MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS HUMAN NATURE
While not all myths (such as creation myths) deal with humanity and the human predicament, the majority of lessons in these stories (in)directly touch upon the issue of human nature. The divine imagery and the supernatural elements are by their very nature more grandeur, if not boastful, yet we may in fact learn more about the creation of humanity, its legacy, governing or consequent end (such as in destruction myths). While we are generally dealing with specific myths of specific cultures (in specific times!), the creation may be expressed generally rather than locally. In other words: it is obvious that for example Deucalion and Pyrrha are presented in Greek myths as the progenitors of the future Greek tradition, the story can equally be taken to mean that they represent the primordial human pair … or one of them, such as Adam and Eve (if you count them as protohumans as well). The same can, however, be said about other pairs from different traditions, (in)directly stressing the importance of the culture in question. Also, there are even more supernatural pairs such as the Japanese Izanagi and Izanami, because the realm above or below humanity mostly comes first.
The stories of gods may transcend the tempo-spatial dimension of the readers and participators, inspiring sublime awe, yet it is the stories of human characters and their trials and tribulations which touch closer to heart and more directly teach and inspire. We cannot empathize with the divine, since it by default occupies in more postmodern scientific terms different space and time. Even if we take the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism which states that everyone has an inherent Buddha (enlightened) nature, the actual realization that you are potentially “divine” (similar to the “thou art that” doctrine) elevates you beyond the mortal, mundane conception. While there are plenty of inherent paradoxes here, consequently, the issue of empathy actually reverses, since the role of a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being) is to help others on the road to enlightenment.
In either case, we can find parallels to the hero stories or general life stories of either downtrodden or inspirational characters. Characters such as Jesus (or the Buddha), who represent the profane and the divine nature in one, play an equally dual role for the perception of their believers and followers (if not critics), serving as mediators between the human and the supernatural sphere and powerfully stressing both their differences and similarities. Consequently, when people have Jesus in their heart, there is an intrinsic connection between the historic Jesus as the martyr and the transcended Jesus as the loving divine power.
Human physical existence has long since been on the same trajectory of life and death. This may be extremely oversimplified and while the basic human nature and progression of our life goes through similar stages or rather mythic thresholds, every individual is his or her own microcosmos, rich and diverse as the multitude of stories about human endeavors. The most exemplary endeavors can be found in hero myths which describe the almost limitless possibilities that humans can aspire towards and the extensiveness of human actions and its consequences. The essence of hero myth is the mythic quest; a search in the realm of aspiration of every single character that reflects every individual’s search for oneself. In its purest form, this is the search for wisdom and life that has been the focal point of human endeavors since its conception. What the mythic quest teaches and reflects through its generally metaphysical realms is directly based on the human experiences from which it originated and, what is crucial for our own temporal existence, reflects the nature of life that humanity is centered in.
Consequently, myth is the gateway to higher learning. The fantastic, the pseudo-science-fiction world entwined in the cords of both beautiful and banal imaginary threads is the fictitious passage for understanding human nature and our existence in general. There is a vital reason why myths are central aspects of every religion … and religions consequently play a fundamental role in our lives (and by that I don’t mean institutional dogmas). Quite simply, myth and religion both draw on our seemingly innate feature of aspiration and desire to understand both ourselves and the world outside. Myths take human nature as their subject in order to reflect nature itself. We just need to listen a bit more and be constructively critical to boot. Easy peasy, right?
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS ART
While on the subject of artistry, the beauty of myth cannot be understated and its consequent impact must be stressed. The nature of mythic symbolism and religious icons as rendered through art is both complex and pervasively influential. Mythic imagery (literal and personified) has fueled human imagination ever since the ancient humans have garnered their caves with illustrations of hunting and shamanistic rituals (such as found in Altamira or Lascaux). Pragmatically (and quite oversimplified), what myths reveal through oral wonders, religious doctrine reenacts visually through the “prophetic” eyes of great artists; most notably the European Renaissance tradition, which has revalued the old (Greco-Roman) gods and stressed the importance of the present God (Yahweh). And apart from religions that are against visual (or any other) representations of their deities and impose restrictions on how metaphysical concepts or just essences that impact their core being are being viewed, the mythic artistry is central to all religious doctrines. Of course, Islam probably comes to mind first, because you will be hard-pressed (if not harsh-repressed) to find an image of Allah for example … yet, their mastery of architectural, scientific, kaleidoscopic and even calligraphic artistry is extremely prominent and submerged by mythic motives nonetheless.
