Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Myths

I have been following with interest a conversation about myths and how they are viewed by pagans. This stems from a comment whereby someone said:

Hellenic/Romanesque pagans ... [can't] ... all literally believe their myths actually happened.

I thought this rather presumptious. To my mind, the myths did occur. Maybe not exactly as we hear (or read) them today (generations of bards altering each tale to suit their listening audience), and maybe not in this world, but certainly in one form or another. I'm sure some of the characters may have changed, or merged (as he scriptwriters are want to do when rendering a book suitable for a screenplay), descriptions may have altered, feats exaggerated and so on, but that's not to say that the feats of the gods, heroes and ancestors didn't occur at all.

I am also of the belief that the myths were not concocted simply as a means of informing our ancestors of the best way to live their lives. In some instances, this may be true, but surely not all?

Perhaps I am taking things too literally myself?


Livia Indica said...

Like you, I recognize that since the myths date from so long ago it's quite likely that the original details have been altered or lost. I like to think of them not only as morality tales but sources of inspiration. What did the ancients think? Well, obviously some of them thought they were silly bedtime stories. One only has to read Juvenal to discover that. But I agree with you in that by no means should be taken as proof that all the ancient discounted them as mere fancy.

Algernon Misanthrope said...

Dear Potia,

What a very interesting query! How pithy! I once read a fabulous book entitled "The Philosopher's Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination" by Patrick Harpur, and he discusses this obsession that we have about whether this or that myth actually happened in reality. And it's his contention that all this obsessing about what is literally real is actually a Christian occurance, for it is the Christian culture who claimed for the first time that their messiah REALLY existed and REALLY rose from the dead etc. He claims that prior to such a culture, people understood myth as being beyond such terms as real or false, and that they were poetic truths, that existed in the liminal world beyond all categories, mocking anyone who tried to tie them down with labels.

It was a fabulous book and has been somewhat inspirational to me.

I do very much enjoy your blog by the way.

Akgernon Misanthrope

Algernon Misanthrope said...

...I believe I just addressed my comment to the wrong person! How completely addle-brained of me. My comment SHOULD have read Dear Ancestral Celt. Too much Absinthe, not enough tea...