Изображения страниц


Up to this point the myths I have told you are the ones made famous by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, and often repeated by the poets of Europe. They are not the only stories of the stars, however. The people in other parts of the world have told stories to suit themselves. I believe you will be entertained by some of those.


THE birth of myth was in the endeavor of primitive man to interpret the meaning of his surroundings. Myth, with its prolific offspring, legend and tradition, was the necessary travailing through which the mind of man had to pass in its slow progress toward certitude. His sole measure of things was himself; consequently, he thought that everything that moved, or that had power of movement, did so because, like him, it was alive. A personal life and will was attributed to sun, moon, clouds, river, waterfall, ocean, and tree; and the varying phenomena of the sky at dawn or noonday, at gray eve or black-clouded night, were the manifestation of the controlling life that dwelt in all. In a thousand different forms this conception was expressed. The thunder was the roar of a mighty beast; the lightning a serpent darting at his prey, an angry eye flashing, the storm demon's outshot tongue; the rainbow a thirsty monster; the waterspout a long-tailed dragon. This was not a pretty or powerful figure of speech, not imagery, but an explanation. The men who thus spoke of these phenomena meant precisely what they said. What does the savage know about heat, light, sound, electricity, and other modes of motion? How many persons who have enjoyed a liberal education can give correct answers, if asked off-hand to explain how glaciers are born of the sunshine, and why two sounds, traveling in opposite directions at equal velocities, "interfere" and cause a silence?


[ocr errors]

Obviously, the richest and most suggestive material for myths would be supplied by the striking phenomena of the heavens, chiefly in sunrise and sunset, in moon, star, star-group, and meteor, in cloud and storm; and, next in importance, by the strange and terrible among phenomena on earth, whether in the restless waters, the unquiet trees, the grotesquely shaped rocks, or the fear inspired in man by creatures more powerful than himself. Through the whole range of the lower culture, sun, moon, and constellations are spoken of as living creatures, often as ancestors, heroes, and benefactors who have departed to the country above, to heaven, the heaved, uplifted land. Among the Red Races, one tribe thought the sun, moon, and stars were men and women who went into the sea every night and swam out by the east. The Bushmen say that the sun was once a man who shed light from his body, but only for a short distance, until some children threw him into the sky while he slept, and thus he shines upon the wide earth. The Australians say that all was darkness around them till one of their many ancestors (who still shine from the stars, shedding good and evil) threw, in pity for them, an emu's egg into space, when it became the sun. Among the Manacicas of Brazil, the sun was their culture-hero, . . . and their jugglers, who claimed power to fly through the air, said that his luminous figure, like that of a man, could be seen by them, though too dazzling for common mortals to see.

The sun has been stayed in his course in other places than Gibeon, although by mechanical means, of which Joshua appears to have been independent. Among the many exploits of Maui, abounding in Polynesian myth, are those of his capture of the sun. He had, like

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »