The Structural Study of Myth Author(s): Claude Levi-Strauss Source: The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 68, No.

270, Myth: A Symposium (Oct. - Dec., 1955), pp. 428-444 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of American Folklore Society Stable URL: Accessed: 27/01/2009 12:46
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. Social Origins (London. the mistake of deriving clear-cutideas . from vague emotions. M. as Hocart so profoundly noticed in his introduction to a posthumous book recently published. although not in a position to keep up with the progress of psychological research and theory. whatever their apparent differences. . I. At the same time. the foundation of ritual.o. the prospects for the scientific study of religion have been undermined in two ways. Hocart. belong to the same kind of intellectual operations. Myths are still widely interpreted in conflicting ways: collective dreams." Franz Boas.2. Frazer. and that new worlds were built from the fragments. Despite some recent attempts to renew them. Whatever the hypothesis. .THE STRUCTURAL STUDY OF MYTH BY CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS "It would seem that mythological worlds have been built up only to be shatteredagain. From a theoretical point of view the situation remains very much the same as it was fifty years ago.divinized heroes or decayed gods.3.. I. a picture of chaos. the choice amounts to reducing mythology either to an idle play or to a coarse kind of speculation. p. Traditions of the Thompson River Indians of British Columbia. all kinds of amateurs who claim to belong to other disciplines have seized this opportunity to move in. I. and precisely because professional anthropologists' interest has withdrawn from primitive religion. thus adding to "the inherent defects of the psychological school . thereby turning into their private playground what we had left as a wasteland. Mythological figures are considered as personified abstractions. the outcome of a kind of esthetic play. This is much to be regretted since. Of all the chapters of religious anthropology probably none has tarried to the same extent as studies in the field of mythology." Instead of trying to enlarge the framework of our logic to include processes which. Although they were undoubtedly right in giving their attention to intellectual processes. The explanation for that situation lies to some extent in the fact that the anthropological study of religion was started by men like Tylor. it would seem that during the past twenty years anthropology has more and more turned away from studies in the field of religion. I. 428 . i8. Memoirs of the American Folklore Society. are we compelled to choose between platitude and sophism? Some claim that human societies merely express. VI (I898).. In order to understand what a myth really is. and Durkheim who were psychologically oriented. 1A.I. a naive attempt was made to reduce them to inarticulate emotional drives which resulted only in withering our studies. in Introduction to James Teit. 1954). namely. Thus. their interpretations soon became vitiated by the outmoded psychological approach which they used as their backing. 7. the way they handled them remained so coarse as to discredit them altogether.. Therefore. .' psychological interpretations were withdrawn from the intellectual field only to be introduced again in the field of affectivity.

not the soundsin themselves. Let us consider. hate. But why shouldthesesocietiesdo it in suchelaborate deviousways. 2. But then the interpretation becomestoo easy: if a given mythologyconfers to it let prominence a certaincharacter. 2 (UNESCO. had Ancientphilosophers were reasoningaboutlanguagethe way we are aboutmythology. See.or that they try to providesome kind of explanations for otherwise:astronomical. a cleverdialecticwill alwaysfind a way to pretend a meaninghasbeenunravelled. No. for instance. such as love.I. the open vowels with things that are big. and since all of them are also acquainted On with positiveexplanations? the otherhand. it would seem that in the course On of a myth anythingis likely to happen. It is precisely which we face is myth that may lead us towardsits solution. or heavy. large.everyconceivable to relationcan be met. Paget." Journalof World History. The contradiction surmounted was that it is the combination only by the discovery of sounds. however.But on the other hand. loud.0.On the one hand. With myth. everythingbecomespossible. it is easy to see that some of the more recent interpretationsof mythological thought originated from the same kind of misconception under which those early linguists were laboring. Mythologyconfrontsthe studentwith a situationwhich at first sight could be looked upon as contradictory. to explainthat throughout worldmythsdo resemble another much? the one so going this awareness a basicantinomypertainingto the natureof of 2.revenge. it would be readilyclaimedthat the purposeof mythologyis to providean outlet for repressed feelings. which providesthe significant data. that 2. the "liquid" semi-vowels with water. of they did noticethat in a given languagecertainsequences soundswere associated with definite meanings..For the contradiction very similarto that which in earliertimes broughtconsiderable worry to the first philosophersconcernedwith linguistic problems. was thwartedfrom the very beginningby the fact that the same soundswere equally presentin otherlanguagesthough the meaningthey conveyedwas entirelydifferent. this apparentarbitrariness is beliedby the astounding betweenmythscollected widely different in similarity Thereforethe problem:if the contentof a myth is contingent. a kind of theory which still has its supporters.. and have shiftedthe problemsto be explained psychoanalysts many anthropologists away from the naturalor cosmologicaltowardsthe sociologicaland psychological fields.Sir R. Jung's idea that a given mythological pattern-the so-called archetype-possesses a certain signification. us say an evil grandmother. the one hand. no continuity. will be claimed that in such a societygrandmothers actuallyevil and that mythologyreflects the are social structure and the socialrelations.fundamental feelings commonto the whole of mankind.linguistics could only begin to evolve as a scienceafterthis contradiction been overcome.2.and they earnestlyaimed at discoveringa reason for the linkage between those sounds and that meaning. Now.The Structural Study of Myth 429 throughtheir mythology. Any characteristiccan be attributed any subject. . Their attempt. . 2 I. "The Origin of Language. phenomenawhich they cannot understand and the like. for instance.Whateverthe situationmay be. etc. meteorological. A. This is comparable to the long supported error that a sound may possess a certain affinity with a meaning: for instance. everybody will agree that the Saussurean principle of the arbitrarycharacter of the linguistic signs was a prerequisite for the acceding of linguistics to the scientific level.2Whatever emendations the original formulation may now call for.but shouldthe actualdata be conflicting. 1953). how are we regions. .There is no logic.

