Sunday, December 30, 2007

One more

Our primal ancestors told stories to themselves about the animals that they killed for food and about the supernatural world to which the animals seemed to go when they died... "The animal master" held over human beings the power of life and death: if he failed to send the beasts back to be sacrificed again, the hunters and their kin would starve.

Thus early societies learned that "the essence of life is that it lives by killing and eating; that's the great mystery that the myths have to deal with." The hunt became a ritual of sacrifice, and the hunters in turn performed acts of atonement to the departed spirits of the animals, hoping to coax them into returning to be sacrificed again.

Campbell surmised a "magical, wonderful accord" growing between the hunter and the hunted, as if they were locked in a "mystical, timeless" cycle of death, burial, and resurrection. Their art and oral literature gave form to the impulse we now call religion.

The Power of Myth

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