Introduction to Myth:
Mythos – Greek word for story (not necessarily true or false)
Mythology – the study of myths
Primitive people needed to make stories/myths in an effort to understand what was going on in their world. Humans are
the only beings with a need to understand things; a dog doesn’t think “why me??”. Primitive people, when scared, hurt,
depressed, created myths to explain their pain or discomfort.
All cultures make myths in their early development.
Around 1200 B.C., ancient Greeks began to take written history and to make rational and logical stories. Myth-making
came to an end once this began.
Myths “illustrate” the truth, much as Jesus did in his parables. He did not give an exact point, but told a story that showed
what he meant. Myths may not tell the literal truth, but they illustrate human nature and human experience.
Max Müller – concluded that all ancient myths are about nature and natural phenomenon.
Carl Jung – noted that same kinds of myths turn up in all different cultures, such as each culture having their own version
of the Great Flood. He developed his theory of the
– that all humans are born with these same
ideas in their brains, lying deep and unconscious. He said that myths explore these deep ideas of the collective
Claude Levi-Strauss – research on human brain, that different sides were responsible for different functions. Noted that
the body is binary (2 arms, 2 ears, 2 legs…) and says that we
in pairs with ideas (on & off, right & wrong, good &
evil, yes & no). They are pairs of opposites in conflict with each other. Levi-Strauss says that man’s entire experience is
based on conflict, and that myths present the conflicts, then resolve them within the story.
The 20th century was in ways spent examining and interpreting the ideas of the 19th century. Despite technological
strides, it has been said that no ideas came from the 20th century. For example, 20th century scholars spent their lives
working on the 19th century ideas of Darwin, Marx and Freud.
Sigmund Freud – all human nature is driven by sex. Freud started psychotherapy. He turned his focus to myths and
concluded that all myths are about sex and are a way of revealing sexual fears and desires without having to confront
them every day.
Characters: Zeus, Semele, Hera
Zeus – lord and king of the gods. Constantly making love to females of all kinds. In this story, Zeus is making love to
Semele. But Zeus is married to his sister, Hera, who always finds out about his infidelities. Hera disguises herself as an
old human woman and visits Semele, who confesses that not only is she making time with Zeus, but that he love her more
than his own wife! Hera says that no, he doesn’t, because with his own wife, he appears to her as he
is – as an
almighty god. Usually, Zeus appears as a human – tall, strong, distinguished, a little bit of gray. So the next time Zeus
comes around, Semele asks him to appear as he really is. Zeus denies her, saying that she doesn’t want to see that. So she