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In the BeginningThe Navajo Genesis$
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Jerrold Levy

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780520211285

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520211285.001.0001

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(p.218) 10 Envoy
In the Beginning

Jerrold E. Levy

University of California Press

This chapter considers the nature of religion and myth, and the reasons why most westerners view the so-called primitive religions as less coherent and perfect than the world's “great” religions. The major cause of this view, beyond the tendency to see one's own religion as more advanced and therefore superior, is the nature of myth itself. Small, preliterate societies must preserve their traditions in a form that can be memorized and understood by a wide range of listeners, not just the most philosophical ceremonialists. To the extent that Navajo myth and religion represent North American religions in general, the chapter concludes that the religions of precontact North America are no less comprehensive or sophisticated than those of the civilized Western world, and that our lack of understanding results from the paucity of data rather than any deficiency of the primitive intellect.

Keywords:   religion, myth, preliterate society, North America, Navajo

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