long ago. one being the structural side of language. is neverthelessdistinct from the other two. we may notice that myth uses a third referent which combines the properties of the first two.If those two levels already exist in language. A remark can be introduced at this point which will help to show the singularity of myth among other linguistic phenomena. Future became present . the other the statisticalaspect of it. the past experience of linguists may help us. too. can also be an absolute object on a third level which. though it remains linguistic by nature. myth has to be told. as well as to that of the langue in which it is expressed. Its substance does not lie in its style. it explains the present and the past as well as the future. There is a very good reason why myth cannot simply be treated as language if its specific problems are to be solved. even through the worst translation." It is that double structure. . it is a part of human speech.5. But what gives the myth an operative value is that the specific pattern described is everlasting.Whatever our ignorance of the language and the culture of the people where it originated. When the historian refers to the French Revolution it is always as a sequence of past happenings. . This can be made clear through a comparison between myth and what appears to have largely replaced it in modern societies. a myth is still felt as a myth by any reader throughout the world. no more time.a lead from which to infer the future developments. that is. Poetry is a kind of speech which cannot be translated except at the cost of serious distortions. its original music. which explains that myth. and also something different from it. As a matter of fact we may thus be led only from one difficulty to another. but in the story which it tells.From that point of view it should be put in the whole gamut of linguistic expressionsat the end opposite to that of poetry. See. altogether historical and anhistorical. as well as to his followers. Keeping this in mind. in spite of all the claims which have been made to prove the contrary. He describes the French Revolution thus: "This day . . It is language.Journal of American Folklore 2. the French Revolution is both a sequence belonging to the pastas to the historian-and an everlasting pattern which can be detected in the present French social structure and which provides a clue for its interpretation. whereas the mythical value of the myth remains preserved. . This is precisely what is expressed in Saussure'sdistinction between langue and parole. To invite the mythologist to compare his precarious situation with that of the linguist in the prescientific stage is not enough. namely. a glimpse of eternity. 2. whereas parole is non-revertible. . functioning on an especially high level . langue belonging to a revertible time. Michelet who was a politically-minded historian. myth is language: to be known. We have just distinguished langue and parole by the different time referents which they use. or during its first stages-anyway. while pertaining to the realm of the parole and calling for an explanation as such. politics. or its syntax.tradittorereachesits lowest truth-value. Myth is the part of language where the formula traduttore. But to the French politician. Here.4.3. then a third one can conceivablybe isolated. 430 everything was possible. On the one hand. a myth always refers to events alleged to have taken place in time: before the world was created. for instance. In order to preserve its specificity we should thus put ourselves in a position to show that it is both the same thing as language. . 2. . a non-revertible series of events the remote consequences of which may still be felt at present. For language itself can be analyzed into things which are at the same time similar and different.

only part of it. For this reason. we should look for them on the sentence level. at a given time. predicated to a given subject. but when we have succeeded in grouping them together. However. by trial and error. 3. the above definition remains highly unsatisfactoryfor two different reasons. we will call them gross constituent units. they belong to a higher order. like the rest of language. morphemes.o. the specific character of mythological time. differ from the latter in the same way as they themselves differ from morphemes. is made up of constituent units. These constituent units presuppose the constituent units present in language when analyzed on other levels. or semantemes. nevertheless.1. a more complex one. unity of solution. Therefrom comes a new hypothesis which constitutes the very core of our argument: the true constituent units of a myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations and it is only as bundles that these relations can be put to use and combined so as to produce a meaning. we still find ourselves in the realm of a non-revertible time since the numbers of the cards correspond to the unfolding of the informant's speech. we have so far made the following claims: i. and these from phonemes.4. 2. and ability to reconstruct the whole from a fragment. The technique which has been applied so far by this writer consists in analyzing each myth individually. as a matter of fact. If there is a meaning to be found in mythology. Myth. otherwise myth would become confused with any other kind of speech. In the first place. namely. moreover. this cannot reside in the isolated elements which enter into the composition of a myth. two consequences will follow: i. morphemes. which as we have seen is both revertible and non-revertible. Therefore. but only in the way those elements are combined. language in myth unveils specific properties. 3. that is. it is well known to structural linguists that constituent units on all levels are made up of relations and the true difference between our gross units and the others stays unexplained.3. using as a check the principles which serve as a basis for any kind of structuralanalysis: economy of explanation. 3. How shall we proceed in order to identify and isolate these gross constituent units? We know that they cannot be found among phonemes. remains unaccounted for. If the above three points are granted. breaking down its story into the shortest possible sentences.2. each gross constituent unit will consist in a relation. The only method we can suggest at this stage is to proceed tentatively. 2.431 where meaning succeeds practically at "taking off" from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling. 2. and writing each such sentence on an index card bearing a number corresponding to the unfolding of the story. being. but they. Although myth belongs to the same category as language. 3. and semantemes. Relations pertaining to the same bundle may appear diachronically at remote intervals. 3. To sum up the discussion at this point.6. Thus. 3. Those properties are only to be found above the ordinary linguistic level. they exhibit more complex features beside those which are to be found in any kind of linguistic expression. as well as further stages from previous ones. Or. but only on a higher level. phonemes. at least as a working hypothesis. synchronic and diachronic. to put it otherwise. Practically each card will thus show that a certain function is. we have reorganized our myth according to a time referent of a new nature corresponding to the prerequisite of the initial hypothe- The StructuralStudy of Myth .

