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What is Myth?
[A myth is] a story, presented as having actually occurred in a previous age, explaining the cosmological and supernatural traditions of a people, their gods, heroes, cultural traits, religious beliefs, etc. The purpose of myth is to explain, and, as Sir G.L. Gomme said, myths explain matters in “the science of a prescientific age.” Thus myths tell of the creation of man, of animals, of landmarks; they tell why a certain animal has its characteristics (e.g. why the bat is blind or flies only at night), why or how certain natural phenomena came to be (e.g. why the rainbow appears or how the constellation Orion got into the sky), how and why rituals and ceremonies began and why they continue.
The interpretation of Myths
- The Allegorical Theory: the Myth of Sisyphus
- The Symbolic Theory: the myth of the Phoenix
- Theory of Nature-myths.
- Modern methods
- Psychological analysis
Types of Myths
Aetiological Myths: Aetiological myths (sometimes spelled etiological) explain the reason why something is the way it is today. The word aetiological is from the Greek word aetion (αἴτιον) meaning “reason” or “explanation”. Please note that the reasons given in an aetiological myth are NOT the real (or scientific) reasons. They are explanations that have meaning for us as human beings.
Historical myths are told about a historical event, and they help keep the memory of that event alive. Ironically, in historical myths, the accuracy is lost but meaning is gained. The myths about the Trojan War, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, could be classified as historical myths.
Psychological myths try to explain why we feel and act the way we do. A psychological myth is different from an aetiological myth because a psychological myth does not try to explain one thing by way of something else (such as lightning and thunder can be explained by Zeus’ anger). In a psychological myth, the emotion itself is seen as a divine force, coming from the outside, that can directly influence a person’s emotions.
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