Introduction to Myth:
Mythos – Greek word for story (not necessarily true or false)
Mythology – the study of myths
Primitive people needed to make stories/myths in an effort to understand what was going on in their world. Humans are the only beings with a need to understand things; a dog doesn’t think “why me??”. Primitive people, when scared, hurt, depressed, created myths to explain their pain or discomfort.
All cultures make myths in their early development.
Around 1200 B.C., ancient Greeks began to take written history and to make rational and logical stories. Myth-making came to an end once this began.
Myths “illustrate” the truth, much as Jesus did in his parables. He did not give an exact point, but told a story that showed what he meant. Myths may not tell the literal truth, but they illustrate human nature and human experience.
Max Müller – concluded that all ancient myths are about nature and natural phenomenon.
Carl Jung – noted that same kinds of myths turn up in all different cultures, such as each culture having their own version of the Great Flood. He developed his theory of the Collective Unconscious – that all humans are born with these same ideas in their brains, lying deep and unconscious. He said that myths explore these deep ideas of the collective unconscious.
Claude Levi-Strauss – research on human brain, that different sides were responsible for different functions. Noted that the body is binary (2 arms, 2 ears, 2 legs…) and says that we think in pairs with ideas (on & off, right & wrong, good & evil, yes & no). They are pairs of opposites in conflict with each other. Levi-Strauss says that man’s entire experience is based on conflict, and that myths present the conflicts, then resolve them within the story.
The 20th century was in ways spent examining and interpreting the ideas of the 19th century. Despite technological strides, it has been said that no ideas came from the 20th century. For example, 20th century scholars spent their lives working on the 19th century ideas of Darwin, Marx and Freud.
Sigmund Freud – all human nature is driven by sex. Freud started psychotherapy. He turned his focus to myths and concluded that all myths are about sex and are a way of revealing sexual fears and desires without having to confront them every day.
Characters: Zeus, Semele, Hera
Zeus – lord and king of the gods. Constantly making love to females of all kinds. In this story, Zeus is making love to Semele. But Zeus is married to his sister, Hera, who always finds out about his infidelities. Hera disguises herself as an old human woman and visits Semele, who confesses that not only is she making time with Zeus, but that he love her more than his own wife! Hera says that no, he doesn’t, because with his own wife, he appears to her as he really is – as an almighty god. Usually, Zeus appears as a human – tall, strong, distinguished, a little bit of gray. So the next time Zeus comes around, Semele asks him to appear as he really is. Zeus denies her, saying that she doesn’t want to see that. So she bitches and moans until he gives in, makes love to her, and appears to her as the god that he is – at which point she is immediately destroyed by a bolt of lightning.
That story can be analyzed by the four theories listed above. Is any single theory correct? Are none of them correct? 1. Müller’s Nature Theory – because primitive people are in constant contact and conflict with nature. Zeus is the ultimate god, even over the god of thunder, and they find thunder frightening. Lightning is Zeus’ weapon, and experiencing a lightning bolt is the closest that they could get to Zeus. So to them, a lightning bolt IS Zeus. Getting struck by lightning is getting hit by Zeus. That’s where nature comes in. Zeus is frequently depicted with a lightning bolt. 2. Jung’s Collective Unconscious – two of his ideas – Anima and Animus....
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