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Myth is a
folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition a ...
consisting of
narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfiction Nonfiction (also spelled non-fiction) is any document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized repre ...

narrative
s that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or
origin myth An origin myth is a myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or supernatural humans. ...
s. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as
gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel An angel is a supernatural ...

gods
,
demigod 250px, " Cuchulain Slays the Hound of Culain", illustration by Stephen Reid (artist), Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's ''The Boys' Cuchulain'', 1904 A demigod or demi-god is a minor deity, or a mortal or immortal who is the offspring of a Deity, ...
s, and other
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such beings, including , , , , and . Th ...

supernatural
figures. Simpson, Jacqueline, and
Steve Roud Steve Roud (; born 1949) is the creator of the Roud Folk Song Index The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of around 250,000 references to nearly 25,000 songs collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. It i ...

Steve Roud
, eds. 2003. "Myths." In ''A Dictionary of English Folklore''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. .
However, others also include humans, animals, or combinations in their classification of myth. Stories of everyday human beings, although often of leaders of some type, are usually contained in
legend A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, tra ...

legend
s, as opposed to myths. Myths are sometimes distinguished from legends in that myths deal with gods, usually have no historical basis, and are set in a world of the remote past, very different from that of the present. Myths are often endorsed by secular and religious authorities and are closely linked to
religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...

religion
or
spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of design ...

spirituality
. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. In particular,
creation myth A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an , , or . Symbols allow people to go beyond what is n or seen by creating linkages between otherwis ...
s take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its later form. Other myths explain how a society's
customs Vienna Convention road sign for customs Customs is an authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds every ...
,
institutions Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to social mechanism, mechanisms which govern the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community, and are ide ...

institutions
, and
taboos A taboo is an implicit prohibition on something (usually against an utterance or behavior) based on a cultural sense that it is excessively repulsive or, perhaps, too sacred for ordinary people.''Encyclopædia Britannica Online''.Taboo. Encyclopæ ...
were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and the enactment of rituals. The term ''mythology'' may either refer to the study of myths in general, or a body of myths regarding a particular subject. The study of myth began in
ancient history Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0
"History"
from ...

ancient history
. Rival classes of the
Greek myths Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of the world, the lives ...
by
Euhemerus Euhemerus (; also spelled Euemeros or Evemerus; grc, Εὐήμερος ''Euhēmeros'', "happy; prosperous"; late fourth century BC) was a Greek mythographer Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a s ...
,
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
, and
Sallustius Sallustius or Sallust (; grc, Σαλούστιος ''Saloustios'') was a 4th-century writer, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian. He wrote the treatise ''On the Gods and the Cosmos'', a kind of catechism of 4th-century Hellenic paganism. Sall ...
were developed by the
Neoplatonists Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic Plato's influence on Western culture was so profound that several different concepts are linked by being called Platonic or Platonist, for accepting some assumptions of Platonism, but which do not imply accep ...
and later revived by
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...

Renaissance
mythographers. Today, the study of myth continues in a wide variety of academic fields, including
folklore studies Folklore studies, also known as folkloristics, and occasionally tradition studies or folk life studies in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Us ...
,
philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
,
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...

psychology
, and
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
. Moreover, the academic comparisons of bodies of myth are known as
comparative mythology Comparative mythology is the comparison of myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, ...
. Since the term ''myth'' is widely used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narrative as a myth can be highly controversial: many adherents of religions view their own religion's stories as
true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherw ...

true
, and therefore object to those stories being characterized as myths, while seeing the stories of other religions as being myth. As such, some scholars label all religious narratives as ''myths'' for practical reasons, such as to avoid depreciating any one tradition because cultures interpret each other differently relative to one another. Other scholars avoid using the term "myth" altogether and instead utilize different terms like "sacred history", "holy story", or simply "history" to avoid placing pejorative overtones on any sacred narrative.


Definitions


Myth

Definitions of ''myth'' vary to some extent among scholars, though Finnish
folklorist Folklore studies, also known as folkloristics, and occasionally tradition studies or folk life studies in the United Kingdom, is the branch of anthropology devoted to the study of folklore. This term, along with its synonyms, gained currency in ...
Lauri Honko Lauri Olavi Honko (born in Hanko 6 March 1932, died in Turku 15 July 2002) was a Finnish professor of folklore studies and comparative religion. Life and work Honko was a disciple of Martti Haavio. His 1959 doctoral dissertation at the Universit ...
offers a widely-cited definition: Another definition of myth comes from myth criticism theorist and professor . According to Cultural myth criticism, the studies of myth must understand and explain a global and imaginary reality and be able to better understand contemporary culture. Scholars in other fields use the term ''myth'' in varied ways. In a broad sense, the word can refer to any
traditional storyTraditional stories, or stories about tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the ...
, popular misconception or
imaginary Imaginary may refer to: * Imaginary (sociology), a concept in sociology * The Imaginary (psychoanalysis), a concept by Jacques Lacan * Imaginary number, a concept in mathematics * Imaginary time, a concept in physics * Imagination, a mental faculty ...

