What is Mythology?

When someone says ‘myth’, most of the time it’s in the context of… well, the type of myths that the Myth Busters debunk. Something that is false – like how people supposedly swallow eight spiders a year while they’re sleeping (which is false). Another meaning for this word, however, is mythology – the spoken stories from so long ago. 

A curious thing is there’s a lot of debate about what exactly a ‘myth’ is. There’s not a solid line between fact and fiction, nor is there a line between what is considered religion and what is considered mythology. It most often isn’t known who first came up with them, or why exactly they made the myth in the first place. However, taking a step back and simply looking at the definition of the word gives us a bit of information as to what exactly a myth is. 

It’s a cross between two Greek words – as a surprisingly large sum of the English language actually is. The word mythology comes from mythos – which means ‘story – and logos – which is ‘speech’. So, Mythology itself is simply a spoken story [Mark]. Sure, by now it’s been written and re-written, and most people will never hear a story from a storyteller or bard… Myths, however, started as merely spoken stories, as they were made long before there was even any writing. Now, the literal definition is only one facet of mythology – there are categories that each myth falls into.  

Historians today have sorted out mythology into too many different categories – some even consider fables, fairy tales, and folktales to be mythology– and others don’t. When most people think of mythology, however, it seems like they think of examples like the Greek myths explaining how things are. How Persephone and Demeter cause the seasons, how evil was released into the world through Pandora’s Box, that sort of thing. These myths are called Etiological. Some myths are Historical, taking historical events and put a meaning behind them that wasn’t exactly the reason it happened. And these are just a few of the different types of mythology categories – especially since not everyone even agrees on it! 

What actually binds something as a myth compared to a religious story, compared to fact or fiction, compared to a whole slew of things … isn’t exactly hardbound. It’s up to each reader to look and decide if they think it counts as a myth – and what to them makes something a myth or not. 

Therefore, as you continue reading through these stories that will be put forth… Do you think it counts as a myth? I will be setting up a poll at the end of each story I tell to ask what the general consensus is, and at the end of the semester I will go over the answers and figure out what the students of ORVA thinks is considered mythology or not.  
 
Read on, and I’ll ‘see’ you soon!  

Author – Stephany S

One thought on “What is Mythology?

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  1. Steph – this is fascinating and I can’t wait to read more! Thank you for defining myths. As with all stories and literature, it takes a reader (or listener) to determine the meaning of the text. Brava!

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