Custom and Myth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 239 pages of information about Custom and Myth.
mice.  St. Gertrude (whose heart was eaten by mice) has the same role in France. {119} The worship of Apollo, and the badge of the mouse, would, on this principle, be diffused by colonies from some centre of the faith.  The images of mice in Apollo’s temples would be nothing more than votive offerings.  Thus, in the church of a Saxon town, the verger shows a silver mouse dedicated to Our Lady.  ’This is the greatest of our treasures,’ says the verger.  ’Our town was overrun with mice till the ladies of the city offered this mouse of silver.  Instantly all the mice disappeared.’  ’And are you such fools as to believe that the creatures went away because a silver mouse was dedicated?’ asked a Prussian officer.  ‘No,’ replied the verger, rather neatly; ’or long ago we should have offered a silver Prussian.’

STAR MYTHS.

Artemus Ward used to say that, while there were many things in the science of astronomy hard to be understood, there was one fact which entirely puzzled him.  He could partly perceive how we ‘weigh the sun,’ and ascertain the component elements of the heavenly bodies, by the aid of spectrum analysis.  ‘But what beats me about the stars,’ he observed plaintively, ‘is how we come to know their names.’  This question, or rather the somewhat similar question, ’How did the constellations come by their very peculiar names?’ has puzzled Professor Pritchard and other astronomers more serious than Artemus Ward.  Why is a group of stars called the Bear, or the Swan, or the Twins, or named after the Pleiades, the fair daughters of the Giant Atlas? {121} These are difficulties that meet even children when they examine a ‘celestial globe.’  There they find the figure of a bear, traced out with lines in the intervals between the stars of the constellations, while a very imposing giant is so drawn that Orion’s belt just fits his waist.  But when he comes to look at the heavens, the infant speculator sees no sort of likeness to a bear in the stars, nor anything at all resembling a giant in the neighbourhood of Orion.  The most eccentric modern fancy which can detect what shapes it will in clouds, is unable to find any likeness to human or animal forms in the stars, and yet we call a great many of the stars by the names of men and beasts and gods.  Some resemblance to terrestrial things, it is true, everyone can behold in the heavens.  Corona, for example, is like a crown, or, as the Australian black fellows know, it is like a boomerang, and we can understand why they give it the name of that curious curved missile.  The Milky Way, again, does resemble a path in the sky; our English ancestors called it Watling Street—­the path of the Watlings, mythical giants—­and Bushmen in Africa and Red Men in North America name it the ‘ashen path,’ or ‘the path of souls.’  The ashes of the path, of course, are supposed to be hot and glowing, not dead and black like the ash-paths

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Custom and Myth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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