The Mythology of All Races (1916)

Consulting Editor' s Preface

THERE are many good books on the mythology of particular peoples or races, ancient and modern, and much material accessible in books of travel and works on ethnology and religion; for classical antiquity excellent dictionaries of mythology exist. There are also books of narrower or wider range on comparative mythology, besides many in which myth and custom have been pressed into the service of theories of society, civilization, and religion, or are adduced for the illustration of art and archaeology. But a comprehensive collection by competent scholars of myths from all quarters of the earth and all ages has not hitherto been attempted; for several important parts of the field, no satisfactory works exist in English, while in some here is none in any language. On the value of an undertaking like the Mythology of All Races, therefore, no words need be spent.

The intrinsic interest of the subject is very great; for better than almost anything else myths reveal men's first notions about their world and the powers at work in it, and the relations between men and those powers. They show what things in their surroundings early engaged men's attention; what things seemed to them to need explanation; and how they explained them.

For a myth is commonly an explanation of something, in the form of a story — what happened once upon a time, or what repeats itself from day to day — and in natural myths, as distinct from the invented myths of philosophers and poets, the story is not the artificial vesture of an idea but its spontaneous expression, not a fiction but a self-evident fact. The student of the mind of man in its uniformity and its variations therefore finds in mythology a great fund of instructive material. A comprehensive collection like the present lends itself also to comparative study of single myths or systems of myth among different and widely remote peoples, and this use of the volumes will be facilitated by a suitable analytical index.

It is one of the merits of this collection that it is made for its own sake, with no theory to maintain or illustrate. The contributors have been given free hand to treat their subjects by such methods as may be best adapted to the nature of the sources and the peculiarities of the mythology itself, without any attempt to impose upon either the material or the writers a schematic plan.

The names of the contributors are a sufficient guarantee of the thoroughness and trustworthiness of their work, while the general editor is himself a scholar of wide attainments in this field. The volumes will be amply illustrated, not for the sake of making picture books, but for the legitimate purposes of illustration — a feature which will add much to the usefulness as well as to the attractiveness of the series. Taken all in all, therefore, the Mythology of All Races may safely be pronounced one of the most important enterprises of this age of co-operative scholarship.

March 20, 1916.


THE theme of mythology is of perennial interest, and, more than this, it possesses a value that is very real. It is a document and a record — existing not merely in the dim past, but in the living present — of man's thought, of his ceaseless endeavour to attain that very real happiness which, as Vergil tells us, arises from "knowledge of the causes of things." Even in his most primitive stages of development man finds himself dwelling in a world filled with phenomena that to him are strange, sometimes friendly, often hostile. Why are these things so? Rightly mankind perceives that a phenomenon is not a Thing in Itself, an Absolute, but that it is an effect, the result of a cause. Now, the immediate cause may often be found; but then it will be seen that this cause is itself only a result of an anterior cause; and so, step by step, the search for ultimate Cause proceeds. Thus mythology is a very real phase — perhaps the most important primitive phase — of that eternal quest of Truth which ever drives us on, though we know that in its full beauty it may never be revealed to mortal eye nor heard by ear of man — that quest more precious than meat or raiment — that quest which we may not abandon if we will still be men.

Mythology is not, then, a thing of mere academic interest; its value is real — real to you and to me. It is the history of the thought of early man, and of primitive man today. In it we may find much to tell us how he lived, and how he had lived in the ages of which his myths recount. As affording usmaterials for a history of civilization mythology is of inestimable value. We know now that history is something more than a matter of dates and events. "Magna Charta was signed by King John at Runnimede in 121 5." What of it, if that be all? The exact words of the document, the particular monarch who signed it, the precise spot, the specific date are of no worth in themselves. The real historical question is — What were the causes which led the English Barons, at a certain point in the development of the British Nation, to compel the King to sanction a document abridging the Royal prerogatives; and what have been the consequences, not merely to the subsequent evolution of the British Constitution, but to all States and Colonies thereby affected? So, too, we read mythology, not only for its specific statements — its legends of gods and of heroes, its theories of the world, and its attempts to solve the mystery of the destiny of each and every individual — but also, with a wider purview, for the light which it sheds upon the infancy and the childhood of the race to which we — you who read and I who write — belong.

