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Ch. 5: The Hymn to Demeter

The beautiful Hymn to Demeter, an example of Greek religious faith in its most pensive and most romantic aspects, was found in the last century (1780), in Moscow. Inter pullos et porcos latitabat: the song of the rural deity had found its way into the haunts of the humble creatures whom she protected. A discovery even more fortunate, in 1857, led Sir Charles Newton to a little sacellum, or family chapel, near Cnidos. On a platform of rock, beneath a cliff, and looking to the Mediterranean, were the ruins of the ancient shrine: the votive offerings; the lamps long without oil or flame; the Curses, or Dirae, inscribed on thin sheets of lead, and directed against thieves or rivals. The head of the statue, itself already known, was also discovered. Votive offerings, cheap curses, objects of folk-lore rite and of sympathetic magic,--these are connected with the popular, the peasant aspect of the religion of Demeter. She it is to whom pigs are sacrificed: who makes the fields fertile with scattered fragments of their flesh; and her rustic effigy, at Theocritus's feast of the harvest home, stands smiling, with corn and poppies in her hands.

But the Cnidian shrine had once another treasure, the beautiful melancholy statue of the seated Demeter of the uplifted eyes; the mourning mother: the weary seeker for the lost maiden: her child Persephone. Far from the ruins above the sea, beneath the scorched seaward wall of rock: far from the aromatic fragrance of the rock-nourished flowers, from the bees, and the playful lizards, Demeter now occupies her place in the great halls of the British Museum. Like the Hymn, this melancholy and tender work of art is imperfect, but the sentiment is thereby rather increased than impaired. The ancients buried things broken with the dead, that the shadows of tool, or weapon, or vase might be set free, to serve the shadows of their masters in the land of the souls. Broken as they, too, are, the Hymn and the statue are "free among the dead," and eloquent of the higher religion that, in Greece, attached itself to the lost Maiden and the sorrowing Mother. Demeter, in religion, was more than a fertiliser of the fields: Kore, the Maiden, was more than the buried pig, or the seed sown to await its resurrection; or the harvest idol, fashioned of corn-stalks: more even than a symbol of the winter sleep and vernal awakening of the year and the life of nature. She became the "dread Persephone" of the Odyssey,

   "A Queen over death and the dead."

In her winter retreat below the earth she was the bride of the Lord of Many Guests, and the ruler "of the souls of men outworn." In this office Odysseus in Homer knows her, though neither Iliad nor Odyssey recognises Kore as the maiden Spring, the daughter and companion of Demeter as Goddess of Grain. Christianity, even, did not quite dethrone Persephone. She lives in two forms: first, as the harvest effigy made of corn-stalks bound together, the last gleanings; secondly, as "the Fairy Queen Proserpina," who carried Thomas the Rhymer from beneath the Eildon Tree to that land which lies beyond the stream of slain men's blood.

   "For a' the bluid that's shed on earth
   Flows through the streams of that countrie."

Thus tenacious of life has been the myth of Mother and Maiden, a natural flower of the human heart, found, unborrowed, by the Spaniards in the maize-fields of Peru. Clearly the myth is a thing composed of many elements, glad and sad as the waving fields of yellow grain, or as the Chthonian darkness under earth where the seed awaits new life in the new year. The creed is practical as the folk-lore of sympathetic magic, which half expects to bring good harvest luck by various mummeries; and the creed is mystical as the hidden things and words unknown which assured Pindar and Sophocles of secure felicity in this and in the future life.

The creed is beautiful as the exquisite profile of the corn-tressed head of Persephone on Syracusan coins: and it is grotesque as the custom which bade the pilgrims to Eleusis bathe in the sea, each with the pig which he was about to sacrifice. The highest religious hopes, the meanest magical mummeries are blended in this religion. That one element is earlier than the other we cannot say with much certainty. The ritual aspect, as concerned with the happy future of the soul, does not appear in Iliad or Odyssey, where the Mysteries are not named. But the silence of Homer is never a safe argument in favour of his ignorance, any more than the absence of allusion to tobacco in Shakspeare is a proof that tobacco was, in his age, unknown.

