Read Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell Online


The author of such acclaimed books as Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth discusses the primitive roots of mythology, examining them in light of the most recent discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, and psychology...

Title : Primitive Mythology
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ISBN : 9780140194432
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Primitive Mythology Reviews

  • Barnaby Thieme
    2019-06-08 15:03

    I wish I could like Campbell's Masks of God series more than I do. I keep having the same experience -- I pick one up and read 15 pages that are magnificent, electrifying, and truly brilliant in their scope and perspicacity. Then the long digressions accumulate and I start to lose the line of his analysis. He leaps hither and yon without much coherence or organization. It's almost as if he's a collector with an impressive set of artifacts, and he's hardly done showing you one before he's showing you the next. You kind of feel for him because he loves them all so much, and each individual story is great, but he needs to slow down a little. A single chapter in this book on prehistoric mythology will contain lengthy references to the Vedas, Hawaiian mythologies, stories of the Blackfoot Indians, archaeological findings in Peru, and the love songs of the Troubadours. Why didn't he save the material on the Vedas for Volume 2 on Oriental Mythology? And wouldn't the bits on Arthurian Legend been more at home in Volume 3 Occidental Mythology? These books are very hard to read and I wish he'd had a co-author or a draconian editor who had forced him to stick to the schema he obviously laid out. He can't seem to see the trees for the forest. Even with all the jumping around there are moments of breathtaking brilliance, like his sweeping characterization of Neolithic goddess figurines. The book is worth its price simply for the brief Prologue alone, which is simply electrifying.

  • Danielle Jorgenson Akanat
    2019-06-12 19:15

    This was one of the best books on mythology I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I only say it is "one of the" because I've started reading some others of Campbell's that are just as awesome. I've been a fan of mythology for as long as I can remember but this was the first time I was able to read a book by someone who shares my enthusiasm with the topic. I was enthralled by his re-tellings and his explanations. I was going to read all three of Masks of God Volumes but I decided to hold off on the next two till I can fully digest how powerfully Primitive Mythology hit me. It was profound. It was one of the most enjoyable academic book experiences I've ever had!! It also has had my mind firing off in new directions. I've been seeing movies and literature in a new way. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves reading. It will open up new ways to look at contemporary literature and movies--making it even more enjoyable than it normally is. His ideas on the evolution and origin of myths make perfect sense and add a layer to all story telling that I wasn't previously aware existed!!

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-06-12 14:23

    These are the books which introduced me to Joseph Campbell - the single most serious influence in my intellectual life.These books are exhaustive, but maybe because of that reason, not as readable as his other books. In this first volume, Campbell takes us to the very origin of myth, before it became institutionalised as religion.

  • Holly Lindquist
    2019-06-17 18:31

    Joseph Campbell was a veritable demigod of comparative mythology. He was brilliant at discovering connections in seemingly unrelated myths across the globe, illuminating the ways in which beliefs moved from culture to culture over thousands of years.However: If you haven't read Campbell before I suggest you take The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Masks of God Lite) out for a spin first. It's only one book, and far less of a commitment. You'll be able to tell immediately if Campbell's dense & astoundingly long-winded writing style is something you can hang with, because hey, it's not for everyone.First off, be prepared to encounter verbosity so thick you may need a mental machete to hack your way through it. Secondly, expect paragraphs and individual sentences so long that you may need to hire a cartographer to draw you a freaking map of them. If this doesn't daunt you than by all means, read The Masks of God. In this series, Campbell does not hold back. The contents of his incredibly fertile and overstuffed brain overflow from the pages in a deluge of information. He tells great stories from a plethora of different cultures. He loves to make Byzantine diagrams and complicated explanations where simplicity would suffice.. And he likes to namedrop like crazy. Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, Oswald Spengler, Friedrich Nietzsche, James Joyce.. You will be hearing a lot about these guys. (No girls, though. Conspicuously absent, but I suppose that's not surprising.)As for this particular volume, Primitive Mythology, the Freudian Whackadoo is strong here. Mighty strong. It reaches a crescendo around pg. 73 to pg. 76. If you have an allergy to Freudian concepts, you might want to skip it.This volume is mostly concerned with comparing and contrasting the myths of early agriculturally based societies with the beliefs of ancient hunter-gatherer peoples. The former would concur with Star Trek's Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." whereas the latter, well, read the book and find out... but don't say I didn't warn you.

