Mythology: An Overview
Though there are many different definitions for myth, the basic idea is that myths are stories that have been passed down in a traditional way, over many generations about divine beings and heroes, and they are linked to spiritual and/or religious life of a society. Myths are used to explain the universe and society beginnings (creation myths and founding myths), unexplainable natural phenomena, and anything else we can't explain in a simple way. Myths are very closely connected with the religions of the world. Myths are not simply true or false, they refer to a spiritual, psychological or symbolical notion of truth. We can talk about a Hindu mythology, a Christian mythology, or an Islamic mythology, and we can describe the mythic elements within these different faiths, without implying in any way that the truth of the faith's doctrine or claims about its history. Religion and mythology are very different, but yet they have overlapping aspects. Both deal with supernatural or sacred stories, and the values and faiths based upon them. In an interview with Bill Moyer, Joseph Campbell mentions four functions for myth: Mystical, Cosmological, Sociological, and pedagogical. The first two are used more for the explanation of the unexplainable or supernatural. The second two mentioned are more for the instruction of how a society should act and how an individual should act within a society. Though there are many different definitions of myths the main texts we are using in this class define myth as follows. According to World Mythology 3rd Edition by Donna Rosenberg myths show us the importance of living a life to its fullest and the spirituality we need to make it though. "They depict humans as integral part of a larger universe, and they impart a feeling of awe for all the mysterious and marvelous in life." Myths are an important way to understand ourselves; we gain insight into our own attitudes and values. The world's greatest epics reflect...
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