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What is mythology?

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 myths

Myths 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 story, 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 Roman mythology, Greek mythology, and Norse mythology.

 

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 examples.

Modern mythology

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.



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