While artistry in the olden days has been profusely employed politically (through patrons and the Church) and culturally (Greco-Roman and Hebrew tradition), the creations themselves transcend mere conservative desires of the institutions behind them. Despite the fact the Michelangelo’s statue of David transmits the Hebrew tradition, the sculpture is a marvel in its own right, beyond ideological implications. (Also, we later get a lot of dick-chopping of various statues by the institution, because it’s kind of hard to cover those concrete dongs with marble fig leaves, regardless of their insignificant size. But maybe even that was still just too arousing for the “devout” churchies, who am I to judge,) In either case, the artist’s (personal) and the patron’s (social) POV nevertheless have to go hand in hand for the art piece to really shine, of course on various levels.
On the other hand, the demands of the investor and the inclinations of the artist may be at odds or at least the greatest creators can hide (often in plain sight) their own philosophy. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling comes to mind, as God’s divine cloud and pageantry behind him are remarkably shaped like the human brain, if not Orion’s Nebula. I think it’s safe to say that the ramifications of that go beyond the wonder of the current age, but would in the past carry with it notions of everything from blasphemy and hubris to extreme insight. Thank god for that!
Myth clearly influences art and art in return becomes “mythic” and far-reaching, Fueled by imagination and transcending power that can only be matched by intricate religious experiences, such great art exemplifies the innate aesthetic appeal of humanity and its expressive potential.
I’m not back into comics just yet, but I have to briefly touch on Avengers: Infinity War.
The film is the necessary evil that needed to establish the severity of the situation, the ongoing peril, unless of course Marvel (or rather Disney) decides to go the nonsensical and childish route of bringing them all back to life … since, that’s what comics do, because most people don’t have the (infinity) stones to make the story ark final and have to munch on the success of the past for the sake of the mighty buck. This has sadly been the staple since the golden age of comics.
As far as the film goes, this is the villain (if not antihero) showcase for Thanos that you rarely see on such a big stage. In this context, they compare the film to The Empire Strikes Back, but that’s a whole different animal. Infinity War is hardly a masterpiece and pales in comparison to the first Avengers film that captured the essence of action, comedy and though in a blockbuster flick, but this documentary of Thanos’ pursuit for universal piece is great by default because of the sheer effort and unmatched hours of story progression and hence culmination. The viewers have become so invested in the outcome and have been meticulously preprogrammed to either love or hate certain characters that anything packs a mighty punch and it’s a rather beautiful sight.
They say that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. I say that it’s even greater to create a genocidal powermonger whose traces of morality and compassion make you actually care for him despite the fact that he obliterates half the universe. Plus, the extreme leftists and the conspiracy theorists can have a field day with the underlying meaning of this one. So, all in all, good job! Now, just keep everyone dead and stop respawning the goddamned Spiderman franchise! Unless it’s the 70s memetastic Spidey, so Deadpool can have a hard-on.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
The issue of mythic knowledge is akin to the beauty of poetry in general, where poetic elements open the realm of possibilities far beyond the obvious and the literal, or the estheticism of art that surpasses our experience of said work. Allegory in myth is not a mere metaphor for the sake of embellishing the narrative, but an intentional function, an integral lens through which myth has long been observed and (what is more) debated. The teachings of the great sages such as Jesus, the Buddha or Laozi employ allegories not to confuse their followers or hide their true intentions, but to force and inspire them to see beyond the arbitrary words and understand beyond the general meaning of their phrasing.
