Relevance of Mythology in the Modern World

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The Relevance and Importance of Mythology

The study of mythology has intrigued humankind for long. The stories of monsters, gods and human beings who lived and interacted with them have been passed on to the next generation and as a result, capturing the attention of the adults and children. Although these myths are fascinating, they provide a challenge of its kind to the historians. A lot can be learned from the ancient societies by studying the myths concerning how the ancient people lived and how they perceived the world around them. These myths have a deeper meaning and should not be viewed as just stories that were intended to entertain people. Myth focuses on the fantasies, divine and supernatural and due to this, they remain vital historically. The paper will delve into the analysis of why the study of the mythology is still relevant in the modern world and what can be learned from these myths.

The Different Forms and Importance of Myths

The myths can be narrated with the intentions of being analytical, theoretical, romantic, rational, symbolic and allegoric. A myth can deal with one form or all the forms at once. These stories are different from other tales because they are associated with a particular time, people and place. The myths are connected with each leading to the emergence of a new one, and they have an auditory element which makes them different from other tales (Dowden, 1992). Unlike fairy tales that are meant to entertain the audience, myth conveys essential message concerning gods and life to the members of the community and therefore are perceived as "traditional tales relevant to society" (Donaldson, 1997). It is for this reason that myths are still relevant in modern societies.

The Values and Beliefs Revealed by Greek and Egyptian Mythology

The study of the mythology of both Greeks and Egyptians reveals that the ancient people valued rationality and humanity and perceived it as the centre of the universe. Although the myths are fantastic, they are always reflecting an empirical reality and never irrational. In addition to these, the myths show that past communities longed at understanding the divine more often through their gods. These people had a high affinity for excellent and divine, and this made them remain focused and at the same time never giving up labouring (Donaldson, 1997). In the long last the Greek changed thunder and lightning into a universal god. The study of ancient Greek and Egyptian myth reveals that these ancient people valued wisdom, rationalism and humanism (Dowden, 1992).

The Historical Significance of Mythology

The study of the myths of different cultures is instrumental because it helps in the understanding of history by providing information that can be used in relating the actual happenings that took place in ancient times. In the myth of the Iliad for instance where the story of the Kingdom of Troy and the Trojan War is narrated, it is not clear if the war took place with gods appearing on the battlefield and if it did happen it might not have been triggered by the runaway wife as supposed (Sailors, 2007). Therefore these myths are useful for historians because they inspire them to seek more information concerning these ancient cultures by carrying out more studies.

The Moral Lessons and Virtues in Myths

Mythology plays a vital role in educating the members of the society the societal way of life, the expectations and the consequences that might arise due to the actions that is in contrary to the norms. In the myth of the "Bull of Minos" for example, the King of Crete failed to honour gods’ promise by not sacrificing the bull that Poseidon send to him because it was beautiful and instead offered a different animal for sacrifice. Mino's deception attracted a punishment where "Poseidon made her wife fall in love with the bull and later got pregnant and delivered a Minotaur, a monster that was half-bull and a half-man" (Eliade, 1993). This myth seeks to convey a lesson to the members of the community that it is essential for people to keep their words whenever they promise the gods something because failure could cause severe consequences (Eliade, 1993). Many myths attempt to portray the gods as supernatural beings that value truth, and that must be obeyed, and therefore its study helps in instilling the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness in individuals more so the youth by teaching them the need to upheld societal values and norms.

Understanding the Natural and Unexplained Phenomena through Myths

By studying mythology, one can be able to learn how the ancient cultures understood the world around them. Mythology plays a role in explaining the unexplained by giving sense to the world's mysterious and reasons behind the natural phenomenon whose occurrences seems complicated and beyond the understanding and control of humankind. For example, this can be seen in the myth of Demeter and Persephone (Eliade, 1993). Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, had a daughter called Persephone who was stolen by Hades who had always wanted to marry her and make her the goddess of the underworld. When Demeter realised that her daughter was in the underworld, she went there to bring her back, but unfortunately, she had already eaten the fruits of that place making it impossible to come back to the world. Demeter, therefore, made a deal with Hades that for some part of the year Persephone will stay with him and the remaining period she will stay with her daughter. For this reason, seasons were formed whereby the time that Persephone is with Hades became the season of fall and winter where nothing grows because of the return of Demeter's curse while when with Demeter the land flourished and this became spring and summer season (Eliade, 1993).

