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Definition of Myth quoted from Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein  Myth is a constant among all human beings in all times. The patterns, stories, even details.

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Presentation on theme: "Definition of Myth quoted from Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein  Myth is a constant among all human beings in all times. The patterns, stories, even details."— Presentation transcript:

1 Definition of Myth quoted from Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein  Myth is a constant among all human beings in all times. The patterns, stories, even details contained in myth are found everywhere and among everyone. This is because myth is a shared heritage of ancestral memories, related consciously from generation to generation. Myth may even be part of the structure of our unconscious mind, possibly encoded in our genes.  Myth is a telling of events that happen before written history and of a sense of what is to come. Myth is the thread that holds past, present, and future together.

2 Definition of Myth quoted from Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein  Myth is a unique use of language that describes the realities beyond our five senses. It fills the gap between the images of the unconscious and the language of conscious logic.  Myth is the “glue” that holds societies together; it is the basis of identity for communities, tribes, and nations.  Myth is an essential ingredient in all codes of moral conduct. The rules for living have always derived their legitimacy from their origins in myth and religion.  Myth is a pattern of beliefs that give meaning to life. Myth enables individuals and societies to adapt to their respective environments with dignity and value.

3 Definitions of Myth "In common parlance, a myth is an 'old wives' tale,' a generally accepted belief unsubstantiated by fact.” --David Adams Leeming, The World of Myth (3) "Mythology is the study of whatever religious or heroic legends are so foreign to a student's experience that he cannot believe them to be true.... Myth has two main functions. The first is to answer the sort of awkward questions that children ask, such as: 'Who made the world? How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death?'.... The second function of myth is to justify an existing social system and account for traditional rites and customs.” --Robert Graves, "Introduction," New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (v) "Myths are things that never happened but always are.” --Sallustius, 4th cent. A.D. (quoted in Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden)

4 Definitions of Myth taken from Michael Webster’s online notes: Definitions of Myth taken from Michael Webster’s online notes: "'The thing you should all remember,' said Mrs. Dancey, my teacher, 'is that myths never really change. Sometimes they're garbled and they certainly appear in different guises to different people who recount them. But the basic legends don't alter. We're talking about truths.'” --Edward Bryant, "Good Kids" “The Myth, in a primitive society, that is in its original living form, is not just a tale. It is a reality. These stories are of an original, greater, more important reality through which the present life, fate, and mankind are governed. This knowledge provides man with motives for rituals and moral acts.” -Veronica Ions, The World's Mythology (6) "A myth is a narrative which discloses a sacred world.” --Lawrence J. Hatab, Myth and Philosophy (19)

5 Definitions of Myth "By knowing the myth, one knows the 'origin' of things and hence can control and manipulate them at will.” --W. Taylor Stevenson, History as Myth (17) "Myth purports to offer an adequate explanation for everything--for the elements and laws of nature, for social structure, ethics and the dynamics of the individual psyche.” --Norman Austin, Meaning and Being in Myth (2) "Myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance” --Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (23). The elements of mythical thought... lie half-way between percepts and concepts.” --Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (18)

6 Definitions of Myth “Mythology is the womb of mankind's initiation to life and death.” --Joseph Campbell, "Bios and Mythos” "Greek mythology is largely made up of stories about gods and goddesses, but it must not be read as a kind of Greek Bible, an account of the Greek religion. According to the most modern idea, a real myth has nothing to do with religion. It is an explanation of something in nature: how, for instance, anything and everything came into existence; men animals, this or that tree or flower... Myths are early science, the result of men's first trying to explain what they saw around them. But there are many so-called myths that explain nothing at all. These tales are pure entertainment, the sort of thing people would tell one another on a long winter's evening.... But religion is here, too.” --Edith Hamilton, Mythology (19)

7 Interpreting Myth taken from Michael Webster’s online notes: Interpreting Myth taken from Michael Webster’s online notes:  Many scholars believe myths may have different levels of meaning. Myths can be interpreted on both a literal and symbolic level Myths can be interpreted on both a literal and symbolic level They can serve a variety of purposes They can serve a variety of purposes  NOTE: In this class, we will all respect individual beliefs while also exploring the numerous ways of reading, interpreting, and understanding religious stories. (a bit more on this later)

8 Interpreting Myth Myths can serve As a belief systemAs a belief system As a disguised historyAs a disguised history As disguised philosophy or allegoryAs disguised philosophy or allegory As fables illustrating moral truthsAs fables illustrating moral truths As allegories or natural eventsAs allegories or natural events

9 Interpreting Myth Myths can serve (cont.): As pre-scientific explanationAs pre-scientific explanation As charters for customs, institutions, or beliefsAs charters for customs, institutions, or beliefs As religious power or metaphors for the unknownAs religious power or metaphors for the unknown As expressions of religious ritualsAs expressions of religious rituals As examples of psychological stereotypesAs examples of psychological stereotypes As storiesAs stories As embodying irreconcilable structural conflicts in social systemsAs embodying irreconcilable structural conflicts in social systems

10 Some final notes “If we think of myths as true, if we believe in them (way #1), then obviously, we are thinking in religious terms. But belief is also psychological: some say humans need to believe in some power greater than themselves. Others, like [author] Joseph Campbell, see the origins of myth and religion in the psychological response of early man to the trauma of death. Thus, belief in a greater power arises when humans are faced with the mystery of what happens after death.” --Michael Webster “There is no final system for the interpretation of myths, and there never will be any such thing.” --Joseph Campbell


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