We shall find that a barbaric people, the Pawnees, hold a mystery precisely parallel to the Demeter legend: a Mystery necessarily unborrowed from Greece. The Greeks, therefore, may have evolved the legend long before Homer's day, and he may have known the story which he does not find occasion to tell. As to what was said, shown, and done in the Eleusinia, we only gather that there was a kind of Mystery Play on the sacred legend; that there were fastings, vigils, sacrifices, secret objects displayed, sacred words uttered; and that thence such men as Pindar and Sophocles received the impression that for them, in this and the future life, all was well, was well for those of pure hearts and hands. The "purity" may partly have been ritual, but was certainly understood, also, as relating to excellence of life. Than such a faith (for faith it is) religion has nothing better to give. But the extreme diligence of scholars and archaeologists can tell us nothing more definite. The impressions on the souls of the initiated may have been caused merely by that dim or splendid religious light of the vigils, and by association with sacred things usually kept in solemn sanctuaries. Again, mere buffoonery (as is common in savage Mysteries) brought the pilgrims back to common life when they crossed the bridge on their return to Athens; just as the buffooneries of Baubo brought a smile to the sad lips of Demeter. Beyond this all is conjecture, and the secret may have been so well kept just because, in fact, there was no secret to keep. {59}

Till the end of the present century, mythologists did not usually employ the method of comparing Greek rites and legends with, first, the sympathetic magic and the fables of peasant folk-lore; second, with the Mysteries and myths of contemporary savage races, of which European folk- lore is mainly a survival. For a study of Demeter from these sides (a study still too much neglected in Germany) readers may consult Mannhardt's works, Mr. Frazer's "Golden Bough," and the present translator's "Custom and Myth," and "Myth, Ritual, and Religion." Mr. Frazer, especially, has enabled the English reader to understand the savage and rural element of sympathetic magic as a factor in the Demeter myth. Meanwhile Mr. Pater has dealt with the higher sentiment, the more religious aspect, of the myth and the rites. I am not inclined to go all lengths with Mr. Frazer's ingenious and learned system, as will be seen, while regretting that the new edition of his "Golden Bough" is not yet accessible.

If we accept (which I do not entirely) Mr. Frazer's theory of the origin of the Demeter myth, there is no finer example of the Greek power of transforming into beauty the superstitions of Barbarism. The explanation to which I refer is contained in Mr. J. G. Frazer's learned and ingenious work, "The Golden Bough." While mythologists of the schools of Mr. Max Muller and Kuhn have usually resolved most Gods and heroes into Sun, Sky, Dawn, Twilight; or, again, into elemental powers of Thunder, Tempest, Lightning, and Night, Mr. Frazer is apt to see in them the Spirit of Vegetation. Osiris is a Tree Spirit or a Corn Spirit (Mannhardt, the founder of the system, however, took Osiris to be the Sun). Balder is the Spirit of the Oak. The oak, "we may certainly conclude, was one of the chief, if not the very chief divinity of the Aryans before the dispersion." {61} If so, the Aryans before the dispersion were on an infinitely lower religious level than those Australian tribes, whose chief divinity is not a gum-tree, but a being named "Our Father," dwelling beyond the visible heavens. When we remember the vast numbers of gods of sky or heaven among many scattered races, and the obvious connection of Zeus with the sky (sub Jove frigido), and the usually assigned sense of the name of Zeus, it is not easy to suppose that he was originally an oak. But Mr. Frazer considers the etymological connection of Zeus with the Sanscrit word for sky, an insufficient reason for regarding Zeus as, in origin, a sky-god. He prefers, it seems, to believe that, as being the wood out of which fire was kindled by some Aryan-speaking peoples, the oak may have come to be called "The Bright or Shining One" (Zeus, Jove), by the ancient Greeks and Italians. {62} The Greeks, in fact, used the laurel (daphne) for making fire, not, as far as I am aware, the oak. Though the oak was the tree of Zeus, the heavens were certainly his province, and, despite the oak of Dodona, and the oak on the Capitol, he is much more generally connected with the sky than with the tree. In fact this reduction of Zeus, in origin, to an oak, rather suggests that the spirit of system is too powerful with Mr. Frazer.

