Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/43

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seem on the point of anticipating the ethnological method.

When philological science in our own century came to maturity, in philology, as of old in physics and later in symbols, was sought the key of myths. While physical allegory, religious and esoteric symbolism, verbal confusion, historical legend, and an original divine tradition, perverted in ages of darkness, have been the most popular keys in other ages, the scientific nineteenth century has had a philological key of its own. The methods of Kuhn, Bréal, Max Müller, and generally the philological method, cannot be examined here at full length.[1] Briefly speaking, the modern philological method is intended for a scientific application of the old etymological interpretations. Cadmus in the Bacchæ of Euripides, Socrates in the Cratylus of Plato, dismiss unpalatable myths as the results of verbal confusion. People had originally said something quite sensible—so the hypothesis runs—but when their descendants forgot the meaning of their remarks, a new and absurd meaning followed from a series of unconscious puns.[2] This view was supported in ancient times by purely conjectural and impossible etymologies. Thus the myth that Dionysus was sewn up in the thigh of Zeus (ὁμηρός) was explained by Euripides as the result of a confusion of words. People had originally said that Zeus

  1. See Mythology in Encyclop. Brit. and in La Mythologie (A. L.), Paris, 1886, where Mr. Max Müller's system is criticised. See also Custom and Myth.
  2. That a considerable number of myths, chiefly myths of place names, arie from popular etymologies is certain; what is objected to is vast proportion given to this element in myths.