imaginary
entity. However, while myth and other folklore genres may overlap, myth is often thought to differ from genres such as
legend A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, tra ...

legend
and folktale in that neither are considered to be
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male ...

sacred
narratives. Some kinds of folktales, such as fairy stories, are not considered true by anyone, and may be seen as distinct from myths for this reason. Main characters in myths are usually
gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel An angel is a supernatural ...

gods
,
demigod 250px, " Cuchulain Slays the Hound of Culain", illustration by Stephen Reid (artist), Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's ''The Boys' Cuchulain'', 1904 A demigod or demi-god is a minor deity, or a mortal or immortal who is the offspring of a Deity, ...
s or
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such beings, including , , , , and . Th ...

supernatural
humans, while legends generally feature humans as their main characters. However, many exceptions or combinations exist, as in the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an in , traditionally attributed to . Usually considered to have been written down circa the 8th century BC, the ''Iliad'' i ...

Iliad
'', ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following pe ...
'' and ''
Aeneid The ''Aeneid'' ( ; la, Aenē̆is ) is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
''. Moreover, as stories spread between cultures or as faiths change, myths can come to be considered folktales, their divine characters recast as either as humans or demihumans such as
giants Giant or Giants may refer to: Mythology and religion *Giant **Giants (Greek mythology) **Giants (Norse mythology) **Giants (Welsh folklore) **Giants (esotericism) **Nephilim, a Hebrew term loosely translated as giants in some Bibles Arts, ente ...
,
elves An elf (plural: ''elves'') is a type of humanoid supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. In medieval Germanic languages, Germanic-speaking cultures, elves seem generally to have been thought of as beings with magical powers an ...

elves
and
faerie Fairyland (''Faerie'', Scottish mythology, Scottish ''Elfame'', c.f. Norse Mythology, Old Norse ''Álfheimr'') in English and Scottish folklore is the fabulous land or abode of fairy, fairies or ''fays''. Old French (Early Modern English ) referre ...
s. Conversely, historical and literary material may acquire mythological qualities over time. For example, the
Matter of Britain The Matter of Britain is the body of medieval literature Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages (that is, the one thousand years from the fa ...
(the legendary history of Great Britain, especially those focused on
King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin Arthur, kw, Arthur Gernow, br, Roue Arzhur) was a Legend, legendary Celtic Britons, British leader who, according to Historians in England during the Middle Ages, medieval histories and Romance (heroic literature), ...

King Arthur
and ) and the
Matter of France The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France, in particular involving Charlemagne and his associates. The cycle springs from the Old French ''chanso ...
, seem distantly to originate in historical events of the 5th and 8th-centuries respectively, and became mythologised over the following centuries. In colloquial use, the word ''myth'' can also be used of a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact, or any false story.Myth
" ''
Lexico Lexico is an online dictionary website that provides a collection of English and Spanish dictionaries produced by Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press 200px, The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which u ...
''. Oxford:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is g ...

Oxford University Press
. 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020. § 2.
This usage, which is often
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning ...
, arose from labelling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well. However, as commonly used by
folklorists Folklore studies, also known as folkloristics, and occasionally tradition studies or folk life studies in the United Kingdom, is the branch of anthropology devoted to the study of folklore. This term, along with its synonyms,According to Alan Du ...
and academics in other relevant fields, such as
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
, the term ''myth'' has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise. Among biblical scholars of both the Old and New Testament, the word "myth" has a technical meaning, in that it usually refers to "describe the actions of the other‐worldly in terms of this world" such as the Creation and the Fall.


Mythology

In present use, ''mythology'' usually refers to the collected myths of a group of people. For example,
Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psyc ...
,
Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the Latin literature, literature and Roman art, visual arts of the Romans. One of a wide variety of genres of Roman folklore, ''Roman mythology'' may also refer to the moder ...
,
Celtic mythology Celtic is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts.Cunliffe, Barry, (1997) ''The Ancient Celts''. Oxford, Oxford University Press , pp. 183 (religion), 202, 204–8. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts m ...
and
Hittite mythology Hittite mythology and Hittite religion were the religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine ...
all describe the body of myths retold among those cultures. ''Mythology'' can also refer to the study of myths and mythologies.


Mythography

The compilation or description of myths is sometimes known as ''mythography'', a term which can also be used of a scholarly anthology of myths (or, confusingly, of the study of myths generally). Key mythographers in the Classical tradition include: *
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom ...

