pirnmeheal, in Western Victoria, is "a gigantic man living above the clouds," a "magnified non-natural man;" he is "seldom mentioned, but always with respect."

Scanty as is the information about Australian divine myths, it is plain that these legends contain a religious element of belief in a power that "makes for righteousness" in this world and the next, and a mythical element of belief in bird-shaped, beast-shaped, and undignified deities, liable to death and disaster. All religion and all mythology are variations on these themes.

Passing from Australia to Africa, we find few races less advanced than the Bushmen (Sa-n, "settlers," in Nama). Whatever view may be taken of the past history of the Bushmen of South Africa, it is certain that at present they are a race on a very low level of development. "Even the Hottentots," according to Dr. Bleek, "exceed the Bushmen in civilisation and political organisation." Possibly the Bushmen once enjoyed a higher culture; they may, for all one can tell, be examples of degradations. Mr. Max Müller says,[12] "In Africa the most degraded race, the Bushmen, are clearly a corruption of the Hottentots, while it is well known that some eminent ethnologists look upon the Hottentots as degraded emigrants from Egypt."[13] Perhaps the blood of poets like Pentaur, and of artists like the sculptors of the ancient Empire, flows in the blood of the Bushmen; perhaps not. Meanwhile their myths are much on the level of the Australian and Chinook religion and cosmogonic legends. Possibly the Chinooks and the Australians are also descendants of the ancient Egyptians, which would, of course, account for the resemblance between their ideas, and the ideas of the Bushmen. On the other hand, it may be averred that whether the Bushmen have risen to, or have been degraded to, their present estate, savages they are. Their myths, again, reflect the mental condition and express the speculative conclusions which we have found to mark the savage philosophy, and which we shall prove to have left their traces in the civilised religions. Thus it is of little importance to our inquiry whether the Bushmen have sunk from a lofty civilisation, or whether they have never been much more polite than they are at present, especially as no proof of great degradation has been advanced.[14]

It is admitted that "on a low level we find them now," and our object is to demonstrate that to a low level their mythical conceptions belong.[15] Before investigating the religious myths of the Bushmen, it must be repeated that, as usual, their religion is on a far higher level than their mythology. The conception of invisible or extra-natural powers, which they entertain and express in moments of earnest need, is all unlike the tales which they tell about their own gods, if gods such beings may be called. Thus Livingstone says,[16] "On questioning intelligent men among the Bakwains as to their former knowledge of good and evil, of God, and the future state, they have scouted the idea of any of them ever having been without a tolerably clear conception on all these subjects." Their ideas of sin were the same as Livingstone's, except about polygamy, and apparently murder (p. 159). Probably there were other trifling discrepancies. But "they spoke in the same way of the direct influence exercised by God in giving rain in answer to the prayers of the rain-makers, and in granting deliverance in times of danger, as they do now, before they ever heard of white men." This was to be expected. In short, the religion of savages, in its childlike and hopeful dependence on an invisible friend or friends, in its hope of moving him (or them) by prayer, in its belief that he (or they) "make for righteousness," is absolutely human. On the other side, as in the myths of Greece or India, stand the absurd and profane anecdotes of the gods. It may be argued by one set of thinkers that savage religion, in its nobler features, represents an original lofty ideal or an original revelation, of which the myths are a degenerate later development. Or it may be argued that the myths are earlier, and represent a more primitive form of thought, while the moral elements of the religion could not have been reached without long experience of and education in the way of the world. Being concerned here with myth rather than with religion, we merely observe that the myths of savages reflect their mental condition, and that similar myths occur everywhere among civilised races, whose theory of the world they do not reflect.

We now turn to a Bushman's account of the religious myths of his tribe. Shortly after the affair of Langalibalele, Mr. Orpen had occasion to examine an unknown part of the Maluti range, the highest mountains in South Africa. He engaged a scout named Qing, son of a chief of an almost exterminated clan of hill Bushmen. He was now huntsman to King Nqusha, Morosi's son, on the Orange River, and had never seen a white man except fighting. Thus Qing's evidence could not be much affected by European communications. Mr. Orpen secured the services of Qing, who was a young man and a mighty hunter. By inviting him to explain the wall-pictures in caves, Mr. Orpen led him on to give an account of Cagn, the chief mythical being in Bushman religion. "Cagn made all things, and we pray to him," said Qing. "At first he was very good and nice, but he got spoilt through fighting so many things." "The prayer uttered by Qing, 'in a low imploring voice,' ran thus: 'O Cagn, O Cagn, are we not your children? Do you not see our hunger? Give us food.' " Where Cagn is Qing did not know, "but the elands know. Have you not hunted and heard his cry when the elands suddenly run to his call?"[17] Cagn has a wife called Coti. How came he into the world?" Perhaps with those who brought the sun; . . . only the initiated men of that dance know these things."[18] Cagn had two sons, Cogaz and Gewi. He and they were "great chiefs," but used stone-pointed digging sticks to grub up edible roots! Cagn's wife brought forth a fawn, and, like Cronus when Rhea presented him with a foal, Cagn was put to it to know the nature and future fortunes of this child of his. To penetrate the future he employed the ordinary native charms and sorcery. The remainder of the myth accounts for the origin of elands and for their inconvenient wildness. A daughter of Cagn's married "snakes who were also men," the eternal confusion of savage thought. These snakes became the people of Cagn. Cagn had a tooth which was "great medicine;" his force resided in it, and he lent it to people whom he favoured. The birds (as in Odin's case) were his messengers, and brought him news of all that happened at a distance.[19] He could turn his sandals and clubs into dogs, and set them at his enemies. The baboons were once men, but they offended Cagn, and sang a song with the burden, "Cagn thinks he is clever;" so he drove them into desolate places, and they are accursed till this day. His strong point was his collection of charms, which, like other Bushmen and Hottentots, he kept "in his belt." He could, and did, assume animal shapes; for example, that of a bull-eland. The thorns were once people, and killed Cagn, and the ants ate him, but his bones were collected and he was revived. The collage of Cagn is a very funny account of a divine amour (p. 10). It was formerly said that when men died they went to Cagn, but it has been denied by later Bushmen sceptics.