He makes, perhaps, a more plausible case for his reduction of dread Persephone to a Pig. The process is curious. Early agricultural man believed in a Corn Spirit, a spiritual essence animating the grain (in itself no very unworthy conception). But because, as the field is mown, animals in the corn are driven into the last unshorn nook, and then into the open, the beast which rushed out of the last patch was identified with the Corn Spirit in some animal shape, perhaps that of a pig; many other animals occur. The pig has a great part in the ritual of Demeter. Pigs of pottery were found by Sir Charles Newton on her sacred ground. The initiate in the Mysteries brought pigs to Eleusis, and bathed with them in the sea. The pig was sacrificed to her; in fact (though not in our Hymn) she was closely associated with pigs. "We may now ask . . . may not the pig be nothing but the Goddess herself in animal form?" {64a} She would later become anthropomorphic: a lovely Goddess, whose hair, as in the Hymn, is "yellow as ripe corn." But the prior pig could not be shaken off. At the Attic Thesmophoria the women celebrated the Descent and Ascent of Persephone,--a "double" of Demeter. In this rite pigs and other things were thrown into certain caverns. Later, the cold remains of pig were recovered and placed on the altar. Fragments were scattered for luck on the fields with the seed-corn. A myth explained that a flock of pigs were swallowed by Earth when Persephone was ravished by Hades to the lower world, of which matter the Hymn says nothing. "In short, the pigs were Proserpine." {64b} The eating of pigs at the Thesmophoria was "a partaking of the body of the God," though the partakers, one thinks, must have been totally unconscious of the circumstance. We must presume that (if this theory be correct) a very considerable time was needed for the evolution of a pig into the Demeter of the Hymn, and the change is quite successfully complete; a testimony to the transfiguring power of the Greek genius.

We may be inclined to doubt, however, whether the task before the genius of Greece, the task of making Proserpine out of a porker, was really so colossal. The primitive mind is notoriously capable of entertaining, simultaneously, the most contradictory notions. Thus, in the Australian "Legend of Eerin," the mourners implore Byamee to accept the soul of the faithful Eerin into his Paradise, Bullimah. No doubt Byamee heard, yet Eerin is now a little owl of plaintive voice, which ratters warning cries in time of peril. {65} No incongruity of this kind is felt to be a difficulty by the childlike narrators. Now I conceive that, starting with the relatively high idea of a Spirit of the Grain, early man was quite capable of envisaging it both spiritually and in zoomorphic form (accidentally conditioned here into horse, there into goat, pig, or what not). But these views of his need not exclude his simultaneous belief in the Corn Spirit as a being anthropomorphic, "Mother Earth," or "Mother Grain," as we follow the common etymology; or that of Mannhardt ([Greek text]) [Greek text]="barley-mother"). If I am right, poetry and the higher religion moved from the first on the line of the anthropomorphic Lady of the Harvest and the Corn, Mother Barley: while the popular folk- lore of the Corn Spirit (which found utterance in the mirth of harvesting, and in the magic ritual for ensuring fertility), followed on the line of the pig. At some seasons, and in some ceremonies, the pig represented the genius of the corn: in general, the Lady of the Corn was--Demeter. We really need not believe that the two forms of the genius of the corn were ever consciously identified. Demeter never was a Pig! {66}

"The Peruvians, we are told, believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine being who causes their growth," says Mr. Frazer. {67} The genealogical table, then, in my opinion, is:--

Divine Being of the Grain.
  |                                    |
(Anthropomorphized).             (Zoomorphised).
Mother of Corn.                    Pig, Horse,
    Demeter.                         and so on.

Thus the Greek genius had other and better materials to work on, in evolving Demeter, than the rather lowly animal which is associated with her rites. If any one objects that animal gods always precede anthropomorphic gods in evolution, we reply that, in the most archaic of known races, the deities are represented in human guise at the Mysteries, though there are animal Totems, and though, in myth, the deity may, and often does, assume shapes of bird or beast. {68}

Among rites of the backward races, none, perhaps, so closely resembles the Eleusinian Mysteries as the tradition of the Pawnees. In Attica, Hades, Lord of the Dead, ravishes away Persephone, the vernal daughter of Demeter. Demeter then wanders among men, and is hospitably received by Celeus, King of Eleusis. Baffled in her endeavour to make his son immortal, she demands a temple, where she sits in wrath, blighting the grain. She is reconciled by the restoration of her daughter, at the command of Zeus. But for a third of the year Persephone, having tasted a pomegranate seed in Hades, has to reign as Queen of the Dead, beneath the earth. Scenes from this tale were, no doubt, enacted at the Mysteries, with interludes of buffoonery, such as relieved most ancient and all savage Mysteries. The allegory of the year's death and renewal probably afforded a text for some discourse, or spectacle, concerned with the future life.