Ovid
(43 BCE–17/18 CE), whose tellings of myths have been profoundly influential; *
Fabius Planciades Fulgentius Fabius Planciades Fulgentius () was a Latin writer of late antiquity. Four extant works are commonly attributed to him, as well as a possible fifth which some scholars include in compilations with much reservation. His mythography Myth is a fo ...
, a Latin writer of the late-5th to early-6th centuries, whose ''Mythologies'' () gathered and gave moralistic interpretations of a wide range of myths; * the anonymous medieval Vatican Mythographers, who developed
anthologies In book publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works, such as books, ...
of Classical myths that remained influential to the end of the Middle Ages; and * Renaissance scholar , whose ten-book ''Mythologiae'' became a standard source for classical mythology in later Renaissance Europe. Other prominent mythographies include the thirteenth-century ''
Prose Edda The ''Prose Edda'', also known as the ''Younger Edda'', ''Snorri's Edda'' ( is, Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as ''Edda'', is an textbook written in during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been to some extent w ...
'' attributed to the Icelander
Snorri Sturluson Snorri Sturluson (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by i ...
, which is the main surviving survey of
Norse Mythology Norse or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. ...
from the Middle Ages. Jeffrey G. Snodgrass (professor of anthropology at the
Colorado State University Colorado State University (Colorado State or CSU) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. Colorado St ...
) has termed India's ''
Bhats Bhāt is a "generic term" used to refer to a bard in India. The majority of ''Bhats'' hail from Rajasthan and worked as genealogists for their patrons, however, they are viewed as mythographers. In India, the inception of Rajputization was followe ...
'' as mythographers.


Myth criticism

Myth criticism is a system of anthropological interpretation of culture created by French philosopher
Gilbert Durand Gilbert Durand (1 May 1921, Chambéry – 7 December 2012, Moye) was a French academic known for his work on the Imaginary (sociology), imaginary, symbolic anthropology and mythology. According to Durand, Imagination and Reason can be complement ...

Gilbert Durand
. Scholars have used myth criticism to explain the mythical roots of contemporary fiction, which means that modern myth criticism needs to be
interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge from several other fields like sociology, anthropology, psychology, ...
. Cultural myth criticism, without abandoning the analysis of the , invades all cultural manifestations and delves into the difficulties in understanding myth today. This cultural myth criticism studies mythical manifestations in fields as wide as
literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expan ...

literature
,
film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, ...

film
and
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Gre ...

television
,
theater Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performe ...

theater
,
sculpture ''lamassu 300px, ''Lamassu'' from Dur-Sharrukin. University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Syrian limestone Neo-Assyrian Period, c. 721–705 BCE ''Lama'', ''Lamma'' or ''Lamassu'' (Cuneiform: , ; Sumerian language, Sumerian: lammař; late ...

sculpture
,
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or solid mastic composition that, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is most commonly used to protect, ...

painting
,
video games#REDIRECT Video game#REDIRECT Video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device ...

video games
,
music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and its associated concepts , , and ...

music
,
dancing Dance is a performing art form consisting of sequences of movement, either improvised or purposefully selected. This movement has aesthetic and often symbolic value. Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its r ...

dancing
,
the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''network of networks'' t ...

the Internet
and other .


Mythos

Because ''myth'' is sometimes used in a
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning ...
sense, some scholars have opted to use the term ''mythos'' instead. However, ''mythos'' now more commonly refers to its
Aristotelian Aristotelian may refer to: * Aristotle (384–322 BCE), Greek philosopher * Aristotelianism, the philosophical tradition begun by Aristotle * Aristotelian ethics * Aristotelian logic, term logic * Aristotelian physics, the natural sciences * Aristot ...
sense as a "plot point" or to a body of interconnected myths or stories, especially those belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition."mythos, ''n.''" 2003. In ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
'' (). Oxford:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is g ...

Oxford University Press
.
It is sometimes used specifically for modern, fictional mythologies, such as the world building of
H. P. Lovecraft Howard Phillips Lovecraft (; August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer of weird and horror fiction Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon ...
.


Mythopoeia

''Mythopoeia'' ( + , 'I make myth') was termed by J. R. R. Tolkien, amongst others, to refer to the "conscious generation" of mythology. It was notoriously also suggested, separately, by Nazi ideologist
Alfred Rosenberg Alfred Ernst Rosenberg ( – 16 October 1946) was a Baltic German Nazism, Nazi theorist and ideologue. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart and held several important posts in the Nazi government. He was the head ...
.


Etymology

The word ''myth'' comes from
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
''μῦθος'' (''mȳthos''), meaning 'speech, narrative, fiction, myth, plot'. In
Anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in English language, English. ...
form, this Greek word began to be used in English (and was likewise adapted into other European languages) in the early 19th century, in a much narrower sense, as a scholarly term for " traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events." In turn, Ancient Greek (''mythología'', 'story,' 'lore,' 'legends,' or 'the telling of stories') combines the word ''mȳthos'' with the suffix -''λογία'' (''-logia'', 'study') in order to mean 'romance, fiction, story-telling.'"-logy, ''comb. form.''" In ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
'' (). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1903.
Accordingly,
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
used ''mythología'' as a general term for 'fiction' or 'story-telling' of any kind. The Greek term ''mythología'' was then borrowed into
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, kn ...
, occurring in the title of Latin author
FulgentiusFulgentius is a Latin male given name which means "bright, brilliant". It may refer to: *Fabius Planciades Fulgentius (5th–6th century), Latin grammarian *Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (5th–6th century), bishop of Ruspe, North Africa, possibl ...
' 5th-century ''Mythologiæ'' to denote what we now call ''
classical mythology Classical mythology, classical Greco-Roman mythology, Greek and Roman mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is both the body of and the study of myths from the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans as they are used or transformed by reception theory, cu ...
''—i.e.,
Greco-Roman The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in the ), as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to geographical regions and countries that culturally—and so historically—were directly and ...
etiological Etiology (pronounced ; alternatively: aetiology or ætiology) is the study of causation or origination. The word is derived from the Greek (''aitiología'') "giving a reason for" (, ''aitía'', "cause"; and , '' -logía''). More completely, et ...
stories involving their gods. Fulgentius' ''Mythologiæ'' explicitly treated its subject matter as
allegories As a literary device, an allegory is a narrative in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Authors have used allegory throughout history in all forms of art to illustrate ...

