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Modern Mythology by Andrew Lang

The Scottish and Northumbrian Kernababy


He

would like to explain the Lupercalia as a popular play, representing the spirits of vegetation opposing the spirits of infertility. 'But we do not forget that our whole theory of the development of the rite rests on a hypothesis which the lack of materials prevents us from demonstrating.' He would explain Luperci as Lupiherci--'wolf-goats.' Over this we need not linger; but how does all this prove Mannhardt to have returned to the method of comparing Greek with Vedic divine names, and arriving thence at some celestial phenomenon as the basis of a terrestrial myth? Yet he sometimes does this.

My Relations to Mannhardt

If anything could touch and move an unawakened anthropologist it would be the conversion of Mannhardt. My own relations with his ideas have the interest of illustrating mental coincidences. His name does not occur, I think, in the essay, 'The Method of Folklore,' in the first edition of my Custom and Myth. In that essay I take, as an example of the method, the Scottish and Northumbrian Kernababy, the puppet made out of the last gleanings of harvest. This I compared to the Greek Demeter of the harvest-home, with sheaves and poppies in her hands, in the immortal Seventh Idyll of Theocritus. Our Kernababy, I said, is a stunted survival of our older 'Maiden,' 'a regular image of the harvest goddess,' and I compared [Greek]. Next I gave the parallel case

from ancient Peru, and the odd accidental coincidence that _there_ the maize was styled Mama Cora ([Greek]!).

In entire ignorance of Mannhardt's corn-spirit, or corn-mother, I was following Mannhardt's track. Indeed, Mr. Max Muller has somewhere remarked that I popularise Mannhardt's ideas. Naturally he could not guess that the coincidence was accidental and also inevitable. Two men, unknown to each other, were using the same method on the same facts.

Mannhardt's Return to his old Colours

If, then, Mannhardt was re-converted, it would be a potent argument for my conversion. But one is reminded of the re-conversion of Prince Charles. In 1750 he 'deserted the errors of the Church of Rome for those of the Church of England.' Later he returned, or affected to return, to the ancient faith.

A certain Cardinal seemed contented therewith, and, as the historian remarks, 'was clearly a man not difficult to please.' Mr. Max Muller reminds me of the good Cardinal. I do not feel so satisfied as he does of Mannhardt's re-conversion.

Mannhardt's Attitude to Philology

We have heard Mannhardt, in a letter partly cited by Mr. Max Muller, describe his own method. He begins with what is certain and intelligible, a mass of popular customs. These he explains by analogies. He passes from the known to the obscure. Philological mythologists begin with the unknown, the name of a god. This they analyse, extract a meaning, and (proceeding to the known) fit the facts of the god's legend into the sense of his name. The methods are each other's opposites, yet the letter in which Mannhardt illustrates this fact is cited as a proof of his return to his old colours.


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