  • Luke
    2019-05-28 17:33

    Staggering book. In a similar vein to Frazer's Golden Bough, an attempt to find underlying mechanisms to the various world mythologies. Campbell examines the prevelence of some very specific motifs, across all varieties of unconnected cultures: Ghosts, "voodoo dolls", the power of hair/nail clippings of victims in magic, the use of totem figures in hunting societies, and birth/rebirth gods in planting cultures. For myself, I was frustrated by some of the lengthy debate over whether Meso-American agriculture was an introduction from Polynesia, or a seperate invention (which would make it the perfect testing ground for "parrallell development", to compare Incan grain gods with Babylonian grain gods). I thought that Campbell was grasping a bit, to try to reconcile what was no doubt a lively debate in 1959, but as far as I know is now a dead issue. And, at least according to my friend the anthropology undergrad, Campbell bet on the wrong horse.On the other hand, the broader concepts of this book are phenomenal. Certainly one of the underlying points, that Christ is "of a type" which is particularly suited to an agricultural lifestyle -- death/rebirth god, communion of grain and wine, close community values -- raises a strong suggestion why post-industrial suburban existance seems lacking in meaningful symbols, and many people are experiancing an "age of anxiety" -- its as misplaced as asking a greek vineyard worker to do a Buffalo Dance, wrong symbols for the wrong epoch. All that any much more.

  • Carloesse
    2019-06-15 19:15

    I quattro (o cinque, essendo l’ultimo diviso in 2 parti) corposi volumi “Le maschere di dio”, nei quali Joseph Campbell investiga con molto acume l’origine delle mitologie, delle religioni e dell’arte dai popoli primitivi fino all’epoca moderna, spaziando da oriente a occidente per tutto il globo alla ricerca di una comune radice, residente, per tutti, nella mente umana creatrice e distruttrice di divinità come di idee spirituali e poetiche, sono un'opera che, per quanto datata (risale agli anni '60), è ancora estremamente suggestiva e affascinante. Si legge con la fluidità di un romanzo, risultando, in molte sue parti, avvincente.

  • Margaret Langstaff
    2019-05-27 17:06

    Re-reading. This is bk 1 of 4 vol work. I read the 1st time as a graduate student yrs ago and find myself drawn back to this 4 vol work every 10 yrs or so. Stunning, stoking, how one man could hold the sum total of world mythology and religious tradition in his head, chelate and analyze thru the lens of modern psychology and archeology, and tell us all abt it in a way that is accessible and makes sense.

  • Michael
    2019-06-09 22:07

    In graduate school, when I asked my beloved mentor, Freudian/Lacanian David Wagenknecht about Carl Jung, his response was, "I dunno: a little too Joseph Campbell for me." There is no better or smarter human on earth than David and so I didn't read either Jung (who I worship) or Campbell (who I now really, really love) for many years. I think the wait was just fine for me (sorry Dave) but I know I will be reading at least Campbell's Masks of God for the rest of my life (and perhaps also his Skeleton's Key to Finnegans Wake at least twice more). Campbell is NOT a mere popularizer of Jung (more like a popularizer of Thomass Mann if you had choose) and not the hokey Ur-mythologist I was expecting -- but a a rigorous academic and scholar, an inspiring thinker, a terrific organizer, and a fabulous bibliographer. Admittedly, in my middle-age, I find something very comforting about these books (which in fact make no truth-claims whatsoever regarding supernatural matrices) but am not entirely sure why. I love these four books.