allegories
requiring interpretation and not as true events. The Latin term was then adopted in
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured ...
as ''mythologie''. Whether from French or Latin usage, English adopted the word ''mythology'' in the 15th century, initially meaning 'the exposition of a myth or myths,' 'the interpretation of fables,' or 'a book of such expositions'. The word is first attested in
John Lydgate John Lydgate of Bury (c. 1370 – c. 1451) was an English monk and poet, born in Lidgate, near Haverhill, Suffolk, Haverhill, Suffolk, England. Lydgate's poetic output is prodigious, amounting, at a conservative count, to about 145,000 lines. He ex ...

John Lydgate
's ''
Troy Book ''Troy Book'' is a Middle English poem by John Lydgate relating the history of Troy from its foundation through to the end of the Trojan War. It is in five books, comprising 30,117 lines in ten-syllable couplets. The poem's major source is Guido ...
'' (c. 1425).mythology, ''n.''
" ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
'' (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003. Accessed 20 Aug 2014.
From Lydgate until the 17th or 18th century, ''mythology'' was used to mean a
moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...
,
fable Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse (poetry), verse, that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphized, and that illustrate ...
,
allegory As a literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit, from most commercial or "genre" fiction. However, the b ...

allegory
or a
parable A parable is a succinct, Didacticism, didactic story, in prose or Verse (poetry), verse, that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces ...
, or collection of traditional stories, understood to be false. It came eventually to be applied to similar bodies of traditional stories among other
polytheistic Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
cultures around the world. Thus the word ''mythology'' entered the English language before the word ''myth''.
Johnson Johnson is a surname of English name, English and Scottish name, Scottish origin.. The name itself is a patronym of the given name ''John (first name), John'', literally meaning "son of John". The name ''John'' derives from Latin ''Johannes'', whi ...
's ''
Dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged Alphabetical order, alphabetically (or by radical-and-stroke sorting, radical and stroke for ideographic languages), which may include in ...
'', for example, has an entry for ''mythology'', but not for ''myth''. Indeed, the Greek
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
''mythos'' ( ''mythoi'') and Latinate ''mythus'' (pl. ''mythi'') both appeared in English before the first example of ''myth'' in 1830.


Meanings in Ancient Greece

The term μῦθος (''mȳthos'') appears in the works of
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
and other poets of Homer's era, in which the term had several meanings: 'conversation,' 'narrative,' 'speech,' 'story,' 'tale,' and 'word.' Similar to the related term λόγος (''
logos ''Logos'' (, ; grc, , lógos; from , , ) is a term in , , , and derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse".Henry George Liddell ...

logos
''), ''mythos'' expresses whatever can be delivered in the form of words. These can be contrasted with Greek ἔργον (''ergon'', 'action,' 'deed,' or 'work'). However, the term ''mythos'' lacks an explicit distinction between true or false narratives. In the context of
Ancient Greek theatre Ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, ...
, ''mythos'' referred to the myth, narrative, plot, and the story of a play. According to David Wiles, the Greek term ''mythos'' in this era covered an entire spectrum of different meanings, from undeniable falsehoods to stories with religious and symbolic significance. According to philosopher
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
(384–322 BCE), the spirit of a theatrical play was its ''mythos''. The term ''mythos'' was also used for the source material of
Greek tragedy Greek tragedy is a form of theatre from Ancient Greece and Anatolia. It reached its most significant form in Athens in the 5th century BC, the works of which are sometimes called Attic tragedy. Greek tragedy is widely believed to be an extension ...
. The tragedians of the era could draw inspiration from
Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psyc ...
, a body of "traditional storylines" which concerned
gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by suc ...

gods
and
hero File:Wilhelm Tell Denkmal Altdorf um 1900.jpeg, upWilliam Tell, a popular folk hero of Switzerland. A hero (heroine in its feminine form) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through f ...
es. David Wiles observes that modern conceptions about Greek tragedy can be misleading. It is commonly thought that the ancient audience members were already familiar with the ''mythos'' behind a play, and could predict the outcome of the play. However, the Greek dramatists were not expected to faithfully reproduce traditional myths when adapting them for the stage. They were instead recreating the myths and producing new versions. Storytellers like
Euripides Euripides (; grc, Εὐριπίδης ''Eurīpídēs'', ; ) was a of . Along with and , he is one of the three ancient Greek tragedians for whom any plays have survived in full. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him, but t ...