Science; has mythology aught to do with that? Assuredly, yes. Mythology is science in its infancy. Does the geologist seek to determine how the earth came into being, how the mountains and the lakes were formed; does the astronomer essay to know the stars and their natures; do the zoologist and the botanist endeavour to explain why animals and trees are as they are — the maker of myth does even the same. The scientist today is the lineal descendant of the myth-maker of olden days. To say this is to honour both alike — both, with all the light at their command, have sought, and ever seek, the Truth. The hypotheses of the myths, do they differ in principle from the hypotheses of science? We think not. There is no real scientist who does not know that the hypotheses with which he needs must work and which seem thus far infallible in providing explanations for all phenomena in his field may some day be modified or even utterly destroyed by new discoveries. The Ptolemaic Theory is gone, the Atomic Theory is questioned. But no sane man will for that reason condemn hypotheses in toto, neither will he despise those who, in their day, held hypotheses then deemed irrefutable.

The connexion of mythology with religion is obvious, yet a word of caution is needed here. Mythology is not synonymous with religion, but only a part of it. Religion consists of at least three parts — the attitude of soul, which is religion par excellence; the outward act of worship, which is ritual; and the scientific explanation, which — in the very highest and noblest sense of the term — is myth; and these three — which we may call the attitude of soul, body, and mind — go together to make religion. Throughout our study of mythology we must bear constantly in mind that we are dealing with only one feature of religion — its causal aspect. We must not take the part for the whole, else we shall be one-sided and unjust in our appreciation of religion as a whole.

One attitude of mind is absolutely essential in reading mythology — sympathy — and almost as important a requisite is that, while reading it, its premisses must be granted. If we approach mythology with the preconception that it is false or nonsensical or trivial, it will be but waste of time to read it; indeed it will be better never to have read it, for reading in such a spirit will only embitter. It is, perhaps, not sufficiently recognized how important a factor one's attitude of sympathy is, not merely in regard to religion or psychology or philosophy, or any other "mental and moral science," but also toward the "exact sciences." If, for example, I make up my mind that spectral analysis is utterly impossible, the discovery of a new element in the gaseous emanation of a distant planet by such analysis will be to me nothing but folly. If, again, I reject the mathematical concept of infinity, which I have never seen, and which cannot be weighed or measured, then I shall of course deny that parallel lines meet in infinity; you cannot give me the precise location of infinity, and, besides, all parallel lines that I have ever seen are equidistant at all points from each other. This is a reductio ad absurdum of an attitude which is far too common in regard to mythology and religion. This does not, of course, mean that we must implicitly believe all that we read; but it does mean that we should approach with kindly hearts. With reverence, then, and with love we take up myths. We may smile, at times, at their naivete; but we shall never sneer at them. Unblushing, sometimes, we shall find them, and cruel; but it is the unmodesty and the cruelty of the child. Myths may be moral or un-moral; they are not immoral, and only a morbid mind will see uncleanness in them.

No attempt has hitherto been made to collect the myths of the entire human race into a single series. Yet this is not so strange as it might appear at first. Scattered in many volumes both old and new, and in periodicals of many kinds and languages, it is an impossible task for one man to know all myths, or to master more than one or two specific mythologies or a few special themes in mythology as a whole. It is quite true that countless volumes have been written on the myths of individual peoples and on special mythic themes, but their assemblage into a single unit has not thus far been accomplished. This is the purpose of the present series of the Mythology of All Races, and this the reason for its being. Herein it differs from all other collections of mythologies in that the mythology of each race is not merely given a special volume or half-volume of its own; but, since the series is an organic entity — not a chance collection of monographs — the mythology of an individual race is seen to form a coherent part of mythology. Moreover, the mythology of one people will not infrequently be found to cast light upon problems connected with the mythic system of quite another people, whence an accurate and a thorough understanding of any individual mythology whatever demands an acquaintance with the mythic systems of mankind as a whole. On the other hand, by thus taking a broad survey, and by considering primarily the simple facts — as presented chiefly by travellers, missionaries, and anthropologists — we may hope to escape some of the peculiar dangers which beset the study of mythology, especially preconceived theories and prejudices, and the risk of taking for aboriginal what is really borrowed and vice versa. We shall advance no special theory of mythology which shall seek to solve each and every problem by one and the same formula; we shall aim to present the facts in the case — and the theories may safely be trusted to take care of themselves, being then wisely built on solid foundations.

