Custom and Myth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 287 pages of information about Custom and Myth.
This is not a random theory, without basis.  In Brazil, the natives have no bull-roarer, but they have mysteries, and the presence of the women at the mysteries of the men is a terrible impiety.  To warn away the women, the Brazilians make loud ‘devil-music’ on what are called ’jurupari pipes.’  Now, just as in Australia, the women may not see the jurupari pipes on pain of death.  When the sound of the jurupari pipes is heard, as when the turndun is heard in Australia, every woman flees and hides herself.  The women are always executed if they see the pipes.  Mr. Alfred Wallace bought a pair of these pipes, but he had to embark them at a distance from the village where they were procured.  The seller was afraid that some unknown misfortune would occur if the women of his village set eyes on the juruparis. {44}

The conclusion from all these facts seems obvious.  The bull-roarer is an instrument easily invented by savages, and easily adopted into the ritual of savage mysteries.  If we find the bull-roarer used in the mysteries of the most civilised of ancient peoples, the most probable explanation is, that the Greeks retained both the mysteries, the bull-roarer, the habit of bedaubing the initiate, the torturing of boys, the sacred obscenities, the antics with serpents, the dances, and the like, from the time when their ancestors were in the savage condition.  That more refined and religious ideas were afterwards introduced into the mysteries seems certain, but the rites were, in many cases, simply savage.  Unintelligible (except as survivals) when found among Hellenes, they become intelligible enough among savages, because they correspond to the intellectual condition and magical fancies of the lower barbarism.  The same sort of comparison, the same kind of explanation, will account, as we shall see, for the savage myths as well as for the savage customs which survived among the Greeks.


In a Maori pah, when a little boy behaves rudely to his parents, he is sometimes warned that he is ‘as bad as cruel Tutenganahau.’  If he asks who Tutenganahau was, he is told the following story:—­

’In the beginning, the Heaven, Rangi, and the Earth, Papa, were the father and mother of all things.  “In these days the Heaven lay upon the Earth, and all was darkness.  They had never been separated.”  Heaven and Earth had children, who grew up and lived in this thick night, and they were unhappy because they could not see.  Between the bodies of their parents they were imprisoned, and there was no light.  The names of the children were Tumatuenga, Tane Mahuta, Tutenganahau, and some others.  So they all consulted as to what should be done with their parents, Rangi and Papa.  “Shall we slay them, or shall we separate them?” “Go to,” said Tumatuenga, “let us slay them.”  “No,” cried Tane Mahuta, “let us rather separate them.  Let one go upwards, and become a stranger to us;

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Custom and Myth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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