Myth deals with the fantastic, the supernatural, and the divine. Because of this, the function that mythology collectively played in the ancient world becomes historically more important than the interpretation of each individual myth. This discussion will be aimed at answering three basic questions about Greek mythology:. Whenever one speaks of mythology, visions of epic battles and quests of heroes and gods in a time when monsters roamed free and terrorized humankind immediately spring to mind, but myth is much more than just a fantasy story. Myth differs from fantasy in many ways. Myth can be told with the intent of being allegorical, symbolic, rational, romantic, theoretical, or analytical.
One of the things that set myth apart from other types of folk tales is the necessary auditory element, but that is not the only thing.
Fairytales are also told as pure entertainment. The poets who wrote each myth were also considered to be divinely inspired by the Muses. Thus, myths held a revered place in ancient Greece as they were seen to be divinely inspired and were meant to convey some important message about life or the gods to the people. Idealized portrayal of Homer dating to the Hellenistic period. One of the first major problems in studying mythology is determining to which field it belongs. Myth can be seen as history in that it chronicles an event that happened in the past. It is useful when setting out to assume that any given myth can simultaneously belong to all three; however, one must be wary not to take the myth at face value.
This gives rise to the second problem and returns to the poet—myth—listener triad. This raises another problem when studying mythology and that is, is the accurate version recorded? Or if multiple versions are available, which version is the original and which reflect changes that have taken place in society more than the original events? Because myth was all originally spoken, it is safe to factor in the human tendency to distort into the myth. This problem can be more easily applied to the myths about heroes rather than those about the gods because the gods were grandiose figures that had supernatural abilities anyway, whereas many heroes were at least based on actual historical figures.
Returning to the problem of the distance between when the myth took place and when it was recorded, the most obvious example of this is found in Homer. This is evidenced by the anachronisms present in his stories. Another problem that arises in the study of mythology is the problem of modernization, that is changing the story to reflect current social ideals or to address current political problems. The difference in type of myth is another problem.
When dealing with Greek myths there are two main types: Divine and Heroic. Often the gods have a cameo role in the Heroic myths, but the bulk of the story is about humankind. The last major problem the scholar of mythology runs into is not so much related to the myth as it is to the cultural differences between the society of the twentyfirst century and that of the ancient Greeks and how that difference affects our understanding of their mythologies.
Today we are a guilt-culture, meaning that how we see ourselves is what we project to other people. This is a subtle difference, but it accounts for much of what the heroes of Greek mythology do, and is essential to understanding the differences in ancient and modern interpretations of myths. Myth can be a very useful element to study for the historian, but one must always be mindful of the potential complications.
Statue of Persephone with a sistrum. Mythology served many functions in the Greek world, but not every myth served every function. Similarly, few myths served just one function. It is important to look at each function individually, as well as collectively. It is also more expedient to look at the many roles that mythology serves in every culture and society and see if the Greek myths fit this mold instead of looking at each individual myth and trying to deduce its importance to society. I believe that there are eight functions that mythology can serve in any given culture, and the Greek culture is the ideal place to apply this theory.
The first function of mythology is as history.
Mythology can be used to relate actual happenings from a time beyond memory. For example, the Iliad tells the story of a war between several pre-Greek kingdoms roughly united under a single man and the kingdom of Troy. One of the main ways that myth can be useful to historians is as inspiration for further study, such as it was for Schliemann who grew up loving the Iliad and wished to find evidence that some part of it could be true. The second function mythology serves in society is to teach the youth of the societal social norms and expectations as well as consequences of actions. Minos, the king of Crete, claimed that the gods would answer any prayer he sent to them.
To this end he asked Poseidon to send a bull to be sacrificed, but the bull that was sent was so beautiful that Minos kept it and offered another instead. This is a common theme throughout mythology. Many stories deal with the gods taking revenge on people. The third function of mythology is to explain the unexplainable, or to serve as an attempt by the ancient Greeks to make sense out of the world around them.
Hades fell in love with Core and abducted her to the underworld. After this Demeter swore that the earth would bear no fruit until she had her daughter returned to her. Zeus intervened and decreed that Core would be returned as long as she had not eaten the food of the dead.
On the trip back to Demeter, Core ate some food; therefore, a compromise had to be reached.