Euripides
(c. 480–406 BCE) relied on
suspense Suspense is a state of mental uncertainty Uncertainty refers to Epistemology, epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information. It applies to predictions of future events, to physical measurements that are already made, or to ...
to excite their audiences. In one of his works, Merope attempts to kill her son's murderer with an axe, unaware that the man in question is actually her son. According to an ancient description of audience reactions to this work, the audience members were genuinely unsure of whether she would commit
filicide '' Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan'', by Ilya Yefimovich Repin Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word ''filicide'' is derived from the Latin words ''filius'' and ''filia'' (son and daughter) and the suff ...
or she will be stopped in time. They rose to their feet in terror and caused an uproar. David Wiles points that the traditional ''mythos'' of Ancient Greece, was primarily a part of its
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...
. The
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has cer ...

Greeks
of this era were a literate culture but produced no
sacred texts Religious texts are texts related to a religious tradition. They differ from literary texts by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual practices, commandments or laws, ethical conduct, spiritual aspirations, and for c ...
. There were no definitive or authoritative versions of myths recorded in texts and preserved forever in an unchanging form. Instead multiple variants of myths were in circulation. These variants were adapted into songs, dances, poetry, and visual art. Performers of myths could freely reshape their source material for a new work, adapting it to the needs of a new audience or in response to a new situation. Children in Ancient Greece were familiar with traditional myths from an early age. According to the philosopher
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
(c. 428–347 BCE), mothers and
nursemaid A nursemaid (or nursery maid) is a mostly historical term for a female domestic worker A domestic worker is a person who works within the scope of a residence. The term "domestic service" applies to the equivalent occupational category. In trad ...
s narrated myths and stories to the children in their charge: David Wiles describes them as a repository of mythological lore.
Bruce Lincoln Bruce Lincoln (born 1948) is Caroline E. Haskell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Religion The history of religion refers to the written record of human religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural sy ...
has called attention to the apparent meaning of the terms ''mythos'' and ''logos'' in the works of
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēr ...
. In ''
Theogony The ''Theogony'' (, , , i.e. "the genealogy or birth of the ") is a by (8th – 7th century BC) describing the origins and of the , composed c. 730–700 BC. It is written in the of and contains 1022 lines. Descriptions Hesiod's ''Theog ...
'', Hesiod attributes to the
Muse In ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and Cult (religious practice), cult practi ...

Muse
s the ability to both proclaim truths and narrate plausible falsehoods (i.e., falsehoods which seem like real things). The verb used for narrating the falsehoods in the text is ''legein'', which is etymologically associated with ''logos''. There are two variants in the manuscript tradition for the verb used to proclaim truths. One variant uses ''gerusasthai'', the other ''mythesasthai''. The latter is a form of the verb ''mytheomai'' ('to speak,' 'to tell'), which is etymologically associated with ''mythos''. In the ''
Works and Days The ''Works and Days'' ( grc, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Érga kaì Hēmérai)The ''Works and Days'' is sometimes called by the Latin translation of the title, ''Opera et Dies''. Common abbreviations are ''WD'' and ''Op''. for ''Opera''. ...
'', Hesiod describes his dispute with his brother Perses. He also announces to his readers his intention to tell true things to his brother. The verb he uses for telling the truth is ''mythesaimen'', another form of ''mytheomai''. Lincoln draws the conclusion that Hesiod associated the "speech of ''mythos''" (as Lincoln calls it) with telling the
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In ...

truth
. While he associated the "speech of ''logos''" with telling
lie A lie is an assertion that is believed to be false, typically used with the purpose of deception, deceiving someone. The practice of communicating lies is called lying. A person who communicates a lie may be termed a liar. Lies may serve a vari ...

lie
s, and hiding one's true thoughts (dissimulation). This conclusion is strengthened by the use of the plural term ''logoi'' (the plural form of ''logos'') elsewhere in Hesiod's works. Three times the term is associated with the term ''seductive'' and three times with the term ''falsehoods''. In his genealogy of the gods, Hesiod lists ''logoi'' among the children of Eris, the goddess personifying strife. Eris' children are ominous figures, which personify various physical and verbal forms of conflict.


Interpreting myths


Comparative mythology

Comparative mythology is a systematic comparison of myths from different cultures. It seeks to discover underlying themes that are common to the myths of multiple cultures. In some cases, comparative mythologists use the similarities between separate mythologies to argue that those mythologies have a common source. This source may inspire myths or provide a common "protomythology" that diverged into the mythologies of each culture.