In the case of Laozi and Daoism, the issue of complexity is even greater, since one of the paradigms of his teaching is intentionally paradoxical and self-deconstructive, as the comprehension of the Dao is rooted in its incomprehensibility. Albeit quite different, the koan practice of Zen Buddhism falls into this category as well, as the seemingly nonsensical puzzles (such as What is the sound of one hand clapping?) are meant to stimulate sudden awakening. Whether or not the implied introspection and intrinsic self-awareness here are meant to be inspiring or are a way of overpassing the hardships of life that “build character”, the allegory of teaching remains.
There will clearly remain the ongoing debate of what Jesus for example really taught and whether or not his followers correctly put his thoughts into words, let alone capture the magnitude of their meaning. This issue can be further emphasized by what the Buddha wanted to keep as part of what would become the future Buddhist scripture, since his teachings were riddled with “obscure” (enlightened) meaning that his followers were unable to understand fully. But this was a perennial issue of not just the times, but of powerful personas that in many cases transcend the notion they are trying to convey.
Further, the famous literary example (I don’t want to say another) is Dante’s experience in Hell and Purgatory, where the pilgrim cannot fathom the knowledge his guides are trying to instill in him, let alone the divine wisdom which is by default out of reach of mere mortals. Critically speaking, taking myth as divine revelation fails to grasp the paradox of myths being written down by mortal and through mortal means. Even if Muhammad was actually taught the divine path by the angel Gabriel, the discrepancy between Allah to Gabriel, Gabriel to Muhammad (during the course of about 23 years at that), Muhammad to his countrymen and, consequently, to the mundane public is too large; the probability of the dilution of the divine message is not a question of if it occurred, but rather how much is lost. But then again, if there are many concepts of infinity and notions beyond conceptual reality, trying to think rationally may not be the best course of action.
The allegorical meaning must be layered so it is slowly revealed. When the “epiphany” occurs, its consequence is that much more strong and transcending. The same can be said about all of the realizations of mythic storytelling complexity.
The duality of approaches to myth is thus further stressed, as these stories range from the clear-cut etiological examples to the complex allegorical teachings … in a lot of cases even interchangeably (as in the Old Testament). Myth shares this quality with comics, which can submerge their subject-matter into predictable, cliché representations or inspire the reader with their visual cooperation and complexity. However, the interplay of how something was meant to be represented and how it actually is and will be remains the crux of the matter.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
In a sense, the communicative nature of myth can be extended even more specifically to the nature of myth as stories that (try to) explain various natural phenomena or engage in essential questions that directly and indirectly affect not just humanity but life in general. Thus, etiology refers to the causes that the mythic narrative touches upon. The statement that myth teaches is most directly noticeable especially in this respect, as the “observers” who pass on the knowledge through myths can be said to represent a proto-scientist, engaging his audience (for the most part, this role was reserved for males of a given society) with narratives explaining everything from natural phenomena as let’s say lightning (generally attributed to storm and sky gods, such as Zeus or Indra) to the way the world comes into being (creation myths) or even marginal events dealing more directly with humanity (how a particular tool or part of a human body is formed, why death comes in being). The more pragmatic wisdom of age-old traditions is becoming more and more prevalent in science in research, where for example Buddhist practices about mindfulness reveal concrete, medical benefits and are not mere mumbo-jumbo.
I mentioned creation myths. They are a culture’s ultimate account(s) of its origins. As such, we can distinguish different creation stories, in some cases even within the same religious tradition (i.e. Egyptian, Christian): ex-nihilo or out of nothing creation (Christian), earth-diver creation (Slovene), breaking of the primal unity or world-parents myths (Egyptian), creation through the dismemberment of a primordial being (Babylonian) and emergence creation (Pueblo). There are numerous variations on these “big bang” events, however, the desire is always to provide a beginning or a cultural starting point, so we can always know where we come from and what it may all mean.