  • Scott
    2019-05-26 18:24

    Campbell is an incredible source of knowledge and for the first 350 pages he really shows it, it's almost awe inspiring the way he links and dances between different schools of thought and cultures and how they naturally link metaphysically and literally.This book isn't perfect though. Specifically his use of psychoanalysis in the Freudian vain which is sex obsessed and boring and really brings no insight, but he's a product of his time, so this isn't a real criticism but something that bothered me personally. The writing itself though is muddled. He's an incredible writer, but some of his paragraphs drag on much longer than they need to, usually making me forget what the heck he's talking about and how it links at all to the chapter. Some sections are straight up boring and the last 120 pages had me struggling.But dang baby, those first 350 pages...amazing.

  • Karson
    2019-06-02 15:30

    I have a goal to read all 4 of Campbell's Masks of God series, and i started in the beginning. I like other cultures myths. I like finding out what sustains other groups of people. What stories give them their identities. This is a book i could put down and pick back up again at any time and dip into any one of the chapters. Specifically the different cultures puberty rites where interesting to me in this book. As a 24 year old american male i am still trying to find out how to transition from boyhood dependency to adulthood. There are several stories in this book that talk about boys in tribes and other cultures that transition to manhood in a matter of hours or days through cultural rituals at about the age of fourteen or fifteen, and here i am at 24 still figuring it out.

  • Katja Vartiainen
    2019-06-03 20:33

    Well, it's again a repetitive review of Joseph Campbell's book- It's so good! I weirdly started from the last one of this series, and ended up reading the Primitive Mythology last. Detailed, funny, insightful, as always. Again Campbell deeply yet entertainingly pulls together all the threads. I found really interesting the history of the switch from feminine/matriarchal beliefs to patriarchal. It's worth to read for everybody. Also the myths of the serpent an the maiden in relation to the Christian Bible story of Adam and Eve is enticing. Lots of incredibly fascinating stories and findings.

  • Greg Collver
    2019-05-28 21:14

    What Joseph Campbell lacks in objectivity he makes up for in his enthusiastic endorsement of his own personal myth, his unified psychological theory of myths. He stretches his interpretations of the myths so far that they fall apart. I am left incredulous. I would like to find a more objective work on historical and comparative mythology. One with a more clear and concise writing style.I could only manage to make it half way through the first volume before I considered his work a waste of time.

  • Nancy Szul
    2019-05-22 15:10

    I read every Joseph Campbell book I could get my hands on. He charismatically brings stuffy church teachings, zany mythology events or stories, historical events in cave man time, inner conflict and all the diverse religions in the world to one concept. Joseph explains the abstract so that the reader 'gets' the symbolism without having to interpret it; he shows one how to experience the real and points out when and why the masks go on. I just love his teachnigs~~~

  • sologdin
    2019-06-01 19:09

    nothing schematic in this series (perhaps unlike the more famous texts), which concerns more the working out of historical particulars--though one might discern readily enough the monomyth thesis working in the background. this volume concerns an antiquity that is barely evidenced, and tries to trace hunter-gather religion, the beliefs of late troglodytes, and other things found under upturned stones.

  • Christy
    2019-06-17 20:29

    Like a lot of generalists, he probably overreaches, but still, there are riches here. I haven't anything like "finished" this book, or the others in the series, and don't expect to in my lifetime. But they will be an ongoing source of reference and inspiration.

  • Benjamin Bryan
    2019-05-30 20:25

    The material is verbose, dry, and dated at times; however, the detail is profound . . . a wealth of information. Recommended for anyone interested in mythology.