3. we are in the habitof printingit. when all humanlife had disappeared of our writing.from the upperdown to the orderto become they would then find out that an orchestra one axis-that is as thougha phonemewerealwaysmadeup of all its variants.3. namely.3. score.. whatever pations situationwill strengthenour demonbe shown later.7. this apparently unsatisfactory thanweakenit. Hence the in hypothesis:what if patternsshowing affinity. probably of in part. one bundleof relations.and thoseof the paroleon the other. or that some patternswere stronglyreminiscent earlierones. socialsituation.they would soon find out that a whole categoryof booksdid not fit the usualpattern:thesewould be the orchestra scores on the shelves of the music division.and has to be readdiachronically meaningful.that is: fifty-twoor thirty-two individual seriesconsistingof the sameunits (the cards)with up of four homologous the only one varyingfeature. 4. if.were to be treatedas one complexpatternand readglobally?By gettingat what we call harmony.. page afterpage.5.8 etc.4. the assignment being to put all the I's together. The time has cometo give a concrete of will use the Oedipusmyth which has the advantage being well-knownto everyis needed. I explanation therefore body and for which no preliminary am well aware that the Oedipusmyth has only reachedus under late forms and concernedmore with estheticand moral preoccuthrough literarytransfigurations thesemay have been.But as will than with religiousor ritualones. we were confronted with a sequence of the type: I.4.1.2.To put it in even decipherstaffs one after the other. us take an observer ignorant 4. along from left to right-and also synchronically along the other axis.6.2. We exampleof the methodwe propose. without success. He of our playing cards. Two comparisons help to explainwhatwe havein mind. Let us first supposethat archaeologists the future coming from another from the earth.they might one of our libraries. it-an undertaking the discovery that the alphabet. makingup Let is The othercomparison somewhatdifferent.2.5. shouldbe read as from left to right and from top to bottom.sitting for a long time with a fortune-teller. look.2. may be ableto reconstruct natureof the to cardsaccording case.8.. may of 4. But after trying. in the sameway as we know somethingof the differentcultureswhose myths we try to study. for instance.excavate planetwould one day.made deck of cardsbeing used. As the as a unilinearseriesand whereour task is to re-establish correct disposition.8. suit. age.By doing so.4.4.insteadof being considered succession.I. the resultis a chart: .i.0. all the 2' someearlystage. they would eitherin full or at of notice that the same patterns notesrecurred intervals.However..1.etc.5.432 Journalof AmericanFolklore and diachronic time referentwhich is simultaneously sis.7. 4. would know somethingof the visitors:sex. Mathemake comparisons-as to maticians whom I have put the problemagreethat if the man is brightand if the the he to materialavailable him is sufficient. the 3's. rather stration scoreperversely The myth will be treatedas would be an orchestra presented 4-4.a two-dimensional of and which accordingly the characteristics the langue on one synchronic integrates hand. 8. Even if they were at first ignorant succeedin deciphering which would require.e. all the notes which one grossconstituent are writtenvertically unit. . He would so also listen to the seancesand keep them recorded as to be ableto go overthem and we do when we listen to myth telling and recordit.

we find ourselves confronted with four vertical columns each of which include several relations belonging to the same bundle. a word of clarification is needed.6.We will attempt to perform the same kind of operation on the Oedipus myth. The remarkable connotation of the surnames in Oedipus' . But if we want to understand the myth. As to the fourth. Were we to tell the myth. that the best arrangement is the following (although it might certainly be improved by the help of a specialistin Greek mythology): Kadmos seeks his sister Europaravishedby Zeus Kadmos kills the dragon The Spartoikill each other Oedipus kills his fatherLaios Oedipus kills the Sphinx Oedipus marries his mother Jocasta Eteocleskills his brother Polynices Oedipus = swollen foot (? Labdacos (Laios' father) = lame (?) Laios (Oedipus' father) = left-sided(?) Antigone buriesher brotherPolynicesdespite prohibition 4.i. we would disregard the columns and read the rows from left to right and from top to bottom.e. then we will have to disregard one half of the diachronic dimension (top to bottom) and read from left to right. column after column. Let us suppose. trying out several dispositions until we find one which is in harmony with the principles enumerated under 3. for the sake of argument. each one being considered as a unit. It is obvious that the second column expresses the same thing. that the first column has as its common feature the overrating of blood relations.The Structural Studyof Myth 12 234 1 12 45 5 345 6 8 4 6 78 7 78 8 433 4. Thus.5. but inverted: underrating of blood relations. are subject to a more intimate treatment than they should be. all the events grouped in the first column on the left have something to do with blood relations which are over-emphasized. All the relations belonging to the same column exhibit one common feature which it is our task to unravel.1. Let us say. 4. For instance. then.7. The third column refers to monsters being slain.

