The Role of Mythology

Happy new year everyone!  I hope all my readers (however few of you there may be) had a great new year’s eve and are now enjoying new year’s day!

What is the role of mythology in our brand of spirituality?  Does it play a role, and if so, how big of a role does mythology have?  Most everyone is introduced to the various gods and pantheons through story.  How does this affect the way in which we work with the divinities?  Does it affect the way we work with them?  I won’t pretend to have answers.  There may be no definitive answers.  Like many things in paganism, the answers are probably highly individual.  But the questions made me curious to think on the subject some.

In mythology, each deity is identified with certain characteristics, some of which are unique only to that deity and some of which are shared.  The stories relate each god’s personality and the actions they would take when placed or involved in certain situations.  What do these stories mean to us?  Are they only stories?  Or do these stories, which have lasted thousands of years and which the ancients used to “define” their gods, actually express the energy of the gods and the deities we work with?  Athena, for example, in the mythos is considered a wise goddess, virginal, brave, intelligent, and courageous, while at times petty and jealous like any human being.  Do the myths in which she is involved and which detail those qualities actually express the energy which is that goddess?

Are myths nothing more than guides to what those gods are like?  The role of mythology in pagan belief must vary, but its role could be a kind of guide to what the gods are like, or the role could be a definition of those energies, or the role could really be nothing at all.  The third option, however, does not explain anything, nor does it explain why people are introduced to their particular gods by way of these very myths.  So then what is the role that mythology plays?  I can only conclude that the myths are guides to what the energy of the gods is supposed to be for each individual deity, and these stories tell us what the gods are supposed to be like and how we could expect them to react to us.  I find it very difficult to believe that these amazing stories, passed down for countless generations and then written down for even more people to read, and given an importance not granted to most other literary works, actually mean nothing in terms of the spirituality of pagans who work with the gods and divine energy.  Even non-pagans have their myths: the Bible is the Christian mythos, the Torah the Jewish, etc.  If these stories were not supposed to have meaning, were not supposed to convey something about the gods, then why bother going to all the trouble of repeating and then writing them over and over?

There are also archetypes within mythology, and the notion that every civilization shares certain foundational myths, such as the flood myth, the resurrection myth, etc.  Joseph Campbell did a great deal of fantastic work on the subjects, which is also related to Carl Jung’s psychological notion of the archetype.  It’s worth reading Campbell’s various works on mythology and archetypes.  See his foundation’s site for more information.

Signature unavailable. Sita is working on it!**If this post is not up to the usual standard, I apologize.  I’m still exhausted from the New Year’s party I was at last night/this morning.


2 responses to “The Role of Mythology

  1. I’m sure you have a lot more readers then you think you do! Also, your post was wonderful as always! I think Mythology shares with us the same things that stories our parents tell us do:

    It tell us about the subject
    It teaches us an important lesson (or many)
    It teaches us about another time and another perspective
    It shows us the complexity of life and people as a whole

    but I also think that myths as relating to the super-natural (in the classical usage of the word) also do teach us about energies and magick and beliefs. You have a great ending point – there’s a reason these stories are passed down.

  2. Happy New Year!
    Your post is up to your usual standard, so no worries. Well, at least writing-wise, but content-wise, I find it bothersome. You pose all of these wonderful questions to consider and then only hint at a possible solution for two of them. It was like a first day lecture in a classics class. So much interest and full of promise of a good time and then time is up, class is over. And we, the class, is left feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. But, you, the professor, did warn us at the beginning that it would be like that. I’m just sad to feel that way, I hope you continue with posts following up to this, it seems like a good start of a very interesting topic. 🙂

    A New Years Party would have been a legitimate reason if this article was poor, which it wasn’t, that’s certainly a step up from my evening. I spent my evening re-watching Avatar in 3-d then re-reading Mary Renault’s Theseus story, The King Must Die in a Irish Pub while some local cover band butchered classic rock songs from the past 30 years.

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