Mythology

Mythology

Overview
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection
Anthology
An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts...

of myths. As examples, comparative mythology
Comparative mythology
Comparative mythology is the comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics. Comparative mythology has served a variety of academic purposes...

 is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 is the body of myths from ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

. A myth is defined as a sacred
Sacred
Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy or sacred...

 narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form, within the field of folkloristics
Folkloristics
Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore. The term derives from a nineteenth century German designation of folkloristik to distinguish between folklore as the content and folkloristics as its study, much as language is distinguished from linguistics...

. Many scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in somewhat different ways.
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Encyclopedia
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection
Anthology
An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts...

of myths. As examples, comparative mythology
Comparative mythology
Comparative mythology is the comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics. Comparative mythology has served a variety of academic purposes...

 is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 is the body of myths from ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

. A myth is defined as a sacred
Sacred
Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy or sacred...

 narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form, within the field of folkloristics
Folkloristics
Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore. The term derives from a nineteenth century German designation of folkloristik to distinguish between folklore as the content and folkloristics as its study, much as language is distinguished from linguistics...

. Many scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any story originating within traditions.

Typical characteristics


The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 heroes and humans. As sacred stories, myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests and closely linked to religion or spirituality. In the society in which it is told, a myth is usually regarded as a true account of the remote past. In fact, many societies have two categories of traditional narrative, "true stories" or myths, and "false stories" or fables. Creation myths generally take place in a primordial age, when the world had not yet achieved its current form, and explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institution
Institution
An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community...

s and taboo
Taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

s were established.

Related concepts



Closely related to myth are legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

 and folktale. Myths, legends, and folktales are different types of traditional story. Unlike myths, folktales can be set in any time and any place, and they are not considered true or sacred by the societies that tell them. Like myths, legends are stories that are traditionally considered true, but are set in a more recent time, when the world was much as it is today. Legends generally feature humans as their main characters, whereas myths generally focus on superhuman characters.

The distinction between myth, legend, and folktale is meant simply as a useful tool for grouping traditional stories. In many cultures, it is hard to draw a sharp line between myths and legends. Instead of dividing their traditional stories into myths, legends, and folktales, some cultures divide them into two categories, one that roughly corresponds to folktales, and one that combines myths and legends. Even myths and folktales are not completely distinct. A story may be considered true (and therefore a myth) in one society, but considered fictional (and therefore a folktale) in another society. In fact, when a myth loses its status as part of a religious system, it often takes on traits more typical of folktales, with its formerly divine characters reinterpreted as human heroes, giants, or fairies.

Myth, legend, and folktale are only a few of the categories of traditional stories. Other categories include anecdotes and some kinds of jokes. Traditional stories, in turn, are only one category within folklore, which also includes items such as gestures, costumes, and music.

Euhemerism



One theory claims that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. According to this theory, storytellers repeatedly elaborated upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gained the status of gods. For example, one might argue that the myth of the wind-god Aeolus
Aeolus
Aeolus was the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology. In fact this name was shared by three mythic characters. These three personages are often difficult to tell apart, and even the ancient mythographers appear to have been perplexed about which Aeolus was which...

 evolved from a historical account of a king who taught his people to use sails and interpret the winds. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 (5th century BC) and Prodicus
Prodicus
Prodicus of Ceos was a Greek philosopher, and part of the first generation of Sophists. He came to Athens as ambassador from Ceos, and became known as a speaker and a teacher. Plato treats him with greater respect than the other sophists, and in several of the Platonic dialogues Socrates appears...

 made claims of this kind. This theory is named "euhemerism" after the mythologist Euhemerus
Euhemerus
Euhemerus was a Greek mythographer at the court of Cassander, the king of Macedon. Euhemerus' birthplace is disputed, with Messina in Sicily as the most probable location, while others champion Chios, or Tegea.-Life:...

 (c.320 BC), who suggested that the Greek gods developed from legends about human beings.