Such is Qing's account of Cagn, and Cagn is plainly but a successful and idealised medicine-man whose charms actually work. Dr. Bleek identifies his name with that of the mantis insect. This insect is the chief mythological personage of the Bushmen of the western province. | Kággẹn his name is written. Dr. Bleek knew of no prayer to the mantis, but was acquainted with addresses to the sun, moon, and stars. If Dr. Bleek's identification is correct, the Cagn of Qing is at once human and a sort of grasshopper, just as Pund-jel was half human, half eagle-hawk. Of the insect character of the mantis in Dr. Bleek's own Bushmen legends, there is no doubt at all.

"The most prominent of the mythological figures," says Dr. Bleek, speaking of the Bushmen, "is the mantis." His proper name is | Kaggẹn, but, if we call him Cagn, a good deal of trouble will be spared the printers, while the interests of science will not seriously suffer. His wife is the "Dasse Hyrax." Their adopted daughter is the porcupine, daughter of | | Khwái hemm, the All-devourer. Like Cronus, and many other mythological persons, the All-devourer has the knack of swallowing all and sundry, and disgorging them alive. Dr. Bleek offers us but a wandering and disjointed account of the mantis, or Cagn, who is frequently defeated by other animals, such as the suricat. Cagn has one point at least in common with Zeus. As Zeus was swallowed and disgorged by Cronus, so was Cagn by | | Khwái hemm. As Indra once entered into the body of a cow, so did Cagn enter into the body of an elephant. Dr. Bleek did not find that the mantis was prayed to, as Cagn was by Qing. The moon (like sun and stars) is, however, prayed to, and "the moon belongs to the mantis," who, indeed, made it out of his old shoe! The chameleon is prayed to for rain on occasion, and successfully.

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 observations to each other," they might sensibly improve in culture. Again, "all things that belong to the mantis can talk," and most things do belong to that famous being. In "News from Zululand,"[20] in a myth of the battle of Isandlwana, a blue-buck turns into a young man and attacks the British. These and other examples demonstrate that the belief in the personal and human character and attributes of animals still prevails in South Africa. From that living belief we derive the personal and human character and attributes of animals, which, remarkable in all mythologies, is perhaps specially prominent in the myths of the Bushmen.

Though Bushman myth is only known to us in its outlines, and is apparently gifted with even more than the due quantity of incoherence, it is perhaps plain that animals are the chief figures in this African lore, and that these Bushmen gods, if ever further developed, will retain many traces of their animal ancestry.

From the Bushmen we may turn to their near neighbours, the Hottentots or Khoi-Khoi. Their religious myths have been closely examined in Dr. Hahn's Tsuni Goam, the Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi. Though Dr. Hahn's conclusions as to the origin of Hottentot myth differ entirely from our own, his collection and critical study of materials, of oral traditions, and of the records left by old travellers are invaluable. The early European settlers at the Cape found the Khoi-Khoi, that is, "The Men," a yellowish race of people, who possessed large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats.[21] The Khoi-Khoi, as nomad cattle and sheep farmers, are on a much higher level of culture than the Bushmen, who are hunters.[22] The language of the two peoples leave "no mere doubt as to their primitive relationship" (p. 7). The wealth of the Khoi-Khoi was considerable and unequally distributed, a respectable proof of nascent civilisation. The rich man was called gou aob, that is, "fat." In the same way the early Greeks called the wealthy ἄνδρες τῶν παχέων."[23] As the rich man could afford many wives (which gives him a kind of "commendation" over men to whom he allots his daughters), he "gradually rose to the station of a chief."[24] In domestic relations, Khoi-Khoi society is "matriarchal" (pp. 19–21).[25] All the sons are called after the mother, the daughters after the father. Among the arts, pottery and mat-making, metallurgy, and tool-making are of ancient date. A past stone age is indicated by the use of quartz knives in sacrifice and circumcision. In Khoi-Khoi society seers and prophets were "the greatest and most respected old men of the clan" (p. 24). The Khoi-Khoi of to-day have adopted a number of Indo-European beliefs and customs, and "the Christian ideas introduced by missionaries have amalgamated . . . with the national religious ideas and mythologies," for which reasons Dr. Hahn omits many legends which, though possibly genuine, might seem imported (pp. 30-31).

