What is mythology?
Mythology can be described as a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs
associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered.
Every civilisation (for want of a better word) had its myths, some of
which are still remembered and some which have passed into obscurity.
The trouble with myths is that they are usually documented by people with
a vested interest in perpetuating their version of the myth regardless of any and all
scientific evidence that they could be pure supposition. I mean, if you weren't
there at the time then how do you know what really happened?
On the other hand most of these myths have been handed down from
generation to generation - so I believe that there must be something to them.
Traditional mythsMyths are generally stories based on tradition and legend designed to
allow the local 'mystic' to explain
the universal creation, localised beginnings, natural phenomena, inexplicable cultural conventions, and anything else for which no simple explanation presents itself.
However, not all myths need have this explicatory purpose.
Now, a lot of myths involve a supernatural force or deity, but many
simple legends and narratives passed down orally from generation to generation
also have some mythic content.
Fairy tales, such as those written by the Brothers Grimm demonstrated
that there can be mystical content embedded even in the least promising
but a fairy tale itself is not a myth. Neither are fables or biblical yarns
which are stories with a moral.
However enhanced history such as
The Song of Roland
which is a heroic poem based on the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778 have a certain mythology attached to them.
Sir James George Frazer's mythography
The Golden Bough
a study in Magic and Religion goes a long way to ascertaining that a myth is generated by many cultural needs.
Mythology figures prominently in most religions,
and most mythology is tied to at least one religion. Some people use the words "myth"
and "mythology" to portray the stories of one or more religions as false, or
dubious at best.
The term is most often used in this sense to describe religions
founded by ancient societies, such as
Greek mythology, and
Some people, especially within "revealed" religions that are justified in
terms of an authenticated scripture, may take offense at the characterization of
any aspect of their faith as an expression of myth.
An aspect of fundamentalism requires
that every incidental element be accepted as literally true. However, most people concur
that every religion has a body of
myths that express truths that are much deeper than on the surface level.
For our purposes we will use the word "mythology" to
refer to stories that, while they may or may not be strictly factual, reveal
fundamental truths and insights about human nature, most often through the use of
Television series like Star Trek
and Warehouse 13 can
have strong mythological aspects. However these programs are not mythological, but contain mystic themes
that, for some people, meet the same psychological needs.
An excellent example
of this is that developed by
J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings
(1954-1955) and The Silmarillion (1977).
Fiction, however, does not reach the level of actual mythology until people
believe that it really happened. For example, some people believe that The Da
Vinci Code (2003) was based upon a true story, and dozens of new stories have
grown up around the premise (read the book - DO NOT watch the film).
The same can possibly be said for the Blair
Witch Project and many other stories.
Fortunately, mythology is alive and well in the modern age through urban
legends, scientific mythology, and many, many other ways.