But why are myths important? To answer that question I think that we first must explore the definition of what myths are. Myths are the method and vessel by which, we as a people, try to explain our history and our beliefs. Now I know that for many of us there is very little history, either to our religion or to our own personal beliefs. But many of us have pantheons that we follow in our Craft and the stories from that pantheons will do well as myths to teach our children.
But is this all that myths are good for? Here is a list that hopefully answers that question in full:
- Myths grant continuity and stability to a culture. They foster a shared set of perspectives, values, history -- and literature, in the stories themselves. Through these communal tales, we are connected to one another, to our ancestors, to the natural world surrounding us, and to society; and, in the myths which have universal (i.e., archetypal) themes, we are connected to other cultures.
- Myths present guidelines for living. When myths tell about the activities and attitudes of deities, the moral tone implies society's expectations for our own behaviors and standards. In myths, we see archetypal situations and some of the options which can be selected in those situations; we also perceive the rewards and other consequences which resulted from those selections.
- Myths justify a culture's activities. Through their authoritativeness and the respected characters within them, myths establish a culture's customs, rituals, religious tenets, laws, social structures, power hierarchies, territorial claims, arts and crafts, holidays and other recurring events, and technical tips for hunting, warfare, and other endeavors.
- Myths give meaning to life. We transcend our common life into a world in which deities interact with humans, and we can believe that our daily actions are part of the deities' grand schemes. In our difficulties, the pain is more bearable because we believe that the trials have meaning; we are suffering for a bigger cause rather than being battered randomly. And when we read that a particular deity experienced something which we are now enduring -- perhaps a struggle against "evil forces" -- we can feel that our own struggle might have a similar cosmic or archetypal significance, though on a smaller scale.
- Myths explain the unexplainable. They reveal our fate after death, and the reasons for crises or miracles, and other puzzles -- and yet they retain and even encourage an aura of mystery. Myths also satisfy our need to understand the natural world; for example, they might state that a drought is caused by an angry deity. This purpose of mythology was especially important before the advent of modern science, which offered the Big Bang theory to replace creation myths, and it gave us the theory of evolution to supplant myths regarding the genesis of humanity. And yet, science creates its own mythology, even as its occasional secular barrenness threatens to strip us of the healthful awe which other types of mythology engender.
- Myths offer role models. In particular, children pattern themselves after heroes; comic books and Saturday-morning cartoons depict many archetypal characters, such as Superman and Wonder Woman. Adults, too, can find role models, in the stories of deities' strength, persistence, and courage. courtesy of http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/
Part 1 of a three part series part 2