Again, how speculative or how factual all of that may or may not be, is a matter of debate that often gets trapped in hermeneutic cycles, plus it opens an ideological can of worms that has deeply burrowed into our minds and lives. In the contemporary world, where much of the arcane knowledge of old has already been deconstructed and science has made leaps and bounds into the future, few of such “explanations” inspire the reader to treat myths seriously. Of course, this modern factual bigotry has made us complaisant, since our “truths” have greatly evolved from those in many myths. The relevance and essence of myth lies beyond the mere factuality; if every word of Jesus would have been taken verbatim, his teachings would make little sense.
More than that, as far as great life teachers go, the accounts of great (especially Axial Age) teachers such as Jesus, Confucius, the Buddha and Socrates were written by their followers, not themselves. Any second-hand accounts, let alone extremely progressing thinking of figures that have shaped the course of humanity in general, must be taken with a large grain of salt. Factuality, misinterpretations and tongue lapses shape the oral nature of teaching and historical (in)accuracy comes into question. These issues are also central to all mythological accounts. While mythology embraces such differentiations (of fictitious nature) as the richness of the mythic narrative and the possibility of wider application of these stories beyond its original time and place, history per se (rooted in factual accounts) cannot cope with discrepancy, so when a view is taken, it becomes steadfast and “true” (and I’m not even considering the pop-culture and mass-media often blatantly wrong shortcuts to comprehension). Religion is essentially stuck between the eternal truth and the constancy of changes in the spheres of culture and time. While myths account for variations and are central “doctrines” in every religion, the institutional nature of religion needs to implement order that is generally accepted as factual, true and everlasting … paradoxically in the Universe of constant flux, hence the reason why religion fails in the eyes of science.
While we cannot scientifically fathom that first generations of humans might have lived for hundreds of years, as many scriptures advocate, we can and must see the message of the myth in its transcendence and full(filling)ness of the story. Long before we could factually theorize that our world is but a spec in the much larger reality, has the Hindu wisdom preached about the many layers of being, the numerous worlds that exist beyond what we can physically see and even sense of. While mythic factually is temporal, mythic wisdom is transcended.
Food for thought.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS RECORDKEEPING
Among the values of mythic communication is the nature of these stories that function as recordkeeping devices, retaining not just the values and subconscious significance of the stories, but preserving the knowledge of a disappearing belief system. Again, the level sacrality and the cultural importance of a certain tradition mingle with the larger folkloric importance of preservation in a given society, however, we would be hard-pressed to for example not acknowledge the widespread dissemination of for example the Greek and the later Roman traditions that have both individually as well as communally governed a plethora of political, religious and social exchange or and for the Western/European culture.
We can draw the obvious parallel to the nature and value of writing, which was itself used as a means of recordkeeping and played a key feature in the spread of global marketing and consequent birth of civilizations. Myths retain the knowledge of old that was the basis of the understanding of the world ... whether or not we attribute more power to the written or spoken word. While we nowadays globally know more or at least have an incomparably vaster repository of knowledge, this very notion (whether dismissed or strengthened) is based on the myths and records of our ancestors. As such, understanding the thinking process of old and realizing the nature and environment of their observations yields to a much better understanding of where we come from. Whether we consider the “dead” account of Norse mythology (being the Marvel’s Thor groupie doesn’t count) or many still quite vibrant African traditions, myths retain their immortality through the accounts of their authors.
One more note on the preservation of these sacred narratives. The myths, legends and stories of a given tradition in general would have been considerably more known to the people than nowadays. Only in so far as there is less emphasis on the “magic” and “marvel” of these tales today, unless they are packed in a neat framework of mindless entertainment. I’ve discussed the active/passive application and retention of information in my various comics studies, but as far as this topic of recordkeeping goes, the obvious implied issue is that the stories may be after memorization and numerous readings and hearings taken for granted and internalized without affective and critically constant evaluation.
