A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong (Book Review)

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A Short History of Myth |
Karen Armstrong|
|
A review written by Rajarshi looking into the mythical heroes and their relevance through our history mentioned in the book. Submitted to Mr. Anil Persaud.| |
By Rajarshi (S122E0137)|
2/22/2013|
|

A Short History of Myth
Myth has always been a part of our lives, and affected the human mind and thought process in various ways. As Karen Armstrong said, “When Freud and Jung began to chart the modern quest for the soul, they instinctively turned to classical mythology to explain their insights, and gave the old myths a new interpretation.”[] From the age of Neanderthals even till today we speak of a divine realm and a person, a messiah, a hero and person who brings hope not in human but a psychological form. From Jesus to Oedipus and Narcissism to Moses and Gilgamesh every one of them survived their period and brought out a heroic personality of a person. Human beings are unique in retaining the capacity for play. Unless they are living in the artificial conditions of captivity, other animals lose their early sense of fun when they encounter harsh realities of life in the wild.[] To survive that harsh world a person needs someone to look up to, and hence I would like to follow the thought of hero throughout the book.

In the Palaeolithic period mythology was and essential to their survival as the hunting weapons and skills they evolved in order to kill their prey and achieve a degree of control over their environment. [] The very first vision of a hero who achieved the power of ascent was the shaman of the hunting groups; they provided the hunters with a vision and gave it a spiritual meaning. He flew through air and communed with gods for the sake of his people. [] The Shaman was the chief representative of the hunting societies and he travelled through world and cosmic realities to please the lords and to protect his own society. One of the examples of this heroic act can be, in Greenland, the Eskimos believed that the seals belong to goddess, who is called the Mistress of Animals. When there is a shortage of game, the shaman is dispatched to appease her and end the famine. []

Even though the shaman gave them relief and shelter, the hunters still faced guilt after a successful expedition. Because, even if they didn’t want the animal to be killed it was their soul mode of survival and even after the hunts, they collected the bone of the animal to reconstruct the animal for it to have a new life. [] To provide shelter from this psychological trauma a myth of the hero was created where he embarked a journey away from their tribe and went through a divine dark passage with death defying monsters and dies to find a new beginning to his life. The people of the tribe told these myths not to entertain the people but the mere fact of telling a myth is what we have to do if we want to become a fully human person. Every single one of us has to be a hero at some time in our lives. [] And to do this, one must give up everything and descents into darkness to find his true self, and so was the myth of heroes had to do.

The new Neolithic myths continued to force people to face up to the reality of death. [] The mother Goddess was not a gentle figurine but was and aggressive and who is struggling and battling the forces of nature. They considered the birth of a seed was as dangerous as giving birth to a child as it put both the lives of mother and child in danger. [] The concept of death still thrived and the myth of hunters going into a death defying journey changed to the concept of mother earth dying and comes back to life as a new seed. The Mother Earth became a symbol of female heroism, in myths that speak ultimately of balance and restored harmony. [] The myth of Anat and Baal clearly specified the struggle and the difficulty which in faced by mother Earth and the immense battle of Mot and Baal and the sexual reunion of Baal and Anat represents the whole act...
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