A brief historical abstract of what was known to old travellers of Khoi-Khoi religion raust now be compiled from the work of Dr. Hahn.

In 1655 Corporal Müller found adoration paid to great stones on the side of the paths. The worshippers pointed upwards, and said Hette hie, probably "Heitsi Eibib," the name of a Khoi-Khoi extra-natural being. It appears (p. 37) that Heitsi Eibib "has changed names" in parts of South Africa, and what was his worship is now offered "to | Garubeb, or Tsui i Goab."

In 1671 Dapper found that the Khoi-Khoi "believe there is one who sends rain on earth; . . . they also believe that they themselves can make rain and prevent the wind from blowing." Worship of the moon and of "erected stones" is also noticed. In 1691 Nicolas Witsen heard that the Khoi-Khoi adored a god which Dr. Hahn (p. 91) supposes to have been "a peculiar-shaped stone-fetish," such as the Basutos worship and spit at. Witsen found that the "god" was daubed with red earth, like the Dionysi in Greece. About 1705 Valentyn gathered that the people believed in "a great chief who dwells on high," and a devil; "but in carefully examining this, it is nothing else but their somsomas and spectres" (p. 38). The worship of a "great chief" is mentioned again in 1868. In 1719 Peter Kolb, the German Magister, published his account of the Hottentots, which has been done into English.[26] Kolb gives Gounja Gounja, or Gounja Ticqvoa, as the divine name; "they say he is a good man, who does nobody any hurt, . . . and that he dwells far above the moon."[27] Kolb also noted propitiation of an evil power. He observed that the Khoi-Khoi worship the mantis insect, which, as we have seen, is the chief mythical character among the Bushmen.[28] Dr. Hahn remarks, "Strangely enough the Namaquas also call it I Gaunab, as they call the enemy of Tsui i Goab."[29] In Kolb's time, as now, the rites of the Khoi (except, apparently, their worship at dawn) were performed beside cairns of stones. If we may credit Kolb, the Khoi-Khoi are not only most fanatical adorers of the mantis, but "pay a religious veneration to their saints and men of renown departed." Thunberg (1792) noticed cairn-worship and heard of mantis-worship. In 1803 Lichtenstein saw cairn-worship. With the beginning of the present century we find in Appleyard, Ebner, and others, Khoi-Khoi names for a god, which are translated "Sore-Knee" or "Wounded-Knee." This title is explained as originally the name of a "doctor or sorcerer" of repute, "invoked even after death," and finally converted into as much of a deity as the Hottentots have to boast of. His enemy is Gaunab, an evil being, and he is worshipped at the cairns, below which he is believed to be buried.[30] About 1842 Knudsen found that the Khoi-Khoi believed in a dead medicine-man, Heitsi Eibib, who could make rivers roll back their waves, and then walk over safely, as in the märchen of most peoples. He was also, like Odin, a "shape-shifter," and he died several times and came to life again.[31] Thus the numerous graves of Heitsi Eibib are explained by his numerous deaths. In Egypt the numerous graves of Osiris were explained by the story that he was mutilated, and each limb buried in a different place. Probably both the Hottentot and the Egyptian legend were invented to account for the many worshipped cairns attributed to the same corpse.

We now reach the myths of Heitsi Eibib and Tsui | | Goab collected by Dr. Hahn himself. According to the evidence of Dr. Hahn's own eyes, the working religion of the Khoi-Khoi is "a firm belief in sorcery and the arts of living medicine-men on the one hand, and on the other, belief in and adoration of the powers of the dead" (pp. 81, 82, 112, 113). Our author tells us that he met in the wilds a woman of the "fat" or wealthy class going to pray at the grave and to the manes of her own father. "We Khoi-Khoi always, if we are in trouble, go and pray at the graves of our grandparents and ancestors." They also sing rude epic verses, accompanied by the dance in honour of men distinguished in the late Namaqua and Damara war. Now it is alleged by Dr. Hahn that prayers are offered at the graves of Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab, as at those of ancestors lately dead, and Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab within living memory were honoured by song and dance, exactly like the braves of the Damra war.

The obvious and natural inference is that Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab were and are regarded by their worshippers as departed but still helpful ancestral warriors or medicine-men. We need not hold that they ever were actual living men; they may be merely idealised figures of Khoi-Khoi wisdom and valour. But that, in the opinion of their worshippers, they are but dead men, there seems to be no doubt at all.

Here Dr. Hahn offers a different explanation, founded on etymological conjecture and a philosophy of religion. According to him, the name of Tsui Goab originally meant, not wounded knee, but red dawn. The dawn was worshipped as a symbol or suggestion of the infinite, and only by forgetfulness and false interpretation of the original word did the Khoi-Khoi fall from a kind of pure theosophy to adoration of a presumed dead medicine-man. As Dr. Hahn's ingenious hypothesis has been already examined by us,[32] it is unnecessary again to discuss the philological basis of his argument.