  • Alex Obrigewitsch
    2019-06-04 21:21

    An excellent and promising opening to this four volume work, Primitive Mythology gets to work quickly, setting out its task and framing the importance of mythology, even (if not especially) for we who are of the time whose mythology is an absence of mythology. For despite centuries of philosophers and thinkers attempting to explicate Man as the rational animal, and the constructs based on the import and majesty of reason as the supreme aspect of human existence, it is myth that digs into the abyssal depths of our being. For human beings are not merely anthropos, but mythanthropos, and for the human being "the fullness of his life would even seem to stand in direct ratio to the depth and range not of his rational thought but of his local mythology" (4). Human beings are more than a rational faculty for thought and speech, and these things cannot grasp, ascertain, or circumscribe all the aspects of our existence. There moves through us a profound and ineffable force, the portrayal of which has been attempted throughout time in countless different ways, though none can get to the heart of this unspeakable experience that eludes experience, that rises up from the abyss that undergirds us through the passions and sufferings of our living and dying. Each mask of God can be pulled away to reveal another mask - the face of God is never given in and as itself. Campbell quotes Thomas Mann on the subject, writing that "myth is the foundation of life, the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious" (18). Campbell goes on to note that the schema, the formative patterns or framework, of mythology seeks to express that which has no schema - that which is aschematic (call it life, the unconscious, the sacred, the impossible, the divine, etc...). Myth, we could say, is an ordering or imagining of that which emerges from the abyssal night of existence, from out of the bare earth. The blood must be transmuted, for passion is neither linguistic nor discursive - myth is a translation of the unexpressable expression which seeks to translate us back over, returning us to from whence we have emerged (perhaps long forgotten (purposefully or otherwise)).Myth is a creative expression - a proliferation of the sacred creative forces that demand it and, in a sense, produce it. The work of myth is the production of further differentiation and dispersion of the divine forces which bring about its demand for speech or expression. Myth combines or takes up three related images of existence in its creation - those of the child (play, imagination, freedom), the poet (imagination, passion, the word) and the monstrous or daemonic (the divine, force, freedom). These three (which are not the only three aspects, but merely three of the innumerable aspects that are being forgrounded here) come together through the mythical play of imagination, which opens up, opening out upon the differential possibilities of existence - the flows of life which reason closes off, renders impossible. The freedom of this mythic space embraces the child, the monster and the poet in their relation to the divine and its (non)expression. This realm of creativity, with all its attendant destructions, is not a happy place, per say. Its joy is one of ecstasy. It is a dangerous space, at the limits of life and death, and its opening and sustained play demand passionate suffering and sacrifice. This is the realm not of the head, but of the heart.This mythical space is expressed not only through the verbal myth, the myth as tale, but as a way of life, of relating to the sacred. It is expressed through the festival. To partake in this festival, to live in this passionate manner, moving closer to the divine, involves stepping beyond oneself, becoming enrapt, overtaken and ravaged in the rending of joy's suffering, death's exsanguination - the ecstasy of this mythical passion. It is only thus, through this lacerating experience of loss, of giving up (which I am passing over here over-quickly, in far too few words), that one is opened to the freedom that one can be the vehicle for, through sacrifice. For in this festival, this bacchanal of sorts, we are not freed from something, but for something. We are freed unto our own bare existence, to proliferate and create further differences, to incite further avenues of life through the gift of death. We become mad, become monstrous and cruel, like the existence of which we are but a singular instance - a rupturing wound which spills forth blood of the divine, for the divine. This is myth - the grounding of our existence in the groundlessness of the wound from which we spring and have sprung.Myth opens up and resides within a space of paradox - as Campbell notes, where A is B, and B is C as well. Thus it exists as an antinomy, in that the experience or passion of the mythical tears Man from himself and from all humanity (this is 'the mystical'), yet at the same time serves to ground him in the human, founding the society and what it means for him to be as Man ('the topological'). This antinomic existence is the mode of myth as founding rupture - the eruption which places into relation with the other in a mode that is sustainable, livable, and communicable. Myth can be a wandering, an unsettling or disturbing experience, or it can be a foundational worlding and topologically constructive and constitutional process. Either way, it is a way of life and death, of living and dying. Myth is a relationary field or space of a multiplicity of pathways, lines and threads that are interwovem and yet ever disjointed.And what then of our age, this age that, like Kiekegaard's own, lakcs passion (perhaps in a way even more unsettling)? What is our life, and our death, here, now, without myth? Where are we and where are we going, with no direction, no further openings or passages? How are we to relate to one another, to understand the divinity that underlies our relations with each and every other? Our myth, as Bataille so adeptly diagnosed it, is an absence of myth. We are lost - lost on our way (which is none); lost to ourselves, having lost the divine, the sacred. We are losing our lives; we hardly even live. Soon we may even lose our own death. How does one fix a shadow in a pitch black night? Herein does Campbell locate the impostance of mythology - perhaps it has never been more important than it is now, now that it has been relegated to oblivion. Campbell seeks to reopen the mythic space of the past for us, to help us to find our way back to what we are, as wekk as in order for the past to help to guide us forward, to aid us in composing our own new myths. Such a creative act is so very exigent, as I have said, perhaps now more than ever, lest we become utterly lost in our own technological oblivion (perhaps we already fail to see our own effacement?). No longer Man, less than even human, we cannot even see our own failings.== If only there were still a God to have pity on us - or to laugh at the tragedy of our self-inflicted demise. ==