Myths and the Explanation of Cultural Practices and Rituals

The ancient societies devised ways of doing things some of which can be seen in modern societies. The myths of these ancient cultures help us learn the reason why in the past people did certain things. This function of the myth that seeks to explain why cultures performed specific rituals is connected to the religion (Lichtheim, 1990). The study of the Greek myth of Prometheus and sacrifices, for example, reveals that long ago the gods lived among the humans but at the time of leaving the earth they went with fire. However, Prometheus brought back the fire to humanity on earth after stealing from the gods, and this act angered them so much. To appease the gods Prometheus came up with the idea of offering sacrifices, he cut the animal into parts and filled one bag with good parts and the other bag with bad pieces that included bones and then covered the two bags. Zeus, the god of heavens, chose the second bag and this was what was offered as sacrifice henceforth while the humans kept the first bag with good flesh (Solodow, 1988). The myth of Prometheus and the sacrifices explains why the sacrificial animals were always divided into two parts and how humans got fire.

Understanding the Origins of Humankind and the Afterlife through Myths

Many human beings have raised questions of their existence and attempted to find an answer that will help them understand where humankind originated. Study of mythology tries to answer this question however each culture has its version of creation theory. The study of the four versions of the Greek creation myths provides a more concise answer to the problem. This myth states that in the beginning, the world was one however due to chaos the Mother Earth (Gaea) and the Heaven (Ouranos) gave birth to powerful monsters that made the first generation of living creatures in the world. In addition to these monsters, they also gave birth to a race of Titans (Dowden, 1992). The father treated his children unbearably and even put the monsters in the cave that was located far away on earth. Because of this horrible treatment, the mother earth incites her children to fight their father and take over the leadership of the universe. All the children feared to take their mothers advice but Cronus went ahead and rebelled against Ouranos, and when he won he became the King of the universe while his sister Rhea became the queen. Because of the existence of the prophecy that Cronus children will overthrow him, he took precautionary measure where he swallowed all the babies that his wife gave birth. However, Rhea managed to send away her sixth child Zeus who later accomplished the prophecy and overthrew his father (Tyldesley, 2011). Zeus managed to free his siblings that were swallowed by Cronus, punished all those who fought against him in the war and together with the siblings they became the new leaders of the world. Prometheus because of his loyalty to Zeus during the war he was allowed to come to the earth and form humankind.

Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Mythology

Similarly, through the study of the myths of the ancient culture, we can find an answer to the question of what happens when we die. According to the myths of Greeks, the dead go to the underworld, and to do that one has to have paid for a Charon that will take them across Styx River whereas those who fail to pay will remain near the river bank (Sailors, 2007). Cerberus, a multi-headed dog, guards the river bank on the opposite side such that no dead could return to the living once crossed the river and no living humans can cross over to the underworld. The dead while in the afterlife they can go to any of the three places "Asphodel Meadows if they are neither virtuous nor evil, Tartarus if they are evil and Elysium if they are virtuous" (Westermann, 1992). Hades is the god in charge of the underworld, and his queen is Persephone, the chief judge of the afterlife is Minos and Elysium is governed by Cronus.