e. 4. that in the earlier (Homeric) versions of the Oedipus myth. VIII. we may thus say that the common feature of the third column is the denial of the autochthon- ous originof man. for a culture which holds the belief that mankind is autochthonous (see. This immediately helps us to understand the meaning of the fourth column. Two remarks should be made at this stage. Although experiencecontradicts theory. precisely because they are used as such. 4. 4. The dragon is a chthonian being which has to be killed in order that mankind be born from the earth. It follows that column four is to column three as column one is to column two. and personal names. social life verifies the cosmology by its similarity of structure. are not accompanied by any context.8. The same happens to the Koskimo of the Kwakiutl after they have been swallowed by the chthonian monster. to find a satisfactorytransition between this theory and the knowledge that human beings are actually born from the union of man and woman. This is the case of the chthonian beings in the mythology of the Pueblo: Masauwu. Tsiakish: when they returned to the surface of the earth "they limped forward or tripped sideways. we may now see what it means.o. since to them the only way to define the meaning of a term. 4: vegetals provide a model for humans). Turning back to the Oedipus myth. we were able to leave aside a point which has until now worried the specialists." Then the common feature of the fourth column is: the persistence of the autochthonous origin of man. However.9. for instance.10. With the method we propose to follow the objection disappears since the myth itself provides its own context. The inability to connect two kinds of relationships is overcome (or rather replaced) by the positive statement that contradictory relationships are identical inasmuch as they are both self-contradictory in a similar way. The last unit reproduces the first one which has to do with the autochthonous origin of to investigate all the contexts in which it appears. The meaningful fact is no longer to be looked for in the eventual sense of each name. and the chthonian Shumaikoli are lame ("bleeding-foot. to phrase it coarsely.replacesthe original problem: born from one or born from two? born from different or born from same? By a correlation of this type. that they may eventually mean something and that all these hypothetical meanings (which may well remain hypothetical) exhibit a common feature. The myth has to do with the inability. In mythology it is a universal characterof men born from the earth that at the moment they emerge from the depth. Although this is still a provisional formulation of the structure of mythical thought. who leads the emergence. 4. What is then the relationship between the two columns on the right? Column three refers to monsters. xxix. they either cannot walk or do it clumsily.1. 4. but in the fact that all the names have a common feature: i." "sore-foot"). In order to interpret the myth. namely. such as Jocasta killing herself and Oedipus piercing his own eyes. Pausanias. Hence cosmology is true.434 Journalof AmericanFolklore father-line has often been noticed. Although the problem obviously cannot be solved. Since the monsters are overcome by men. namely they refer to difficulties to walk and to behave straight.11. the overrating of blood relations is to the underrating of blood relations as the attempt to escape autochthony is to the impossibility to succeed in it. These events do not alter the substance of the . the Oedipus myth provides a kind of logical tool which. it is sufficientat this stage.11. linguists usually disregard it. some basic elements are lacking. the Sphinx is a monster unwilling to permit men to live.

the ThebanOedipusand the Argian charts.Pentheus.0. afteranalyzingall the analysisshouldtake all of them into account. it is still the problemof understanding one can be bornfromtwo: how is it that how we do not have only one procreator.11. put it otherwise:a myth remainsthe sameas long as it is felt as such.or the earlierone. .A may strikingexampleis offeredby the fact that our interpretation take into account.shouldbe includedamongthe recorded Sophocles.the tales aboutLabdacos' aboutLycoswith AmphionandZetosas the cityfounders. known variantsof the Thebanversion. Zeus kidnapping Europaand Antiopeand the samewith Semele. Although the to. "SwollenFoot" with Dionysos i.we shouldtreatthe othersin the same way: collateral includingAgave. An importantconsequence structural Thus. Oedipusmyth on a par with earlieror seeminglymore"authentic" follows. and is certainlyapplicable the Freudianuse of the Oedipusmyth.The StructuralStudy of Myth 435 the myth although they can easily be integrated. a 4. Europa'squest with Antiope's.etc. our method eliminates problemwhich has been so far one of the main obstacles the progress mythological to of studies.and Athenian legends where Cecropstakes the place of Kadmos.the questfor the true of we version.abandonfindings:Cecropskilling of ment of Dionysos with abandonment Oedipus. only not but versionsof the but Freudhimself. Thus. walking obliquely.and Jocasta line first. herself. For each of them a and similarchartshouldbe drawn. first one as a new case of autodestruction (columnthree) while the secondis anothercaseof crippledness (column four). a motherplus a father?Therefore.2. Fig. If a myth is made up of all its variants. Freudianproblemhas ceasedto be that of autochthony versusbisexualreproduction. Thebes by the Spartoior by the brothersAmphion and Zetos.namely. 5. definethe myth as consisting all its versions. On the contrary.the Thebanvariant more remotevariants Dionysos(Oedipus'matrilateral concerning cousin).and then compared reorganized to according the the serpentwith the parallelepisodeof Kadmos. At the same time there is somethingsignificantin these additionssince the shift from foot to head is to be correlated with the shift from: autochthonous origin negatedto: self-destruction. We will then have severaltwo-dimensional in order to be organized a three-dimensional variant.etc.each dealingwith a Perseus.e. versions. the foundation of loxias.