  • C.G. Fewston
    2019-06-07 21:30

    The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (1959) by Joseph Campbell is the first book of four in a massive attempt to connect the cultures and religions of the world. Campbell begins this endeavor far back into history, well beyond the birth of language and later civilization by discussing the natural history of the gods and the psychology of myth. According to one view Campbell poses, "a functioning mythology can be defined as a corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli fostering the development and activation of a specific type, or constellation of types, of human life" (48). Functioning Mythology will be one of the main themes of this book. One of the beginning themes of the book is the existence of Imprints in people from childhood to adulthood and, even, in godhood. An Imprint would be a symbol or essence within the human mind that is innate. One instance of this is in "The Imprints of Experience" when Campbell discusses the fear of darkness in children. "The fear of the dark," writes Campbell, "which is so strong in children, has been said to be a function of their fear of returning to the womb: the fear that their recently achieved daylight consciousness and not yet secure individuality should be reabsorbed" (p 65). And concerning God, Campbell writes: "We observe, for example, that whereas in the Greek and Hebrew versions man is split in two by a god, in the Chinese, Hindu, and Australian it is the god itself who divides and multiplies," and Campbell examines these religious beginnings in depth later on in the book (109). Campbell uses these last examples, as he does with many more, to illustrate how many cultures and religions are similar because all of mankind shares similarities in the make-up of human psychology. Campbell quotes Dr. Jung best as to why this is the case: "But beyond that there is a thinking in primordial images--in symbols that are older that historical man; which have been ingrained in him from earliest times, and, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche" (125). Later, Campbell goes into an in-depth analysis of how civilizations were formed over several thousand years (mainly up to and during the Paleolithic and the Neolithic Periods). Simultaneously, he discusses the creation of the Story that grew into Myth and finally into Religion (i.e., a priesthood) within these cultural hot spots which would sprout civilizations across the globe in Europe, the Middle East, India, and Asia. One of the more interesting subjects he discusses in this section is the creation and vital importance of the ziggurat (palace). The earliest ziggurats, Campbell explains, would appear sometime in the fourth millennium B.C., which the ziggurat ultimately symbolizes "the pivot of the universe, where the life-generating union of the powers of earth and heaven was consummated in a ritual marriage" (145-146).In "The Immolated Kings" and "The Ritual Love-Death" sections Campbell relates several stories, or myths/legends, that are unusual and highly interesting as far as plots go; these stories are also shown how they connect with other stories throughout various cultures/regions. This is one of the better sections of the book that will likely be of greater interest than some of the other drier sections that primarily focus on historical facts and research as evidence of support to Campbell's thesis. One of these stories includes, obviously, the act of human sacrifice: "The two young people had to make the new fire and then perform that other, symbolically analogous act, their first copulation; after which they were tossed into a prepared trench, while a shout went up to drown their cries, and quickly buried alive" (p 169). Wow! What a way to go-- if one is to be sacrificed for the greater good of the community, that is.One of the last sections is "The Functioning of Myth" and Campbell goes into great deal to extrapolate the introductory section. "The ends for which men strive in the world," writes Campbell, "are three-- no more, no less; namely: love and pleasure (kāma), power and success (artha: pronounced 'art-ha'), and lawful order and moral virtue (dharma) (p 464).The book and Campbell's ideas and examples are too vast to go into great depth here; however, any reader who values his/her own scholarship (i.e., learning at a high(er) level) will not be disappointed in Campbell's vigorous research that, to this reader's professional judgment, proves his thesis quite strongly. Finally, one last quote that was found to be of some great interest:Dr. Rasmussen writes of the shamans during the Fifth Thule Expedition (1921-1924): "The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and it can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering along can open the mind of a man to all this hidden to others" (p 54).If the world were to end, I imagine The Masks of God (all four volumes) would be among the treasured volumes saved from destruction. There is far too much history, knowledge and wisdom in these books to be ignored or to abandon. Primitive Mythology is a very, very strong recommend for those readers who take self-improvement through education seriously and desire a greater and fuller understanding of the world in which they live. Now on to Book Two: The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology.