Ironically, this reflects the danger of knowing a story too much (i.e. the Bible tradition), so every further reading occurs almost on an “autopilot,” the participants refreshing their memories of the events rather than scrutinizing and learning new things from the text. This may be a huge oversimplification, since the complexity and richness of sacred texts like said Bible offer a plateau of experiences. However, the issue is more about the doctrinal nature of religious texts, where participant can become too complaisant for the sake of participation and duty. Consequently, this issue directly reflects the dangers of many academic or quasi-academic researches. In this case the search and analysis of mythic elements becomes the doctrine and the text as a whole can be viewed only in relation to its mythos, bereft from the rest of its complexity. To stress the issue further and applying it to the critique of the monomyth theory, a particular mythic motif such as the journey to the underworld can easily be taken out of context, since the conception of the underworld differs throughout traditions. Religious motifs become the useful, formalistic, arbitrary signs; yet, taken out of their traditions, they lose power, meaning and become marginalized and desecralized.
This applies to everyday nonsense just as much as it does to archeological research where an unusual finding is referred as, if not relegated to, an object of some sort of religious significance. In other words, that’s called just being lazy, but I digress. To make a modern observation: the monomythic symbolic meaning of the heroic journey is seen as the struggle with one’s unconscious, yet the question remains whether the unconscious in question follows the neurotic, dystopian Freudian concept, Jungian holistic approach or something completely different and even unfathomable. And that’s exactly why I’m still babbling on about myth and not really covering much, because its depth seems to be (equally) luckily and astonishingly almost unimaginable.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS COMMUNICATION
I have touched on the storytelling aspect of mythology on numerous occasions, but the point to be made in this content is that the lessons and teachings of myth serve as tools of communication in the widest sense imaginable. Taking Levi-Strauss’ approach for example, mythology serves as a language through which the modern reader can gaze into the tradition of the past and partake of the ancient wisdom. The structural study of myth theorizes how mythic elements in themselves have no real meaning. Their significance comes through their relation with each other. Thus, the objective is to find the real meaning of myth, even through the elaborate incorporation of differences in various stories. There are obviously some caveats to be considered; namely, if we have a binary nature of raw forms that takes significance only in their application and use, we can say that myth is both powerless and all-powerful as the same time. This very de Saussurian reading can be wonderfully applicable to anything and everything imaginable, but myth as the storytelling and communicating tool thus becomes both the proto-langue and the proto-parole of sorts.
This formalistic ideal (or theoretical nonsense, if you will), reminiscent of Proppian analysis, nevertheless fails to realize that such a research is restricted from the outset, as myth is taken to have a particular, finite meaning, to which I strongly oppose. The meaning – and consequently the level of its communication – is relative at least to both the reader and the tradition in question. Myth will forever remain “alive” as the method of disseminating the essence of tradition, culture and legacy of old. Learning the past, to recognize the present and help shape the future. Ideal or not, written or oral, this is still a heavy-duty communication tool.
However, paralleling this theory to the monomyth, as a guiding principle of myth making, myth meaning cannot be relegated to structures alone (i.e. language), since particularly “living” myths across the world transcend them. Myth is both spiritual and pragmatic, rational and irrational, sacred and profane, communicating more general human values as well as very local, even obscure beliefs. Myth communicates the beauty and the banality of old, so we often need to do quite a little digging or reading the plethora of myths, if we are to uncover the gold, buried in the depths or between the lines.
I would say that strictly speaking, Levi-Strauss’ mythemes (the unchanging building blocks of myths) not only have significance out of their original environment, but their significance transcends culture and applies to human nature. The clearest example of the power of mythic storytelling and its communicative value is the widespread of religions throughout the world, particularly in cultures very distant from its original content (such as Buddhism in the West or Islam in the Pacific region). This should, however, not be mistaken for the narrow-minded self-justification and grandeur of various religions; as if to claim that the Bible is sacred because God created it, which is in turn stated in the Bible itself. While some biblical paradoxes (such as the dual creation stories, reflecting both the divine and the human perspective on creation) are intentional and profound, we also need to balance some shortsightedness or shortcomings of myth as pure teaching tool with its glorification for the sake of being glorified.
