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Theories of Myth Paper

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Theories of Myths Paper Myths are so important when it comes to understanding people; Myth comes from the Greek word ‘mythos’ that simply means story or word. Before histories and books on fiction, fact or fantasy were ever written, man from the earliest days told stories to each other and for each other to communicate, reassure, share, and make sense of his or her realities. Myths enact and present a narrative of how a character lives out or goes through an event or a set of events. Myths have come to symbolize a particular genre of fiction along the lines of legends and folktales - important aspects of meaning-making and identity-creation in cultures all over the world. Mary Magoulick (2009) defines myths as such, "Myths are symbolic tales of the distant past (often primordial times) that concern cosmogony and cosmology (the origin and nature of the universe), may be connected to belief systems or rituals, and may serve to direct social action and values." In this paper I will discuss three theories, compare two creation myths, and finish with a summary and conclusion of my reflection towards the theories. Myths are important areas and source of sociological, psychological, and even historiographical discourse in our attempt at understanding and learning of the world of our ancestors and the people and civilizations that came before us. From these myths we learn their world views, how they made sense of their realities and how they reacted to and processed natural and social phenomenon. Theories of myths explain the nature, purpose, and origins of myths. According to Csapo (2005), all myths can be explained by the Andrew Lang's Aetiology, Max Muller’s Nature Myths, and Branislow Malinowski's Myth as Charter theories and in doing so explain and express the sociological, psychological, ritualistic and structural underpinnings of the purpose and origins of a particular myth. For Andrew Lang, myths are comparative. Aetiology refers to myths explaining cause and effect in observed phenomenon for myths are a kind of primitive critical processes. They are a construction of reality that 'fits' a particular world view of a group of people. Consider many day and night myths and explanations of season myths as well as myths that explain the source and origins of natural phenomenon like rain, rivers, and mountains. Muller (Scarburough, 1994) believes that all myths are an explanation of and are closely in reference to elements in nature for the purpose of explaining natural phenomenon seen as an essential element to a person, people, and their shared experiences. Myths for Muller refer to meteorological, cosmological, or agricultural phenomena. The allegory and metaphor in myths are explanations and expressions of observed realities. For example, the story of Ceres is an attempt at explaining the nature of the seasons, the myth of Helios returning each night in a golden cup represents the cycle of day and night. He believes also that myths are a degeneration of language in that in the experience of realities of a group of people overtime, through many generations, and migrations, original meanings are forgotten and the remaining metaphors become legendary explanations of the origins of natural elements. Anthropologist Branislow Malinowski believes that myths perform an important function that anchor a particular culture. His studies of South Pacific peoples show that myths are important in traditional societies in that they validate a ritual or a practice. For example, the myths associated with creation that forms the very heart of a belief system. A common example would be the holy communion, Christians attending mass, line up and partake of bread and wine served by the officiating priest and his deacons. The root, the charter of this practice is the notion that the bread and wine are Christ's own body and blood, as said to have been offered and symbolized in the passages from the Christian Bible (John, Matthew, and Luke). The Holy Communion is a symbolism of the Christian belief in Christ as Savoir with the ritual and belief anchored by the passages in the Bible. The first one is a myth from the Heliopolis tradition the Egyptian creation. The Heliopolis creation myth version tells that an ancient God, Atum - the world, came into existence by thought. Separating from the watery chaos, he breathed creating Shu (another ancient God also known as 'air') and by his spat created moisture known as Tefnut (water). These led to the possibility of life as when Shu and Tefnut came together, the earth happened. The second creation myth I am including is a far more detailed one, of the Norse. According to the 12th century Snorra Edda, the Muspell, the first world to ever exist is a place of extreme fire and ice that no one can endure it. Surt, an ancient deity guards the doors of Muspell with a Sword - it is said he will vanquish all the gods and burn the world in the end. Beyond Muspell lays the Ginunggap, avoid between fire and ice. Beyond it lay Niflheim, a realm of Ice, frost, wind, rain and heavy cold and in Ginnungagap it collides with the soft air, heat, light, and soft air from Muspell and where condensation happened it created the giant frost ogre Ymir and the ice cow Audhumla. Whereas Ymir slept from Ymir's foot emerged a son and from his armpits a daughter - they were Jtunn, a race of supernatural giants of great strength. From his sweat came Surt, a Jtunn of fire who came to guard Muspell. Ymir then awoke thirsty and nourished himself with the milk of the ice cow who then proceeded to lick a salt stone. When the gods had strength enough, they killed Ymir. Over time the Jtunn increased in numbers and the gods created worlds seven of them using Ymir's flesh for earth, his blood for the waters, his bones for stones, his brain for the clouds and his skull for the skies. The sparks from Muspelheim strayed into the skies to become the stars.Odin breathed life to them, Vili gave them consciousness and Ve gave them the ability to see, hear, and speak. They then created a world, Middle-Earth for them, fencing it with the lashes of Ymir to keep the Jtunn away. Ask and Embla became the foreparents of humanity under the protection of the gods. It would seem that the Egyptian Heliopolis creation myth is far less detailed than the Norse creation myth. They are similar in that they have elements of ex nihilo. The Heliopolis myth is pure ex nihilo - a world and life out of nothing. The second myth is partially ex nihilo for there was fire before the first being or God appeared. Both myths symbolize the beliefs of the people who originated them. The Egyptians regaled and hailed as important water and air because of the close association they have with the Nile - their source of water and thus the source of life. The Nile floods fertilize the banks and are the source of water to irrigate farms. It is also a major transportation artery that permits the governing of Egypt as well as the ordering of the Egyptian people. It is no surprise then that both water and air finds more importance than any other element in creation from Heliopolis, a center of thought in ancient Egyptian at the convergence of central Nile where fertile earth, fresh air and access to water can be easily found. Now, the Norse are a people whose lives were shaped by the elements of a harsh environment - springs and summers are fertile and bountiful but winters are harsh and enduring. Hence, they crafted their creation myths with elements essential in their way of life - fire, water, ice, milk, animals, and even salt. Additionally, the social realities of an uncertain way of life are by the scourge of violence even in the creation of Middle-Earth, the world of man. Murder, betrayal and elements of human flaws were even expressed in the behavior of the very ancient gods, which goes on to imply that in the greater scheme of things. The world the Norse knew was one of uncertainty that included violence and suffering making them, as creations of such gods subject to these uncertainties. Culture happens over time via shared histories and realities through language. These creation myths are very particular in that they are rooted in the culture and shared experience of a particular group of people. This is what makes myths so essential in cultural studies, revealing a world view of opinions as well as shared roots and experiences.

 Csapo, Eric (2005), Theories of Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell.

 Scarburough, Milton (1994), Myth and modernity: postcritical reflections, SUNY Press.

 Myth as Thought: Modern Theory and Myth. (2010). Retrieved on October 31, 2010 from
 What is Myth.? Mary Magolick. (2010). Retrieved on October 31, 2010 from  The nature of Myth. Craig Chalquist, MS PhD. (2006). Retrieved on October 31, 2010 from…...

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