Dr. Hahn not only heard simple and affecting prayers addressed to Tsui Goab, but learned from native informants that the god had been a chief, a warrior, wounded in his knee in battle with Gaunab, another chief, and that he had prophetic powers. He still watches the ways of men (p. 62) and punishes guilt. Universal testimony was given to the effect that Heitsi Eibib also had been a chief from the East, a prophet and a warrior. He apportioned, by blessings and curses, their present habits to many of the animals. Like Odin, he was a "shape-shifter," possessing the medicine-man's invariable power of taking all manner of forms. He was on one occasion born of a cow, which reminds us of a myth of Indra. By another account he was born of a virgin who tasted a certain kind of grass. This legend is of wonderfully wide diffusion among savage and semi-civilised races.[33] The tales about Tsui Goab and Heitsi Eibib are chiefly narratives of combats with animals and with the evil power in a nascent dualism, Gaunab, "at first a ghost," according to Hahn (p. 85), or "certainly nobody else but the Night" (pp. 125, 126). Here there is some inconsistency. If we regard the good power, Tsui Goab, as the Red Dawn, we are bound to think the evil power, Gaunab, a name for the Night. But Dr. Hahn's other hypothesis, that the evil power was originally a malevolent ghost, seems no less plausible. In either case, we have here an example of the constant mythical dualism which gives the comparatively good being his perpetual antagonist—the Loki to his Odin, the crow to his eagle-hawk. In brief, Hottentot myth is pretty plainly a reflection of Hottentot general ideas about ancestor-worship, ghosts, sorcerers, and magicians, while, in their religious aspect, Heitsi Eibib or Tsui Goab are guardians of life and of morality, fathers and friends.

A description of barbarous beliefs not less scholarly and careful than that compiled by Dr. Hahn has been published by the Rev. R. H. Codrington.[34] Mr. Codrington has studied the myths of the Papuans and other natives of the Melanesian group, especially in the Solomon Islands and Banks Island. These peoples are by no means in the lowest grade of culture; they are traders in their way, builders of canoes and houses, and their society is interpenetrated by a kind of mystic hierarchy, a religious Camorra. The Banks Islanders[35] recognise two sorts of intelligent extra-natural beings—the spirits of the dead and powers which have never been human. The former are Tamate, the latter Vui—ghosts and genii, we might call them. Vuis are classed by Mr. Codrington as "corporeal" and "incorporeal," but he thinks the corporeal Vuis have not human bodies. Among corporeal Vuis the chief are the beings nearest to gods in Melanesian myths—the half god, half "culture-hero," I Qat, his eleven brothers, and his familiar and assistant, Marawa. These were members of a race anterior to that of the men of to-day, and they dwelt in Vanua Levu. Though now passed away from the eyes of mortals, they are still invoked in prayer. The following appeal by a voyaging Banks Islander resembles the cry of the ship-wrecked Odysseus to the friendly river:—

"Qat! Marawa! look down npon us; smooth the sea for us two, that I may go safely on the sea. Beat down for me the crests of the tide-rip; let the tide-rip settle down away from me; beat it down level, that it may sink and roll away, and I may come to a quiet landing-place."

Compare the prayer of Odysseus:—

"'Hear me, king, whosoever thou art; unto thee am I come as to one to whom prayer is made, while I flee the rebukes of Poseidon from the deep. . . .' So spake he, and the god straightway stayed his stream and withheld his waves, and made the water smooth before him, and brought him safely to the mouth of the river."

But for Qat's supernatural power and creative exploits,"[36] "there would be little indeed to show him other than a man." He answers almost precisely to Maui, the "culture-hero" of New Zealand. Qat's mother either was, or, like Niobe, became a stone. He was the eldest (unlike Maui) of twelve brothers, among whom were Tongaro the Wise and Tongaro the Fool. The brothers were killed by an evil gluttonous power like Kwai Hemm, and put in a food-chest. Qat killed the foe and revived his brothers, as the sons of Cronus came forth alive from their father's maw. His great foe—for of course he had a foe—was Qasavara, whom he destroyed by dashing him against the solid firmament of sky. Qasavara is now a stone (like the serpent displayed by Zeus at Aulis[37]), on which sacrifices are made. Qat's chief friend is Marawa, a spider, or a Vui in the shape of a spider. The divine mythology of the Melanesians, as far as it has been recovered, is meagre. We only see members of a previous race, "magnified non-natural men," with a friendly insect working miracles and achieving rather incoherent adventures.