  • Adosinda
    2019-05-31 17:28

    Mitología Primitiva es el primero de cuatro volúmenes, que constituyen la magna obra Las Máscaras de Dios. Dentro de la mitología comparada hay mucho libro churro con pretensiones de Rama Dorada, pero Joseph Campbell es, para mí, sino el mejor mitólogo, de los mejores. En esta primera parte se exponen algunos de los iconos de las civilizaciones prehistóricas, adentrándose en aspectos antropológicos y arqueológicos. Todo ello, para observar cómo la raza humana se ha desarrollado en una única sinfonía espiritual que la ha llevado a utilizar y desarrollar temas anteriores. El concepto de zona mitogenética desarrollado por Campbell explora estos hechos, y pone, por supuesto, a Mesopotamia como origen de casi todo. Para más regusto, esta edición ha sido actualizada, de forma que algunos periodos históricos que en los últimos 50 años han sufrido serias transformaciones, ya aparecen corregidos. Que parece obvio cuando se reedita una obra de estas características, pero que muchas editoriales no hacen.Deseando leer Mitología Oriental...

  • Dan Norton
    2019-05-31 21:16

    This book is unquestionably a masterpiece of pre-historical research. Using archaeology, psychology, anthropology, and mythology, Joseph Campbell tracks the development of myths and religions as closely as realistically possible for pre-literate man.I was fascinated by the development of planting societies myths and their associated imagery. The imagery of the serpent and the maiden repeats through almost every ancient belief system and continues to do so through most of the modern religions (Hindu/Buddhist/Biblical imagery.) I also learned that planting societies tended towards group religion and myths. It was grotesquely captivating to read about planting societies use of human sacrifices as a way to re-enact the growth, death, and rebirth cycle of the plant world.Hunter-gather civilizations tended to avoid human sacrifices and instead opted for shamanism. The emphasis in shamanism is on the individual instead of the society as a whole. Certain individuals have partaken in a metaphysical journey which contrasted them with the rest of their society. Shamanism wasn't structured as everyone's journey was different.These are condensed versions of Campbell's analysis for most of the book. However, neither addresses the primary point of the book; what was and is the purpose of mythology? Campbell believed that mythology's purpose was two fold: first, it provides us with the joy of play, play in his terminology mean being able to escape materialism and cogitate on the designs and nature of the world, and second it is a tool used to shape adolescent members of societies into full fledged members who can contribute to the group. Now, modern belief and in fact borrows from several for his analysis throughout the book, but those two goals of mythology echo similar thoughts I have been having lately. I would have given this book 4 stars either way but I was happy to see his conclusions.I won't give 5 stars because Campbell's writing can be intellectually dense. There were times I understood every word in a paragraph and still had to stop reading to reflect on what he was trying to say. Many of his sentences become endless comma parties which become difficult to keep track of the longer they go. I get the feeling this writing style was more common amongst intellectuals when he wrote this book, but it's a definite hurdle for most modern readers.In conclusion, I liked this book but would only endorse it if you are seeking for answers about the origins of religion and mythology or if you are already interested in anthropology. This book is not a primer on those subjects and won't sell itself easily to the novice or neophyte, but it's incredibly detailed research make it worth a read.