Allegory


Some theories propose that myths began as allegories
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

. According to one theory, myths began as allegories for natural phenomena: Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 represents fire, Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 represents water, and so on. According to another theory, myths began as allegories for philosophical or spiritual concepts: Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 represents wise judgment, Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 represents desire, etc. The 19th century Sanskritist Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 supported an allegorical theory of myth. He believed that myths began as allegorical descriptions of nature, but gradually came to be interpreted literally: for example, a poetic description of the sea as "raging" was eventually taken literally, and the sea was then thought of as a raging god.

Personification



Some thinkers believe that myths resulted from the personification of inanimate objects and forces. According to these thinkers, the ancients worshipped natural phenomena such as fire and air, gradually coming to describe them as gods. For example, according to the theory of mythopoeic thought
Mythopoeic thought
Mythopoeic thought is a hypothetical stage of human thought preceding modern thought, proposed by Henri Frankfort and his wife Henriette Antonia Frankfort in the 1940s...

, the ancients tended to view things as persons, not as mere objects; thus, they described natural events as acts of personal gods, thus giving rise to myths.

The myth-ritual theory



According to the myth-ritual theory, the existence of myth is tied to ritual. In its most extreme form, this theory claims that myths arose to explain rituals. This claim was first put forward by the biblical scholar William Robertson Smith
William Robertson Smith
William Robertson Smith was a Scottish orientalist, Old Testament scholar, professor of divinity, and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He was an editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica and contributor to the Encyclopaedia Biblica...

. According to Smith, people begin performing rituals for some reason that is not related to myth; later, after they have forgotten the original reason for a ritual, they try to account for the ritual by inventing a myth and claiming that the ritual commemorates the events described in that myth. The anthropologist James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

 had a similar theory. Frazer believed that primitive man starts out with a belief in magical laws; later, when man begins to lose faith in magic, he invents myths about gods and claims that his formerly magical rituals are religious rituals intended to appease the gods.

Functions of myth


Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day...

 argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior and that myths may also provide a religious experience. By telling or reenacting myths, members of traditional societies detach themselves from the present and return to the mythical age, thereby bringing themselves closer to the divine.

Lauri Honko
Lauri Honko
Lauri Honko was a professor of folklore studies and comparative religion.- Life and work :Honko was a disciple of Martti Haavio. The title of his doctoral dissertation was Krankheitsprojektile...

 asserts that, in some cases, a society will reenact a myth in an attempt to reproduce the conditions of the mythical age. For example, it will reenact the healing performed by a god at the beginning of time in order to heal someone in the present. Similarly, Roland Barthes
Roland Barthes
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

 argues that modern culture explores religious experience. Because it is not the job of science to define human morality, a religious experience is an attempt to connect with a perceived moral past, which is in contrast with the technological present.

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 defined myths as having four basic functions: the Mystical Function—experiencing the awe of the universe; the Cosmological Function—explaining the shape of the universe; the Sociological Function—supporting and validating a certain social order; and the Pedagogical Function—how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.

The study of mythology: a historical overview



Historically, the important approaches to the study of mythology have been those of Vico
Giambattista Vico
Giovanni Battista ' Vico or Vigo was an Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist....

, Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

, Schiller, Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, Freud, Lévy-Bruhl, Lévi-Strauss, Frye
Northrop Frye
Herman Northrop Frye, was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century....

, the Soviet school, and the Myth and Ritual School.

Pre-modern theories


The critical interpretation of myth goes back as far as the Presocratics
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

. Euhemerus
Euhemerus
Euhemerus was a Greek mythographer at the court of Cassander, the king of Macedon. Euhemerus' birthplace is disputed, with Messina in Sicily as the most probable location, while others champion Chios, or Tegea.-Life:...

 was one of the most important pre-modern mythologists. He interpreted myths as accounts of actual historical events, distorted over many retellings. This view of myths and their origin is criticised by Plato in the Phaedrus (229d), in which Socrates says that this approach is the province of one who is "vehemently curious and laborious, and not entirely happy . . ." The Platonists generally had a more profound and comprehensive view of the subject. Sallustius
Sallustius
Sallustius or Sallust was a 4th-century Latin writer, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian. He wrote the treatise On the Gods and the Cosmos, a kind of catechism of 4th-century Hellenic paganism. Sallustius' work owes much to that of Iamblichus of Chalcis, who synthesized Platonism with...