Much on the same footing of civilisation as the Melanesians, were the natives of Tonga in the first decade of this century. The Tongan religious beliefs were nearly akin to the ideas of the Samoans and of the Solomon Islanders. In place of Vuis they spoke of Hotooas (Atuas), and like the Vuis, those spiritual beings have either been purely spiritual from the beginning, or have been incarnate in humanity, and are now ghosts, but ghosts enjoying many of the privileges of gods. All men, however, have not souls capable of a separate existence, only the Egi, or nobles, possess a spiritual part, which goes to Bolotoo, the land of gods and ghosts, after death, and enjoys "power similar to that of the original gods, but less." It is open to philosophers of Mr. Herber Spencer's school to argue that the "original gods" were once ghosts like the others, but this was not the opinion of the Tongans. Both sorts of gods appear occasionally to mankind—the primitive deities particularly affect the forms of "lizards, porpoises, and a species of water-snake, hence those animals are much respected."[38] Whether each stock of Tongans had its own animal incarnation of its special god, as in Samoa, does not appear from Mariner's narrative. The gods took human morality under their special protection, punishing the evil and rewarding the good, in this life only, not in the land of the dead. When the comfortable doctrine of eternal punishment was expounded to the Tongans by Mariner, the poor heathen merely remarked that it "was very bad indeed for the Papalangies" or foreigners. Their untutored minds, in their Pagan darkness, had dreamed of no such thing. The Tongans themselves are descended from some gods who set forth on a voyage of discovery out of Bolotoo. Landing on Tonga, these adventurers were much pleased with the island, and determined to stay there; but in a few days certain of them died. They had left the deathless coasts for a world where death is native, and, as they had eaten of the food of the new realm, they would never escape the condition of mortality. This has been remarked as a wide-spread belief Persephone became enthralled to Hades after tasting the mystic pomegranate of the under-world. In Samoa Siati may not eat of the god's meat, nor Wainamoinen in Pohjola, nor Thomas the Rhymer in Fairyland. The exploring gods from Bolotoo were in the same way condemned to become mortal and people the world with mortal beings, and all about them should be méa máma, subject to decay and death.[39] It is remarkable, if correctly reported, that the secondary gods, or ghosts of nobles, cannot reappear as lizards, porpoises, and water-snakes; this is the privilege of the original gods only, and perhaps may be an assumption by them of a primitive totemistic aspect. The nearest approach to the idea of a permanent supreme deity is contained in the name of Táli y Toobo—"wait there, Toobo"—a name which conveys the notion perhaps of permanence or eternity. "He is a great chief from the top of the sky to the bottom of the earth."[40] He is invoked both in war and peace, not locally, but "for the general good of the natives." He is the patron, not of any special stock or family, but of the house in which the royal power is lodged for the time. Another god, Toobo Toty or Toobo the Mariner, may be a kind of Poseidon. He preserves canoes from perils at sea. On the death of the daughter of Finow, the king in Mariner's time, that monarch was so indignant that he threatened to kill the priest of Toobo Toty. As the god is believed to inspire the priest, this was certainly a feasible way of getting at the god. But Toobo Toty was beforehand with Finow, who died himself before he could carry the war into Bolotoo.[41] This Finow was a sceptic; he allowed that there were gods, because he himself had occasionally been inspired by them; "but what the priests tell us about their power over mankind I believe to be all false." Thus early did the conflict of Church and State declare itself in Tonga. Human sacrifices were a result of priestcraft in Tonga, as in Greece. Even the man set to kill a child of Toobo Toa's was moved by pity, and exclaimed O iaooé chi vale! ("poor little innocent!") The priest demanded this sacrifice to allay the wrath of the gods for the slaying of a man in consecrated ground.[42] Such are the religious ideas of Tonga; of their mythology but little has reached us, and that is under suspicion of being coloured by acquaintance with the stories of missionaries.

The Maoris, when first discovered by Europeans, were in a comparatively advanced stage of barbarism. Their society had definite ranks, from that of the Rangatira, the chief with a long pedigree, to the slave. Their religious hymns, of great antiquity, have been collected and translated by Grey, Taylor, Bastian, and others. The mere possession of such hymns, accurately preserved for an unknown number of years by oral tradition, proves that the mythical notions of the Maoris have passed through the minds of professed bards and early physical speculators. The verses, as Bastian has observed (Die Heilige Sage der Polynesier), display a close parallel to the roughest part of the early Greek cosmogonies, as expounded by Hesiod. Yet in the Maori hymns there are metaphysical ideas and processes which remind one more of Heraclitus than of Hesiod, and perhaps more of Hegel than of either. Whether we are to regard the abstract conceptions or the rude personal myths of gods as representing the earlier development of Maori thought, whether one or the other element is borrowed, not original, are questions which theorists of different schools will settle in their own way to their own satisfaction. Some hymns represent the beginning of things from a condition of thought, and Socrates might have said of the Maori poets as he did of Anaxagoras, that, compared with other early thinkers, they are "like sober men among drunkards." Thus one hymn of the origins runs thus:—

"From the conception the increase,
From the increase the swelling,
From the swelling the thought,
From the thought the remembrance,
From the remembrance the desire.
The word became fruitful,
It dwelt with the feeble glimmering,
It brought forth Night.