Lessons and Morality in Ancient Myths

In the myth of Isis and Osiris, the readers can understand the origin of revenge and murder. The myth claim that Osiris, Isis, and Set were the children of the earth goddess and Osiris being the eldest son ascended the throne and was the people's favourite leader. Because of jealousy Set killed Osiris but Isis who was also Osiris wife brought him back to life Since Osiris had died once and resurrected he had to remain in the underworld (Hollenitsch, 2007). The myth of "Horus and Set: A Mythical Murder Plot Continues" teaches that no individual has a right to take power or leadership through immoral and inhumane ways such as through murder. In this myth, Horus the son of Osiris upon becoming a grown-up man he challenged Set to the throne but Set triumphed in all contests through deception (Tyldesley, 2011). However, after Isis trap revealed that Set was winning unfairly, Horus took the throne with the help of his father who is also the king of the underworld.

The Concept of Death in Egyptian Mythology

The topic of death has caused a lot of fear in many people in the modern world. However, the study of ancient Egyptian culture as revealed through their myths shows that death is universal (Hollenitsch, 2007). The study of the Funerary Mythology teaches that death is not forbidden and shameful as it is perceived in some modern societies but a part of creation. The Egyptians believed in the life after death and therefore through the study of their myths one realizes that death act as a transition into a new life. The Egyptian culture held on to the underlying idea "that life can only exist, be renewed and be regained through death" (DAuria, Lacovara and Roehrig, 1988). This concept is emphasized by the claim that even the gods go through the same transition such as Osiris and Re who were once mortals died and then resurrected.

For this reason, the bodies of the dead were preserved by mummification and the mummies were wrapped in bandages in preparation for the journey and resurrection in the underworld. The thoroughness with which the Egyptians were bound makes understandable such special prayers like the one written on a coffin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York directing the goddess Isis to free the mummy from its wrappings at the moment of resurrection (Lichtheim, 1990). The myth also indicates that the ancient cultures were against criminal activities and sins and they encouraged morality in the society because according to the myths criminals and sinners could be subjected to severe punishment in the afterlife and were not allowed to enter into the hall of two truths (Westermann, 1992). Furthermore, through mythology one can learn the importance of order, justice and reality as it was exercised in the ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures. These virtues can be witnessed in the way judgment was carried out for the dead in the Hall of Judgments by the gods (DAuria, Lacovara and Roehrig, 1988).

Conclusion

The myth of the ancient cultures such as the Greek and the Egyptian myths not only serve the purposes of entertainment but also they are rational and reflect an empirical reality of the society. The study of mythology shows that there was a high value for wisdom, rationalism and humanism in ancient cultures. Although some of the claims in the myths might be exaggerated or even not true, they inspire historians to seek more information about the ancient people by carrying out more research and therefore are vital for the development of the history of humankind. Similarly, the study of ancient myths plays a crucial role in encouraging members of the community to uphold the societal norms by teaching them about societal ways of life, their expectations, and the consequences of going against these norms. Also, the study of myths has been instrumental in giving explanations to why certain things happen. For this reason, myths are still relevant in the modern world and continue to shape contemporary society.

References

DAuria S, Lacovara P and Roehrig C. 1988. Mummies and Magic: The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt. Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas Museum of Art.

Dowden K. 1992. Approaching the Ancient World: The Uses of Greek Mythology. Rutledge, London.

Donaldson I. 1997. The Rapes of Lucretia: A Myth and its Transformations. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Eliade M. 1993.The Encyclopaedia of Religion: Greek Religion. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.

Hollenitsch N. 2007. Mythology, Cosmology, and Symbolism of Ancient Egypt, Part 1. Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Lichtheim M.1990. Ancient Egyptian Literature: The Three Tales of Wonder. University of California Press, London.

Sailors C. 2007. "The Function of Mythology and Religion in Ancient Greek Society." (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2110. [Online] (Updated 2007) Available at: <http://dc.etsu.edu/etd/2110> [Accessed Oct 16, 2018]

Solodow J. 1988.  The World of Ovid's Metamorphoses:  MYTHOLOGY. University of North Carolina. JSTOR. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469616490_solodow.7

Tyldesley J. 2011. Ancient Egypt and the Modern World. BBC.

Westermann C. 1992. Genesis: An Introduction. Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

November 13, 2023
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Greek Mythology

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Myths Mythology

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