Foundations of Mythology
1. How is the word myth used popularly? For example, what does the statement, 'It's a myth 'means? In contrast, how is the word myth used in academic context? In your own words what does myth means?
The word ‘myth’ tends to be used in a range of contexts, and is a credit to a number of distinct, although similar, meanings. In my own experience, when somebody claims that something is a myth, it usually means one of the following: something invented, a hoax, or a well-constructed lie. In this sense, the context of truth had been together with the concept of the natural—a sense of pristineness, to combine both. It usually applies to ideas that cause to be artificial that is, man-made to fulfill different purposes. For example, the power of the national elections is a myth, because the Electoral College is the official committee that chooses the next U.S. President. Here, myth was adopted to mean disillusionment from a widely-held but false idea, in favor of a realization of a fair unnoticed ‘truth’. This somewhat overlaps with the academic use of the word myth, which takes on diverse meanings depending on field which uses it. For example, social scientists and/or linguists may use the term to mean culture-specific folklore that convey the origins of traditions, customs, beliefs and values practiced within a culture. These myths are usually in narrative form, and will be move onward to the next generation.
2. Why do myths from different cultures around the world address such similar or universal themes? Think about how myths explain the unknown and the tribulations of mankind.
Cowlishaw (2010) defines myth as faith-based knowledge that is legitimized by a culture. This definition fits the anthropological approach, which typifies mythology as a social phenomenon which serves two main functions: (1) reflect the creator-society’s own beliefs and social and moral norms, and (2) fill gaps in knowledge and experience by providing answers to phenomenon impossible to explain. For example, tales of heroes facing insurmountable and/or supernatural odds, such as the exploits of Hercules and Gilgamesh, can be taken collectively as aggrandized human experiences. The trope of overcoming difficulty is a theme shared by all heroic myths; the hero figure is the representation of all positive archetypes (i.e. strong, attractive, wealthy, etc.), and the similarities across hero figures and their respective feats confirms that myths tend to show cultural didacticism, or at least, idealize a form of human experience favored in the progenitor-culture. On the other hand, creation/origin myths exist to provide answers to normally unexplainable phenomenon, and possibly, to provide relevance to present (social and cultural) experience (e.g. the various Grecian gods and goddesses help explain the origin of traditions and aspects of life, while highlighting the importance of these in common experience).
3. What is the relationship between belief, knowledge, mythology, and religion? Where do mythology and religion intersect? Where do they diverge? Think about the function of myth and religion in helping human beings cope with change, suffering, loss, and death.
First, there is the transformation of belief to knowledge. Belief becomes knowledge when originally discrete beliefs are solidified or condensed into a more concrete communal/cultural structure (e.g. a collection of beliefs about the sun: that it rises and falls; gives light and life). Knowledge becomes mythology when consolidated knowledge gains a narrative, or is attached to an existing narrative (e.g. Horus, solar deities, was often characterized as benefactors of light, life, agriculture, order, etc.). Finally, the solidification of mythological knowledge gives birth to the religious experience, where worship of deities born from condensed cultural knowledge becomes a source…