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    2019-06-14 21:03

    Campbell is best known because of the PBS series The Power of Myth with Moyers that aired in 1988 and for his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces that influenced George Lucas of Star Wars fame and influential with many a writer, especially in speculative fiction. Primitive Mythology is the first part of his four-book series The Mask of God. This first book was published in 1959 and tried to incorporate then current findings in psychology (primarily Freudian and Jungian theories), archeology and physical anthropology and ethnology to examine the common threads in "primitive" mythology among "savages"--that is, prehistoric and non-literate cultures covering from 600,000 BC to 7,500 BC until the first civilizations arose as well as hunter-gatherers in modern times. Campbell believes there's "one fund of mythological motifs" that might have a biological basis and can be seen in myths found around the world with "such themes as the fire-theft, deluge, land of the dead, virgin birth, and resurrected hero." In the book he seeks to make a "sketch of the natural history of the gods and heroes." In pre-literate cultures he often looks to ritual. "Ritual is mythology made alive." He sees a different morphology in the hunter/gather cultures with their shamanistic rituals and what he sees as a more female-oriented early planter societies, then another major shift when we move to the city-state, sacred king and regicidal sacrifices that support the new world order by linking the hierarchy on earth to the heavenly order of planets and the stars. It made me think of that phrase in the Lord's Prayer--"your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The book doesn't feel dated despite the passage of over four decades, although I would have dearly loved an annotated edition that could tell me how more recent developments might have changed the picture. The narrative is dense and scholarly, often text-book dry, sometimes rambling and hard to follow, but I found his ideas thought-provoking and they made me see literature and myth in new ways. Indeed, the book made me want to read up on what we know of pre-historic humans and certainly made me wish to go on to the next volumes on Occidental and Oriental mythology.

  • Isaac Lambert-lin
    2019-05-21 20:23

    A beautifully moving and poetic journey, to a time before time.My second Joseph Campbell, after The Hero with a Thousand faces.Here, we journey to the beginning of man and myth. Prepare to be wowed by stories of gory sacrifice, myths of toothed vaginas, the beginning of art, and connections of myth to psychology. Learn about the differences of a society based on the hunt versus those based on agriculture. Read this, and you'll have a more complete sense of your place, as a human, in society.It's so much fun, reading something like this, and getting a true sense that everything is connected. Sure, sometimes maybe you disagree with Campbell's views, but to write a book like this--you have to be bold! If I have a complaint-- I wish there were more pictures/maps/illustrations...I'll leave you with a beautiful summarizing paragraph:"Mythology--and therefore civilization--is a poetic, supernormal image, conceived, like all poetry, in depth, but susceptible of interpretation on various levels. The shallowest minds see in it the local scenery; the deepest, the foreground of the void; and between are all the stages of the Way from the ethnic to the elementary idea, the local to the universal being, which is Everyman, as he both knows and is afraid to know. For the human mind in its polarity of the male and female modes of experience, in its passages from infancy to adulthood and old age, in its toughness and tenderness, and in its continuing dialogue with the world, is the ultimate mythogenic zone--the creator and the destroyer, the slave and yet the master, of all gods."Can't wait for Volume II.

  • Jason Freeze
    2019-06-11 17:27

    What can I say about the work of Joseph Campbell that has not already been said? Nothing really, but here is my take anyhow. In this book, Campbell makes a compelling argument for diffusionist theory as it pertains to mythology. Additionally, he utilizes Freudian and Jungian psychology as a tool to explain the nature and need for myth in humans. I found it astounding that the ties between the mythologies go back to pre-Homo Sapien species and circumnavigate the globe. Even more eye opening is the fact that multiple myth archetypes clearly enter the Americas after the time of the Bering land bridge crossing, but well before the arrival of European settlers. While this pre-Columbian contact is not as heavily debated as it was once, the implied frequency of the contact is surprising. As with other works focused on mythology and religion, Campbell's work places into perspective the human need to organize and rationalize the universe and our role in it. This basic need is the driver for all religious/mythological movement and seeing the similarities in ideal is both refreshing (everyone has sought for their place) and frustrating (people continue to fixate on the how of worship rather than the why) at the same time. For those interested in the earliest formations of mythology, or those who want to better understand the bedrock to their own faith, this book is well worth the time and effort.

