Introduction to Mythology

Introduction to Mythology
logy=the study of
Why study mythology?
Myths are humanity’s earliest imaginative
attempt to explain the universe, its creation,
and its writing. The study of the mythology of a
particular culture reveals the way of life and
thought of that culture. Since Western
Civilization traces its roots back to Greek culture,
it would seem that a knowledge of classical
mythology is essential.
• Also, literature is filled with allusions to
Greek gods and goddesses. Artists and
sculptors throughout the ages have used
mythological stories as subjects. The modern
world, while seemingly far removed from
Greek culture, has only to turn on the TV to
see mythology come alive.
• Myths are a reflection of the culture that
gave rise to them. Through myths, cultures
often explore and express the way people
think about themselves and the world. The
myths therefore give us insight into how the
ancient Greeks and Romans thought and felt
about nature, society, gender, and many other
aspects of their culture.
• Myths are generally stories that have been
handed down for generations and are
popular tales that embody a collective
knowledge. Myths belong to a primitive or
pre-scientific people as their cultural heritage.
• What are the functions of mythology?
• The reasons for myth making vary, but the four
primary functions of myths are as follows:
To entertain
To morally instruct
To explain the unexplainable
To reveal our deepest hopes and fears as a
• To entertain
• Storytelling was a valuable skill. Myths are
stories and stories get told. Stories that are
passed down from one generation to the
next are stories told in the oral tradition. In
places and times where people don’t use
written language, oral tradition is a way of
preserving knowledge.
• To morally instruct (religious function)
Myths can explain the correct form of behavior,
explain customs and traditions, codes, or laws to
follow. If a person did not follow the law, he or she
would be punished. The gods looked favorably on
the faithful and rewarded them accordingly. Many
myths have a didactic purpose (just like some
stories in the Bible).
• To explain the unexplainable
The Greeks attempted to provide an aetiology
(the study of first causes, origins) for everything in
nature. A lot of these occurrences in nature are
answered by science today, but we can understand
how they baffled the Greeks. The Greeks sought to
answer not just the small questions, but the big
ones as well. Ex. Where did we come from ( a
universal phenomenon, or cultural question)?
How was the world created, etc…
• To reveal our deepest hopes/fears as a society.
• Fairy tales, fables usually address our hopes and
desires as a culture.
• Ex. Cinderella motif
• Urban legends address our fears as a culture.