not only on North American mythology. final outcomebeing the structhe turallaw of the myth. if not very small. Finallyit can be understood have First. In all cases. versionsinsteadof using them all.the frameof reference the dimensional and as soon as we try to enlargethe comparison. Furthermore. Cushing. Freudian versionof are a part of the Oedipusmyth. .2.we would theoretically dispose placed of mirror-images which would provide us with a completeknowledge. at coverageso that we would feel sure that completeinformation. Stevenson. the numberof mirror-images be four or five such images would very likely give us. it not possiblethata new versionmight alter Is but the picture?This is true enough if only one or two versionsare available.3. to 5.However. I932.1.3 attemptwas made in I953-54 towardsan of all the known versionsof the Zunioriginand emergence exhaustive myth: analysis I923.or three-dimensional Indeed. Second. least a sufficient no largepieceof furniture missingin our description. the Zuni origin myth shouldbe retainedor discarded one true versionof which all the othersare but copiesor distortions. the as becomestheoretical soon as a reasonably objection largenumberhas beenrecorded Let will tell. I883 and I896. Parsons. ence cannotbe ignored. or one known only so far in a wholly 3 Thanks are due to an unsolicited. a test was undertaken with Plains mythology. Every version belongsto the myth.436 Journal of American Folklore so that three differentreadingsbecomepossible:left to right. then questionssuch as whetherCushing's There is no becomeirrelevant. (a numberwhich experience progressively at leastas an approximation).o. but deeply appreciated. One may objectat this point that the task is impossible performsince we can only work with known versions. of us make this point clearby a comparison. is 5. In orderto check this theory. havegiven diswhy workson generalmythology 5. and light was thrown. an 6.comparative mythologists couragingresults.The confusionsand platitudeswhich are the outcomeof comparaframesof refertive mythologycan be explainedby the fact that multi-dimensional ones. On the other hand. becomesthreeof the same myth for the sametribeor village. Finally.frontto showsthat back. by of on the cooperation mathein comparative mythologydependslargely progress relations maticianswho would undertaketo expressin symbolsmulti-dimensional which cannotbe handledotherwise. would become shouldthe two mirrors obliquelyset. I934.or naivelyreplaced two. grant from the Ford Foundation. I904. numberof dimento to sions requiredincreases such an extent that it appears quite impossible handle them intuitively. it was found that the theory was sound.All of thesechartscannotbe expected be identical. the furniture a roomand the way it is If in arrangedin the room were known to us only throughits reflection two mirrors of an almostinfinitenumber on oppositewalls. a preliminary attempt was made at a comparison of the results with similar myths in other Pueblo tribes. Bunzel.but experience to so difference be observed with otherdifferences. but also on a previously unnoticed kind of logical operation.This comesfrom two reasons. Benedict. When we use severalvariants even one village) alreadyrequirestwo to bottom. thata logical to any may be correlated treatmentof the whole will allow simplifications.we haveseenthat the pickedup preferred structural analysisof one variantof one myth belongingto one tribe (in some cases. nevertheless. it cannot be too stronglyemphasizedthat all available on If comments the Oedipuscomplex variants shouldbe takeninto account. Western and Eastern.

The Structural Study of Myth 437 different context. the problem is especially difficult since they understand the origin of human life on the model . the basic problem consists in discovering a mediation between life and death. An over-simplified chart of the Zuni emergence myth would read as follows: INCREASE DEATH mechanicalgrowth of vegetals (used as ladders) food value of wild plants emergence led by BelovedTwins sibling incest gods kill children migration led by the two Newekwe sibling sacrificed (to gain victory) mgical contest with peopleof the dew (collecting wild food versus cultivation) food value of cultivatedplants sibling adopted (in exchangefor corn) periodical characterof agriculturalwork war against Kyanakwe (gardeners versushunters) war led by two war-gods salvationof the tribe (center of the world found) hunting warfare sibling sacrificed (to avoid flood) DEATH PERMANENCY 6. and we will have to limit ourselves here to a few illustrations. The bulk of material which needs to be handled almost at the beginning of the work makes it impossible to enter into details. 6.i. As may be seen from a global inspection of the chart.2. For the Pueblo.