Among the Pawnees, not a mother and daughter, but two primal beings, brothers, named Manabozho and Chibiabos, are the chief characters. The Manitos (spirits or gods) drown Chibiabos. Manabozho mourns and smears his face with black, as Demeter wears black raiment. He laments Chibiabos ceaselessly till the Manitos propitiate him with gifts and ceremonies. They offer to him a cup, like the beverage prepared for Demeter, in the Hymn, by Iambe. He drinks it, is glad, washes off the black stain of mourning, and is himself again, while Earth again is joyous. The Manitos restore Chibiabos to life; but, having once died, he may not enter the temple, or "Medicine Lodge." He is sent to reign over the souls of the departed as does Persephone. Manabozho makes offerings to Mesukkumikokwi, the "Earth Mother" of the Pawnees. The story is enacted in the sacred dances of the Pawnees. {69}

The Pawnee ideas have fallen, with singularly accurate coincidence, into the same lines as those of early Greece. Some moderns, such as M. Foucart, have revived the opinion of Herodotus, that the Mysteries were brought from Greece to Egypt. But, as the Pawnee example shows, similar natural phenomena may anywhere beget similar myths and rites. In Greece the donnee was a nature myth, and a ritual in which it was enacted. That ritual was a form of sympathetic magic, and the myth explained the performances. The refinement and charm of the legend (on which Homer, as we saw, does not touch) is due to the unique genius of Greece. Demeter became the deity most familiar to the people, nearest to their hearts and endowed with most temples; every farm possessing her rural shrine. But the Chthonian, or funereal, aspect of Chibiabos, or of Persephone, is due to a mood very distinct from that which sacrifices pigs as embodiments of the Corn Spirit, if that be the real origin of the practice.

We should much misconceive the religious spirit of the Greek rite if we undertook to develop it all out an origin in sympathetic magic: which, of course, I do not understand Mr. Frazer to do. Greek scholars, again, are apt to view these researches into savage or barbaric origins with great distaste and disfavour. This is not a scientific frame of mind. In the absence of such researches other purely fanciful origins have been invented by scholars, ancient or modern. It is necessary to return to the pedestrian facts, if merely in order to demonstrate the futility of the fancies. The result is in no way discreditable to Greece. Beginning, like other peoples, with the vague unrealised conception of the Corn Mother (an idea which could not occur before the agricultural stage of civilisation), the Greeks refined and elevated the idea into the Demeter of the Hymn, and of the Cnidian statue. To do this was the result of their unique gifts as a race. Meanwhile the other notion of a Ruler of Souls, in Greece attached to Persephone, is found among peoples not yet agricultural: nomads living on grubs, roots, seeds of wild grasses, and the products of the chase. Almost all men's ideas are as old as mankind, so far as we know mankind.

Conceptions originally "half-conscious," and purely popular, as of a Spirit of Vegetation, incarnate, as it were, in each year's growth, were next handled by conscious poets, like the author of our Hymn, and then are "realised as abstract symbols, because intensely characteristic examples of moral, or spiritual conditions." {72} Thus Demeter and Persephone, no longer pigs or Grain-Mothers, "lend themselves to the elevation and the correction of the sentiments of sorrow and awe, by the presentment to the senses and imagination of an ideal expression of them. Demeter cannot but seem the type of divine grief. Persephone is the Goddess of Death, yet with a promise of life to come."

That the Eleusinia included an ethical element seems undeniable. This one would think probable, a priori, on the ground that Greek Mysteries are an embellished survival of the initiatory rites of savages, which do contain elements of morality. This I have argued at some length in "Myth, Ritual, and Religion." Many strange customs in some Greek Mysteries, such as the daubing of the initiate with clay, the use of the [Greek text] (the Australian Tundun, a small piece of wood whirled noisily by a string), the general suggestion of a new life, the flogging of boys at Sparta, their retreat, each with his instructor (Australian kabbo, Greek [Greek text]) to the forests, are precisely analogous to things found in Australia, America, and Africa. Now savage rites are often associated with what we think gross cruelty, and, as in Fiji, with abandoned license, of which the Fathers also accuse the Greeks. But, among the Yao of Central Africa, the initiator, observes Mr. Macdonald, "is said to give much good advice. His lectures condemn selfishness, and a selfish person is called mwisichana, that is, 'uninitiated.'" {74a}