We have not attempted to make an encyclopaedia of mythology, nor have we planned a mere reference book, which would have been, in many ways, an easier task. We have had constantly in mind not only the technical student — though he, too, if the editor's own experience be any criterion, will learn much — but the more general reader who desires breadth of understanding, and who would know what the childhood of our race has thought of the mysteries of nature and of life, and how it has endeavoured to resolve them. We have sought to be scientific — in the best sense of the term — but we have also sought to present a book that shall be eminently readable, that shall set forth myths as living entities, and that — because each writer knows and loves the mythology of which he treats — will fill the reader with enthusiasm for them.

Much of the material here given appears for the first time in the English language — Slavic and Finno-Ugric, Oceanic, Armenian, and African. No survey of American mythology as a whole has hitherto been written. Even where — as in Indian, Teutonic, and Semitic — English monographs exist, new points of view are presented. Taking our stand on the best modern scholarship, we venture to hope that many current misconceptions of mythology may be brought to an end. Thus, within recent years, the science of Greek mythology has been revolutionized by the discovery of the very simple fact that Homer is not its ultimate authority, that, indeed, he represents a comparatively late stage in its development; so that we must give full consideration to the non-Homeric myths and see that here, too, there is the same underlying primitive stratum common to all the race of man. This modern scientific treatment of Classical mythology has its initial English presentation in our series. Perhaps, at first blush, we shall seem to lose much both here and elsewhere; we may,perchance, be disappointed when we find that the vaunted wisdom of Egyptians and of Druids was not so very profound; but if we must part with some false, though pretty, ideas, we shall find ample compensation in knowing Egyptians and Druids as they were. After all, which do we prefer — a fanciful picture of our friend, or his actual portrait?

Mythology may be written in either of two ways — presentational or comparative. In the former the myths of each people are presented separately; in the latter some special theme — the deluge-legend, the afterworld, or the like — is considered as it appears in myth throughout the world.

The utmost care has been taken in the choice of collaborators, and it is believed that to scholars their names will be in themselves sufficient warrant that the volumes will possess distinct scientific value. The ample bibliographies and references appended to the pertinent sections will enhance the technical worth of our series. In addition, we propose to give in our index volume not merely the names and subjects discussed in the various volumes, but also a topical arrangement by which the variant myths and mythic themes of the different peoples upon a given subject may be found readily and accurately.

The selection of illustrations will, it is hoped, meet with general favour. It would have been a very easy matter to present fancy pictures or to reproduce paintings of great modern artists. Instead of that, we have deemed it more in harmony with the purpose of the scries to choose for each section pictures of the deities or of mythic incidents as delineated by the people who themselves believed in those deities or incidents. This will have the added advantage of extending some knowledge of the art of early times and the more primitive peoples, as well as of such highly developed arts as those of the Orient. Here the material necessarily runs unevenly. For some mythologies — as Greek, Indian, and American — there is truly an embarras de richesses; for others — notably Celtic, Slavic, and Armenian — where the mythic systems have vanished leaving scarcely a trace of artistry — whether because they never developed it in high measure, or because their pagan art was later destroyed — the artistic remains are lamentably meagre.

In the plan and arrangement of each volume and section full latitude has been given to its author. It is obviously impossible to build a single Procrustean bed into which any and every mythology must be forced to fit; such "consistency" would be mere pedantry, and, by its false implications, would defeat its own ends.

It will perhaps be well to stress the fact that there will be nothing in our series that can be, in Roman Catholic phrase, "offensive to pious ears." In this respect, the editor is happy to say, his duties of censor have been practically a sinecure.

In conclusion, a brief outline of our series may appropriately be given.

The first volume is on Greek and Roman Mythology, by Professor W. Sherwood Fox, of Princeton University, and is written from the point of view to which we have already referred.