fiber string). from mammals to insects and from insects to plants. use sinew (hunters) (until men shift to fiber) Gods l allied. It can be shown that all the differences between these versions can be rigorously correlatedwith these basic structures. Hence there are three different ways of handling the problem. i. the starting point and the point of arrival are the simplest ones and ambiguity is met with halfway: . use sinew string Since fiber strings (vegetal) are always superior to sinew strings (animal) and since (to a lesser extent) the gods' alliance is preferableto their antagonism. However. and it is not without reason that we chose the Oedipus myth as our first example. use Men f sinew string Kyanakwe alone. sinew string). the difficulty revolves around an opposition between activities yielding an immediate result (collecting wild food) and activities yielding a delayed result-death has to become integrated so that agriculture can exist. Among the Western Pueblo the logical approach always remains the same. but hunting provides food and is similar to warfare which means death.while Stevenson's version operatesthe other way around. which consists in an alternation between life and death. 6. in Stevenson. the highest form of vegetal life is to be found in agriculture which is periodical in nature. men begin to be doubly underprivileged (hostile gods. Hence: CUSHING PARSONS STEVENSON gods/men fiber/sinew - + - + + 6. If this is disregarded. use fiber string VICTORIOUS OVER VICTORIOUS OVER VICTORIOUS OVER Men alone.438 Journalof AmericanFolklore of vegetal life (emergence from the earth).For instance: CUSHING PARSONS STEVENSON Gods Kyanakwe allied. but sinew strings since men begin by being hunters). Parsons' version goes from hunting to agriculture. They share that belief with the ancient Greeks. it follows that in Cushing's version. But in the American case.e. therefore life. they go from plants to animals.3. use fiber string Gods Men f allied.4. use fiber stringson their bows (gardeners) Kyanakwe alone. In the Cushing version. while Parsons' version confronts us with an intermediary situation (friendly gods. while Bunzel's version makes it the consequence of a call from the higher powers -hence the inverted sequences of the means resorted to for the emergence: in both Cushing and Stevenson. Bunzel's version is from a structural point of view of the same type as Cushing's. the contradiction surges at another place: agriculture provides food. in Bunzel. doubly privileged (friendly gods. it differs from both Cushing's and Stevenson's inasmuch as the latter two explain the emergence as a result of man's need to evade his pitiful condition.

0. duplicated the two sistersof the EasternPueblo) while a simple mediatingterm comesto the of foreground(for instance. exceptin Bunzel where the sequence reversed has beenshown.The Structural Study of Myth life mechanical plants wild plant food cultivated plant food life destroyed hunt war death growth of 439 L animal food Fig. the 6. thoughinverted.Cushing). of Some Centraland EasternPueblosproceed otherway around. Hence the attributes this "messiah" be deducedfrom the place it of can occupiesin the time sequence: good when at the beginning(Zuni. The fact that contradiction in appears the middleof the dialectical processhas as its resultthe production a doubleseriesof dioscuric of the purposeof which is to pairs betweenconflicting terms: operatea mediation I. but endowedwith equivocal attributes. (hence the war attribute the clownswhich has given rise to so many queries). By using systematically kind of structural this analysisit becomespossibleto of organizeall the known variants a myth as a seriesforminga kind of permutation group. 2. Then.e. they try to deriveboth life and deathfrom that and centralnotion.6. to relationship eachother.the Poshaiyanne the Zia).the two variants placedat the far-ends beingin a symmetrical. 2. 3 divine messengers 2 ceremonial clowns 2 war-gods homogeneous pair: siblings (brother dioscurs(2 brothers) and sister) heterogeneous pair: couple (husband and wife) grandmother/grandchild which consists in combinatoryvariants of the same function. insteadof extremetermsbeing simple and intermediary ones as amongthe Westerngroups.the extremetermsbecomeduplicated(i..5. Our method not only has the advantageof bringingsome kind of orderto . bad at the end (Zia). is as 6. 7. They begin the identity of hunting and cultivation(first corn obtainedby Gameby stating Fathersowing deer-dewclaws).equivocal in the middle (CentralPueblo).

7. 7. whereeachtermgives birthto the next by a doubleprocess opposition correlation. to put it otherwise. The tricksterof Americanmythologyhas remainedso far a problematic North Americahis partis assigned everypractically figure. but they are also like food-plant (they do not kill what producers Pueblostyle:ravensareto gardensas preyanimals they eat).Thus we may have mediators the firstorder. by replaced a new triadandso on. Thus we have: 440 INITIAL PAIR FIRST TRIAD SECOND TRIAD Life Agriculture Herbivorous animals animals Carrion-eating (raven.Journal of American Folklore what was previously chaos. animalsmay be called ones.and so and of on.Why is it that throughout where to eithercoyoteor raven?If we keep in mind that mythicalthoughtalways works from the awarenessof oppositionstowardstheir progressive mediation.Three main processes also enablesus to perceivesomebasiclogicalprocesses should be distinwhich are at the root of mythicalthought. Or. need only to assumethat two opposite reason termswhich termswith no intermediary by alwaystend to be replaced two equivalent becomes andthe mediator thenone of the polarterms allow a thirdone as a mediator. But it is also clear that herbivorous are to herbivorous and on that first to act as mediators the assumption they are like collectors gatherers eaters) while they can be used as animalfood though not themselves (vegetal-food of hunters. coyote) Hunt War Death animalsarelike preyanimals(they With the unformulated argument: carrion-eating eat animalfood).I.I. This kind of processcan be followedin the mythologyof the Plains where to we mayorderthe dataaccording the sequence: between earthandsky mediator Unsuccessful (Starhusband's wife) Heterogeneous of mediators pair (grandmother/grandchild) Semi-homogeneous of mediators pair and (Lodge-Boy Thrown-away) Preyanimals .of the secondorder.the We for those choicesbecomesclearer.