Among the Australians, Dampier, in 1688, observed the singular unselfish generosity of distribution of food to the old, the weak, and the sick. According to Mr. Howitt, the boys of the Coast Murring tribe are taught in the Mysteries "to speak the straightforward truth while being initiated, and are warned to avoid various offences against propriety and morality." The method of instruction is bad, a pantomimic representation of the sin to be avoided, but the intention is excellent. {74b} Among the Kurnai respect for the old, for unprotected women, the duty of unselfishness, and other ethical ideas are inculcated, {74c} while certain food taboos prevail during the rite, as was also the case in the Eleusinia. That this moral idea of "sharing what they have with their friends" is not confined merely to the tribe, is proved by the experience of John Finnegan, a white man lost near Moreton Bay early in this century. "At all times, whether they had much or little, fish or kangaroo, they always gave me as much as I could eat." Even when the whites stole the fish of the natives, and were detected, "instead of attempting to repossess themselves of the fish, they instantly set at work to procure more for us, and one or two fetched us as much dingowa as they could carry." {75} The first English settlers in Virginia, on the other hand, when some native stole a cup, burned down the whole town.

Thus the morality of the savage is not merely tribal (as is often alleged), and is carried into practice, as well as inculcated, in some regions, not in all, during the Mysteries.

For these reasons, if the Greek Mysteries be survivals of savage ceremonies (as there is no reason to doubt that they are), the savage association of moral instruction with mummeries might survive as easily as anything else. That it did survive is plain from numerous passages in classical authors. {76a} The initiate "live a pious life in regard to strangers and citizens." They are to be "conscious of no evil": they are to "protect such as have wrought no unrighteousness." Such precepts "have their root in the ethico-religious consciousness." {76b} It is not mere ritual purity that the Mysteries demand, either among naked Australians, or Yao, or in Greece. Lobeck did his best to minimise the testimony to the higher element in the Eleusinia, but without avail. The study of early, barbaric, savage, classical, Egyptian, or Indian religions should not be one-sided. Men have always been men, for good as well as for evil; and religion, almost everywhere, is allied with ethics no less than it is overrun by the parasite of myth, and the survival of magic in ritual. The Mother and the Maid were "Saviours" ([Greek text]), "holy" and "pure," despite contradictory legends. {77} The tales of incest, as between Zeus and Persephone, are the result of the genealogical mania. The Gods were grouped in family-relationships, to account for their companionship in ritual, and each birth postulated an amour. None the less the same deities offered "salvation," of a sort, and were patrons of conduct.

Greek religion was thus not destitute of certain chief elements in our own. But these were held in solution, with a host of other warring elements, lustful, cruel, or buffooning. These elements Greece was powerless to shake off; philosophers, by various expedients, might explain away the contradictory myths which overgrew the religion, but ritual, the luck of the State, and popular credulity, were tenacious of the whole strange mingling of beliefs and practices.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

The view taken of the Eleusinia in this note is hardly so exalted as that of Dr. Hatch. "The main underlying conception of initiation was that there were elements in human life from which the candidate must purify himself before he could be fit to approach God." The need of purification, ritual and moral, is certain, but one is not aware of anything in the purely popular or priestly religion of Greece which exactly answers to our word "God" as used in the passage cited. Individuals, by dint of piety or of speculation, might approach the conception, and probably many did, both in and out of the philosophic schools. But traditional ritual and myth could scarcely rise to this ideal; and it seems exaggerated to say of the crowded Eleusinian throng of pilgrims that "the race of mankind was lifted on to a higher plane when it came to be taught that only the pure in heart can see God." {78} The black native boys in Australia pass through a purgative ceremony to cure them of selfishness, and afterwards the initiator points to the blue vault of sky, bidding them behold "Our Father, Mungan-ngaur." This is very well meant, and very creditable to untutored savages: and creditable ideas were not absent from the Eleusinia. But when we use the quotation, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," our meaning, though not very definite, is a meaning which it would be hazardous to attribute to a black boy,--or to Sophocles. The idea of the New Life appears to occur in Australian Mysteries: a tribesman is buried, and rises at a given signal. But here the New Life is rather that of the lad admitted to full tribal privileges (including moral precepts) than that of a converted character. Confirmation, rather than conversion, is the analogy. The number of those analogies of ancient and savage with Christian religion is remarkable. But even in Greek Mysteries the conceptions are necessarily not so purely spiritual as in the Christian creed, of which they seem half-conscious and fragmentary anticipations. Or we may regard them as suggestions, which Christianity selected, accepted, and purified.



