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The Myths of the New World

The Myths of the New World

Myths as depictions of historical events


Daniel Garrison Brinton


“All the earth is a grave, and nought escapes it; nothing is so perfect that it does not fall and disappear. The rivers, brooks, fountains and waters flow on, and never return to their joyous beginnings; they hasten on to the vast realms of Tlaloc, and the wider they spread between their marges the more rapidly do they mould their own sepulchral urns. That which was yesterday is not to-day; and let not that which is to-day trust to live to-morrow.”

  • Daniel Garrison Brinton was born in Thornbury Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was an American surgeon who served the Union Army during the American Civil War from 1862 to 1865. Apart from that, he was also a prominent archaeologist and historian. Brinton continued his education at Jefferson Medical College for two years after graduating from Yale University in 1858. Then spent the following year exploring Europe.
  • Brinton gained a lot of experience after the war. He was the editor of the Medical and Surgical Reporter (a weekly magazine), in Philadelphia between 1874 and 1887.
  • He also practiced medicine in West Chester, Pennsylvania for many years and worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia as an archaeology and ethnology professor in 1884. Until he died, he served the University of Pennsylvania as an archaeology American linguistics professor from 1886.
  • Brinton delivered a speech on “What the Anarchists Want” in April 1896 at the Ethical Fellowship of Philadelphia. Acclaimed anarchist Peter Kropotkin had dinner with Brinton, which was his only speaking engagement at Philadelphia, in October 1897, after having rejected invitations from all other aristocracies in the city. So it can be said that Brinton followed the path of an anarchist during the last few years of his life.
  • On October 6, 1900, a memorial meeting was held for Brinton where the keynote speaker Albert H. Smyth said that Brinton looked for societies of anarchists in Europe and America and intermingled with some radicals in the world that he might consider their hardships and analyze their approaches for improvements and modifications.

Works

From 1868 to 1899, Brinton wrote many books, and a large number of pamphlets, brochures, addresses and magazine articles. His works include:

  • American Hero-Myths: A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent.
  • Library of Aboriginal American Literature. No. VIII
  • Aboriginal American authors and their productions
  • Notes on the Floridian Peninsula (1859)
  • The Myths of the New World (1868), an attempt to analyse and correlate, scientifically, the mythology of the American Indians
  • A Guide-Book of Florida and the South (1869)
  • The Religious Sentiment: its Sources and Aim: A Contribution to the Science and Philosophy of Religion (1876)
  • American Hero Myths (1882)
  • The Annals of the Cakchiquels (1885)

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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Assyrian and Babylonian Mythology at a Glance

Myths of Babylonia and Assyria is a book by Donald Alexander Mackenzie published in 1915.


Located in what is called the Near East, the empires of Babylon and Assyria sat in the Fertile Crescent, just between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Given their location, it’s no surprise that the myths from these civilizations influenced Greek, Egyptian, and Abrahamic religion and traditions. The civilization of Babylon, as we know it, lasted from about 2350 to 1595 BCE, when it was sacked and later ruled by the Hittites. Assyria arrived a little later on the scene, and lasted from 1900 BCE to 650 CE.
Much of what we know about Mesopotamian mythology comes from the various tablets, or portions of tablets, found in ancient Assyrian and Babylonian cities. While these tablets have only remained partially intact and large sections are as yet untranslated, they still give us a pretty clear picture of some of the myths of these ancient cultures, which introduce us to the gods and goddesses of the Mesopotamian pantheon. One of the longer and more descriptive myths we have from ancient Mesopotamian tablets is the Enuma Elish, or the creation epic, which tells us how the world and its gods and goddesses came to be.

Gods of Creation

Apsu is not technically a god – think of him more like the Greek idea of a Titan – but he was the embodiment of the sweet freshwater that first emerged out of chaos in the beginning of the world. With his consort, Tiamat, they are the parents, or sometimes grandparents (the family tree isn’t always clear) of Anu, Enlil, and Enki.
Tiamat has perhaps the most complicated history of the Mesopotamian gods. On the one hand, she is depicted as a beautiful woman who was mother to the gods and the embodiment of the salty sea. When she turned against the gods in the Enuma Elish, she became depicted as a dragon-like monster. In her anger, she created all the deadly creatures of the world, including serpents and scorpions.
Marduk, as the patron god of Babylon, is considered the primary god of creation, according to the the Enuma Elish. However, this may not be the only version of the story; in fact, it’s likely only the case because the text was found in Babylon, which probably had a bias towards their own patron god. Marduk is the son of Enki and is sometimes considered the god of heroes. He killed Tiamat and used one half of her body to create the sky, and the other half to create the land. He used the blood of Tiamat’s favored warrior to create humans.