Functionalism

A number of commentators have argued that myths function to form and shape society and social behaviour. Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior and that myths may provide a religious experience. By telling or reenacting myths, members of traditional societies detach themselves from the present, returning to the mythical age, thereby coming closer to the divine. Honko asserted that, in some cases, a society reenacts a myth in an attempt to reproduce the conditions of the mythical age. For example, it might reenact the healing performed by a god at the beginning of time in order to heal someone in the present. Similarly,
Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French literary theorist, essayist, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , t ...

Barthes
argued that modern culture explores religious experience. Since it is not the job of science to define human morality, a religious experience is an attempt to connect with a perceived moral past, which is in contrast with the technological present. Pattanaik defines mythology as "the subjective truth of people communicated through stories, symbols and rituals." He says, "Facts are everybody's truth. Fiction is nobody's truth. Myths are somebody's truth."


Euhemerism

One theory claims that myths are distorted accounts of historical events. According to this theory, storytellers repeatedly elaborate upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gain the status of gods. For example, the myth of the wind-god Aeolus may have evolved from a historical account of a king who taught his people to use sails and interpret the winds. Herodotus (fifth-century BCE) and Prodicus made claims of this kind. This theory is named ''euhemerism'' after mythologist
Euhemerus Euhemerus (; also spelled Euemeros or Evemerus; grc, Εὐήμερος ''Euhēmeros'', "happy; prosperous"; late fourth century BC) was a Greek mythographer Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a s ...
(c. 320 BCE), who suggested that Greek gods developed from legends about human beings.


Allegory

Some theories propose that myths began as allegories for natural phenomena: Apollo represents the sun, Poseidon represents water, and so on. According to another theory, myths began as allegories for philosophical or spiritual concepts: Athena represents wise judgment, Aphrodite desire, and so on. Max Müller, Müller supported an allegorical theory of myth. He believed myths began as allegorical descriptions of nature and gradually came to be interpreted literally. For example, a poetic description of the sea as "raging" was eventually taken literally and the sea was then thought of as a raging god.


Personification

Some thinkers claimed that myths result from the Anthropomorphism, personification of objects and forces. According to these thinkers, the ancients worshiped natural phenomena, such as fire and air, gradually deifying them. For example, according to this theory, ancients tended to view things as gods, not as mere objects. Thus, they described natural events as acts of personal gods, giving rise to myths.


Myth-ritual theory

According to the myth-ritual theory, myth is tied to ritual. In its most extreme form, this theory claims myths arose to explain rituals. This claim was first put forward by William Robertson Smith, Smith, who argued that people begin performing rituals for reasons not related to myth. Forgetting the original reason for a ritual, they account for it by inventing a myth and claiming the ritual commemorates the events described in that myth. James Frazer, Frazer argued that humans started out with a belief in magical rituals; later, they began to lose faith in magic and invented myths about gods, reinterpreting their rituals as religious rituals intended to appease the gods.


History of the academic discipline

Historically, important approaches to the study of mythology have included those of Giambattista Vico, Vico, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Schelling, Schiller, Carl Jung, Jung, Freud, Lévy-Bruhl, Lévi-Strauss, Northrop Frye, Frye, the Soviet school, and the Myth and Ritual School.


Ancient Greece

The critical interpretation of myth began with the Pre-Socratic philosophy, Presocratics.
Euhemerus Euhemerus (; also spelled Euemeros or Evemerus; grc, Εὐήμερος ''Euhēmeros'', "happy; prosperous"; late fourth century BC) was a Greek mythographer Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a s ...
was one of the most important pre-modern mythologists. He interpreted myths as accounts of actual historical events, though distorted over many retellings.
Sallustius Sallustius or Sallust (; grc, Σαλούστιος ''Saloustios'') was a 4th-century writer, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian. He wrote the treatise ''On the Gods and the Cosmos'', a kind of catechism of 4th-century Hellenic paganism. Sall ...
divided myths into five categories: * Theology, theological; * physical (or concerning natural law); * Animism, animistic (or concerning soul); * material; and * mixed, which concerns myths that show the interaction between two or more of the previous categories and are particularly used in initiations.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
famously condemned poetic myth when discussing education in the ''The Republic (Plato), Republic.'' His critique was primarily on the grounds that the uneducated might take the stories of gods and heroes literally. Nevertheless, he constantly referred to myths throughout his writings. As Platonism developed in the phases commonly called Middle Platonism and neoplatonism, writers such as Plutarch, Porphyry (philosopher), Porphyry, Proclus, Olympiodorus the younger, Olympiodorus, and Damascius wrote explicitly about the symbolic interpretation of traditional and Orphism (religion), Orphic myths. Mythological themes were consciously employed in literature, beginning with
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
. The resulting work may expressly refer to a mythological background without itself becoming part of a body of myths (Cupid and Psyche). Medieval romance in particular plays with this process of turning myth into literature. ''Euhemerism'', as stated earlier, refers to the rationalization of myths, putting themes formerly imbued with mythological qualities into pragmatic contexts. An example of this would be following a cultural or religious paradigm shift (notably the re-interpretation of Paganism, pagan mythology following Christianization).