In what has been said as to the Greek Mysteries, I have regarded them as of native origin. I have exhibited rites of analogous kinds in the germ, as it were, among savage and barbaric communities. In Peru, under the Incas, we actually find Mama and Cora (Demeter and Kore) as Goddesses of the maize (Acosta), and for rites of sympathetic magic connected with the production of fertile harvests (as in the Thesmophoria at Athens) it is enough to refer to the vast collection in Mr. Frazer's "Golden Bough." I have also indicated the closest of all known parallels to the Eleusinian in a medicine-dance and legend of the Pawnees. For other savage Mysteries in which a moral element occurs, I have quoted Australian and African examples. Thence I have inferred that the early Greeks might, and probably did, evolve their multiform mystic rites out of germs of such things inherited from their own prehistoric ancestors. No process, on the other hand, of borrowing from Greece can conceivably account for the Pawnee and Peruvian rites, so closely analogous to those of Hellas. Therefore I see no reason why, if Egypt, for instance, presents parallels to the Eleusinia, we should suppose that the prehistoric Greeks borrowed the Eleusinia from Egypt. These things can grow up, autochthonous and underived, out of the soil of human nature anywhere, granting certain social conditions. Monsieur Foucart, however, has lately argued in favour of an Egyptian origin of the Eleusinia. {82}

The Greeks naturally identified Demeter and Dionysus with Isis and Osiris. There were analogies in the figures and the legends, and that was enough. So, had the Greeks visited America, they would have recognised Demeter in the Pawnee Earth Mother, and Persephone or Eubouleus in Chibiabos. To account for the similarities they would probably have invented a fable of Pawnee visitors to Greece, or of Greek missionaries among the Pawnees. So they were apt to form a theory of an Egyptian origin of Dionysus and Demeter.

M. Foucart, however, argues that agriculture, corn-growing at least, came into Greece at one stride, barley and wheat not being indigenous in a wild state. The Greeks, however, may have brought grain in their original national migration (the Greek words for grain and ploughing are common to other families of Aryan speech) or obtained it from Phoenician settlements. Demeter, however, in M. Foucart's theory, would be the Goddess of the foreigners who carried the grain first to Hellas. Now both the Homeric epics and the Egyptian monuments show us Egypt and Greece in contact in the Greek prehistoric period. But it does not exactly follow that the prehistoric Greeks would adopt Egyptian gods; or that the Thesmophoria, an Athenian harvest-rite of Demeter, was founded by colonists from Egypt, answering to the daughters of Danaus. {84} Egyptians certainly did not introduce the similar rite among the Khonds, or the Incas. The rites could grow up without importation, as the result of the similarities of primitive fancy everywhere. If Isis is Lady of the Grain in Egypt, so is Mama in Peru, and Demeter need no more have been imported from Egypt than Mama. If Osiris taught the arts of life and the laws of society in Egypt, so did Daramulun in Australia, and Yehl in British Columbia. All the gods and culture heroes everywhere play this role--in regions where importation of the idea from Egypt is utterly out of the question. Even in minute details, legends recur everywhere; the phallus of a mutilated Australian being of the fabulous "Alcheringa time," is hunted for by his wives; exactly as Isis wanders in search of the phallus of the mutilated Osiris. {85a} Is anything in the Demeter legend so like the Isis legend as this Australian coincidence? Yet the Arunta did not borrow it from Egypt. {85b} The mere fact, again, that there were Mysteries both in Egypt and Greece proves nothing. There is a river in Monmouth, and a river in Macedon; there are Mysteries in almost all religions.

