Myths have played an important role in the shaping of our identity and society throughout history, and they still do. Every country and culture has its own stories that form the worldview that the people in these groups share, even if they are not believed to be true anymore. Some of these myths have become quite famous because they appear in many movies and other forms of media. But, what exactly is a myth and why should these stories still matter today?
What Are Myths? Meaning Making Stories
Myths are meaning making stories that often find their origin in the early history of a culture or a group of people. Sometimes they are based on true events, but over time they are shaped and moulded until it becomes unclear when these might have taken place. The main characters in these stories are often gods, half gods or magical beings, but sometimes human beings make an appearance as well. In the stories written by Homer humans are often the main characters, for example in the Iliad.
Moreover, myths help us give meaning to the events that happen to us and the things that exist around us. From the time people gained language, they started wondering how the world came into being as well as why bad things happen and how one should behave. Myths provided people with an explanation for the things they could not understand. For instance, they explain bad weather by saying the gods are angry and they came up with elaborate stories on how the world came into existence.
Myths are also used to convert certain philosophies or to teach what is considered desirable behaviour. Therefore, a lot of myths hold a normative message or a lesson. For example, the story of narcissus warns us of being too self-absorbed while the tale of Herakles shows us how an honourable man should behave.
Why Are They Important?
Myths can be seen as a mixture of philosophy, history and anthropology. They teach us about the culture and values of certain groups and they can carry philosophical messages as well. They are able to show us philosophical ideas through a story as well as ethical norms. And, They can give us a sense of how these ancient people used to live and what they used to believe.
A lot of myths do not have the same influence on society as they used to have: nobody believes in Thor or Zeus anymore. However, the Christian or Islamic creation stories can also be considered myths and these still have a great influence on our society. And, for instance, the Buddha is a mythological figure that still inspires many people and his teachings are still shaping our world. He even hangs around in most living rooms and gardens nowadays!
Thus, we can use myths to come to a better understanding of other cultures and of varying worldviews throughout history. But, it can also provide us with comprehension of our own culture and perspective. Additionally, reading mythology can give you new philosophical insights and can make you think about life in different ways.
What could be a reason that mythology is still so popular in the media?