Browse the world's mythological stories. Myths are oral or written cultural narratives that explain why the world is the way it is, among other things.
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What are mythological stories
Mythology comes from the Greek word muthos (speech, idea, story) and logia (the study of something). Muthos has been argued to be of pre-Greek origin. When combined, we have the word mythology, which is now accepted as the study and investigation of cultural tales, stories, and legends. However, mythology is more than just a field of study. Mythology is also a fundamental component of society and the means by which we shape our understanding of the world.
Why is it important?
Mythology is an important part of the human tradition and is evident found across cultures. Nearly every civilization and culture has some story (or collection of stories). These stories, or narratives, survived for thousands of years by being communicated verbally. They serve the vital role of continuity for groups of people, as well as community bonding. To participate in the shared beliefs of the community and know the stories is to be part of that community and its traditions. Finally, mythology is as old as the first time that humans sat around a fire and bonded with one another. Life was much more difficult for our ancestors and mythology was a way of keeping people together.
Today, mythology has a slightly different reputation. When one argues "that's a total myth," it is commonly believed that this alludes to a statement that is untrue or not based in reality. In this context, calling something a myth is a put-down intended to challenge its accuracy. However, speaking of mythology within the context of historical accuracy is a separate matter. That is, it is a limited perspective to think of mythological stories as either true historical facts or not. Instead, mythology serves the purpose of having cultural value and deep meaning for the people that participate in it. Even if a given mythological story's narrative is physically improbable or unrealistic, that does not mean it is devoid of value. Alternatively, it is also important to remember that mythological stories are unlikely to be indicative of factual truths. Some narratives may have overlap with historical events, but readers should be cautious when applying such judgments without consideration.
It is worthwhile, then, to consider mythology and its importance within the context of cultural significance. Whether any, all, or none of the events within a story happened, it is undeniable that our ancestors felt strongly about preserving its contents.
What are the different kinds of myths?
Creation myths (also called origin, genesis, and cosmogony myths) explain how and why the universe was created. Creation narratives usually begin with the actions of a supreme deity and culminates into the creation of the physical world, animals, and then humans.
Example → Biblical Genesis: In seven days of creation, god creates the world as we know it.
Flood myths (also called deluge myths) tell the general narrative of a prolonged rain incident where humans are forced to either perish or build an apparatus like a boat to survive. The flood is usually caused by a deity to address the failures of humanity.
Example → Atra-Hasis: Humans become disobedient and Atra-Hasis builds a boat to save his family.
Hero myths (also called hero tales) follow the story of a specific figure that is depicted as being strong, idealized, or a partial deity. The hero generally goes through a troubled childhood, emergence as a revered adult, and a trial such as an identity crisis. Hero myths usually result in success of the hero or death due to a tragic flaw.
Example → The Iliad: Achilles fights in the Trojan war and suffers the loss of his best friend, Patroclus.
Afterlife myths (also known as Hades, underworld, or netherworld myths) detail what happens to humans and some deities after they die. Afterlife myths usually involve some sort of journey and passage that involves ritual rites and formal requirements. Death is also a place where one cannot usually come back from, making it eternal.
Example → Inanna's Descent: Inanna abandons heaven and goes to the netherworld to be killed and brought back to life.
Doomsday myths (also called eschatological or end times myths) explain how the world is going to end and by what means. Why the world ends can vary from human sin to divine conflict, but almost always results in humans perishing.
Example → Biblical Apocalypse: The four horsemen bring about the end of the world, according to John of Patmos.
Prestige myths (also called glory myths) follow the journey of a divine entity, group of deities, king, or powerful city and culminate into detailing why they are a personification of greatness in their sphere of influence.
Example → Hercules: Hercules is the world's strongest man and is known for his adventures.