Again, it is argued, the Gods of the Mysteries in Egypt and Greece had secret names, only revealed to the initiated. So, too, in Australia, women (never initiated) and boys before initiation, know Daramulun only as Papang (Father). {85c} The uninitiated among the Kurnai do not know the sacred name, Mungan-ngaur. {85d} The Australian did not borrow this secrecy from Egypt. Everywhere a mystery is kept up about proper names. M. Foucart seems to think that what is practically universal, a taboo on names, can only have reached Greece by transplantation from Egypt. {86a} To the anthropologist it seems that scholars, in ignoring the universal ideas of the lower races, run the risk of venturing on theories at once superficial and untenable.

M. Foucart has another argument, which does not seem more convincing, though it probably lights up the humorous or indecent side of the Eleusinia. Isocrates speaks of "good offices" rendered to Demeter by "our ancestors," which "can only be told to the initiate." {86b} Now these cannot be the kindly deeds reported in the Hymn, for these were publicly proclaimed. What, then, were the secret good offices? In one version of the legend the hosts of Demeter were not Celeus and Metaneira, but Dusaules and Baubo. The part of Baubo was to relieve the gloom of the Goddess, not by the harmless pleasantries of Iambe, in the Hymn, but by obscene gestures. The Christian Fathers, Clemens of Alexandria at least, make this a part of their attack on the Mysteries; but it may be said that they were prejudiced or misinformed. {87a} But, says M. Foucart, an inscription has been found in Paros, wherein there is a dedication to Hera, Demeter Thesmophoros, Kore, and Babo, or Baubo. Again, two authors of the fourth century, Palaephatus and Asclepiades, cite the Dusaules and Baubo legend. {87b}

Now the indecent gesture of Baubo was part of the comic or obscene folk- lore of contempt in Egypt, and so M. Foucart thinks that it was borrowed from Egypt with the Demeter legend. {87c} Can Isocrates have referred to this good office?--the amusing of Demeter by an obscene gesture? If he did, such gestures as Baubo's are as widely diffused as any other piece of folk-lore. In the centre of the Australian desert Mr. Carnegie saw a native make a derisive gesture which he thought had only been known to English schoolboys. {88a} Again, indecent pantomimic dances, said to be intended to act as "object lessons" in things not to be done, are common in Australian Mysteries. Further, we do not know Baubo, or a counterpart of her, in the ritual of Isis, and the clay figurines of such a figure, in Egypt, are of the Greek, the Ptolemaic period. Thus the evidence comes to this: an indecent gesture of contempt, known in Egypt, is, at Eleusis, attributed to Baubo. This does not prove that Baubo was originally Egyptian. {88b} Certain traditions make Demeter the mistress of Celeus. {88c} Traces of a "mystic marriage," which also occur, are not necessarily Egyptian: the idea and rite are common.

There remains the question of the sacred objects displayed (possibly statues, probably very ancient "medicine" things, as among the Pawnees) and sacred words spoken. These are said by many authors to confirm the initiate in their security of hope as to a future life. Now similar instruction, as to the details of the soul's voyage, the dangers to avoid, the precautions to be taken, notoriously occur in the Egyptian "Book of the Dead." But very similar fancies are reported from the Ojibbeways (Kohl), the Polynesians and Maoris (Taylor, Turner, Gill, Thomson), the early peoples of Virginia, {89a} the modern Arapaho and Sioux of the Ghost Dance rite, the Aztecs, and so forth. In all countries these details are said to have been revealed by men or women who died, but did not (like Persephone) taste the food of the dead; and so were enabled to return to earth. The initiate, at Eleusis, were guided along a theatrically arranged pathway of the dead, into a theatrical Elysium. {89b} Now as such ideas as these occur among races utterly removed from contact with Egypt, as they are part of the European folk-lore of the visits of mortals to fairyland (in which it is fatal to taste fairy food), I do not see that Eleusis need have borrowed such common elements of early belief from the Egyptians in the seventh century B.C. {90} One might as well attribute to Egypt the Finnish legend of the descent of Wainamoinen into Tuonela; or the experience of the aunt of Montezuma just before the arrival of Cortes; or the expedition to fairyland of Thomas the Rhymer. It is not pretended by M. Foucart that the details of the "Book of the Dead" were copied in Greek ritual; and the general idea of a river to cross, of dangerous monsters to avoid, of perils to encounter, of precautions to be taken by the wandering soul, is nearly universal, where it must be unborrowed from Egypt, in Polynesian and Red Indian belief. As at Eleusis, in these remote tribes formulas of a preservative character are inculcated.