coyote. dailyexperience.etc.the mediating is halfway two terms mustretain he of between polar something thatduality. callthemso.). and between refuse between vatedplants. nebula.2.The Structural Studyof Myth we Whileamong Pueblo have: the earth mediator between andsky Successful (Poshaiyanki) of pair Semi-homogeneous mediators and (Uyuyewi Matsailema) Homogeneous of mediators pair (theAhaiyuta) 7. one roof if ashesbetween andhearth(chimney).scalp. to the See.scalp sky is corn wild and war between andhunt (scalp war-crop). outside.Thus. may connotation the rootposein of trueevenon the linguistic level.-but it alsoprobably ing. power and the torefuse shoe)andashes chimney-sweepers). female double family pretty girl likes nobody her clothed with luxuriously supernatural help male no family uglyboy in hopeless withgirl love of with stripped ugliness supernatural help function thetrickster of that explains sinceits position 7. 44I on On the otherhand.though impossible diffusion hasbeensometimes as recent contended Ash-Boy since to interpret through in but are and Cinderella symmetrical inverted everydetail(whilethe borrowed to talein America-Zuni Cinderella Turkey-Girl-is parallel theprototype): EUROPE AMERICA Sex Status Family Appearance status Sentimental Transformation etc.master the dew and of the game. the trickster But figureis not the onlyconsomemythsseemto devotethemselves the taskof formof mediation.see the manifold is between to Tewaaccording Parsons: mist. not onlythrows lighton wholepiecesof NorthAmerican mythmay and be at the sametimethe Game-Master the giver the Dew-God may ology-why as or are and of raiments be personified an "Ash-Boy". whythe scalps mistproducis with or whythe Game-Motherassociated cornsmut. to ceivable . etc. smutbetween plants culti"nature" "culture". namely an ambiguous equivocal and character. (low bridges marrying highclass). for instance. luck-bringing attributed smut. way corresponds a universal of organizing fromLatin the French vegetal for nielle. villageand garments This stringof mediators.correlations appear a transversal (thisis axis.ownersof fine between class into andsocial raiments.0.1.Coyote intermediary in and herbivorous carnivorous the sameway as mistbetween andearth.2. compare American (old (kissing Cinderella: phallicfigures(mediator both with the Indo-European cycle Ash-Boy of male and female).

I. the final solution(triad) re-introduces space. but character the trickster.with the problemof the pecking alreadyacquainted to order among hens.we may orderthem so that the followingstructure apparent: ' Muyingwu) (y: Masauwu) Masauwu) (Shalako: x) (Masauwu: ' (Muyingwu: to valuescorresponding the fact that in the two where x and y represent arbitrary variantsthe god Masauwu. Although it is not possibleat the presentstage to come closerthan an approximate in need to be mademoreaccurate the future. betweenbirthand death).3.0. more helpful variants: the serieswhen ordering Keresan We find an identical ' I Tiamoni) (y: Poshaiyanki) x) (Poshaiyanki: .If we compare variants the Hopi myth may becomes of the origin of in three.2. then the dioscursdescend). whereas two.i. This logical framework with it on two otherlevels:first.By recognizingit alsoon the level of mythigeneral its cal also corresponds what this writer has called exchangein the field of kinship.we may find ourselvesin a betterpositionto appraise basicimporstudiesand to give it a more inclusivetheoretical tance in sociological interpretation.(Lea:Poshaiyanki) (Poshaiyanki: is particularlyinterestingsince sociologistsare 7. Masauwu(alone) is depictedas helpfulto mankind (though not as helpful as he could be). or being absent.terms>triad >4 bisexual> trickster> dioscurs> messiah> being pair couple grandchild group is In Cushing's seems which will certainly formulation to that every myth (consideredas the collectionof all its variants)corresponds a formulaof the followingtype: fx(a) : fy(b) fx(b) : aI(y) .while appearingalone insteadof associated "extreme" with anothergod.442 Journal of American Folklore exhaustingall the possiblesolutionsto the problemof bridgingthe gap betweentwo betweenall the variantsof the Zuni emergence and one.this dialectic accompanied a changefromthe spacedimenby sion (mediatingbetweensky and earth) to the time dimension(mediatingbetween summerand winter.a comparison us with a seriesof mediatingdevices.he of the be good and bad at the sametime.Thereforethe logic of myth confrontsus with a double.when we have succeeded organizinga whole seriesof variants 7. instance. the a kind of permutation group.. For instance. But while the shift is beingmade from spaceto time. anotherpropertyof mythicalfiguresthe world over.and in three.). harmfulto manin kind (thoughnot as harmfulas he couldbe). and in versionfour. we for of Not only can we account the ambiguous 7.reciprocal exchangeof functionsto which we shall returnshortly(7.3.In variantone. may also understand for that the same god may be endowedwith contradictory attributes.2.e.sincea triadconsists in a dioscurpair plus a messiah simultaneously present. Muyingwuis relatively than Masauwu. as in varianttwo.we arein a positionto formulate law of thatgroup. namely. Shalakomore helpful than Muyingwu.and while the point of in formulated termsof a spacereferent(sky and earth) this was departure ostensibly was nevertheless implicitlyconceivedin terms of a time referent(first the messiah calls. and second.2. in in Finally.still retainsintrinsically a relativevalue.each of which createsthe next myth provides of and one by a process opposition correlation: sibling married grandmother.