Ruling Gods

Anu is the god of the sky and was considered the king of the Sumerian pantheon (Sumer was another city in the region). Often a lofty and unseen or unheard figure, Anu actually is seldom mentioned in many Mesopotamian myths.
Enlil is the god of the air and king of the Assyrian pantheon. Enlil is known for having a volatile temper and was the god responsible for sending the Great Flood to kill humankind because they were too noisy.
Enki sometimes known as Ea, was god of water and the most clever of the gods. In many myths he is a protector of humankind. He was the one who warned Atrahasis, the Mesopotamian Noah, about the flood and instructed him on how to build a boat and appease the gods.


Donald Alexander Mackenzie


“The World’s New Age hath dawned. The sun is bright in heaven, for Balder hath returned. Earth rises a second time, from the deep sea; it rises clad with green verdure. The sound of falling waters fills the morning air. High soars the eagle; from the mountain ridge he espies the fish.”


  • Born on 24 July 1873 in Cromarty, Donald Alexander Mackenzie was one of the most commonly recognized folklorists, journalist and a brilliant author on anthropology, religion and mythology in the early 20th century. He died on 2 March 1936 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and was buried in Cromarty.
  • He moved to Dingwall as The North Star’s owner and editor in 1903 after becoming a renowned journalist in Glasgow. Next, he moved to the People’s Journal in Dundee in 1910 and represented the Glasgow paper, The Bulletin, in Edinburgh from 1916 onwards. He also gave frequent lectures and broadcasted speeches on Celtic mythology apart from writing poems, articles and books. He was the friend of several specialized authorities in his field of interest. Between 1913 and 1935, his elder brother, William Mackay Mackenzie, was the Secretary of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
  • Mackenzie released Ancient Man in Britain in 1922, which covered the history of Britain from the Upper Paleolithic period, from a strong ethnological framework. Grafton Elliot Smith wrote the foreword of the book. The piece goes over the earliest settlement of Britain during the Aurignacian (pp. 19–27) by the first modern humans from around 35,000 years ago. Mackenzie claims in the book that the Caucasoid Cro-Magnons settled in Britain had dark hair and eyes, genetically similar to the Iberians, French Basques, and Berbers of North Africa (p. 25), who were one of the original members of the Mediterranean race according to him. Another “variety of the Mediterranean race” later on conquered this ancestral proto-Mediterranean racial stock, thus introducing the Solutrean culture around 20,000 years ago (p. 50).
  • The Solutrean and Aurignacian population of Britain traded in shells with Cro-Magnons of France according to Mackenzie. Later on, they interacted with the later arriving Caucasoid racial types, including the brachycephalic (broad-skulled) proto-Alpines (Furfooz race) and Lappid race with slight Eskimo phenotypic characteristics. Mackenzie believed there existed a less numbered, highly depigmented racial type in Britain during the Magdalenian, perhaps who were blonde too and mingled with the “dark Iberians” (p. 60).
  • Mackenzie believed that the Mediterranoid: “The carriers of Neolithic culture were in the main Iberians of Mediterranean racial type” were the predominant racial type of Britain during the Neolithic, and they traded in pearls and ores. Mackenzie devoted several chapters towards the Bronze Age Britain supporting his belief that traders and “prospectors” (miners), originally from the Eastern Mediterranean (pp. 98–101), arrived in Britain c. 2500 BC. Harold Peake, who coined the term “Prospector Theory”, initially introduced this theory.
  • The theory was resurrected in Carleton S. Coon’s scientific literature (1939), and the Mediterranean’s, who colonized Britain during the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, were correlated to the Medway megaliths (or long-barrow Megalithic culture). These colonists were earlier named “Atlanto-Mediterranean” by Joseph Deniker.
  • Mackenzie claimed that these Mediterranean’s inhabiting parts of Britain lived well into later historical times (p. 118) and that the Mediterranean race was basically the majority population of Britain from Paleolithic through to the Neolithic and even more modern times. Their hair was black or brown, with dusky skin “like those of the Southern Italians” (p. 126) and could survive to the current time in several pockets of Britain regardless of the subsequent Anglo-Saxon and Norse settlement. Mackenzie thought their admixture or genetic input was very restricted but they dominated the British and imposed a new civilization and culture (p. 227).

