What is the Importance of Mythology in modern life?
To understand the importance of mythology, one has to define myth. Dictionary.com says it is “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature. “
Or it could be “a story presented as historical, dealing with traditions specific to a culture or a group of people.”
Mythology is our heritage. It reminds us of who we are and where our people came from, what they valued and how we relate to one another. Every culture has its own legends, folktales, and myths, expressions of our cultural viewpoints, fears, and aspirations.
Myths usually are old but also can be recent. Beowulf and Luke Skywalker.
King Arthur and Sherlock Holmes.
We are always inventing myths and heroes to entertain us, teach us and guide us through the rites of passage in our lives. Norse, Greek, Native American, and many other myths imbue our lives with wisdom. They help us navigate the seasons of our lives.
Yesterday and today
Myths come from all societies and reflect the values needed to survive, and heroes have changed over time. Their values have changed as society changes. As we get more sophisticated our heroes become different as our challenges change.
For example; take Gawaine, from the Arthurian cycle, in the earliest versions he is Arthur’s closest companion a knight par excellence. Look at his portrayal in “Mabinogion”, he is the epitome of all the virtues of a great knight. “He called Gwalchmai the son of Gwyar because he never returned home without achieving the adventure of which he went in quest. He was the best of the footmen and the best of the knights.” Later on in the cycle, Sir Lancelot Du Lac is the great knight and Gawaine is reduced to a drunk womanizer. Why? Because the courtly romance concept has changed and the old fashioned views of a hero (being a great fighter) have changed; so they pushed aside Gawaine and relegated him to a lower position than Lancelot. He became irrelevant.
Look at heroes like Beowulf, Hercules, Brian Boru, or Cuculaine, they needed to fight better, brag louder, and binge drink more ale than the other fighters to win fame and acclaim. Lancelot is a knight who is unbeatable and yet courtly and at the service of women. He says at points that this quality of never losing a fight is, in fact, a curse to him. While his son Galahad is almost otherworldly in an effortless attainment of perfection in the Grail Quest. Attitudes change, and so must the hero and the hero quest.
Mythology tells us about ourselves.
Myths are a mirror of a culture’s values, priorities, and concerns. They are also a reflection of the universal human experience. We can relate to them because they reflect our own fears, and desires; our challenges, victories, and defeats. Myths teach us how to behave in distress, how to fight back; how to face death and snatch victory from the clutches of defeat. We can learn to be brave when we are afraid or compassionate in victory. We can learn to identify the tricksters in our own life. Myths are signposts of the life markers in our own lives. That is the importance of mythology in our modern world.
The older myths help us identify traits in the animals we share the land with. A trickster fox, a prideful lion, a slow turtle, each has a story to tell and wisdom to impart. They tell us about the world we live in, the planets, the sun and moon, lightning and the seasons. Myth is a framework for understanding the seasons of the year and of our lives.
Myths can also offer an escape from the hectic life we lead by immersing us in a simpler time. The Native American myths and folktales bring us an understanding of nature. They harken back to a time where the people lived with the seasonal cycle of nature. An attitude of respect towards nature bordering on reverence. This viewpoint of reverence to nature and all it provides shows the importance of myth to the modern mind.
I grew up in a Christian viewpoint but exposure to the myths of the world has allowed me to see the value in each tradition. From the far east we learn the wisdom of the Buddha, and Lao Tsu, From the Indian subcontinent we learn from Zoroaster, Hindus, and the Vedic. The Native American tribes offer a diverse universe of beliefs, much we don’t even understand yet. Aztecs and Mayans, Hopi, Apache and Sioux all their stories are real learning experiences.
At no time in history are we so close yet so far apart. Even the diversity of European traditions is staggering. We haven’t even discussed Africa. Egypt to Morocco and Congo to South Africa the richness and pride they feel for their ancestors is touching. We have much to learn about ourselves and our neighbors across the globe.
This really is the importance of Mythology, to help us grow together and have pride in our ancestors and appreciate those feelings in others.
These powerful tales have inspired us to create Mythic-Images.com a place where the myths of the world can live again in the creations of artists and designers. We hope you find inspiration in these pages and enjoy exploring all we have to offer.