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Renewal Myths and Rites of the Primitive Hunters and Planters

By Joseph Campbell

A Blackfoot Indian legend tells the origin of the buffalo dance. An Indian maiden keeps her promise to marry a bull so her people will not starve. When she mourns her dead father–trampled by many bulls–her buffalo husband promises she can return to her people if she can restore her parent to life. After her ritual song magically accomplishes this, the buffalo teach father and daughter their song and dance, the ritual by which the animals are reborn.

Campbell marvelously presents stories like this to contrast the animal-taught and the plant-taught primitive societies. He then accounts for the likeness among different mythologies, exploring diffusions from Old World to New. Primitive renewal reminds us that life now on this sacred earth–rather than the promised land to come–is what really matters.