This, fundamentally, is the radical idea of Michael Witzel, a Harvard University linguist and philologist, who has drawn on the scientific disciplines of molecular genetics, physical anthropology, archaeology, and his own field of linguistics to propose that the world's many mythologies have a common origin — similar to the evolution of related species from a long-extinct common ancestor. Try Independent Premium free for 1 month See the options. Fuxi brought humans fire, taught them to control it, and how to use it to cook food and warm themselves. In Heliopolis , the creation was attributed to Atum , a deity closely associated with Ra, who was said to have existed in the waters of Nu as an inert potential being. Geoffrey Macnab. Gunkel, Hermann. The story is told by someone looking over it.
Core would spend three month with Hades and nine with Demeter each year. This was why during winter nothing grows. Every mythology brings different kinds of value to the community. Abrahamic mythologies seek singularity, hence collective efficiency. Indian mythologies seek plurality, hence diverse effectiveness. DP: Western mythology is far more glamorous as it establishes 'villains' and 'victims' and calls for 'heroes' to act. That is the model that is even part of many Indian mythologies. But Indian mythology is not just that. It expands the scope and speaks in terms of infinity that is more wisdom driven and less glamorous.
By its very nature, Indian mythologies cannot be 'sold' or 'propagated'. It is like water, waiting for the thirsty to come and drink.
You can at best bottle it in an attractive package, as we do in shows and books such as Devlok. But the thirsty has to pick up the bottle. No one can force it down people's throat. DP: Just tell the stories to the children. Don't judge the characters. Don't justify their actions.
Don't act like a judge or lawyer. Just tell the stories and discuss the stories, wondering on the motivations and asking why our ancestors considered certain characters to be divine and others not so divine. Parental bias is the worst thing. It destroys the power of ancient mythology as they try to sanitise and censor ancient tales.
DP: Children should see the stories as reflections of their own mind, emotions, ideas, and conflicts. There is no god and demon outside us, no hero or villain in the past. It's all here and now, in our heart and mind, and in the hearts and minds of people around us. We should be able to see how Ram and Sita and Ravana and Hanuman are located within us and wonder when one character appears, and when another disappears.
DP: Science is about measurement and experimentation and evidence.
Starting with the myths of Osiris and Isis and the Greek gods, Steiner shows how humanity has been deserted by the Gods and made independent. But it is only. Ancient Myths: Their Meaning and Connection with Evolution. Schmidt Number: S On-line since: 20th June,
Myth is about faith. They are two very different worlds.
Science is best when dealing with matter. Myth is best when dealing with mind, especially emotions and imagination. DP: Words like 'advocated' sound like propaganda. Let's leave that to the Nazis and the terrorists and fundamentalists. These worldviews exist, like memes to use the phrase of Richard Dawkins. Western mythology makes us focus on objective and achievement. Indian mythology makes us wonder on cause and consequences. Western mythology values what you are by measuring what you have.
One variant of the cosmic egg version teaches that the sun god, as primeval power, emerged from the primeval mound, which itself stood in the chaos of the primeval sea. The different creation accounts were each associated with the cult of a particular god in one of the major cities of Egypt: Hermopolis , Heliopolis , Memphis , and Thebes.
The creation myth promulgated in the city of Hermopolis focused on the nature of the universe before the creation of the world. The inherent qualities of the primeval waters were represented by a set of eight gods, called the Ogdoad. The god Nu and his female counterpart Naunet represented the inert primeval water itself; Huh and his counterpart Hauhet represented the water's infinite extent; Kek and Kauket personified the darkness present within it; and Amun and Amaunet represented its hidden and unknowable nature, in contrast to the tangible world of the living.
The primeval waters were themselves part of the creation process, therefore, the deities representing them could be seen as creator gods. From it emerged the sun, which rose into the sky to light the world. In Heliopolis , the creation was attributed to Atum , a deity closely associated with Ra, who was said to have existed in the waters of Nu as an inert potential being.
Atum was a self-engendered god, the source of all the elements and forces in the world, and the Heliopolitan myth described the process by which he "evolved" from a single being into this multiplicity of elements. The myth thus represented the process by which life was made possible.
These nine gods were grouped together theologically as the Ennead , but the eight lesser gods, and all other things in the world, were ultimately seen as extensions of Atum. The Memphite version of creation centred on Ptah , who was the patron god of craftsmen. As such, he represented the craftsman's ability to envision a finished product, and shape raw materials to create that product.
The Memphite theology said that Ptah created the world in a similar way. By speaking these names, Ptah produced the gods and all other things. The Memphite creation myth coexisted with that of Heliopolis , as Ptah's creative thought and speech were believed to have caused the formation of Atum and the Ennead. Theban theology claimed that Amun was not merely a member of the Ogdoad , but the hidden force behind all things.