Introduction to Mythology Mythos=stories 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. Mythology • 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. Mythology • 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. Mythology • 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 society/culture Mythology • 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. Mythology • 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). Mythology • 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… Mythology • 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.