betterequippedthan we are here in Paris.consistingof verticalboardsabouttwo meterslong and one and one-halfmetershigh.B.I. we haveseenthat the of For structure the myth permitsus to organizeit into diachronical of synchro-diachronical sequences(the rows in our tables) which should be read synchronically (the colstructure which seepsto the surface.2. will be inducedby this paperto starta projectof its own in structural mythology.3.Its growth is a continuousprocesswhereasits structure remainsdiscontinuous. we correspond conditions and 2.the slatesare not absolutely identicalto eachother. 8. and of breaking it down into its constituent units. and this in turn requiresa spaciousworkshop. 2. However.the questionhas often beenraisedwhy myths. myth grows spiral-wise impulse exhausted. bulky.i. it is hope much desiredthat some Americangroup. 8. 8.and moregenerally oral are or literature.) the board-system to be replacedby has cards which in turn requireI. contradiction real). A variant of average length needs several hundred cards to be properlyanalyzed.M. (an impossible infinitenumberof slateswill be generated.under two conditions:i.two termsbeing given as well as two functionsof theseterms. secretarial help. At this point it seemsunfortunate that. the realm in of the spokenword. the sociological the psychological and of aspects the is statedthat a relationof equivalence existsbetweentwo situations when termsand relations still are inverted. a myth exhibitsa "slated" may sayso.3.0. (which occursat an early stage. Threefinalremarks may serveas conclusion.o. be This formula becomeshighly significantwhen we recall that Freud con7. respectively) shouldnot only be ableto improve but would find ourselvesin the much desiredpositionof developingside by side it. a theoretically the is if. First.To discovera suitablepatternof rows and columns for those cards. furtheradvancecan be made. that one term be replacedby its contrary. that an inversion madebetweenthefunctionand the termvalueof two the kind of being a crystalis in the realmof physicalmatter.And sincethe a purposeof myth is to providea logicalmodel capableof overcoming contradiction achievement as it happens. eachone slightlydifferent fromthe others. and in orderto build up three-dimensional modelsenablingone to compare variants. Thus.If our hypotheses accepted.if one umns).with the limitedmeansat the disposal of French anthropological no research. in sideredthat two traumas(and not one as it is so commonlysaid) are necessary orderto give birthto this individualmyth in which a neurosisconsists. equipment. requires team work and . the severalsuch boardsare necessary. answeris obvious:repetition are the has as its functionto make the structure the myth apparent. until the intellectual which has originated is it Thus. laboratory subject to experimental 8. throughthe repetition process. so much addictedto duplication.we may alsotake it to the and it verification. wherecardscanbe pigeon-holed movedat will.1.The Structural Study of Myth 443 where. as has been shown in 5.etc. tryingto By apply the formula to the analysisof those traumatisms(and assumingthat they to i.I. It should be which is extremely emphasizedthat the task of analyzingmythologicalliterature.Furtheras soon as the frameof reference becomesmulti-dimensional more.specialdevicesare needed.a kind of commodityparticularly in unavailable WesternEuropenowadays. Since there is little perforated that such facilitieswill become availablein France in the near future.If this is the casewe shouldconsiderthatit closelycorresponds. of triplication quadruplication the same sequence.I.

444 Journal of American Folklore This analogymay help us understand betterthe relationship myth on one hand of to bothlangueandparoleon the other. the improvement lies.If our is we differentview. ScolePratiquedes Hautes 1tudes. namely.I. to are equallywell made. in the discovery new thingsto of but whichit may applyits unchangeable abilities.France . are led towarda completely the kind of logic which is used by mythical thought is as rigorous as that of modern science.In the sameway we may be able to show that the same logicalprocesses put to use in myth as in are and that man has alwaysbeen thinkingequallywell.but in the natureof the things to which it is applied. science.but steelis a different They thing than stone. Sorbonne Paris. Prevalent attempts to explain alleged differencesbetween the so-called mind and scientific thought have resorted to qualitativedifferences "primitive" between the working processes the mind in both caseswhile assumingthat the of remained objectsto which they were applyingthemselves verymuchthe same. 8.This is well in agreement with the situationknown to prevailin the field of technology:what makesa steel ax superior a stoneone is not that the firstone is bettermadethan the second. of not in an allegedprogress man'sconscience.3.and that the differencelies not in the quality of the intellectual process.that interpretation correct.

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