Hand: A Survey of Facts, Legends, and Beliefs Pertaining to Manual Ceremonies, Covenants, and Symbols

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Purdue University Press


The impression is not uncommon among readers that, however interesting they may be, the legendary stories which we no longer accept as true literally, and which often we know to be absurd and impossible, are entirely distinct from what we designate as history. This view of them is not at all satisfactory to the careful student. These tales as they have come down to us often have been rewritten and readapted to the beliefs and conditions of the various peoples of whose life and literature they have formed a part. We reject them as chronicles of actual events, but accept them as of great historical value in assisting us to determine the intellectual characteristics, social conditions, and moral standards at a time when a less skeptical, or differently educated, people confided in them.Believing then, that all legends, fables, and myths contain some germs of truth, and are invaluable sources of information to us, the author has made free use of them in these pages. Indeed, from them alone, sometimes, can be gained correct ideas of the true meaning and significance of rites and customs which still, in modified survivals, form an interesting and important part of our daily lives.