Mythology vocabulary


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Mythology vocabulary

  1. 1. Introductory Terms And Concepts
  2. 2.  -ology generally means “the study of”, therefore, “mythology” means “the study of myth” The term “mythology” is often used to mean “a culture’s body of myths”  We will use both meanings interchangeably in this course Classical Mythology  Cultures of ancient Greece and Rome
  3. 3.  In modern times, it often means a lie, a misconception, or a mistaken belief  i.e. “Love at first sight is just a myth” Definition: a traditional story that takes place in the distant past.  Told by a society about itself  Represents the world view, beliefs, principles, and often fears of a society  It is something that has to be communicated – it communicates something about ourselves, who we are, our place in the world, and the gods we worship
  4. 4.  Myths are generally set in the distant past, often when things are very different from how they are now  Often things were better in that past – a “golden age”  Set in a time that cannot be measured by the clock, or a time before clock time began, when great suffering and pleasure can last for eons  Gods and humans interact more freely, things in the world are still changeable (people can turn into trees, etc.)
  5. 5.  All societies have myths, but more important in preliterate societies  Preliterate does not mean illiterate In a literate culture, we have many ways of explaining our world  Psychology, science, history, theology, philosophy, etc. A culture that does not have writing passes down its belief system, values, traditions, history, views of the world, views about society, etc. through word of mouth  The best way to remember and pass on the information is through stories
  6. 6.  Our society makes great distinction between fact and fiction Not true in pre-literate societies  i.e. Mother Earth (Gaea) Societies believe that their mythologies are true – what actually happened in the distant past  i.e. How the world was formed Myth only exists when you are from an outside culture looking in  Within the culture, the myth is a belief of how things actually are or used to be  Of course, not every member of the society believes in the truth, and those societal beliefs change as time evolves
  7. 7.  Myths generally start out as oral stories, told numerous times before being written down, and often change or evolve with different tellers. Much of Greek mythology was transmitted orally through a tradition of bardic storytelling across Greece, so generally there is no clear “author”  Not written down for most of their existence (not until 8th century BCE)  First written myth is Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad  Texts are recordings of a live oral performance – a live storytelling  Passed down from generation to generation  Can’t really say where the story originated, or who the original author is
  8. 8.  Bards’ importance to Greek society  Bond between various Greek villages, thus connect society  Greek mythology changes based on the teller and the listeners  Uses it to promote different ideas, aspects of society Life was short (average lifespan was mid-30’s)  Live on through stories
  9. 9.  Through Literature  Because it is written down, it becomes “the real” version  but in reality, other versions may have been more popular/significant  Myths were givens in society – something everyone knew, so authors often only make brief references to a myth  George Washington cutting down the cherry tree  Only a fraction of Greek literature still exists
  10. 10.  Through Archeology  Archaeology and literature can sometimes shed light on each other  If we don’t know the story, it’s hard to determine from an archeological artifact such as a sculpture or painting  Often times a general reference can be somewhat misleading  Golden Arches
  11. 11.  Mythos (Greek) means “spoken story”, “retelling” or “plot” Logos (Greek) means “personal account”  Speaker takes responsibility for their words rather than just passing on a traditional tale Fabulai (Roman) became our word, “fables”  Less importance on the stories than the Greeks
  12. 12.  Explain some unexplainable event  Early science Justify certain rites or social institutions  i.e. a certain rite in honor of a particular god or goddess, a social institution such as marriage, etc. Legitimatize a particular people or ruling family  The most changeable of myths, as ruling dynasties change and as empires grow or fall  Rulers are often legitimated by direct descent from a god Instruct the audience how to behave (or more often warn how not behave)  Not directly stated; you must infer from story
  13. 13.  Myths often help to explain some unexplainable event; they are the precursors of scientific investigation.  NOTE: religion refers to what people do to honor their gods (rites, ceremonies, rituals etc. to honor their gods and values and guidelines for behavior); mythology would be the underlying stories that go along with the religion
  14. 14.  Sometimes myths were used to explain customs or rituals (before you hunt buffalo, you dance – then the hunt will be successful). Myths fall into several main categories:  Divine myth  Legends  Folktales
  15. 15.  Comes from the Greek word aetion, which means cause  Stories of the Gods, creation, an d a time before humans  Explain gaps in our knowledge  Persephone (the seasons)
  16. 16.  Stories in which supernatural beings are the main actors Usually take place in a world before or outside the present order, where time and often space have different meaning from those familiar to human beings.  i.e. before humans were created, in locations ordinary mortals do not visit while alive (Mt. Olympus, Hades, etc.)
  17. 17.  Analogous to an early form of history  A mythological memory of a human past A story that got its start from some actual event in the past, but because people kept exaggerating what really happened, the story becomes a legend  There was a real event (such as a Trojan War), but the stories dealing with the event cannot be proved.
  18. 18.  Main characters are human, not divine Legends frequently deal with heroes who may or may not have accomplished great deeds.  (Davy Crockett was a noted frontier settler, but did he kill a bear when he was three? Beowulf might have been a real person, but could he really swim underwater for hours? Etc.)
  19. 19.  In Greek mythology, these reflect the aristocratic hero class  Hercules, Jason, Theseus, etc.  Aristos cratos (Greek words) meaning “best power” – power of the best  Legends emanate from a time prior to Dark Age Greece (pre-written culture)  Meant the best fighters, who went into battle fighting for their villages or towns in single combat  Heroes had special qualities  Heroes are usually sons of the gods or the divine
  20. 20.  A fictional story, most often told orally, that entertains and tells a timeless story about traditions and beliefs of a group.  Societal fears  Rites of passage  Moral guidance Folk tales frequently use the supernatural (witches, fairies, etc.), but deal with the common people (forest dwellers or farmers). Fairy tales and fables fall under this category
  21. 21.  Mythology of initiation/rites of passage  Birth, becoming a man, first blood in battle, death, etc. Contain recognizable motifs, such as a hero going on a journey, entering a cave, etc.  Many of these motifs are found in mythology  Use of items imbued with magic power  Escape from danger using trickery  A moral battle with a terrible monster
  22. 22.  A simple story that deals with supernatural beings, told primarily for the benefit of children; to amuse, entertain, or teach. Any message would be something simple such as “The good guy always wins” – he slays the dragon, awakens the princess with a kiss, etc.
  23. 23.  Usually a story in which animals act like and talk like human beings in order to get a message across; For example, in AESOP’S FABLES, a tortoise shows us that “slow and steady can win a race.”