Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/769

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749
THE EVOLUTION OF DANCING.

It is not generally known that Pawnee, Dakota, and Zuñi rites and initiations were retained in the religious dances of ancient Greece. The use of the conus, or bull-roarer, the practice of daubing the candidate with clay or dirt, the wearing of masks, the use of serpents—these all are found in the Greek mysteries. It is undeniable that, in their mysteries, the Greeks danced much as the Iroquois, Kwakiutls, and Zuñis dance in their secret rites. The goddess Artemis, at Brauron, in Attica, was served by young girls, who imitated in dances the gait of bears. So, too, we have the wolf-dances of the Hirpi, in which the performers clothed themselves in the skin of the wolf whose feast they celebrated.[1] Even after the Greeks gathered into walled cities, mystic dances ("medicine-dances" the Indians would call them) took place in the local fanes of the tribal gods and around the ancient altars.

Take, for example, the mysteries of Demeter, "she of the harvest home," "of the corn-heaps." Two mysteries are well known to classical scholars as the Eleusinia and the Thesmophoria. In the former, after purifications, the mystœ, the initiate, performed wild and erotic dances, and in later days, when the Eleusinian rites became part of the state religion of Athens, there was, in conclusion, a spectacular miracle-play representing the sorrows and consolations of Demeter—the most touching, most pathetic figure in Greek mythology. The Thesmophoria was the feast of seed time. The Greek matrons performed certain sacred rites and secret dances, which the men were prohibited from seeing. Heroditus says that the Thesmophoria were brought from Egypt, where the women danced in similar fashion before the altar of the bull-god in the Memphian temples. There must have been some licentious doings in the Greek mystery, or else the plain-spoken historian would not have "omitted them by silence." His apology for concealment is neatly put: "As they refused to tell for religion, so we desired not to hear for modesty."

The important feature of all mysteries, savage or Greek, is dancing. Lucian, in his Treatise on Dancing, says: "You can not find a single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing. . . . This much all men know, that most people say of the revealers of the mysteries that they 'dance them out." Mr. Andrew Lang, who has made a close study of Greek mysteries, quotes the reply of Quing, the Bushman, who was asked about some myths of his people. Quing replied: "Only the initiated men of that dance know these things." Hence to "dance out" this or that, observes Mr. Lang, means to be acquainted with this


    ous masks and customs are represented by photographs; the music was taken with the phonograph.

  1. Aristophanes, Lysistratra, 646.