1. Introduction

I. INTRODUCTION

Showing that the Present-Day Social Organization of the Hopi Is the Outgrowth of Their Unwritten Literature


GENERAL STATEMENT

By a brief survey of present day Hopi culture and an examination into the myths and traditions constituting the unwritten literature of this people, this bulletin proposes to show that an intimate connection exists between their ritual acts, their moral standards, their social organization, even their practical activities of today, and their myths and tales—the still unwritten legendary lore.

The myths and legends of primitive peoples have always interested the painter, the poet, the thinker; and we are coming to realize more and more that they constitute a treasure-trove for the archaeologist, and especially the anthropologist, for these sources tell us of the struggles, the triumphs, the wanderings of a people, of their aspirations, their ideals and beliefs; in short, they give us a twilight history of the race.

As the geologist traces in the rocks the clear record of the early beginnings of life on our planet, those first steps that have led through the succession of ever-developing forms of animal and plant life at last culminating in man and the world as we now see them, so does the anthropologist discover in the myths and legends of a people the dim traces of their origin and development till these come out in the stronger light of historical time. And it is at this point that the ethnologist, trying to understand a race as he finds them today, must look earnestly back into the "realm of beginnings," through this window of so-called legendary lore, in order to account for much that he finds in the culture of the present day.

The Challenge: Need of Research on Basic Beliefs Underlying Ceremonies

Wissler says:[2] "It is still an open question in primitive social psychology whether we are justified in assuming that beliefs of a basic character do motivate ceremonies. It seems to us that such must be the case, because we recognize a close similarity in numerous practices and because we are accustomed to believe in the unity of the world and life. So it may still be our safest procedure to secure better records of tribal traditional beliefs and to deal with objective procedures as far as possible. No one has ventured to correlate specific beliefs and ceremonial procedures, but it is through this approach that the motivating power of beliefs will be revealed, if such potency exists."

Some work has been done along this line by Kroeber for the tribes of California, Lowie for the Crow Indians, and Junod for the Ekoi of West Africa; but it appears that the anthropological problem of basic beliefs and philosophies is dependent upon specific tribal studies and that more research is called for.

The Myth, Its Meaning and Function in Primitive Life

As a background for our discussion we shall need to consider first, the nature and significance of mythology, since there is some, indeed much, difference of opinion on the subject, and to arrive at some basis of understanding as to its function.

The so-called school of Nature-Mythology, which flourishes mainly in Germany, maintains that primitive man is highly interested in natural phenomena, and that this interest is essentially of a theoretic, contemplative and poetical character. To writers of this school every myth has as its kernel or essence some natural phenomenon or other, even though such idea is not apparent upon the surface of the story; a deeper meaning, a symbolic reference, being insisted upon. Such famous scholars as Ehrenreich, Siecke, Winckler, Max Muller, and Kuhn have long given us this interpretation of myth.

In strong contrast to this theory which regards myth as naturalistic, symbolic, and imaginary, we have the theory which holds a sacred tale as a true historical record of the past. This idea is supported by the so-called Historical school in Germany and America, and represented in England by Dr. Rivers. We must admit that both history and natural environment have left a profound imprint on all cultural achievement, including mythology, but we are not justified in regarding all mythology as historical chronicle, nor yet as the poetical musings of primitive naturalists. The primitive does indeed put something of historical record and something of his best interpretation of mysterious natural phenomena into his legendary lore, but there is something else, we are led to believe, that takes precedence over all other considerations in the mind of the primitive (as well as in the minds of all of the rest of us) and that is getting on in the world, a pragmatic outlook.

It is evident that the primitive relies upon his ancient lore to help him out in his struggle with his environment, in his needs spiritual and his needs physical, and this immense service comes through religious ritual, moral incentive, and sociological pattern, as laid down in the cherished magical and legendary lore of his tribe.

The close connection between religion and mythology, under-estimated by many, has been fully appreciated by the great British anthropologist, Sir James Frazer, and by classical scholars like Miss Jane Harrison. The myth is the Bible of the primitive, and just as our Sacred Story lives in our ritual and in our morality, as it governs our faith and controls our conduct, even so does the savage live by his mythology.

The myth, as it actually exists in a primitive community, even today, is not of the nature of fiction such as our novel, but is a living reality, believed to have once happened in primeval times when the world was young and continuing ever since to influence the world and human destiny.

The mere fireside tale of the primitive may be a narrative, true or imaginary, or a sort of fairy story, a fable or a parable, intended mainly for the edification of the young and obviously pointing a moral or emphasizing some useful truth or precept. And here we do recognize symbolism, much in the nature of historical record. But the special class of stories regarded by the primitive as sacred, his sacred myths, are embodied in ritual, morals, and social organization, and form an integral and active part of primitive culture. These relate back to best known precedent, to primeval reality, by which pattern the affairs of men have ever since been guided, and which constitute the only "safe path."

Malinowski[3] stoutly maintains that these stories concerning the origins of rites and customs are not told in mere explanation of them; in fact, he insists they are not intended as explanations at all, but that the myth states a precedent which constitutes an ideal and a warrant for its continuance, and sometimes furnishes practical directions for the procedure. He feels that those who consider the myths of the savage as mere crude stories made up to explain natural phenomena, or as historical records true or untrue, have made a mistake in taking these myths out of their life-context and studying them from what they look like on paper, and not from what they do in life.

Since Malinowski's definition of myth differs radically from that of many other writers on the subject, we would refer the reader to the discussion of myth under the head of Social Anthropology in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Fourteenth Edition, page 869.


The Hopi



















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