Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Central Elements in Mythologies

List and discuss two specific elements of any kind of real-world mythology or fictional world that you think are particularly central or important to it. Why do these elements strike you as particularly interesting or important? What do these two elements say about the culture that gave rise to them?


Vana said...

I believe some important elements of mythology are that it is reflective of humanity and that it helps humans understand their world. For example, the Greek gods may be immortal, but they behave like mortal men - making fools of themselves, messing stuff up, cheating on their wives, etc. This reflects the state of mankind as well. Additionally, a god that throws lightning bolts or one that drives a fiery chariot across the sky or one who's anger creates hurricanes is the attempt of humans to understand their world. These aspects of mythology are important because they lend insight into the cultures and peoples that created the myths.

Lórien said...

Two elements of mythology that I see as being particularly important are man's relationship with nature, and the central conflict of good and evil. In every culture we see both of these things, and they tend to reflect a culture's superstitions, history, and geography.

Consider ancient Egypt. In comparison to other cultures, such as Greek, Roman, and Norse, Egypt's gods are fairly docile. They are not nearly as capricious and ill-tempered as most gods. The explanation for this contrast lies in Egypt's geographical location. Each year, the Nile floods like clockwork. In observing their surroundings, the Egyptians came to rely on this annual flood to replenish nutrients in their soil. They came to the conclusion that their gods must be on the more reasonable, benevolent side.

Just because their gods were more tame than others doesn't mean their mythology is without conflict. Like any good ancient mythology, there has to be trickster. In Norse culture it is Loki, in Greek stories it is often Hermes. For Egypt the trickster is Set, god of storms and violence. The trickster is often the source of chaos and disorder, but they are not always the bad guy in the end. The story of Set is very complicated, and its origin is unclear. Many believe that conflict between Set and his nephew Horus reflects actual historic events in which Egypt experienced internal power struggles. Despite often negative portrayal, Set uses conflict to restore a balance to Egypt in which he rules over the desert and Horus rules over the soil. Conflict is important to all cultures as it prevents any one person from gaining too much power.

Manwë said...

I think that the most important elements of mythology, at least real-world mythology, would be that myths were made to teach people morals and explain the whys of the world. These elements are essential as they are the basis of just about every myth- whether it is an explanation of the creation of the world, an explanation of a natural disaster, or simply trying to illustrate a certain cultures beliefs on what is right and wrong. The manifestation of these elements is essential to gaining insight into the culture that created them- many cultures revere different aspects of nature and such regard emphasizes what that culture found most valued. Native Americans, for example, have many myths regarding corn- corn was of course the most valuable of crops and its importance is presented as such in these myths. Moral aspects of myths are also important as insight into culture as these myths encapsulate just what certain groups of people deem deviant or wrong and often illustrate the consequences of such actions- this not only demonstrates a groups beliefs but also further strengths such beliefs within their own people.