From the nothing the begetting.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     
It produced the atmosphere which is above us.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     
The atmosphere above dwelt with the glowing sky,
Forthwith was produced the sun.
Then the moon sprang forth.
They were thrown up above as the chief eyes of heaven,
Then the heavens became light.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     
The sky which floats above dwelt with Hawaiki,[43]
And produced" certain islands.

Then follow genealogies of gods, down to the chief in whose family this hymn was traditional.[44]

Other hymns of the same character, full of such metaphysical and abstract conceptions as "the proceeding from the nothing," are quoted at great length.

These extracts are obviously speculative rather than in any sense mythological. The element of myth just shows itself when we are told that the sky dwelt with the earth and produced certain islands. But myth of a familiar character is very fully represented among the Maoris. Their mythical gods, though "mixed up with the spirits of ancestors," are great natural powers, first Heaven and Earth, Rangi and Papa, the parents of all. These are conceived as having originally been united in such a close embrace, the Heaven lying on the Earth, that between their frames all was darkness, and in darkness the younger gods, Atua, O-te-po, their children, were obliged to dwell. These children or younger gods (answering to the Cronidæ) were the god of war (Tumatauenga), the forest-god (Tane Mahuta), in shape a tree, the wind-god (Tawhiri Matea), the gods of cultivated and natural fruits, the god of ocean (Tangaroa). These gods were unable to endure the dungeon and the darkness of their condition, so they consulted together and said, "Let us seek means whereby to destroy Heaven and Earth, or to separate them from each other." The counsel of Tane Mahuta prevailed: "Let one go upwards and become a stranger to us; let the other remain below and be a parent to us." Finally, Tane Mahuta rent asunder Heaven and Earth, pushing Heaven up where he has ever since remained. The wind-god followed his father, abode with him in the open spaces of the sky, and thence makes war on the trees of the forest-god, his enemy. Tangaroa went, like Poseidon, to the great deep, and his children, the reptiles and fishes, clove part to the waters, part to the dry land. The war-god, Tŭ, was more of a human being than the other gods, though his "brethren" are plants, fish, and reptiles. Still, Tŭ is not precisely the first man of New Zealand.

Though all these mythical beings are in a sense departmental gods, they yield in renown to a later child of their race, Maui, the great culture-hero, who is an advanced form of the culture-heroes, mainly theriomorphic, of the lower races.[45]

Maui, like many heroes of myth, was a youngest son. He was prematurely born (a similar story comes in the Brahmanic legend of the Adityas); his mother wrapped him up in her long hair and threw him out to sea. A kinsman rescued him, and he grew up to be much the most important member of his family, like Qat in his larger circle of brethren. Maui it was who snared the sun, beat him,[46] and taught him to run his appointed course, instead of careering at will and at any pace he chose about the heavens. He was the culture-hero who invented barbs for spears and hooks; he turned his brother into the first dog, whence dogs are sacred; he fished New Zealand out of the sea; he stole fire for men. How Maui performed this feat, and how he "brought death into the world and all our woe," are topics that belong to the myths of Death and of the Fire-Stealer.[47] Maui could not only change men into animals, but could himself assume animal shapes at will.

Such is a brief account of the ancient traditions of mythical Maori gods and of the culture-hero. In practice, the conception of Atua (or a kind of more or less malevolent extra-natural power or powers) possesses much influence in New Zealand. All manner of spirits, in all manner of forms, are Atuas. "A great chief was regarded as a malignant god in life, and a still worse one after death."[48] Again, "after Maui came a host of gods, each with his history and wonderful deeds. . . . These were ancestors who became deified by their respective tribes,"[49]— a statement which must be regarded as theoretical. It is odd enough, if true, that Maru should be the war-god of the southern island, and that the planet Mars is called after him, Maru. "There were also gods in human forms, and others with those of reptiles. . . . At one period there seems to have been a mixed offspring from the same parents. Thus while Tawaki was of the human form, his brethren were taniwa and sharks; there were likewise mixed marriages among them." These legends are the natural result of that lack of distinction between man and the other things in the world which, as we demonstrated, prevails in early thought. It appears that the great mythical gods of the Maoris have not much concern with their morality. The myths are "but a magnified history of their chiefs, their wars, murders, and lusts, with the addition of some supernatural powers"—such as the chiefs are very apt to claim.[50] In the opinion of a competent observer, the gods, or Atua, who are feared in daily life are "spirits of the dead," and their attention is chiefly confined to the conduct of their living descendants and clansmen. They inspire courage, the leading virtue. When converted, the natives are said not to expel, but merely to subordinate their Atua, "believing Christ to be a more powerful Atua."[51]

In the beliefs of Samoa (formerly called the Navigator's Islands, and discovered by a Dutch expedition in 1722) may be observed a most interesting moment in the development of religion and myth. In many regions it has been shown that animals are worshipped as totems, and that the gods are invested with the shape of animals. In the temples of higher civilisations will be found divine images still retaining in human form certain animal attributes, and a minor worship of various beasts will be shown to have grouped itself in Greece round the altars of Zeus, or Apollo, or Demeter. Now in Samoa we may trace the actual process of the "transition," as Mr. Tylor says, "from the spirit inhabiting an individual body to the deity presiding over all individuals of a kind." In other words, whereas in Australia or America each totem-kindred reveres each animal supposed to be of its own lineage—the "Cranes" revering all cranes, the "Kangaroos" all kangaroos—in Samoa the various clans exhibit the same faith, but combine it with the belief that one spiritual deity reveals itself in each separate animal, as in a kind of avatar. For example, the several Australian totem-kindreds do not conceive that Pund-jel incarnates himself in the emu for one stock, in the crow for another, in the cockatoo for a third, and they do not by these means attain a religious unity, transcending, and finally superseding, the diversity caused by the totemic institutions. In Samoa this kind of spiritual unity is actually reached by various stocks.

