Sunday, October 16, 2011

Types of myth

There are various types of myths. Creation myth or cosmogonic myth is just one of the type.
For instance you have 1. Fertility myths, 2. eschatological myths, , 3 hero myths, 4, etiological myths, 5 myths of a deluge or destruction, nature myths so on and so forth.

Classification of the myths may remain more or less stable across the civilizations, but mythic narratives changes depending on the topography of the land , sociology ,economic, geographic historic etc.,conditions of the people. For instance myth from agricultural people will be differ from plains and plains people's myth will differ from Island or people who live in the snow capped region . So is the case of the people who live in deserts. Narratives depends on the topography, people's living condition, customs behaviors and beliefs.

However, the basic questions dealt in these stories remain more or less same.

And what are these questions?

How did this universe came into being?
what is the role of man in this universe?
Who is god? Or is there any god?
what is the role of God and his relationship with humans?
What is sex? Who were the first couple?
How a child is born? and why?
how does a man pass through the stages of life from birth , childhood , adult, old age and death?
What is society? What is the role of man and woman in society?
How to survive on this earth? Will earth be destroyed?
Is there anything called immortality? and how can one find it?
what is death or disease? What happens to a man after he dies?
Is there any other world besides this world?

And many more....
Look at the type of question. These are not simple questions of amusement or entertainment but a very serious deliberation on human existence and condition on earth. Some questions can be answered through philosophical deliberations, some are psychological and some are simply sociological conditions and yet some are pure metaphysical issues.

Most of the questions deal with rites of passage... All religions consider them sacred tales and preserve in their holy texts. In short myths defines the world view for you.

This answers our first question how myths are different from other traditional tales such as fables, legends, folk tales, fairy tales, or moral stories for that matter.

Does myth deal with truth?

Next blog...

(About Image: a Tantric representation of Purusha myth as described in the last blog. It shows various parts of the gigantic man who was sacrificed to build this universe)
(Image source

Friday, October 14, 2011

Making a myth , using a myth.

Can you make a myth?

sure! All myths are made by humans.
Then who makes a myth? and who uses them?
Can I and you make a myth?
That is a much more complex question to answer.

Let us see who makes myths?
Having said that myths are made by humans, it is still not clear who is the author of any single myth that we know so far. Authorship of a myth is a problem becasue myths and beliefs were practiced by humans much before they developed language. Before such stories were recorded in an any textual form humans practiced them and transmitted these stories and beliefs orally. Secondly myth is just not a story that we can cook it one fine day and next day it becomes myth. For any myth to get accepted into a social belief it needs years of acceptance by the people. so making a myth is a very slow process, sometimes dating back to paleolithic era of human race.

In India most ancient myths are found in the Vedas. And it is believed that Vedas are a-paurisheya meaning not written by any human intellect. But the hymns that have been gathered through the meditative vision of the ancient seers. Certain types of myths are prominent, specially the cosmological or myths of origin or more popularly known as creation myths. Seers who contemplated on how this universe might have originated have recorded their visions in hymns.

For instance:
It is said in the beginning there was only waters. And there was nothing but a golden egg lying in the womb of the watery universe ( hiranyagarbha) . As the heat began to generate this egg opened and upper half of the egg shell became the sky, lower half became the nether region and the center / or space in between was created through the space occupied by the hiranya-nabh or the sun himself( later on he is identified with lord Visnu). From this self generating being the universe were formed. Thus the myth tries to build an imagination of the universe that is formed from sun. In other words myth tries to suggest, Sun was the first self creation (autochthon) from whom the universe was created. Creation myth gives you an idea how space, air, water, sun atmosphere came into existance.

Take a look at the second example:
In the beginning there was nothing but a gigantic being called Purusha or first man. God decided to sacrifice this Purusha. and thus various elements of the universe emerged out of this gigantic man. Such as from head came the sky, from his navel the air,from his feet earth. from his mind sprang the moon,from his eyes came sun, from his mouth came Indra, and Agni(fire), from his breath wind. so on and so forth. every element element of universe was generated.

Both examples speculate on how universe came into existence. Is universe created through Sun? Or is universe created through sacrificing the first Man. Or universe was created to copulation like human do? There are many more examples which give various possibilities how this universe was created.

There is one common theme underlines all creation myths, even if the narrative may differ from tale to tale. These tales classify three categories. 1 Creation of Universe. 2. Organization of universe. 3, creation of man and his place in the universe.

Considering the abstract nature of creation myths it is generally accepted that creation myths are written by seers or priests, philosophers, thinkers or poets and artists. Such myths are intrinsic part of the ritual practices of that civilization. In the beginning of any sacrifice one has to define your space in the larger universe and then call upon the gods to enter that space to intervene in the human act.

Next blog what are the different types of myths.