By Martin Persson Nilsson
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Extra info for A History of Greek Religion
II4 et seq. , p. 129; lG, iv. 495. 1 n$. Minoan-Mycenaean Religion 37 from that of the dead. Since the cult goes back to Mycenaean times it is not difficult to understand why most graves of heroes contain no physical remains. How many graves must have been robbed in the dark ages between the fall of the Mycenaean culture and the advance of the new! And when the outlines of the hero-cult had once been conceived, it was transferred to places which contained no grave. Half-forgotten local cults and their centres were appropriated to the cult of heroes and received well-known names from the myths.
I need not dwell upon the so-called comparative mythology which was at one time the dominating tendency in the study of religion, but it is worth while considering for a moment how it was possible to attempt, as did the supporters of the method, to trace back the heroic legends to divine origins, to seek expression in every myth for some representation of the gods. This leads us to the fundamental question: What is mythology? As we read it in a modem or ancient handbook it is divided into two parts: divine and heroic myths.
It is, for instance, often impossible to decide whether a Greek animal-transformation tale ' is really an explanatory tale orbelongs to the invented variety, The invented tale embraces a great though not unlimited number of motifs which are combined in various ways. It Origins of Greek Mythology 49 is one of the most important results of the study of folk-tales to have demonstrated this and to have resolved the tales into their different motifs. But it is wrong to believe that the tales have thereby been turned into a confused and inorganic mosaic.