Back in May, I was a guest blogger on Roy Huff’s Blog OwenSage.com when I posted the article and want to share it here with you today. Roy is the author of the Everville Series and not too long ago I hosted a competition he was running for his second book in the series: The City of Worms.
To the article.
Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to Roy for inviting me to be a guest blogger on his website. It is a great honour and I hope you enjoy my post. I’m a bit of fan of mythology, especially Greek myths, but am not an expert nor purport to be one. I love the stories, have learned a great deal from them and continue to do so.
Back to the title of this post; this is a question I have been asking myself for a while now. And the conclusion I have come to is, yes. For me anyway. But first, let’s address what is mythology. If you look it up in a dictionary it states:
Mythology is a body of myths, especially one associated with a particular culture, person, etc.
Collins Concise Dictionary, 1989
I prefer Joseph Campbell’s explanation:
There is a mythology that relates you to your nature and to the natural world, of which you’re a part. And there is the mythology that is strictly sociological, linking you to a particular society.
Interview with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, 1986
He explained how ‘mythos’ played an important part in all cultures, Western and Eastern, the lessons people learned and the knowledge gained. These are still valid today. Yes, they may seem dated to our way of thinking but if you deconstruct the stories, one can link them to our daily lives.
In ancient societies where writing had not been invented, the people discovered a way to illustrate life in its many forms. They needed a way to make people understand what was happening not only in the natural world but also the actions of individuals. For example, the mythology of Herakles (Greek) or Hercules (Roman), a hero and Zeus’ son, had killed his wife and children. To atone for his behaviour he was told to complete ten tasks. He didn’t realise it was his family he slaughtered. Hera, the wife of Zeus interfered and made him temporarily insane. The aim of the story was to show the consequences of behaviour and acts of retribution.
The ancient civilisations also used mythology to explain natural disasters and anything they didn’t understand. In Greek Mythology, Poseidon was the cause of earthquakes. He would strike his trident at the Earth and cause calamity. In Norse Mythology, Loki caused earthquakes. He was punished for killing Baldr, bound in a cave with a serpent place above his head dripping venom. It was his thrashings that cause the earthquakes. Despite the differences in cultures, some mythologies had similar tales: The Sumerian epic poem Gilgamesh and the great flood are also found in the Greek myth called the Age of Deucalion. In fact, there is a great site which has compiled flood stories and their origins.
I realise these are simplified explanations of the world and the way the ancients lived. Today we have the gift of education, scientists who investigate and describe their findings, books to read and learn from, access to the internet and technology. We have the power of knowledge, yet archaeologists go out every day to explore and discover past civilisations. Why? We want to know more. I believe, and this is just what I think, these amazing ancient cultures understood the precarious balance of nature and nurture.
I love mythology, the richness and diversity of the stories created tell of times past but also show a way forward. When I talked about mythology to my students, I’d tell them the stories were a set of rules and guidelines for how people should live and to respect the power of our planet. Sadly, these oral traditions got swept aside.
To echo a question Bill Moyers put to Joseph Campbell, ‘What is our mythology?’
I would love to know your thoughts about mythology.