European Renaissance

Interest in Polytheism, polytheistic mythology revived during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...

Renaissance
, with early works of mythography appearing in the sixteenth century, among them the ''Theologia mythologica, Theologia Mythologica'' (1532).


Nineteenth century

The first modern, Western scholarly theories of myth appeared during the second half of the 19th century—at the same time as the word ''myth'' was adopted as a scholarly term in European languages. They were driven partly by a new interest in Europe's ancient past and vernacular culture, associated with Romantic Nationalism and epitomised by the research of Jacob Grimm (1785–1863). This movement drew European scholars' attention not only to Classical myths, but also material now associated with Norse mythology, Finnish mythology, and so forth. Western theories were also partly driven by Europeans' efforts to comprehend and control the cultures, stories and religions they were encountering through colonialism. These encounters included both extremely old texts such as the Sanskrit language, Sanskrit ''Rigveda'' and the Sumerian language, Sumerian ''Epic of Gilgamesh'', and current oral narratives such as mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas or stories told in traditional African religions.Tom Shippey, Shippey, Tom. 2005. "A Revolution Reconsidered: Mythography and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century." Pp. 1–28 in ''The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous'', edited by T. Shippey. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. pp. 4–13. The intellectual context for nineteenth-century scholars was profoundly shaped by emerging ideas about evolution. These ideas included the recognition that many Eurasian languages—and therefore, conceivably, stories—were all descended from a lost common ancestor (the Indo-European language) which could rationally be reconstructed through the comparison of its descendant languages. They also included the idea that Cultural evolution, cultures might evolve in ways comparable to species. In general, 19th-century theories framed myth as a failed or obsolete mode of thought, often by interpreting myth as the primitive counterpart of modern science within a Unilineal evolution, unilineal framework that imagined that human cultures are travelling, at different speeds, along a linear path of cultural development.


Nature mythology

One of the dominant mythological theories of the latter 19th century was ''nature mythology'', the foremost exponents of which included Max Müller and Edward Burnett Tylor. This theory posited that "primitive man" was primarily concerned with the natural world. It tended to interpret myths that seemed distasteful to European Victorian era, Victorians—such as tales about sex, incest, or cannibalism—as being metaphors for natural phenomena like agricultural fertility.McKinnell, John. 2005. ''Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend''. Cambridge: Brewers Publications, Brewer. pp. 14-15. Unable to conceive impersonal natural laws, early humans tried to explain natural phenomena by attributing souls to inanimate objects, thus giving rise to animism. According to Tylor, human thought evolved through stages, starting with mythological ideas and gradually progressing to scientific ideas. Müller also saw myth as originating from language, even calling myth a "disease of language." He speculated that myths arose due to the lack of Abstract noun, abstract nouns and neuter gender in ancient languages. Anthropomorphism, Anthropomorphic Figure of speech, figures of speech, necessary in such languages, were eventually taken literally, leading to the idea that natural phenomena were in actuality conscious beings or gods. Not all scholars, not even all 19th-century scholars, accepted this view, however: Lucien Lévy-Bruhl claimed that "the primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind and not a stage in its historical development." Recent scholarship, noting the fundamental lack of evidence for "nature mythology" interpretations among people who actually circulated myths, has likewise abandoned the key ideas of "nature mythology."


Myth and ritual

James George Frazer saw myths as a misinterpretation of magical rituals, which were themselves based on a mistaken idea of natural law. this idea was central to the "myth and ritual" school of thought. According to Frazer, humans begin with an unfounded belief in impersonal magical laws. When they realize applications of these laws do not work, they give up their belief in natural law in favor of a belief in Personal god, personal gods controlling nature, thus giving rise to religious myths. Meanwhile, humans continue practicing formerly magical rituals through force of habit, reinterpreting them as reenactments of mythical events. Finally, humans come to realize nature follows natural laws, and they discover their true nature through science. Here again, science makes myth obsolete as humans progress "from magic through religion to science." Segal asserted that by pitting mythical thought against modern scientific thought, such theories imply modern humans must abandon myth.


Twentieth century

The earlier 20th century saw major work developing Psychoanalysis, psychoanalytical approaches to interpreting myth, led by Sigmund Freud, who, drawing inspiration from Classical myth, began developing the concept of the Oedipus complex in his 1899 ''The Interpretation of Dreams''. Carl Jung, Jung likewise tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called ''archetypes''. He believed similarities between the myths of different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes. The mid-20th century saw the influential development of a structuralist theory of mythology, led by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Lévi-Strauss. Strauss argued that myths reflect patterns in the mind and interpreted those patterns more as fixed mental structures, specifically pairs of opposites (good/evil, compassionate/callous), rather than unconscious feelings or urges. Meanwhile, Bronislaw Malinowski developed analyses of myths focusing on their social functions in the real world. He is associated with the idea that myths such as Origin myth, origin stories might provide a "mythic charter"—a legitimisation—for Social norm, cultural norms and Institution, social institutions. Thus, following the Structuralist Era (c. 1960s–1980s), the predominant Anthropology, anthropological and Sociology, sociological approaches to myth increasingly treated myth as a form of narrative that can be studied, interpreted, and analyzed like ideology, history, and culture. In other words, myth is a form of understanding and telling stories that are connected to power, political structures, and political and economic interests. These approaches contrast with approaches, such as those of Joseph Campbell and Eliade, which hold that myth has some type of essential connection to ultimate sacred meanings that transcend cultural specifics. In particular, myth was studied in relation to history from diverse social sciences. Most of these studies share the assumption that history and myth are not distinct in the sense that history is factual, real, accurate, and truth, while myth is the opposite. In the 1950s,
Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French literary theorist, essayist, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , t ...