The second volume, devoted to Teutonic Mythology, is by Dr. Axel Olrik, of the University of Copenhagen, and author of Danmarks heltedigtning ("The Epic Poetry of Denmark"), Kilderne til Sakses oldhistorie (" Sources for Ancient Saxon History"), and Nordisk aansdliv i vikingetid og tidlig middelalder ("Norse Intellectual Life in the Viking Period and the Early Middle Ages"). Teutonic Mythology is almost wholly that of the Old Icelandic Sagas, and without a knowledge of it Wagner's Nibelungenring, for example, is quite uninelligible. Curiously enough, there is little Teutonic mythology (except for survivals in popular customs and beliefs) outside of Iceland; but in that island a rich literature was composed, and the mythology of the ancient Teutons is one of the most fascinating that has ever been evolved.

The third volume is divided between Celtic and Slavic. The first part is from the pen of Canon John A. MacCulloch, Rector of St. Saviour's, Bridge of Allan, Scotland, and author of The Childhood of Fiction, Religion of the Ancient Celts, and other standard works. The vivid imagination and warm-heartedness of the modern Irish, the quick impetuosity of the Welsh, the "dour" fatalism of the Scotsman, all find expression in their ancient mythology. We think at once of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table when we speak of Celtic mythology, but we are only too dimly aware of the dire struggles between the Fomorians and the Tuatha de Danann, and we are all too prone to forget the vast mythology of the peoples who occupied Gaul when Caesar conquered it, and who still dwell in Ireland, Wales, Brittany, and much of Scotland.

The Slavic section is written by Professor Jan Machal, of the Bohemian University of Prague, and author of Bohatyrsky epos slovansky ("Heroic Epic of the Slavs"), Bdjeslovi slovanske ("Slavic Mythology"), etc. No work in English exists on the mythology of the Slavic peoples; yet in a way they are second only to the Hindus as representing the oldest mythological concepts of our own Indo-European race. Slavic mythology also includes the concepts of the Baltic nations — the Lithuanians and ancient Prussians (who, it may be remarked, were Balto-Slavs, not Germans). Of all the European peoples, the Balto-Slavs were the last to be Christianized, and to the downfall of their paganism it retained a remarkably primitive form, beside which the Greek or the Teutonic seems well-nigh distinctly modern.

The fourth volume is devoted to the Finno-Ugric and Siberian peoples, and its author is Dr. Uno Holmberg, of the University of Finland, Helsingfors, who has already written Permalaisten uskonto ("Religion of the Permians"), Tsheremissien uskonto ("Religion of the Cheremiss"), and Lappalaistenuskonto ("Religion of the Lapps"). The mention of the Finns at once brings to mind the great world-epic of the Kalevala, but the Finns are also distantly related to the Hungarians and the early Turks. Much has been written on the Kalevala, but little on any other portions of Finnish mythology. The Siberian portion of the volume, dealing with the very interesting and primitive theme of "shamanism," will be the first scholarly presentation of the subject in English.

In the fifth volume Captain R. Campbell Thompson, the author of The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, Babylonian Letters, Semitic Magic, and other works of high rank, discusses Semitic Mythology. By this we shall understand the mythology of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians and the scanty traces of primitive Arabian religion before the coming of Muhammad. While many excellent treatises on this subject exist, we may point out a new feature — the rendering, for the first time, of practically all the Assyro-Babylonian myths into English verse. Moreover, by his repeated visits to the East, Captain Campbell Thompson has succeeded in interpreting a number of mythological ideas by modern beliefs and phenomena. We have, after due consideration, decided to omit an account of Muhammadanism, since it has no mythology in the strict sense of the term.