, for example, divides myths into five categories – theological, physical (or concerning natural laws), animastic (or concerning soul), material and mixed. This last being those myths which show the interaction between two or more of the previous categories and which, he says, are particularly used in initiations.

Although Plato famously condemned poetic myth when discussing the education of the young in the Republic, primarily on the grounds that there was a danger that the young and uneducated might take the stories of Gods and heroes literally, nevertheless he constantly refers to myths of all kinds throughout his writings. As Platonism developed in the phases commonly called 'middle Platonism' and neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

, such writers as Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

, Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

, Olympiodorus
Olympiodorus the Younger
Olympiodorus the Younger was a Neoplatonist philosopher, astrologer and teacher who lived in the early years of the Byzantine Empire, after Justinian's Decree of 529 A.D. which closed Plato's Academy in Athens and other pagan schools...

 and Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

 wrote explicitly about the symbolic interpretation of traditional and Orphic myths.

Interest in polytheistic mythology revived in the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, with early works on mythography appearing in the 16th century, such as the Theologia mythologica
Theologia mythologica
Theologia mythologica is a 1532 book by Georg Pictorius. It was one of the first treatises of Classical mythology in the German Renaissance. Pictorius interprets the Greek pantheon as allegory, e.g. Cybele as the Earth, her chariot wheels as symbolizing the rotation of the Earth.editions*Theologia...

(1532).

19th-century theories


The first scholarly theories of myth appeared during the second half of the 19th century. In general, these 19th-century theories framed myth as a failed or obsolete mode of thought, often by interpreting myth as the primitive counterpart of modern science.

For example, E. B. Tylor interpreted myth as an attempt at a literal explanation for natural phenomena: unable to conceive of impersonal natural laws, early man tried to explain natural phenomena by attributing souls to inanimate objects, giving rise to animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

. According to Tylor, human thought evolves through various stages, starting with mythological ideas and gradually progressing to scientific ideas. Not all scholars — not even all 19th century scholars — have agreed with this view. For example, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl
Lucien Lévy-Bruhl
Lucien Lévy-Brühl was a French scholar trained in philosophy, who made contributions to the budding fields of sociology and ethnology. His primary field of study involved primitive mentality....

 claimed that "the primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind, and not a stage in its historical development."

Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 called myth a "disease of language". He speculated that myths arose due to the lack of abstract nouns and neuter gender in ancient languages: anthropomorphic figures of speech, necessary in such languages, were eventually taken literally, leading to the idea that natural phenomena were conscious beings, gods.

The anthropologist James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

 saw myths as a misinterpretation of magical rituals; which were themselves based on a mistaken idea of natural law. According to Frazer, man begins with an unfounded belief in impersonal magical laws. When he realizes that his applications of these laws don't work, he gives up his belief in natural law, in favor of a belief in personal gods controlling nature — thus giving rise to religious myths. Meanwhile, man continues practicing formerly magical rituals through force of habit, reinterpreting them as reenactments of mythical events. Finally, Frazer contends, man realizes that nature does follow natural laws, but now he discovers their true nature through science. Here, again, science makes myth obsolete: as Frazer puts it, man progresses "from magic through religion to science".

Robert Segal asserts that by pitting mythical thought against modern scientific thought, such theories implied that modern man must abandon myth.

20th century theories


Many 20th century theories of myth rejected the 19th-century theories' opposition of myth and science. In general, "twentieth-century theories have tended to see myth as almost anything but an outdated counterpart to science […] Consequently, moderns are not obliged to abandon myth for science."

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

 (1873–1961) tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called archetypes. Jung believed that the similarities between the myths from different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes.

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 believed that there were two different orders of mythology: myths that "are metaphorical of spiritual potentiality in the human being," and myths "that have to do with specific societies".

Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

 believed that myths reflect patterns in the mind and interpreted those patterns more as fixed mental structures — specifically, pairs of opposites (i.e. good/evil, compassionate/callous) — than as unconscious feelings or urges.

In his appendix to Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, and in The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day...

 attributed modern man’s anxieties to his rejection of myths and the sense of the sacred
Sacred
Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy or sacred...

.

In the 1950s, Roland Barthes
Roland Barthes
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

 published a series of essays examining modern myths and the process of their creation in his book Mythologies.

Creation of man by Prometheus (Greek)


Prometheus and Epimetheus were spared imprisonment in Tartarus because they had not fought with their fellow Titans during the war with the Olympians. They were given the task of creating man. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure.

Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings etc. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man. So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright as the gods did and to give them fire.

Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians, who had banished most of his family to Tartarus. So when Zeus decreed that man must present a portion of each animal they sacrificed to the gods Prometheus decided to trick Zeus. He created two piles, one with the bones wrapped in juicy fat, the other with the good meat hidden in the hide. He then bade Zeus to pick. Zeus chose the bones. Since he had given his word, Zeus had to accept that as his share for future sacrifices. In his anger over the trick, Zeus took fire away from man. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the sun and brought it back again to man. Zeus was enraged that man again had fire. He decided to inflict a terrible punishment on both man and Prometheus.

To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty. The gods gave the mortal many gifts of wealth. Zeus then had Hermes give the mortal a deceptive heart and a lying tongue. This creation was Pandora, the first woman. A final gift was a jar which Pandora was forbidden to open. Thus completed, Zeus sent Pandora down to Epimetheus who was staying amongst the men.

Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to accept gifts from Zeus but Pandora's beauty was too great and he allowed her to stay. Eventually, Pandora's curiosity about the jar she was forbidden to open became too great. She opened the jar and out flew all manner of evils, sorrows, plagues, and misfortunes. However, the bottom of the jar held one good thing - hope.

Zeus was angry at Prometheus for three things: being tricked on sacrifices, stealing fire for man, and for refusing to tell Zeus which of Zeus's children would dethrone him. Zeus had his servants, Force and Violence, seize Prometheus, take him to the Caucasus Mountains, and chain him to a rock with unbreakable adamanite chains. Here he was tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this torment. He could tell Zeus who the mother of the child that would dethrone him was or two conditions must be met: First, that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus. Second, that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him and Heracles killed the eagle and unbound him.

Birth of Athena (Greek)


Zeus came to lust after Metis and chased her in his direct way. Metis tried to escape, going so far as to change her form many times by turning into various creatures, such as hawks, fish, and serpents. However, Zeus was both determined and equally proficient in changing form. He continued his pursuit until she relented.

An Oracle of Gaea then prophesied that Metis' first child would be a girl, but her second child would be a boy that would overthrow Zeus as had happened to his father and grandfather. Zeus took this warning to heart. When he next saw Metis, he flattered her and put her at her ease. Then, with Metis off guard, Zeus suddenly opened his mouth and swallowed her. This was the end of Metis, but possibly the beginning of Zeus' wisdom.

After a time Zeus developed the mother of all headaches. He howled so loudly it could be heard throughout the earth. The other gods came to see what the problem was. Hermes realized what needed to be done and directed Hephaestus to take a wedge and split open Zeus's skull. Out of the skull sprang Athena, full grown and in a full set of armour. Due to her manner of birth, Athena has dominion over all things of the intellect.

Comparative mythology



Comparative mythology is the systematic comparison of myths from different cultures. It seeks to discover underlying themes that are common to the myths of multiple cultures. In some cases, comparative mythologists use the similarities between different mythologies to argue that those mythologies have a common source. This common source may be a common source of inspiration (e.g. a certain natural phenomenon that inspired similar myths in different cultures) or a common "protomythology" that diverged into the various mythologies we see today.

Nineteenth-century interpretations of myth were often highly comparative, seeking a common origin for all myths. However, modern-day scholars tend to be more suspicious of comparative approaches, avoiding overly general or universal statements about mythology. One exception to this modern trend is Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

's book The Hero With a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell...

