Introduction to Mythology Mrs. Devenport
People have always wanted to know and understand why things happen. • Why does the sun rise? What causes lightning? How was the earth created? When did humanity first appear? • Today, we have scientific answers for our questions, but back in the early ages of humans, people lacked the knowledge to provide scientific answers. • The people from the early ages in almost all cultures explained natural events through stories about gods, goddesses, and heroes. How Did Mythology Begin?
In early times, every society developed its own myths, which played an important role in the society’s religious life. • This religious significance has always separated myths from similar stories, such as folk tales and legends. • Legend: A story sometimes regarded as historical but without proof. • Folk Tale: A story typically passed on by word of mouth. • The people of a society may tell folk tales and legends for amusement, without believing them. But they usually consider myths sacred and completely true. Mythology and Religion
Most myths concern divinities, or divine beings (gods, goddesses, titans, etc). • The divinities have supernatural powers—powers far greater than any human being has. But in spite of these powers, many gods, goddesses and heroes of mythology have human characteristics. • The divinities are guided by emotions such as love and jealousy, and they experience birth and death. • Many look like human beings. • The human qualities a divinity has reflects the society’s ideals. • Good gods and goddesses have the qualities a society admires. • Evil gods and goddesses have qualities a society dislikes. Gods and Goddesses
By studying myths, we can learn: • how different societies have answered basic questions about the world. • how a people developed a particular social system with its many customs and ways of life. • Better understand the feelings and values that bind members of society into a group • To understand how and why people behave as they do. • Mythology has provided material for much of the world’s great art. • Masterpieces of: • architecture • Literature • Music • Painting • Sculpture Why Study Mythology?
Creation Myths Explanatory Myths Try to explain natural processes and events Ex. Zeus and his lightning bolt to explain lightning Try to explain formation and characteristics of geographic features like rivers, lakes, oceans. Try to explain illness and death Believed it was due to a mythical being’s will or act • Try to explain: • the origin of the world • The creation of human beings • Gods and goddesses • All early societies have creation myths Types of Myths
Some myths, through the actions of gods and heroes, stress proper behavior. • The ancient Greeks believed strongly in moderation—that nothing be done in excess. • Their ideal god was Apollo, the god of purity, music, and poetry • Myths about national heroes also point out basic moral values of a culture. • Ex. The story about young George Washington’s confession that he had cut down his father’s cherry tree has no basis in fact. Yet many people like to believe the story because it emphasizes the quality of honesty. Mind Your Manners!
Anthropomorphic • Means: in the shape of man • Resembled humans • Were born, fell in love, fought with one another, and generally behaved like their human worshipers • Theriomorphic • Means: in the shape of an animal • Resembled animals • Mostly from Egyptian mythology, though there are a few in Greek myths Two Types of Gods/Goddesses