Myths are stories that comprise ancient civilisations beliefs about the origin of the universe and natural phenomena, allmighty gods and legendary heroes. At least, that’s what the book definition says. If we look a little deeper, isn’t just about ancient cultures, but modern ones, too, because our world is based itself upon the same myths, same beliefs, deeply rooted in our culture, yet in a different form. It’s about the same essence kept inside different bottles, depending of the period of time. You get the idea. So, recently, I recently read about a classification and a clarification well thought about myths of the world – surprisingly, these myths managed to organize so well the old societies, much better than politics nowadays! From olimpian gods to indian wisdom and hierarchy, from african magic to romanian fables, we must catch the essence. Our world born itself from tales which built past cultures and still create actual societies and they will still form another ones. We need myths in order to describe the unknown, to give form to the universe and to describe who we are.
Stories about who we are
There are 4 big trends, apparently, of myths of the world, from ancient to contemporary.
The Creation Myth
It is the root from which all started. The Beginning. It brings into question the existence of the first Gods. Many anthropologists talk about the ambivalent god (both man and woman) who divided with time, from Primal Egg to Father and Mother. We find this myth as structure in different language and story, in Jewish, Muslim and Christian culture and closely resembles the myth of Adam and Eve. For instance, in Ancient Greece, the first gods were the Titans, but too little is known about these gigantic and fierceful creatures.
The Myth of Mother
Archaeological evidence such as cave drawings, ancient sculptures which took over the female form (Venus of Willendorg dating from 25.000 B.C. Austria), objects of worshipping female fertility come to prove this myth was the strongest in very ancient cultures. Those rituals, incantations, songs and dancing praising the supreme power of women also suggests that this myth appeared long before the classical gods and preceded the Myth of Father . Moreover, many experts believe that the Woman was the one who reigned over societies, tribes and old forms of civilisation. In time, the leader became the Father, who represented bigger societies, where hunting, war and ierarchy of power became the center of their lives.
The Myth of Father
It occurs mainly in classical tales. We already know masculine names attributed to planets like Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, which explain natural phenomena, feelings, human skills or faults: we know about Norse gods like Odin, Thor, Loki, Frey, Balder – brought to life in so many movies nowadays. We know about Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – although it’s not defined by masculinity or femininity. What’s interesting is that in vikings myths, norse gods are closer to humanity than others in various cultures. That’s because they appear as a big dysfunctional family, characterized by such masculinity, adventures, cruel fights, vanity, unusual marriages between gods and such powerful forces behind them. Today, our daily life is governed somehow by these myths, without even notice: Tyr gave his name to Tuesday, Odin to Wednesday, Thor to Thursday, Frey to Friday.
They have always existed and even got greater importance in contemporary culture, leaving deities in the background of an almost forgotten history. Nymphs, fairies, nature spirits, angels and half-human half-animal creatures, dwarves, dragons, elves and, long story short, almost every character in books like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series. Some people love them, others hate them and some admire them as guardian angles, tattoos on their bodies, while others mock them. One reason mythical creatures began to gain more popularity and respect nowadays could be that we tend to pay attention more to hidden meanings, not to all that jazz they come with. We love mistery, we love the unusual, the “disadvantaged” souls, the good part in the bad guy, because we tend to identify and emphatize much more with lost souls and minor characters in every tale. Thery’re fascinating, imperfect and vulnerable. Just like everyone of us. Mythological creatures are, somehow, old cousins, friends and stepbrothers in our modern family of tales and myths.
Products of legends, they remain hooked even now in old rural traditions and customs, in the heart of the old villages where paganism mixes with sacredness. Besides, in our actual social beliefs, these creatures managed to thrive following the same structure myths did, emerging strongly in art and literature and most of all.. in movies. Molded by social, moral, religious codes, our favorite creatures are coming to life…
Psychological meanings of myths
Myth = as a representation of the psyche, the soul, emotions, elements of nature and power. Mythlogical culture was formed as a representation of what makind couldn’t unexplain. Greek gods represented love, war, earth (“men are from mars, women are from venus” sort of) ; myth becomes, in this way, a metaphor, an explanation.
Myth as an archetype; Jung took some freudian concepts and developed archetypal psychology. We have Gods and Creatures as human typologies sharing same experiences of people from the past to the present. Our heroes are the symbol of our strength, the demons share our vulnerabilities, fears and dangers we’re able to create; archetypes, as Jung said, resides especially in our collective unconsciousness of today’s society – we swim in a pool of archetypes: our cells misteriously connect, our hearts beat in the same ways, we feel joy in our body when we’re awake and when we’re asleep – all of these are common, yet unconscious.
Myth as a necessity. Human nature need myths in order to exist. The story in itself becomes a reminder of the most important life events, passed through our psychological and emotional filters.