Two Fridays ago I led my Pagan Student Union’s discussion, and the topic was mythology (because I know a lot about mythology and myths). For PSU members reading this post, it won’t be very exciting. Sorry! But you’ll have heard and seen this information already.
There are two kinds of myths: the kind that connects a person with a social order, and the kind that connects with the natural world. The myths most pagans today tend to be familiar with and interact with most are the myths of the second kind, the stories that connect one to the natural world. These stories tell us lowly humans how to interact with the world around us: what the seasons are and when they occur; when to plant crops or hunt the herds; the meaning of the astronomical phenomena we see. The majority of myths fall into this category. The other kind of myths supports a social order. An example is any mythology system that dictates matriarchal or patriarchal lifestyles.
Everyone should care about myths. Everyone. They aren’t just stories. These tales are loaded with meaning, whether we consciously realize the meaning or only feel it on a deeper level. They aren’t simply children’s stories or fairy tales. Myths for our ancestors defined cultural identity and defined the natural world. What most people fail to realize is that myths can and do still function in that way.
For Americans, this is harder for us to realize. We have no national mythology that unifies us the way the Greek myths and religion created a bond between people of different city-states in ancient Greece. America doesn’t have that. Some figures have taken on a mythological status (George Washington, Johnny Appleseed, etc), but they don’t act as a unifying myth. For us, we are a country of so many different cultures that we haven’t been able to form our own myths of our land. It also doesn’t help that we stole our land from the Native Americans and in the process quashed the myths (and lives) of so many people. In advanced countries, the problem is technology. Mythology has fallen to the wayside because so many technological advances have occurred since the Industrial Revolution and these advances have been occurring so fast that we can’t keep up, and our myths can’t keep up. We are in the process of searching for and creating a new mythology, but it hasn’t happened just yet because we’re busy playing catch-up.
Think about it: cars and planes have been around long enough to have meaning in dreams (myths come from the same place as dreams, i.e., the collective unconscious), but does anyone today remember the first computer? And how could the first computer we had in our homes work itself into a mythology when just ten years later we have sleek laptops and faster computers? That’s a technological example, but it illustrates the point that we are moving too fast for anything to stick and turn into our mythology.
Ok. Sorry if that rambled. I think that’s mostly all I’m going to say in this post. I also included the graphs I made, one which shows where some of the major myth systems exist across the world, and one which shows the Mediterranean and European mythologies.