  • Giuliano Pongeluppe
    2019-06-13 21:29

    Really interesting proposal by the author, but I don't think he accomplished.The author spends too much time describing rituals and making assumptions with (what seems) little information. i.e.: they worshipped pigs, because the hunter in the mtyh was hunting a pig.What really botter me, was the time jumps he does in his explanations. In the chapters about periods, he often goes back or forth in time to remember from where the myth comes or what it affected, but if you're not sharp about obscures period's name or forgotten civilizations (obviously my case) it's really confusing.I recommend reading the first and last part of the book, and the conclusion, I think it gives you enough information about what he wanted to transmit without the bother of reading the book.I'm still hopeful about the sequencial books, because the myths are more recent and the author had more material to work on.

  • Marshall Cain
    2019-06-04 17:03

    When I first saw this book, I knew what I was getting into. I knew I was facing a man who knew what he was talking about, and wasn't going to spare any details for the sake of audience. So I stepped knee-deep in Campbell's world, and I came out soaked.I learned a lot, and this is only volume 1 of 4. From his ideas on the origin of mythology in general, to his ideas on separate stories from around the world, I was never left without information to digest.The only complaint I have is that it was so scholarly. I was bombarded with dates and anthropological ages left and right. I cannot take my own complaint seriously though, since this effectively means I was too ignorant to fully enjoy the work. I can rectify that myself.Oh well, now to find something fun to read before I move on to volume 2.

  • Paul
    2019-06-01 17:11

    2010.0924-2010.1222Primitive Mythology is Campbell's first volume of The masks of God. This insightful, enjoyable, and slightly bizarre text is an interesting intersection of several disciplines, anthropology, history, phycology, and myth. The text is a bit dense in subject material and suffers (only slightly) from Campbell characteristic rambling. Several over arching theses seamed to be articulated late and not fully formed. At points I had to ask myself, what the point of given passages where. With these negative aspects stated I have to admit that I loved this book. Campbell is worth reading and this book has been on my reading queue for about 7 years now. I look forward to continuing the sieres and maybe finally i will go ahead and read Hero with a thousand faces.

  • Julie
    2019-05-28 15:15

    After plowing into Occidental Mythologies, I decided to backtrack to the first volume for an easier jog into the dense material. I have read and re-read the opening pages, which sound alternately beween poetry and textbook. Out of many passages I have underlined, here is my favorite description of why the book is important from the first page of the forward: "I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same (spiritual) motifs already heard will not be sounding still--in new relationships indeed, but ever the same motifs. They are all given here . . . with many clues, besides, suggesting ways in which they might be put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends--or by poets to poetic ends--or by madmen to nonsense and disaster."

  • Bill O'driscoll
    2019-06-04 15:28

    this is the first Campbell I'd read, and because much of it is based on anthropology that was current when he wrote and revised it (both decades ago), I have to say I took some of his conclusions with a little salt. But the wealth of information here about ancient cultures from the paleolithic to the premodern is amazing. Great store of folk tales, crazy stuff about early kingdoms where the monarchs were ritually sacrificed. Fascinating analysis of famous cave art, like the ones from Lascaux. Very Freudian, a lot of it, and I'm not sure how well that stuff stores, either, but a worthwhile read for certain.

  • Susan
    2019-05-23 19:03

    I have re-watched and re-watched, and will continue to re-watch the PBS interviews with Bill Moyers. It's what drives me to keep trying to get through this book. But, sadly, I have not succeeded this time around. It's just too scholarly for me. I enjoy rifling through and falling upon Campbell's glorious and very real descriptions of mythologies surrounding creation and deity worship. But when it comes to reading the book straight through, uh uh, not this time. Maybe next time. I am sure I will continue to enjoy Joseph Campbell's work in this helter skelter method for the rest of my natural life.

  • B. Jay
    2019-06-08 15:05

    WHEW! This book took forever to read! As fascinating (and repulsive) Campbell's observations on primitive mythology are, I could only read a few pages at a time before falling asleep or putting it aside for easier entertainment. I won't deny that parts of this book were simply above and beyond my intellect and archeological education, but a textbook (even an extremely well-written textbook) is still a textbook. I can't recommend this book to anyone but those pursuing a study of these themes as a career.