However, we can make a strong case for Levi-Strauss’ notion that different versions of myth serve as building blocks; the wisdom and truth in myths like in Buddha’s teachings (which may even seem contradictory) lie in their totality, as each version of the myth, each teaching, each allegory is only a partial truth. The more we are acquainted to myth, the more of the truth becomes clear. Myth communicates a deeper sense of knowledge and wisdom, especially from perspectives of cultures different from your own. Only in trying to understand someone else’s perspective (no matter how weird of even stupid it may seem to you) and particularly discovering numerous trans-cultural similarities can you begin to discover a higher truth in yourself. Paraphrasing through the central Hindu notion of oneness, once you realize that you are a part of larger reality, that Atman equals Brahman (that thou art that), you embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.
[In memory of my beloved grandmother.]
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS POETRY
The second important component of myth is its poetic nature. This might be the more obvious fact, since we have been privileged enough by the survival of the great epic poems such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, The Mahabharata and many more across the globe. Arguably, these works are a collection of generations of oral stories that have been accumulated and eventually written down. While such “fossilization” destroys the flexibility of an oral story and its memorization, as it loses its performance factor and the differentiations of every further storytelling, the written preservation of the cultural legacy is surely a greater factor … whether or not the great Socrates would agree.
The question of either orally preserving a story, thus furthering its “growth” through the generations, or writing it down and rationally offering a better chance of its survival is not as dubious as one might think at first glance, since the actual loss of the story of Theseus would be far worse than losing the ability of differentiating its many incarnations. Once you know of Theseus, you can theorize and research the tradition of the story and character, even its possible versions, but without the knowledge of this famous Athenian’s existence, Greek mythic legacy would be colossally bleaker.
There is unquestionable wonder surrounding greater artistry or rather artistry of a different degree in poetry and especially epic poetry. Pragmatically, the ability to compose poetry may nowadays seem more as a “poetic gift” than a learned skill; however, we have to understand that poetic, musical and to large extent general artistic skills dwindle in the shadow of arithmetic and language skills, as the more formalistic, scientific culture sets the trends. While prose functions differently, it is the emotional and participatory nature of poetry that has a powerful effect on its audience. The poetic value and nature of myth is closely connected with rituals, as many sacred stories have been annually used in religious procedures, part of fertility rituals or as a spiritual gateway to the sacred reality. In such a way, we can distinguish between two modes of dissemination of a myth: through the bard and through the priest. While the phonetic value of assonances and repetitions can for example serve both to orally inspire the public, the difference between the two can be for the sake of simplification through the lens of religious doctrine. If the bard represents the more “laid-back” mythic reenactment of the story, the priest serves as the more “serious” religious counterpart, where the sacrality of either the text (Koran), the tradition (Islam) or the actual live religious process takes center stage.
The poetic value of myth shares in the almost transcending effect of poetry and songs throughout history and their appeal to their public, whether referring to Bach or pop songs (not to deny that there is a world of difference in just about everything else but their shared affect). Traditionally, the Hindu Vedas are to be experienced rather than cognitively understood, which further directly reflects the Daoist paradox that the Dao cannot be understood by any of the means the Western culture rationally employs. What is more, the vocalization and correct pronunciation of sounds in the sacred incantations places phonetic power above the actual meaning of the sacred narratives. While the Hindu tradition represents the most widespread use of sacred incantations, the African Bambara mythology for example also places vast importance on the sound of creation; namely, the sound yo as the source of the highest state of consciousness.
Thus, the visualization of the symbol for aum is as arbitrary as the images on this paper. The more common Anglicized version for \ is om. The tree-letter aum variation is used to visually and phonetically emphasize the three stages of the sound, followed by the emptiness. Nevertheless, the sacredness of the sound transcends its conception like the mind transcends the body in the larger Hindu belief system, connecting the person with the tradition, ritual, enactment of the myth and through the three stages of the sound with the divine (emptiness) in the end … at the end … or beyond the end.