The "Book of the Dead" was a guidebook of the itinerary of Egyptian souls. Very probably similar instruction was given to the initiate at Eleusis. But the Fijians also have a regular theory of what is to be done and avoided on "The Path of the Shades." The shade is ferried by Ceba (Charon) over Wainiyalo (Lethe); he reaches the mystic pandanus tree (here occurs a rite); he meets, and dodges, Drodroyalo and the two devouring Goddesses; he comes to a spring, and drinks, and forgets sorrow at Wai-na-dula, the "Water of Solace." After half-a-dozen other probations and terrors, he reaches the Gods, "the dancing-ground and the white quicksand; and then the young Gods dance before them and sing. . . . " {91a}

Now turn to Plutarch. {91b} Plutarch compares the soul's mortal experience with that of the initiate in the Mysteries. "There are wanderings, darkness, fear, trembling, shuddering, horror, then a marvellous light: pure places and meadows, dances, songs, and holy apparitions." Plutarch might be summarising the Fijian belief. Again, take the mystic golden scroll, found in a Greek grave at Petilia. It describes in hexameters the Path of the Shade: the spring and the white cypress on the left: "Do not approach it. Go to the other stream from the Lake of Memory; tell the Guardians that you are the child of Earth and of the starry sky, but that yours is a heavenly lineage; and they will give you to drink of that water, and you shall reign with the other heroes."

Tree, and spring, and peaceful place with dance, song, and divine apparitions, all are Fijian, all are Greek, yet nothing is borrowed by Fiji from Greece. Many other Greek inscriptions cited by M. Foucart attest similar beliefs. Very probably such precepts as those of the Petilia scroll were among the secret instructions of Eleusis. But they are not so much Egyptian as human. Chibiabos is assuredly not borrowed from Osiris, nor the Fijian faith from the "Book of the Dead." "Sacred things," not to be shown to man, still less to woman, date from the "medicine bag" of the Red Indian, the mystic tribal bundles of the Pawnees, and the churinga, and bark "native portmanteaux," of which Mr. Carnegie brought several from the Australian desert.

For all Greek Mysteries a satisfactory savage analogy can be found. These spring straight from human nature: from the desire to place customs, and duties, and taboos under divine protection; from the need of strengthening them, and the influence of the elders, by mystic sanctions; from the need of fortifying and trying the young by probations of strength, secrecy, and fortitude; from the magical expulsion of hostile influences; from the sympathetic magic of early agriculture; from study of the processes of nature regarded as personal; and from guesses, surmises, visions, and dreams as to the fortunes of the wandering soul on its way to its final home. I have shown all these things to be human, universal, not sprung from one race in one region. Greek Mysteries are based on all these natural early conceptions of life and death. The early Greeks, like other races, entertained these primitive, or very archaic ideas. Greece had no need to borrow from Egypt; and, though Egypt was within reach, Greece probably developed freely her original stock of ideas in her own fashion, just as did the Incas, Aztecs, Australians, Ojibbeways, and the other remote peoples whom I have selected. The argument of M. Foucart, I think, is only good as long as we are ignorant of the universally diffused forms of religious belief which correspond to the creeds of Eleusis or of Egypt. In the Greek Mysteries we have the Greek guise,--solemn, wistful, hopeful, holy, and pure, yet not uncontaminated with archaic buffoonery,--of notions and rites, hopes and fears, common to all mankind. There is no other secret.

The same arguments as I have advanced against Greek borrowing from Egypt, apply to Greek borrowing from Asia. Mr. Ramsay, following Mr. Robertson Smith, suggests that Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, may be "the old Semitic Al-lat." {95a} Then we have Leto and Artemis, as the Mother and the Maid (Kore) with their mystery play. "Clement describes them" (the details) as "Eleusinian, for they had spread to Eleusis as the rites of Demeter and Kore crossing from Asia to Crete, and from Crete to the European peninsula." The ritual "remained everywhere fundamentally the same." Obviously if the Eleusinian Mysteries are of Phrygian origin (Ramsay), they cannot also be of Egyptian origin (Foucart). In truth they are no more specially of Phrygian or Egyptian than of Pawnee or Peruvian origin. Mankind can and does evolve such ideas and rites in any region of the world. {95b}

Andrew Lang