the strict sense of the term. The sixth volume is composite, dealing with the closely kindred races of India and Persia. The Indian Mythology is written by Professor A. Berriedale Keith, of Edinburgh University, the author of the standard Vedic Index of Names and Subjects and editor and translator of the Sankhdyana and Aitareya Aranyakas and of the Taittiriya Samhita. Here we have the earliest religious records of the Indo-European race. Professor Keith traces the development of the Indian mythology from the Rigveda (about 1500 B.C.) to the present day. If in the Rigveda itself we find few myths, they appear in rich abundance in the later periods, and they possess a luxuriance of fancy that is peculiarly Oriental. The second portion of this volume, by Professor A. J. Carnoy, of the University of Louvain, and author of Le Latin d'Espagne d'apres les inscriptions, La Stylistique grecque, and The Religion of the Avesta, deals with the mythology of the so-called "fire-worshippers," the followers of Zoroaster. No treatise at once scholarly and popular has yet appeared in English on this theme, which draws its sources not only from the ancient Avesta, but also from one of the great epics of the world, the Book of Kings of the Persian poet, Firdausi.

The first third of the seventh volume, by Professor Mardiros Ananikian, of the Kennedy School of Missions, Hartford, treats of Armenian mythology, of which practically nothing is known, except for a few works in the Armenian language, and a couple of short special monographs in French and German, although its myths are of peculiar interest, especially in relation to Iranian mythology.

The remainder of the volume is from the pen of Professor George Foucart, head of the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology at Cairo, and author of La Methode comparative dans l'histoire des religions, who will discuss the extremely primitive mythology of the pagan Africans. Here, again, no English work exists which considers this subject as a whole.

The eighth volume is divided equally between Chinese and Japanese mythology. The first part, written by Professor U. Hattori, of the Imperial University of Tokyo, considers especially the mythology of Taoism, for the Buddhism of China is really Indian, while Confucianism is a system of ethics and has no mythology. The second portion, from the pen of Professor Masaharu Anesaki, of the same university, and author of Buddhist Art in its Relation to Buddhist Ideals, treats particularly of the curiously primitive mythology of Shintoism.

In the ninth volume Professor Roland Burrage Dixon, of Harvard University, and author of Maidu Texts, discusses, for the first time in connected form in English, the mythology of the Malayo-Polynesian and Australian peoples. The Australians are of particular interest as being among the most primitive of all living races, and their myths are equally elementary. On the other hand, Polynesian mythology competes in richness and poetic charm with the mythology of ancient Greece itself, as in the legend of Tangaloa, one of the great cosmic gods, or of Pele, the dread divinity of the Hawaiian volcanoes; while among the Malays we find a curious blending of aboriginal beliefs and of Hindu and Muhammadan influences and elements.

Two volumes, the tenth and eleventh, are devoted by Professor Hartley B. Alexander, of the University of Nebraska, and author of Poetry and the Individual and of numerous articles on the American Indians in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, to the mythology of the American Indians. The first volume treats of the Indians north of Mexico, and deals with the very varied mythological systems of the Eskimo, the Algonquians, the Plains Indians, the Pacific Coast tribes, and the Indians of the Southern States, the Puebloans, etc. In the second portion — on Latin America — the highly developed religions of the ancient Aztecs, Central Americans, and Peruvians will be found to stand in striking contrast to the extremely primitive myths of the South American Indians generally. The collection of the South American mythologies will be, we should note, the first that has yet been written with any approach to completeness.

The twelfth volume again is divided into two parts. The first of these deals with the mythology of ancient Egypt, and has been written by Professor W. Max Muller, of the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Asien und Europa and Egyptological Researches. This will present the faith of the Nile-Land from the point of view of the most modern scholarship, and will go far toward dissipating some very common errors regarding that system. The remainder of the volume, written by Sir George Scott, formerly of the British Burmese Service, and editor of The Upper Burma Gazetteer, discusses the mythology of Burma, Siam, and Annam with the same vivid charm that characterizes his volume on The Burman, his Life and Notions.

April 10, 1916.

File List: Vol.01 - Greek And Roman, Vol.02 - Eddic, Vol.03 - Celtic And Slavic, Vol.04 - FinnoUgric And Siberian, Vol.05 - Semitic, Vol.06 - Indian And Iranian, Vol.07 - Armenian And African, Vol.08 - Chinese And Japenese, Vol.09 - Oceanic, Vol.10 - North American, Vol.11 - Latin American, Vol.12 - Egyptian And IndoChinese, Vol.13 - Index.

Download: The Mythology of All Races, 12 Volumes + Index (.zip)

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