The Samoans were originally spoken of by travellers as "the godless Samoans," an example of a common error. Probably there is no people whose practices and opinions, if duly investigated, do not attest their faith in something of the nature of gods. Certainly the Samoans, far from being "godless," rather deserve the reproach of being "in all things too superstitious." "The gods were supposed to appear in some visible incarnation, and the particular thing in which his god was in the habit of appearing was to the Samoan an object of veneration."[52] Here we find that the religious sentiment has already become more or less self-conscious, and has begun to reason on its own practices. In pure totemism it is their kindred animal that men revere. The Samoans explain this worship of animals, not on the ground of kinship and common blood or "one flesh" (as in Australia), but by the comparatively advanced hypothesis that a spiritual power is in the animal. "One, for instance, saw his god in the eel, another in the shark, another in the turtle, another in the dog, another in the owl, another in the lizard," and so on, even to shell-fish. The creed so far is exactly what Garcilasso de la Vega found among the remote and ruder neighbours of the Incas, and attributed to the pre-Inca populations. "A man," as in Egypt, and in totemic countries generally, "would eat freely of what was regarded as the incarnation of the god of another man, but the incarnation of his own god he would consider it death to injure or eat. The god was supposed to avenge the insult by taking up his abode in that person's body, and causing to generate there the very thing which he had eaten until it produced death. The god used to be heard within the man, saying, "I am killing this man; he ate my incarnation." This class of tutelary deities they called aitu fale, or "gods of the house," gods of the stock or kindred.

Not only the household, but the village has its animal gods or god incarnate in an animal. As some Arab tribes piously bury dead gazelles, as Athenians piously buried wolves, and Egyptians cats, so in Samoa "if a man found a dead owl by the roadside, and if that happened to be the incarnation of his village god, he would sit down and weep over it, and beat his forehead with a stone till the blood came. This was supposed to be pleasing to the deity. Then the bird would be wrapped up and buried with care and ceremony, as if it were a human body. This, however, was not the death of the god." Like the solemnly sacrificed buzzard in California, like the bull in the Attic Diipolia, "he was supposed to be yet alive and incarnate in all the owls in existence."[53]

In addition to these minor and local divinities, the Samoans have gods of sky, earth, disease, and other natural departments. Of their origin we only know that they fell from heaven, and all were incarnated or embodied in birds, beasts, plants, stones, and fishes. But they can change shapes, and appear in the moon when she is not visible, or in any other guise they choose.


