Throughout history, cultures have turned to myth to explain things they don’t understand. Three topics that cultures always seem to address similarly are the creation of the world, the afterlife, and natural phenomenons. The myths that a culture chooses to believe in tells us a lot about the culture and maybe even the inhabitants daily life. Although myths aren’t read literally, there are similar themes observed throughout cultures that prove humans have a tendency to explain topics they can not understand through science with an accepted story pertaining to the creation, the afterlife, and natural phenomenons in the same way, giving us an insight into human nature.
Although no two myths from any two cultures are exactly the same, most creation myths have the theme of creation by a supreme being, creation though emergence, the creation by world parents,the creation from a cosmic egg, or creation by earth dividers. Creation by a supreme being is classified as the most primitive type of creation myth, and is present in many religions such Scottish, African, and Christianity. In these myths, the supreme being is always wise and powerful, and makes the world deliberately using their unworldly power. Often this creator is designated as a sky god. Another common theme in creation myths is the creation through emergence.
This states that the world is created by its own power and prior to the world there is chaos. The cultures that believe in this myth often have an affinity with the earth rather than the sky. Creation by world parents is another theme that states that there was chaos until a godlike mother and father create the world. Often there is a separation of parents within the myth which causes a rupture, and is usually thought of to be a sign of renewal. Some cultures believe that the world was created from a cosmic egg.
This is an embryonic egg that symbolizes rebirth and procreation. Lastly, the creation by earth dividers is a common theme that states there is cosmogonic water that represents the world before it was created, and then an animal who has to plunge into this water to secure a portion of the world. Usually there is a relation between the god and devil in these myths as the animal sent to secure the earth is often the devil sent by god.
(Add argument summary sentence)Creation myths usually tell us how advanced a society is by how complex they are. For example, Christians and Hebrews believe that the world was created by god, then god created Adam and Eve, and they caused sins to be brought into the world, making humanity imperfect. Another example would be the Mesopotamians beliefs. Their myths included the common theme of order from chaos, a war in heaven, a king-god, and the creation of humans. The Indians also had the same sort of ideals, and even though they had many different creation myths, they all included one creator god, the creation of humans by this god, the sacrifice of a human being split into two, and the emergence of reality from nothingness.Some themes that can be observed throughout all myths are primordiality, dualisms and antagonisms, creation and sacrifice, transcendence and otherness, and creation through emanations.
Primordiality can be observed in creation myths as the theme itself deals with the beginning of the world and what made it. Dualisms and antagonisms can be found in myths from all cultures as it deals with the product of a conflict. For example, this is especially common in earth diver myths, as there is a relationship that represents this between the god the devil.
Creation and sacrifice are two closely related themes that are very common, especially in Indian cultures. There is some sort of sacrifice made for the world to become what the culture knew it to be. All cultures’ myths deal with transcendence and otherness, as they all have one or more gods or higher beings. Creation through emanations is a very common theme that is found in more than just cosmogonic myths, as its the beginning from a single thing or idea. This is shown in emergence myths, the world is created by its own power.
Another myth that tells us a lot about a culture is the afterlife myth. The Greeks believed in the land of the dead. It was a place where everyone was miserable and in despair, but no one’s actually being punished. This tells us that they didn’t have hope for a cheerful after life, but they did not have to fear death as they would just be simply existing. Christians believe in heaven and hell. This tells us that they value morality because you can either be a good person and be able to look forward to a paradise, or you can be a vile person who is damned to hell.
Egyptians believed in a rich afterlife, but you had to have done good deeds when you were alive. This gave the Egyptians hope of an afterlife but also acted as an incentive to be a good person. Mesopotamians believed in a bleak and awful afterlife where everyone is constantly suffering. This tells us that the Mesopotamians had nothing to look forward to, so they had to life and enjoy their life in the present.
In multiple afterlife myths, the afterlife closely resembles the culture’s everyday life, but in others, its a place of suffering and darkness, and is often thought of to be underground. According to some myths, there is two realms for the dead to go to, one is a paradise, and the other is a place of misery. Which you go to is determined by the deeds you do while you were alive or how you died. For example, in Greek and Norse traditions, not all are subject to paradise or eternal damnation, specific things that they had done would determine where they belonged.
Warriors and those who died a harsh death were subject to going to paradise, while all others were not. All rest of the people are thought of to go to the underworld. This is why, upon burial, people were buried with objects deemed helpful for the journey, such as money or shoes. Flood myths all have the common theme of renewal, and they cause so much destruction they are looked at as a new beginning. Christians believe in the myth of Noah’s ark.
In this myth Noah has to build an arc and take two of each species of animal to start a new world after the world is flooded. Mesopotamians believed that the gods destroyed humankind but a man name Ziusudra took a boat and animals to save himself. Some Indian myths mention a man named Manu who is saved from the flood with the help of gods and a boat. The Greek and Romans believed that Deucalion and Pyrrha are saved from a flood and then repopulate the world by throwing stones over their shoulder.
Since so many cultures have a flood myth, historians wonder if this myth has any basis in truth. There might have actually been a flood because of all the cultures that have the exact same myth. This also might just be because humans recognize how vile humanity can become, so they make this myth to act as a warning. Another myth that has similarities in many cultures are the specific pantheons. Pantheons are the officially recognized gods of a culture. The gods a culture chooses to recognize tells us a lot about the people that lived there.
All pantheons are essentially ways for the humans to try to make sense of the world. For example, by looking at the gods of Egyptian mythology, you can see their obsession with the afterlife, death, and resurrection. Hebrew myths feature one patriarchal God, and this suggests that the Jews have a sense of individuality and a mission in life. Looking at the Greek pantheons, the Greeks had a sensible or even doubtful view of human nature and the dilemma of their life, because it is defined by death.
Roman and Norse myths are very similar to the Greeks, indicating that they have very similar ideals.Many cultures have a city that was dedicated to religion or was considered the center of their religious beliefs, and tells us what a culture valued. Whether Troy, Jerusalem, or Delphi, these cities represented religion and protection, and was a way to show humanity’s stand against chaos. The Grecian city of Troy was said to have caused uncontrollable chaos when conquered, as it was very important in their myths. This city represents what keeps the Greeks peaceful and rooted in reality. Another example would be Jerusalem, as it was considered to be the beloved city of God by the Christians, Muslims, and the Jews.
For some, this city even took on a purely symbolic form. Lastly, the sacred area of Delphi, Greece, acted as the center of the world for most Greeks. It was believed that the earth at this city was the womb of Mother Earth, which tells us that they valued their origins and wanted to explain them. From these myths, we can learn so much about a culture’s values and ideals. By creation myths were able to tell how complex a culture was, from the afterlife myths, it told us how much they valued hope and happiness, and from the flood myths we might be able to say that the flood might of actually happened. In conclusion, although so myths have no basis in truth, they should not be disregarded as they tell us loads about a culture’s everyday life and values.
Through the use of myths, cultures to explain things that it couldn’t understand with their limited science. We can see that people need a sense of purpose and identity. This is exemplified in cosmogonic myths, as they answer the question of how the universe and its inhabitants came into existence, and this is found in almost all cultures beliefs.
People want to know their origins and try to explain that throughout myth, therefore giving them an identity. Therefore, myths should not be disregarded, as they tell us a lot about the life of the people of a culture, and even give us an insight on the human need for a sense of purpose.