(1949), which claims that all hero
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 myths follow the same underlying pattern. This theory of a "monomyth
Monomyth
Joseph Campbell's term monomyth, also referred to as the hero's journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces...

" is out of favor with the mainstream study of mythology.

Myths in the 21th century


In modern society, myth is often regarded as historical or obsolete. Many scholars in the cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

 are now beginning to research the idea that myth has worked itself into modern discourses. Modern formats of communication allow for wide spread communication across the globe, thus enabling mythological discourse and exchange among greater audiences than ever before. Various elements of myth can now be found in television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 and cinema
Cinema
Cinema may refer to:* Film, motion pictures or movies* Filmmaking, the process of making a film* Movie theater, a building in which films are shown* Cinema or Bommalattam, a Tamil film...

.

Although myth was traditionally transmitted through the oral tradition on a small scale, the technology of the film industry has enabled filmmakers to transmit myths to large audiences via film dissemination (Singer, “Mythmaking: Philosophy in Film”, 3-6). In the psychology of Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, myths are the expression of a culture or society’s goals, fears, ambitions and dreams (Indick, “Classical Heroes in Modern Movies: Mythological Patterns of the Superhero", 93-95). Film is ultimately an expression of the society in which it was credited, and reflects the norms and ideals of the time and location in which it is created. In this sense, film is simply the evolution of myth. The technological aspect of film changes the way the myth is distributed, but the core idea of the myth is the same.

The basis of modern storytelling in both cinema and television lies deeply rooted in the mythological tradition. Many contemporary and technologically advanced movies often rely on ancient myths to construct narratives. The Disney Corporation is notorious among cultural study scholars for “reinventing” traditional childhood myths (Koven, “Folklore Studies and Popular Film and Television: A Necessary Critical Survey”, 176-195). While many films are not as obvious as Disney fairy tales in respect to the employment of myth, the plot of many films are largely based on the rough structure of the myth. Mythological archetypes such as the cautionary tale regarding the abuse of technology, battles between gods, and creation stories are often the subject of major film productions. These films are often created under the guise of cyberpunk action movies, fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 dramas, and apocalyptic tales. As heroes moved beyond the limiting constraints of the white heterosexual male in film and television, the narrative begins to reflect the archetypes of myth more accurately (Olson, "Great Expectations: the Role of Myth in 1980s Films with Child Heroes"). Although the range of narratives, as well as the medium in which it is being told is constantly increasing, it is clear that myth continues to be a pervasive and essential component of the collective imagination (Cormer, "Narrative." Critical Ideas in Television Studies, 47-59.)

Recent films such as Clash of The Titans
Clash of the Titans
Clash of the Titans is an American 1981 fantasy–adventure film involving the Greek hero Perseus. It was released on June 12, 1981 and earned a gross profit of $41 million domestically, on a $15 million budget , by which it was the 11th highest grossing film of the year. A novelization of the film...

 and The Immortals
The Immortals
The Immortals quartet, by Tamora Pierce, is the story of Veralidaine Sarrasri , an orphan with an unusual talent: she can speak with animals.-Plot Summary:...

 continue the trend of mining traditional mythology in order to directly create a plot for modern consumption. Although these are generally considered inaccurate to the original mythologies on which they are based, it can be argued that as film itself has become a way transmitting myths, these films are no more inaccurate than the variants told by storytellers of the oral tradition. In fact, it is argued that these new contributions to traditional myths add value and meaning to the stories for new generations (Matira, "Children's Oral Literature and Modern Mass Media", 55-57).

With the invention of modern myths such as urban legends, the mythological traditional will carry on to the increasing variety of mediums available to the consumer in the 21st century and beyond. The crucial idea is that myth is not simply a collection of stories permanently fixed to a particular time and place in history, but an ongoing social practice within every society.

See also


General:
  • Archetypal literary criticism
    Archetypal literary criticism
    Archetypal literary criticism is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes in the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in a literary work...

