The first section of this small volume presents (through the eyes of a historian of religions) a group of myths, rites and symbols peculiar to the craft of the miner, smith and metal worker. It goes without saying that I am very much in the debt of the historians of science and technology; their findings have proved invaluable. But my purpose in the present work has been totally different from theirs. My aim has been to attempt to gain an understanding of the behaviour of primitive societies in relation to Matter and to follow the spiritual adventures in which they became involved when they found themselves aware of their power to change the mode of being of substances. It would perhaps have been more worth while to study the demiurgic experiences of the primeval potter, since it was he who was the first to modify the state of matter; these experiences have, however, left little or no trace in the mythological record. I have, therefore, perforce been obliged to take as my starting point the relationship of primitive man to mineral substances, with special emphasis on the ritualist behaviour of the smith and the iron-worker.
The reader should not expect to find here a cultural history of metallurgy, analysing the devious ways by which it spread throughout the world and describing the myths which accom panied it in the course of its propagation. Such a history, even if it were possible, would run into some thousands of pages. But it is extremely doubtful whether it could in fact be written.