Notable Works

  • 1909 – Finn and his warrior band; Or, Tales of old Alban
  • 1911 – The khalifate of the West
  • 1913 – 2nd Ed. 1934- Teutonic Myth and Legend
  • 1913 – Donald Alexander, Mackenzie. Indian myth and legend. Gresham, London
  • 1913 – Egyptian Myth and Legend
  • 1915 – Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

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Custom and Myth

Custom and Myth

Practices and Rituals

custom and myth

Practices and Rituals

The book Custom and Myth contains 15 sketches by Andrew Lang ranging from Method of Folklore and Star Myths to those of Art of Savages. It demonstrates the author’s perception of the insufficiency of the widely accepted methods of comparative mythology. He does agree that “myths are the result of a disease of language, as the pearl is the result of a disease of the oyster.”
Mr. Lang rejects the idea supported by many other renowned philologists, including Max Müller, Kuhn, and Breal – that proper names in the old myths can depict their explanation. He instead claims that the study of names, which carries the entire structure of philological “comparative mythology” rests, is an evolving and unstable foundation.
He says that stories are initially anonymous, and names are added later on, and eventually, adventures generally gather around some legendary divine, heroic, personage, or human. Thus, a Greek myth or a Hindu legend might be popular among people who may have never heard of India or Greece. For example- Jason’s story is widely prevalent in North America, Madagascar, Finland, and Samoa. Every myth present here serves a controversial objective to an extent, as it supports the theory of the novelist that isn’t clarified by comparative mythology. According to him, folklore has survivals of primitive concepts familiar to many people as the same theories appear to be created in identical physical and social circumstances.
The theory of a myth prevalent to multiple races relies on the premise that there is a common intellectual condition among them. We might push back a god from Phœnicia to Accadia or Greece to Phœnicia. Still, ultimately, we come to a story full of theories such as those that the Eskimo tell in their dark huts, Bushmen by the campfire, and Australians in the shadows of the “gunweh,”—evil, ignorant, vague like the dreams of the savage myth-makers from which they originated.

On every page of this literary “Universal Provider, you will experience the wide reading, the genius generalization faculty, the marvelous reputation, and the unshakeable amusement,” who modestly compares these essays to “flint-like flakes from a Neolithic workshop.” The notion that the primary purpose of a myth is to provide a rationale for a custom didn’t require significant efforts to be embraced. Several scholars considered myths in their earliest stages to be accounts of social practices and beliefs at the beginning of the 20th century.
Sir James Frazer said that myths and traditions were the shreds of evidence for humanity’s oldest preoccupation—that is, fertility. From the mystical through the spiritual to the scientific—– Human civilization evolved in stages—and myths and practices (having survived till the scientific stage) were the witnesses to ancient modes of thinking which were otherwise impossible to recreate.
As far as the relationship between myth and ritual is considered, myths were the key to explain the rituals, which were otherwise indecipherable according to Frazer. He hence mentioned in Adonis, Attis, Osiris in1906 that the intention behind creating the legendary story of Attis’s self-castration was to throw light on the castration done by the Attis’s cult’s priests to themselves at his festival.
Biblical scholars emphasized the importance of searching for the situation in life and custom (the “Sitz im Leben”) initially possessed by fictional texts in their own informative manner.
Several scholars focused on the ceremonial functions of myths, especially in Britain and the Scandinavian countries, commonly referred to as the Myth and Ritual school (from where British biblical scholar S.H. Hooke was widely known). They focused on researching the Middle East before the rise of Islam and even after that, especially about the rituals related to holy kingship and New Year’s celebrations.

The discovery about the creation of epic Enuma elish being recited at the Babylonian New Year’s festival was significant: the myth was, it was argued, expressing in language that which the ritual was enacting through action. The relationship between myth and ritual in ancient Greece has been thoroughly investigated by classical scholars, and the study of sacrifice by Walter Burkert named Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth (1983) was enormously influential.
There is no concrete evidence suggesting the connection between myths and cult behavior, but it is believed to exist. According to Frazer, ritual came before, and myth was created as an eventual explanation. However, there is no consensus opinion regarding which originated first. Modern scholars prefer to focus on the diversity of the relationship between myth and ritual rather than on temporal priority. While it has been established that some myths are linked to rituals, it makes sense to suggest that the myth communicates through the narrative language what the ritual expresses through the symbolism of action. Typically, the content of essential myths about the world’s origin usually represents a tradition’s dominant cultural form.
Agricultural civilizations throw light on agricultural practices in their myths; pastoral cultures on pastoral practices, hunter-gatherer societies on the origin of game animals and hunting practices; and so on.
Thus, many myths introduce representations of acts and organizations that are fundamental to the way of the life of society and link these to primordial times. In particular traditions, the myths deal with topics like initiation ceremonies, customs of secret cultures, and harvest rituals.


