‘The teaching of South American myths serves to provide general laws for the resolution of problems concerning the nature and development of thought.’

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythologiques II.

‘Those who (in philosophy) make use of myth are unworthy of serious consideration’.

Aristotle, Metaphysics.

The reflections presented here were intended to help clarify a specific problem; the problem of the relationship between mythical thought, primitive society and history. This problem, met abstractly by every anthropologist in the exercise of his discipline, was posed unavoidably for me in a practical sense when I had to begin to analyse the material I had collected between 1967 and 1969 concerning the myths and magical-religious practices of the Baruya, a tribe from the interior of New Guinea.