Monolithic Theories of Myth Much Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 2
  • Subject: Mythology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #60263652

Excerpt from Essay :

They are instructive but do not attempt to provide information about origination or purpose beyond informing the population of potential consequences for not abiding by the cultural customs. Malinowski suggested that instead of natural or explanatory reasons, a more logical explanation for the prevalence of mythology in Ancient Greece and Rome had to do with the reinforcement of customs and traditions already existing in the society. The myths would be created to justify accepted social customs as opposed to the actions of the society being dictated by the myths (Kirk 1974). The myth does not try to provide an explanation for why the custom must be performed but instead creates a precedent for the custom to insist that it is continually performed. An example of this would be proper burial rituals of Ancient Greece. It is written for example that bodies are to be properly buried and if they are not, but rather left out to be fed upon by wild birds and beasts, then this does not allow the person to be accepted into the afterlife. They will never be allowed to the next stage in Hades unless they are given a proper burial. No myths exist which explain why this is the case; it is merely presented as fact and therefore the Greeks were expected to bury their dead according to the customs of the social dictum.

Creation or creative era myths explain the fundamental question of human existence, namely how did we get here and for what reasons were human beings created? Every society has some form of creation mythology and they are some of the most deeply-held beliefs of a social structure. Many modern Christians for example adhere to the strict interpretation of their Bible that human beings were created by God in the form of the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, and that mankind's suffering is caused by the disobedience of those first human beings. Ancient Greek and Roman creation myth was equally important to those societies. Mircea Eliade, per the writing of GS Kirk (1974) went a step beyond that. Eliade stated that the society uses the creation myth as a way of attempting to evoke or reestablish their present society as it was when the world was new. This theory suggests that there is a twofold reason for wanting to return to the creation era: that there is a degree of nostalgia associated with it, but that also there is a hope that the present society can hope to obtain some of the power of that creation in a form of divination of humanity. By becoming closer to creation and therefore closer to their creators, humans can take part in the divine power of those creators. The feeling of empowerment encourages people to create further myths which support the direct relationship between the gods and the humans. Eliade uses events where the people would dress up and recreate the creation as evidence to support this theory. By recreating creation, people were in fact assuming the guise of their gods and goddesses, further reaffirming that they were closely associated with the divine. Myths would help reinforce these perspectives and so the more stories there were to act as evidence of a divine relationship with human beings, the stronger that perception of connection could be. The problem with this theory as with the others listed is that it is not universally applicable; there are myths which do not relate to creation and therefore do not reflect this need to return.

Finally, ritual myths are similar to charter myths except for the fact that they are almost exclusively behavioral in nature. They instruct on how a person ought to behave and why certain rituals ought to be conducted. This is particularly evident in rituals which have historic origins but for which those participating in the modern moment may not have inclination or understanding. Myths are created to reinforce the ritual and to make it seem relevant to people living within the society's present. W. Robertson Smith traced rituals and their importance in the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Akkadians, and the people of earliest Mesopotamia (Kirk 1974). By keeping the rituals of the forbearers alive, it was easier to maintain a unified society in the present.

Works Cited

Kirk, GS 1974,…

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