Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/187

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of the gods before myths of the making or the evolution of the world, because our religion, like that of the more philosophic Greeks, makes the deity the fount of all existences, causa causans, "what unmoved moves," the beginning and the end. But the myth-makers, like the child of whom we spoke, find it necessary to postulate a place for the divine energy to work from, and that place is the earth or the heavens. Then, again, heaven and earth are themselves often regarded in the usual mythical way, as animated, as persons with parts and passions, and finally as gods. Thus we cannot say in many cases that the earth and sky are prior to the deities who inhabit them, because the earth and sky too are persons and deities. Into this medley of incongruous and inconsistent conceptions we must introduce what order we may, always remembering that the order is not native to the subject, but is brought in for the purpose of study.

The origin of the world and of man is naturally a problem which has excited the curiosity of the least developed minds. Every savage race has its own myths on this subject, all of them bearing the marks of the childish and crude imagination, whose character we have investigated, and all varying in amount of what may be called philosophical thought. Thus the legends of the Australians and Bushmen are almost purely grotesque, while the more cultivated society of the New Zealanders and the South Sea Islanders has added an element of poetical imagination and of something approaching to pure metaphysics. The cosmogonic myths of the Scandinavians and Finns are on