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Anthropology (a) Aetiology; (b) Social Institutions; (c) Ideology; (d) Mythopoeic Thought 4. Introduction In essence mythology consists of a corpus of stories that attempt to explain not only the origins and values of a particular culture, but also the nature of the universe and humankind.
Origins of Myth (a) Theories; (b) Function; (c) Structure; (d) Euhemerism 3.
However, myths are not just stories but embody a spiritual element, so an extended definition must also accept that “…myth is not merely a narrative associated with a rite, but a narrative which with or without its associated rite, it is believed to confer life.” (Hocart, 1952). Platonists classified myths into five categories of the theological, the .
An interest in polytheistic mythology was a feature of the Renaissance of the 16th century.
Mythology as a subject includes the comparative study of myths as well as being a corpus of stories or . Mythology therefore was (a) a mythic system or collection as well as also being (b) the investigation or study of myth (Spence, 1994; Shapiro, 1979). These survivals suggest that mythology may become the “…study of a primitive or early form of religion while it was a living faith.” (Spence, 1994).
This corpus became collectively described as a science “…which treats of the early traditions, or myths, relating to the religion of the ancients, and includes, besides a full account of the origin of their gods, their theory concerning the beginning of all things.” (Guerber, 1919). in Greek “…was primarily a thing spoken, uttered by mouth” (Harrison, 1903). Mythology as the study of myths has been used since the 15th century, defined as a ‘body of myths’ by the OED in 1871. Definition The term mythology has the literal meaning of the “…study of myths, i.e., the science of the origin, the diffusion and the meaning of myths.” (Coq, 1968), and as a collective noun defining a group of myths.
Critical analyses were considered by the Greek pre-Socratic philosophers, especially Euhemerus who interpreted myths as real historical individuals and happenings altered by retellings over time. Lang who proposed “…pursue the study of myths as we study the history of other human institutions, such as law, manufacturers, arts.” (Lang, 1886). Ancient myths were rooted in the imagination and intuition rather than objective reality, and endured by identifying and explaining human propensities, the activities of primordial deities, as well as external natural phenomena.
Classifications of myth during the 19th century evolved towards science in the work of E. Tylor as well as the misinterpretation of ritual magic by Sir J. In the 20th century the psycho-analytic Jungian archetypes were introduced to myth classification, followed by the spiritual metaphors of J. In addition to common and world-wide distribution patterns, elucidated by comparative mythology, including ancestor worship and totemic beliefs (Tolstoy, 1988), myths were recognised as having “…a great aesthetic value, presenting as they do, a mine of imaginative material whose richness and beauty cannot fail to appeal to the colder sensibilities of this more prosaic age.” (Guerber, 1919). Peter Paul Rubens Myths have been classified according to similarity and implied common origins of the ideas they express (Gardner, 1917).
meaning an ’emblem’, implies speaking otherwise or discoursing differently from the original meaning.
Typical myths, which are the product of human imagination, are ritual myths, cult myths, prestige myths and the eschatological (Hooke, 1976). Types of myth include those that (1): explain ceremonial dances and cults that are told and recorded pictorially in temples and on vases and seals; (2) embellished or romanticised stories involving legendary or historical individuals; (3) the allegory that “…reads animal or human causes into natural events or seeks to explain them as the actions of supernatural persons.” (Lewis, 1969). In this sense mythology included of the ” …religious beliefs and conjectures as to the nature of things of primitive, ancient or barbarian peoples, and not with modern religious science, philosophy or theology.” (Spence, 1994). It was from the time of western philosophers Plato and the Sophists that the matter of myth became a concern.
It follows therefore in the interests of clarity that must be “…distinguished from all other things we loosely call by its name: legend, tale, fantasy, mass delusion, popular belief and illusion, and plain lie.” (Hyman, 1958). It follows that myth is “…not an intellectual explanation or an artistic imagery, but a pragmatic charter of primitive faith and moral wisdom.” (Malinowski, 1926), whereby truths and interest in myths cannot be reduced to historical veracity., despite the existence of “…iconographic and oral records.” (Graves, 1979). As a general rule myths are historical fiction and the essential truth underlying myth “…is the fact that it embodies a situation of profound emotional significance…” (Hooke, 1935), which defines myth as a “…traditional story, accompanying rituals, a story with a definite plot, purporting to tell of occasions when some institution or cult, or certain rites and festivals, had their beginning, and of the original act which set the precedent…” (Fontenrose, 1971). For them the central problem was the explanation of the relationship between myth and traditional religious beliefs, hence the attempt at “…reconciliation by interpreting the traditional myths or theogonic tales as allegories revealing naturalistic and moral truths.” (Bidney, 1958).
Myths were the traditional echoes of a supposed ‘mythopoeic age’ as well as of past historical periods. Myths may also present insights into archetypal types within human experience implying that such “…mythic discourse deals in master categories that have multiple referents: levels of the cosmos, terrestrial geogrpahies, plant and animal species, logical categories and the like.” (Bruce, 2006).
Myths, because of their commonality were believed to contain a substantial amount of truth. In this sense myths becomes a reflection of the search for meaning as well their narratives revealing deep human spiritual insights that have lasted for millennia.Introduction (a) Etymology; (b) Definition; (c) Classification 2.