Mythology refers to the collected legends, myths and lores that come from various cultures, groups and/or religions. Though legends may contain some partial truth and facto it which has been exaggerated or romanticized, myths were the stories people tell to explain nature, history and customs. An example of mythology would be the origins of the constellations.
Mythology can exist in many cultures, even in modern ones. Though they are born from numerous sources, such as trying to explain natural phenomena, to accounts of historical events, rituals or the unexplained – myths continue to hold many in curious fascination and wonder.
Some try to explain the creation of mythology as even manifestations of psychological, cultural, societal, religious or even historical truths. Plato, used “mythología” [μυθολογία] as a generic term for “fiction” or “story-telling” of any kind. Myths help to establish models for behavior, exemplify fears and concerns or share practices – all of which help the listener/reader come closer to the divine.
Myths can be typically broken down into different kinds of mythology: euhermerism, allegory, personification, or myth-ritual.
Euhemerism explain that myths are based from historical accounts, usually involving a central figure until they reach god-like status. In fact, the term Euhemerism was named after Euhemerus (c.320 BC) a Greek mythographer. Euhemeus proposed that the gods of ancient Greece came from legends of actual people, hence actual events, become legends, which in turn became the myths.
Allegories try to explain natural phenomena in nature and interpreted literally. Many of the Greek gods, for example, represent natural occurrences such as the sun, moon or sea.
Personification occurred when many ancient people worshiped natural, inanimate objects – such as fire, air,water, etc. In deifying them, these people viewed such things as gods, and not as natural objects, giving rise to myths.
Myth-ritual descrives ancient traditions and rituals performed for reasons unrelated to mythology. Through the ages, as rituals were passed on, forthcoming generations forgot the intentions of such rituals. Myths were then created, and that the practices of rituals celebrated the events that unfolded in the myth. Soon, rituals were tied to religious beliefs, and the myths told the stories of the gods.
Joseph Campbell, a notable American mythologist, has done extensive research into the origins of myth, functions of myths, and the evolution of myths.
In modern times, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, came to understand that everyone shared innate and unconscious psychological forces, which came to become the framework for his study on archetypes.
In even more recent times, the advancement of technology created new mediums and platforms for myths to take place – film and television. Even well known historical myths have seen resurgence as Hollywood has popularized myth through movies such as “Clash of Titans.” Even when not borrowing from historical myths, films have borrowed heavily from the structure of mythology by themes of creation, battles with gods, or even the detriment and abuse of technology.
Even urban legends carry on the tradition of mythology.