Mythology, are the Stories Still Valid Today?

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.

Prometheus Gustave Moreau 1868

Prometheus
Gustave Moreau 1868


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.

Loki and Sigyn Marten Eskil Winge 1890

Loki and Sigyn
Marten Eskil Winge 1890

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.

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6 thoughts on “Mythology, are the Stories Still Valid Today?

  1. Great post on the importance of mythology for a culture’s identity and universal lessons that each of us can learn from these stories.

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  2. Great post. I too love mythology and you are correct it was a way for the ancient people to try and understand the natural world around them.

    I too teach the children at school a bit about mythology and it is interesting that you used Prometheus as one of you images. His story is always the first story I tell them when I introduce the subject of mythology. I myself see him as the creator of humans, humanity’s champion and the first teacher. The children always love to hear me recite that tale and I do not use a book but I tell them the story.

    Mythology is very relevant today because the stories tell us where we came from and who we were and are. Their stories might be dated but there are still lessons to be learned because no matter how many generations have passed, people make the same mistakes. Perhaps understanding our own past and these mythical stories, people may one day learn for them and hopefully not make the same mistakes.

    Again, great post.

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    • Thank you ever so much Paul! You must be a fantastic teacher and storyteller. Passion is very much part of the telling and in educating. Your students are very lucky.
      I use to do the same, except my students were in high school. They appreciated the stories and would ask questions which I took as a good sign they were listening!

      You are correct in saying in ‘understanding our past will help us to learn and avoid making the same mistakes.’ It seems though we’ve still a lot to learn from our ancestors.

      Thank you for the awesome comment Paul. 😀

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  3. I agree with Paul. Mythology, and the stories which echo through the ages, are as important as text book history in defining how, as people, we’ve come to understand the world around us. It’s still very much relevant. After all, if we lose our connection with the past, how can we know who we are today and envision who we wish to be tomorrow?

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    • You are so right Kate! Some have forgotten the importance of mythology in our lives, after all we do create our own here and now. For me, mythology has given me a richer and broader perspective on life, and I’m still learning!
      Thank you for the wonderful comment Kate 😀

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