  1. Brough Smyth, Natives of Victoria, i. 430.
  2. Ibid., i. 423, ad fin.
  3. See Custom and Myth, p. 73.
  4. Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 210, note. As a totem in the Mukjarawaint tribe the eagle-hawk is named Wurpl (p. 324, note). As a deity, the Olympus inhabited by Pund-jel was at the sources of the river Yarra. Among the Kurnai (p. 323) "Bun-jil means an elder or superior."
  5. A curious anecdote bearing on the connection of morality and religion among the Australians is given in Taplin's Native Races of South Australia, p. 36. An old native, uninfluenced by European teaching, was on his death-bed. He pointed upwards and said, "Tand an amle kiathangk waiithamb," "My tendi is up there." The tendi is a judicial assembly of the tribe.
  6. Another example of Australian dualism is the strife between Baiamé and Dararwigal, the good being in the east, and the being qui ne vaut grand chose in the west, like Gaunab and Tsui Goam with the Hottentots. Cf. Réville, Religions des Peuples Non-Civilisés, ii. 150, quoting Koeler, Notizen, p. 148. There is a deity called Wandong, who slays women, like Artemis Macgillivray, Narrative of Voyage of Rattlesnake, i. 151; Hale, Ethnography and Philology, p. 111]. Réville's citations will chiefly be found, with others, in Waitz, Anthrop. der Naturvölker, vi. 797. The story of the omnipotent, decrepit, and dead being, Motogon, found by the Benedictines in West Nursia, a being checked even when alive, and in spite of his omnipotence, by a powerful opposition, is a highly inconsistent missionary legend (Max Müller, Hib. Lect., p. 17; Journ. Anthrop. Soc., 1877–78).
  7. Taplin thinks that Nurrumdere, a South Australian Pund-jel, was a deified black fellow. Thunder is the speech of Nurrumdere; "so in the thunder speaks a human voice." Nurrumdere, like Pund-jel, caused a deluge to punish his wicked wives. It was a strong measure. He was speared by a black. Now he exists in the sky or under the sea, and the dead go to him as to an Australian Yama. All fish spring from a large fish cut up small by Nurrumdere. Compare the Ananzi story from Akwapim (West Africa). Ananzi once found a whip; his children cut it piecemeal, and scattered it through the world. "That is why there are plenty of whips in the world; before there was only one" (Taplin, op. cit., p. 56 ; Cosquin, Contes de Lorraine, i. 58).
  8. Australian Aborigines, p. 47.
  9. Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 292.
  10. Brough Smyth, i. 449; Schoolcraft, Algic Researches.
  11. Ridley and Günther, ap. Brough Smyth, ii. 285.
  12. Nineteenth Century, January 1885.
  13. Qing told Mr. Orpen that the Bushmen had lost various arts, including (apparently) stone-bridge-making, Livingstone (Miss. Trav., p. 49) regarded the Bushmen, on the other hand, as "probably the aborigines of the southern part of the continent," which would not suit Mr. Max Müller's ethnologists.
  14. The partisans of the theory of degradation have still to explain how, admitting that savages are degenerate from civilisation, the degeneracy has always taken similar forms, which forms, again, are found everywhere among the oldest parts of civilised religion and myth.
  15. See Waitz, Anthrop. Nat. Völk, ii. 323–329. Our main authorities at present for Bushman myths are contained in A Brief Account of Bushman Folk-lore, Bleek, London, 1875; and in A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen, by Mr. Orpen, Chief Magistrate, St. John's Territory, Cape Monthly Magazine, July 1874. Some information may also be gleaned from the South African Folk-lore Journal, 1879–80.
  16. Missionary Travels, p. 158.
  17. Another Bushman prayer, a touching appeal, is given in Alexander's Expedition, ii. 125, and a Khoi-Khoi hymn of prayer is in Hahn, pp. 56–57.
  18. Cf. Custom and Myth, pp. 41–42. It appears that the Bushmen, like the Egyptians and Greeks, hand down myths through esoteric societies, with dramatic mysteries.
  19. Compare with the separable vigour of Cagn, residing in his tooth, the European and Egyptian examples of a similar myth—the lock of hair of Minos, the hair of Samson—in introduction to Mrs. Hunt's Grimm's Household Stories, p. lxxv.
  20. Folklore Journal of South Africa, i. iv. 83.
  21. Op. cit., pp. 1, 32.
  22. Op. cit., p. 5.
  23. Herodotus, v. 30.
  24. Op. cit., p. 16.
  25. But speaking of the wife, Kolb calls "the poor wretch" a "drudge, exposed to the insults of her children."—English transl., p. 162.
  26. Second edition, London, 1738.
  27. Engl. transl., i. 95.
  28. Engl. transl., i. 97, gives a picture of Khoi-Khoi adoring the mantis.
  29. Page 42; compare pp. 92, 125.
  30. Alexander, Expedition, i. 166; Hahn, op. cit., pp. 69, 50, where Moffat is quoted.
  31. Hahn, p. 56.
  32. Custom and Myth, pp. 197–211.
  33. Le Fils de la Vierge, H. de Charency, Havre, 1879. A tale of incest by Heitsi Eibib, may be compared with another in Muir's Sanskrit Texts, iv. 39.
  34. Journal Anthrop. Inst., February 1881.
  35. Op. cit., p. 267.
  36. See "Savage Myths of the Origin of Things."
  37. Iliad, ii. 315–318.
  38. Mariner's Tonga Islands, Edin., 1827, ii. 99–101.
  39. Mariner, ii. 115.
  40. Mariner, ii. 105.
  41. Mariner, i. 307, ii. 107.
  42. Compare the ἄγος of the Alcmæonidæ.
  43. The islands of Hawaiki, being then the only land known, is put for Papa, the earth.
  44. Taylor, New Zealand, pp. 110–112.
  45. Te-Heu-Heu, a powerful chief, described to Mr. Taylor the departmental character of his gods. "Is there one maker of things among Europeans? Is not one a carpenter, another a blacksmith, another a shipbuilder? So it was in the beginning. One made this, another that. Tane made trees, Ru mountains, Tangaroa fish, and so forth."—Taylor, New Zealand, p. 108, note.
  46. The sun, when beaten, cried out and revealed his great name, exactly as Indra did in his terror and flight after slaying the serpent. Taylor, op. cit., p. 131.
  47. See La Mythologie, A. L., Paris, 1886.
  48. Taylor, op. cit., pp. 134–135.
  49. Op. cit., p. 136.
  50. Op. cit., p. 137.
  51. Shortland, Trad. and Superst. of New Zealanders, 1856, pp. 83–85.
  52. Turner's Samoa, p. 17.
  53. τὸν τεθνεῶτα ἀναστησάντων ἐν ᾖπερ ἀπέθανε θυσίᾳ. Porph., De Abst., ii. 29; Samoa, p. 21.