  • Artificial mythology
  • Creation myth
  • Deluge myth
  • Ethereal being
    Ethereal being
    Ethereal beings, according to some belief systems and occult theories, are mystic entities that usually are not made of ordinary matter. Despite the fact that they are believed to be essentially incorporeal, they do interact in physical shapes with the material universe and travel between the...

  • Fairy
    Fairy
    A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term...

  • Geomythology
    Geomythology
    Geomythology is the study of alleged references to geological events in mythology. The term was coined in 1968 by Dorothy Vitaliano, a geologist at Indiana University....

  • Legendary creature
    Legendary creature
    A legendary creature is a mythological or folkloric creature.-Origin:Some mythical creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and have been believed to be real creatures, for example the dragon, the unicorn, and griffin...

  • LGBT themes in mythology
    LGBT themes in mythology
    LGBT themes in mythology refers to mythologies and religious narratives that include stories of romantic affection or sexuality between figures of the same sex or feature divine actions that result in changes in gender...

  • Mytheme
    Mytheme
    In the study of mythology, a mytheme is the essential kernel of a myth—an irreducible, unchanging element, a minimal unit that is always found shared with other, related mythemes and reassembled in various ways—"bundled" was Claude Lévi-Strauss's image— or linked in more...

  • Mythical place
    Mythical place
    Places which appear in mythology, folklore or religious texts or tradition, but which are not probably genuine places, include:...

  • Mythography
    Mythography
    A mythographer, or a mythologist is a compiler of myths. The word derives from the Greek "μυθογραφία" , "writing of fables", from "μῦθος" , "speech, word, fact, story, narrative" + "γράφω" , "to write, to inscribe". Mythography is then the rendering of myths in the arts...


  • National myth
  • Origin of death myth‎

Mythological archetypes
  • Culture hero
    Culture hero
    A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group who changes the world through invention or discovery...

  • Death deity
    Death deity
    Deities associated with death take many different forms, depending on the specific culture and religion being referenced. Psychopomps, deities of the underworld, and resurrection deities are commonly called death deities in comparative religions texts...

  • Earth Mother
  • First man or woman
    First man or woman
    First man or woman may refer to:* The spouse of an elected head of state, see First Lady, First Gentleman.* First Man, the biography of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon....

  • Hero
    Hero
    A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

  • Life-death-rebirth deity
    Life-death-rebirth deity
    A dying god, also known as a dying-and-rising or resurrection deity, is a god who dies and is resurrected or reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Attis Tammuz, Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as...

  • Lunar deity
    Lunar deity
    In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess associated with or symbolizing the moon. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related to or an enemy of the solar deity. Even though they may be related, they are distinct from the...

  • Psychopomp
    Psychopomp
    Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage...

  • Sky father
    Sky father
    The sky father or heavenly father is a recurring theme in mythology all over the world. The sky father is the complement of the earth mother and appears in some creation myths, many of which are Indo-European or ancient Near Eastern. Other cultures have quite different myths; Egyptian mythology...

  • Solar deity
    Solar deity
    A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms...

  • Trickster
    Trickster
    In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior. It is suggested by Hansen that the term "Trickster" was probably first used in this...

  • Underworld
    Underworld
    The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...


Myth and religion
  • Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

  • Christian mythology
    Christian mythology
    Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. In the study of mythology, the term "myth" refers to a traditional story, often one which is regarded as sacred and which explains how the world and its inhabitants came to have their present form.Classicist G.S. Kirk defines a...

  • Hindu mythology
    Hindu mythology
    Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

  • Islamic mythology
    Islamic mythology
    Islamic mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Islam from a mythographical perspective. Many Muslims believe that these narratives are historical and sacred and contain profound truths...

  • Jesus Christ in comparative mythology
    Jesus Christ in comparative mythology
    The study of Jesus from a mythographical perspective is the examination of the narrative of Jesus, the Christ of the gospels, Christian theology and folk Christianity as a central part of Christian mythology....

  • Jewish mythology
    Jewish mythology
    Jewish mythology is generally the sacred and traditional narratives that help explain and symbolize the Jewish religion, whereas Jewish folklore consists of the folk tales and legends that existed in the general Jewish culture. There is very little early folklore distinct from the aggadah literature...

