Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Myths: Types and functions

Myths Series
Myth making: my plan
What are myths, legends, and folklore? Definitions (Quotes)
Joseph Cambell : Myths

In the last post, in Joseph Cambell's quotes, he brings up some interesting topics. Dreams vs myths, truth, poetry, symbols, and supernatural beings are a few of the topics he brings to the myth conversation.

Are there different types of myths?

I spend some of this post exploring this question

Types of Myths

(from In The Global Myths, by Alexander Eliot) 

  1. Primitive myths which were generally stories about nature, as told by shamans. 
  2. Pagan myths which were like the Greek and Roman tales of the interplay between deities and humans
  3. Sacred myths as in the stories from current eastern and western religions such as Christianity and Hinduism. 
  4. Scientific myths Credos, rather than hypothesis carefully tested for fit with empirical evidence. 
Okay so Eliot categorized these myths into four types. I've put in bold the key words that I find usesful: nature, deities & humans, religions, and science. I see these as broad categories. Myths cross the lines of science, nature, religion, and explanations of the powers of the universe.

Summarizing all of these, I could say that myths help explain the natural world in absence of science and explains religious and cultural deities relationships with humans.

and from David Adams Leeming's The World of Myth
  1. Cosmic myths including narratives of the creation and end of the world
  2. Theistic myths portraying the deities
  3. Hero myths with accounts of individuals such as Achilles and Jesus
  4. Place and object myths describing places such as Camelot, and objects such as the Golden Fleece

Leeming categorized myths into specific categories of creation & end of the world, deities, heroes, and place & objects. This categorization covers more the substance and content of the myths - the main cast, time, places, and objects of the myths. He uses 'narratives', 'portraying', 'accounts', and 'describing' all in similar ways for each of the content. Basically myths tell of imaginary people, events, places, things, or ideas. Imaginary in that there is no direct evidence that the accounts are correct or entirely true.

After looking at some types of myths I also want to look at another question. What are the functions of myths? Are they just stories? Or how do these stories bring meaning to our lives?

What are the functions of myths

  1. Myths grant continuity and stability to a culture.
  2. Myths present guidelines for living.
  3. Myths justify a culture's activities.
  4. Myths give meaning to life.
  5. Myths explain the unexplained.
  6. Myths offer role models.

Myths are cultural and useful to transmit knowledge on living. They help to bring meaning to cultural groups over a long period of time. They help to explain things that evidence cannot explain.

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