Andrew Lang

  • Born on March 31, 1844, Andrew Lang was a Scottish author specializing in folk and fairy tales.
  • He also wrote novels, was a literary critic, and made significant contributions to anthropology.
  • The Andrew Lang lectures at The University of St Andrews hold The Andrew Lang lectures in his honor.
  • Born in 1844 in Selkirk, Scottish Borders, Lang was the first of the 8 children of the town clerk of Selkirk, John Lang, and his spouse Jane Plenderleath Sellar whose father was a factor to the first Duke of Sutherland, Patrick Sellar. Lang married the youngest daughter of C. T. Alleyne of Clifton and Barbados, Leonora Blanche Alleyne, on April 17, 1875.
  • Even though she never received credit, she was the collaborator, translator, or author of Colr/Rainbow Fairy Books by Lang.
  • Lang went to Loretto School, Selkirk Grammar School, and the Edinburgh Academy, and the University of St Andrews and Balliol College, Oxford, where he secured first class in the final classical schools in 1868, after which he became a fellow of Merton College and eventually honorary fellow. He soon made his mark in poetry, journalism, and history as one of the most influential authors and critics of that time. He also joined a Neo-Jacobite society known as the Order of the White Rose in the 1890s and 1900s, a popular community of authors and artists. He was elected FBA in 1906.
  • In 1666 Admiral Penn sent William back to Ireland to govern the family estates. There he crossed paths again with Thomas Loe and, after listening to him preach, elected to join the Quakers (the Society of Friends), a faction that was deemed religious fanatics who were denounced by respectable society and subject to religious persecution.
  • On July 20, 1912, he lost his life to angina pectoris at the Tor-na-Coille Hotel in Banchory, Banchory, survived by his wife. A monument was built for the people to visit in the south-east corner of the 19th-century section in the cathedral precincts at St Andrew’s, at his burial place.
  • Today, Lang is primarily known for his writings on mythology, folklore, and religion. He was interested in folklore from a young age and was influenced by E. B. Tylor when he read John Ferguson McLennan before coming to Oxford.
  • Custom and Myth, released in 1884, is his earliest piece. He described the “irrational” aspects of mythology as survivals from more primitive forms in Myth, Ritual and Religion in 1887. The 18th-century notion of the “noble savage” strongly influenced his Making of Religion: in it, he confirmed the presence of high spiritual ideas among “savage” races, drawing a comparison with the contemporary interest in supernatural phenomena in England.
  • Lang’s perfectly written and illustrated version of fairy tales in 1889, Blue Fairy Book, has become a classic. He published several other fairy tale series, commonly known as Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. He credited his wife with translating and transcribing many of the tales in the collection in the preface of the Lilac Fairy Book. He investigated the roots of totemism in his 1903 book- Social Origins.
  • Lang participated actively in journalism in numerous ways. From sparkling “leaders” for the Daily News to miscellaneous articles for the Morning Post to being the literary editor of Longman’s Magazine for several years; he was the most sought-after critic for periodic reports or introductions to new editions or as editor of delicate pieces.

List of the Andrew Lang Lectures at the University of St Andrews:

The lectures from 1927 to 1937 have been gathered into a book- Concerning Andrew Lang. These are the included lectures: 

  • George Gordon’s “Andrew Lang,” December 1, 1927. 
  • “Andrew Lang’s Work for Homer” by Alexander Shewan – November 15, 1928. 
  • “The Raw Material of Religion” by R. R. Marett – October 25, 1929.
  • “Andrew Lang as Historian” by Robert S. Rait- October 24, 1930.
  • “Andrew Lang and the Maid of France” by Louis Cazamain- October 22, 1931.
  • “Andrew Lang and the Border” by John Buchan-October 17, 1932.
  • “Lang, Lockhart, and Biography” by H. J. C. Grierson- December 6, 1933.
  • “Andrew Lang and the House of Stuart” by J. D. Mackie- November 21, 1934.
  • “Andrew Lang and the Literature of Sport” by Bernard Darwin- November 26, 1936.
  • “Andrew Lang’s Poetry” by A. Blyth Webster- October 20, 1937.


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