Barthes
published a series of essays examining modern myths and the process of their creation in his book ''Mythologies (book), Mythologies'', which stood as an early work in the emerging Post-structuralism, post-structuralist approach to mythology, which recognised myths' existence in the modern world and in popular culture. The 20th century saw rapid secularisation in Western culture. This made Western scholars more willing to analyse narratives in the Abrahamic religions as myths; theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann argued that a modern Christianity needed to Demythologization, demythologize; and other religious scholars embraced the idea that the mythical status of Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic narratives was a legitimate feature of their importance. This, in his appendix to ''Myths, Dreams and Mysteries'', and in ''The Myth of the Eternal Return'', Eliade attributed modern humans’ anxieties to their rejection of myths and the sense of the sacred. The Christian theologian Conrad Hyers wrote:


Twenty-first century

Both in 19th-century research, which tended to see existing records of stories and folklore as imperfect fragments of partially lost myths, and in 20th-century structuralist work, which sought to identify underlying patterns and structures in often diverse versions of a given myth, there had been a tendency to synthesise sources to attempt to reconstruct what scholars supposed to be more perfect or underlying forms of myths. From the late 20th century, however, researchers influenced by postmodernism tended instead to argue that each account of a given myth has its own cultural significance and meaning, and argued that rather than representing degradation from a once more perfect form, myths are inherently plastic and variable. There is, consequently, no such thing as the 'original version' or 'original form' of a myth. One prominent example of this movement was A. K. Ramanujan's essay "Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, Three Hundred Ramayanas". Correspondingly, scholars challenged the precedence that had once been given to texts as a medium for mythology, arguing that other media, such as the visual arts or even landscape and place-naming, could be as or more important.


Modern mythology

Scholars in the field of cultural studies research how myth has worked itself into modern discourses. Mythological discourse can reach greater audiences than ever before via digital media. Various mythic elements appear in
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Gre ...

television
, Film, cinema and video games. Although myth was traditionally transmitted through the oral tradition on a small scale, the film industry has enabled filmmakers to transmit myths to large audiences via film. In Carl Jung, Jungian psychology myths are the expression of a culture or society’s goals, fears, ambitions and dreams. The basis of modern visual storytelling is rooted in the mythological tradition. Many contemporary films rely on ancient myths to construct narratives. The Walt Disney Company is well-known among cultural study scholars for "reinventing" traditional childhood myths. While many films are not as obvious as Disney fairy tales, the plots of many films are based on the rough structure of myths. Mythological archetypes, such as the cautionary tale regarding the abuse of technology, battles between gods and creation stories, are often the subject of major film productions. These films are often created under the guise of cyberpunk action films, fantasy, dramas and Apocalyptic literature, apocalyptic tales. 21st-century films such as ''Clash of the Titans (2010 film), Clash of the Titans'', ''Immortals (2011 film), Immortals'' and ''Thor (film), Thor'' continue the trend of using traditional mythology to frame modern plots. Authors use mythology as a basis for their books, such as Rick Riordan, whose Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is situated in a modern-day world where the Twelve Olympians, Greek deities are manifest.


See also

* List of mythologies * List of mythological objects * List of mythology books and sources * Magic and mythology * Mythopoeia, artificially constructed mythology, mainly for the purpose of storytelling


Notes


Sources

* *
Myth
. ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. 2009. 21 March 2009. * * * * * * * * * * * * * — (1997). "Binary Opposition in Myth: The Propp/Levi-Strauss Debate in Retrospect." ''Western Folklore'' 56(Winter):39–50. * ** ** ** * * *
Fabiani, Paolo "The Philosophy of the Imagination in Vico and Malebranche". F.U.P. (Florence UP), English edition 2009.
PDF * * * * * * * * * * * * *Northup, Lesley (2006). "Myth-Placed Priorities: Religion and the Study of Myth." ''Religious Studies Review'' 32(1):5–10. . . * * * Simpson, Jacqueline, and
Steve Roud Steve Roud (; born 1949) is the creator of the Roud Folk Song Index The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of around 250,000 references to nearly 25,000 songs collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. It i ...

Steve Roud
, eds. 2003. "Myths." In ''A Dictionary of English Folklore''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . * * *


External links

{{Authority control Myths, Mythography, Mythology, Greek words and phrases