In such a way, the poetic value of myth shares a strong connection to the previous observation of myths as oral stories. Sikhs for example follow a Socratic (or Platonic to an extent) premise that writing cannot capture the essence of being, thought, or in this case magnitude of the divine which is transcended through the songs and rituals. The “inappropriateness” or the limits of (finite) writing as a medium for sacred narratives is central to many traditions. While the divine (eternal) “word” of Allah in Koran refers to about the most sacred writing of any culture, Muslims have a long-standing tradition of learning literally the whole of Koran verbatim, appropriate with the transcendent vocalization. Whether or not myth is externally vocalized through the mouth or internally through reading in the mind, the ensuing story nevertheless in one way or another takes center stage, as it offers various stages of learning, serving as the stepping stone towards life experience every one of us requires.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE)
To state that the study of mythology is complex, is an understatement of unparalleled proportions. We could extend this to the larger role in the study of culture, tradition or folklore, where we pursue the understandings, origins, explanations and methods of inquiry of the given subject matter. Mythology nevertheless persists as the progenitor of imaginary and pseudo-scientific doctrines that we still base our lives and popular culture on. From the names of the stars in the night’s sky to the heroes in comics and fiction, myth seems to be the basis of reality of human being, whether we want to admit it or not. Myth becomes its own capital Archetype, rooted in our subject matter. It extends beyond theoretical applications, and is much more than a mere linear perspective. With mythology we can refer to the natural purposes of myths, connections we can deduct from the study of these stories and the functions and perspectives of myths.
From this position, I will be discussing mythology in relation to oral storytelling. poetry, communication, recordkeeping, aetiology, allegory, art and human nature. While all of this clearly overlaps, I feel that these topics go hand in hand with the larger theory of myth, which I went through in my other post(s).
MYTH AS ORAL STORYTELLING
Probably the most powerful mythic component is its predominantly oral origin and oral nature of its conception and (re)enactment. This might not seem as obvious, since for the most mundane researchers of these ancient legacies, myths are read as stories, not heard and even less so participated in, as was and in some instances still to this day.
(Some African and Aboriginal tribes for example still enact their origins, and “perform” their myths, where their tradition and legacy are interwoven not merely with the educational and entertaining nature of the told story, but with internalization from the audience and its cooperation. This of course reflects the ritualistic and etiological nature of myth. Consequently, this kind of observation of a live tradition is a powerful anthropological tool for understanding myth in its purest form … Bearing in mind issues like Malinowski’s “principles” in his study of the Trobriand islanders.)
Such a “distant” study of myth is unfortunately far removed from a more cohesive analysis. In a sense, the vast majority of us are looking at any given myth from the outside, partaking mostly in its more modern literal form (if not various interpretations and reimaginings), heavily bereft from the nature of its initial, pure conception. The myth of old can be viewed as a mixture of cultural, educational, political and leisure processes, while its legacy in a cross-cultural environment is nevertheless hindered. Obviously, there is an innate value of myth that extends beyond time and space, since it pertains to stories about humanity and for humanity. The previously discussed heroic quest is a particular example of the consistency and relevance of a mythic “narrative” even (or especially) in today’s multi-faceted world culture.
Oral storytelling is not a lost art, but in today’s world it has extended beyond its initial paradigm of instruction and reflection of the world. Through the invention of television, “oral” storytelling has been promoted to a higher plateau than ever before, despite its sacrifice of active participation. The intimate stories once orally told are being fast replaced by more fantastic visuals of the digital world.
Drama, improvisational comedy and even professional wrestling in its purest sense draw on the storytelling suspense and interaction with the audience, without which there would be no story to be told. Strictly speaking, any type of fiction and entertainment requires a high level of suspension of disbelief, because reading, watching, hearing or telling a story essentially means participating in it as the pure receptive marks that we are.
Myth may on the other hand be a distant story from a seemingly long-dead civilization, which powerfully draws on both the question of humanity and natural observations, thus despite its age making it perpetually current, inspirational and, what is more, transcended in its message despite its form.
My current list of comics and books I’m selling. I’ll by updating it as we go along. Some of the pics are a bit blurry, so sorry for that, but you get the gist of it.
Moj trenutni seznam stripov in knjig, ki jih prodajam. Sproti ga bom posodabljal. Se opravičujem za zamegljene fotke, a bistvo je razvidno.
For reasons of extreme prejudice, the author of this blog wishes to remain anonymous …