He attempted no subjects at all commensurate with those of his great woodcuts, but contented himself for the most part with Madonnas, single figures of scripture or of the saints, some nude mythologies of a kind wholly new in northern art and founded upon the impressions received in Italy, and groups, sometimes bordering on the satirical, of humble folk and peasants.
Broadly speaking it may be said that a distinction may be drawn between " spirits " and " gods," but it is a distinction of degree rather than of kind, obvious enough at the upper end, yet shading off into manifold varieties of resemblance in the lower forms. Some writers only recognize friendly agencies as gods; but destructive powers like the volcano, or the lords of the underworld, cannot be regarded as the protectors of the life of man, yet they seem in many mythologies to attain the full personalised stature of gods with definite names.
But is there any known stage of the human intellect in which these divine adventures, and the metamorphoses of men into animals, trees, stars, and converse with the dead, and all else that puzzles us in the civilized mythologies, are regarded as possible incidents of daily human life?
Our answer is that everything in the civilized mythologies which we regard as irrational seems only part of the accepted and rational order of things (at least in the case of " medicine-men " or magicians) to contemporary savages, and in the past seemed equally rational and natural to savages concerning whom we have historical information.
It is certainly true that divine beings in most mythologies are apt to acquire solar with other elemental attributes, including vegetable attributes.