The term mythology has its origin in the Greek language, which derived in the Latin mythologĭa. It can be defined as the collection of myths of a community (in this sense, we can speak of Greek mythology, Andean mythology, etc.) and the analysis of these narrations.
Mythology is the belief system that is connected to myths. It is also an assemblage of sacred fables that are associated with a culture, and a people. These fables, usually have something to do with gods, life after death, life before human existence and human life in general. Mythology is an expression of the beliefs that are held by a group of people.
To understand the notion of mythology, therefore, we must pay attention to the concept of myth.
What is Myth?
Myths talk about stories that have to do with the beginning of human life, both on earth and in other parts of the universe and the birth of humans with super-powers. They also provide explanations for seemingly illogical human customs.
Myths are sometimes confused for legends and fables. However, the truth is; myths are entirely different from fables. In myths, the main characters are usually gods and superhumans. But in fables, the main characters are generally humans and sometimes animals.
Though they are stories, myths are way more than that. They typically have a strong link with the spiritual and go a long way in explaining the religious practices and beliefs of a people, are usually promoted by spiritual leaders as well as kings and are considered to be absolute truth.
Theories of Myth
There are many theories on the subject of myth. While all these theories hold water in various cultures, none of them is generally accepted across different cultures. Some of the most popular are euphemism, allegory, and personification.
According to this theory, myths are twisted accounts of real-life events that happened many years ago. This theory goes on to explain that the stories that turn out to become myths are stories that have been exaggerated over and over again by great ancient storytellers until the main characters became gods in the eyes and ears of the people.
Another popular theory of myths is an allegory. According to this theory, it all started out as allegories for natural occurrences and symbols. An example is the representation of water by Poseidon and the sun by Apollo. This theory, also states that myths are allegories for the spiritual and philosophical phenomenon. Examples of this are Aphrodite which stands for desire and Athena, which stands for wise judgment.
Personification, the literary term that gives life to the non-living thing, is also believed to be a theory of myths. This theory explains that people of old worshiped natural phenomena such as fire, wind, etc. The act of venerating these forces gradually led to life being given to these forces. Now, the fact that gods were considered living things meant they had been given life by their worshippers.
Types of Myths
There are several types of myths. However, two stand out and are generally recognized. They are Aetiological myths and historical myths.
- Aetiological Myths
This type of myths seeks to explain an entire phenomenon. This type of legend offers reasons why something happens the way it does. Though most accounts that are usually proffered by aetiological myths have no scientific meanings; they are still generally believed to be true. Various types of aetiological myths explain different things.
- Historical Myths
Historical myths are myths that attempt to keep alive the memory of an event. Some of such myths include Odysee and the Trojan war.
A myth is a story that was born as an expression linked to the sacred and that, over time, was secularized and began to be treated as a fictional content linked to the belief of an era. Myths arise to provide an explanation about nature, the birth of the universe and other phenomena that are not easy to understand. There are many great significance mythologies throughout history.
The most usual conception of mythology is associated with the religion of ancient peoples. Related concepts are myths, stories, traditions, gods, goddesses and more
Mythology try to answer questions like, what is the meaning of life, what is the origin of all. Religion and mythology are very related even they are not the same.
Some popular mythologies in the world include;
- Buddha Mythology
Buddha mythology is made up of many myths that help to shed light on the religious teachings of Buddha. The tales that make up the Buddha mythology have been an essential part of the Buddha religion. Buddha mythology alongside the ancient Shakyamuni is responsible for the great success of Buddhism.
- Hindu Mythology
Hindu mythology is contained in ancient literature such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Sangam literature, etc. The myths included in this literature have gone through various stages and now have much more profound interpretations than they used to. The legends in Hindu mythology are all about the fight against between good and evil. Some of the most common myths in Hindu mythology are Matsya, Kurma, etc.
- Persian Mythology
Persian mythology is dominated by Rostam. He was majorly antagonized by Zahhak a character with two snakes on his shoulders. This mythology explains a lot about the way of life of the people of modern-day Iran. It is centered on the fight between good and evil and has the high mountains of Iran as its setting.
- Asian Mythology
Asian mythology is dominated by Chinese myths. There are quite some symbols from Asian myths that have gained worldwide popularity. Some of these symbols are the Chinese dragon, the Pixiu, Dokkaebi, Gumiho, etc.
- Roman Mythology
Roman mythology is greatly influenced by Greek mythology and is a definition of the way of life of the Romans. This mythology was made popular by documents written by Virgil and Ovid and is dominated by characters such as Janus, Vesta, Romulus, etc. Roman mythology majorly depicted the relationship between humans and gods.
- Native American Mythology
Native American mythology is very strongly associated with religious beliefs and rituals. This mythology is made up of myths that are strongly related to plants, animals, and seasons. Some popular Native American mythologies are Cree mythology, Abenaki mythology and more.
- African Mythology
African mythology is made up of 24 other mythologies. Some of these mythologies are Nubian Mythology, Igbo mythology, Isoko Mythology, etc. Most of them have never been written down, but have been passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. These myths explain the religion and traditions of the African people.
- Egyptian mythology (Pre-Islamic)
Egyptian mythology is an assemblage of myths from pre-Islamic Egypt. This mythology is a very vital part of the religious belief as well as the traditional beliefs of the ancient Egyptian. These myths have been around for thousands of years and are expressed in Egyptian arts and writings.
- South American Mythology
The main character in most of the myths that make up South American Mythology is Viracocha, the god from Inca. Viracocha made the sun and the moon and also banished the giants from the earth after they disobeyed his order. After banishing the giants and creating humans, he relocated to the sky. It is still believed to this day that Viracocha returns to the earth as a beggar occasionally.
A lot of people have heard about the concept of myths and there are lots of myths in the world today. Some of them are peculiar to certain cultures while others cut across different cultures and peoples. These myths have become the spiritual as well as moral guidance for people who believe in them.