  • Magic and mythology
  • Maya mythology
    Maya mythology
    Mayan mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Mayan tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles...

  • Religion and mythology
    Religion and mythology
    Religion and mythology differ, but have overlapping aspects. Both terms refer to systems of concepts that are of high importance to a certain community, making statements concerning the supernatural or sacred. Generally, mythology is considered one component or aspect of religion...


Lists


Further reading

  • Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols. Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, University of Chicago Press, 2006. ISBN0-226-02860-7
  • Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , Mythologies (1957)
  • Kees W. Bolle, The Freedom of Man in Myth. Vanderbilt University Press
    Vanderbilt University Press
    Vanderbilt University Press is a university press that is part of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.Vanderbilt University Press is the principal publishing arm of Vanderbilt University. The Press selects, edits, and markets scholarly texts, especially in the areas of the humanities and...

    , 1968.
  • Richard Buxton. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
  • E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology (2005)
  • Edith Hamilton
    Edith Hamilton
    Edith Hamilton was an American educator and author who was "recognized as the greatest woman Classicist". She was sixty-two years old when The Greek Way, her first book, was published in 1930...

    , Mythology
    Mythology (book)
    Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes is a book written by Edith Hamilton, published in 1942 by the Penguin Group. [ISBN-0452009855, 9780452009851]. It retells stories of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology drawn from several classical sources...

    (1998)
  • Graves, Robert. "Introduction." New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Trans. Richard Aldington and Delano Ames. London: Hamlyn, 1968. v-viii.
  • Joseph Campbell
    Joseph Campbell
    Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

    • The Hero with a Thousand Faces
      The Hero with a Thousand Faces
      The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell...

      . Princeton University Press
      Princeton University Press
      -Further reading:* "". Artforum International, 2005.-External links:* * * * *...

      , 1949.
    • Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension: Select Essays 1944-1968 New World Library, 3rd ed. (2002), ISBN 978-1-57731-210-9.
    • The Power of Myth
      The Power of Myth
      The companion book for the series, The Power of Myth, was released in 1988 at the same time the series aired on PBS...

      . Doubleday, 1988, ISBN 0-385-24773-7.
    • Thou Art That (book)
      Thou Art That (book)
      Thou Art That is a book by Joseph Campbell exploring the mythological underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It was edited posthumously from Campbell's lectures and unpublished writing by Eugene Kennedy....

      . New World Library, 2001, ISBN 1-57731-202-3
  • Mircea Eliade
    Mircea Eliade
    Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day...

    • Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. Princeton University Press
      Princeton University Press
      -Further reading:* "". Artforum International, 2005.-External links:* * * * *...

      , 1954.
    • The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Trans. Willard R. Trask. NY: Harper & Row, 1961.
  • Louis Herbert Gray [ed.], The Mythology of All Races, in 12 vols., 1916.
  • Lucien Lévy-Bruhl
    Lucien Lévy-Bruhl
    Lucien Lévy-Brühl was a French scholar trained in philosophy, who made contributions to the budding fields of sociology and ethnology. His primary field of study involved primitive mentality....

    • Mental Functions in Primitive Societies (1910)
    • Primitive Mentality (1922)
    • The Soul of the Primitive (1928)
    • The Supernatural and the Nature of the Primitive Mind (1931)
    • Primitive Mythology (1935)
    • The Mystic Experience and Primitive Symbolism (1938)
  • Charles H. Long, Alpha: The Myths of Creation. George Braziller, 1963.
  • O'Flaherty, Wendy. Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook. London: Penguin, 1975.
  • Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, 5th edition, Prentice-Hall.
  • Santillana and Von Dechend (1969, 1992 re-issue). Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth, Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    . ISBN 0-87923-215-3.

  • Walker, Steven F. and Segal, Robert A., Jung and the Jungians on Myth: An Introduction, Theorists of Myth, Routledge (1996), ISBN 978-0-8153-2259-7.
  • Zong, In-Sob. Folk Tales from Korea. 3rd ed. Elizabeth: Hollym, 1989.

External links