Types of Mythology
Mysterious and Interesting!
Stories that children and many adults found interesting and still do.
These explanations moved slowly through the stages of a concept of one power, or force in human form. It controlled the phenomena of nature.
To a complex system in which the god or goddess represented such virtues as wisdom, purity, or love, to a worshiping of the gods in organized fashion.
Gods took the forms of men and women, but they were immortal and possessed supernatural powers.
Myths deal with human relationships with the gods with the relationships of the gods among themselves, with the way people accept or fulfill their destiny.
Also, with people's struggles with the good an evil force both within themselves and outside themselves.
The myths are good stories, too, for they contain action, suspense, and basic conflicts. Usually each story is short and can be enjoyed itself, without deep knowledge of the general mythology.
Types of Myths
Many myths can be characterized by the type of explanation they offer about the beginnings of the world or about some natural phenomenon.
Other myths might focus on difficult tasks or obstacles to be overcome by the hero or heroine.
Every culture has a story about how the world began, how people were made, how the sun and the moon got into the sky.
These are called creation myths or origin myths; they give an explanation for the beginnings of things. ''The Woman who fell from the Sky,’’ by John Bierhorst.
An action story in which First Woman falls from her home in the sky and lands on Turtle's Back, creating the world.
She soon gives birth to two boys, Sapling and Flint.
Sapling busies himself creating gifts for the people who are soon to come. Flint, whose heart is hard, injects difficulties into every gift.
Then Flint invents terrible troubles for people, but Sapling mediates and makes those easier to bear. Finally, Sapling takes some earth and makes houses and light fires.
Then he and Flint return to the sky, each taking a separate path that becomes the Milky Way. Their mother leaps into a campfire and rises with the smoke into the air.
To this day the people give her their thanks as smoke rises from their fires.
The myths from around the world were created by people who sensed the wonder and glory of the universe.
Lonely as they were, by themselves and expressed a longing to discover, to explain who they were, why they were, and from what and where they came.
The nature myths include stories that explain seasonal changes, animal characteristics, earth formations, constellations, and the movements of the sun and earth.
Many Native American nature myths are easier for young children to comprehend than are the creation myths.
The Greek story of Demeter and Persephone explains the change of seasons.
Hades, god of the underworld, carried Persephone off to the underworld to be his bride, and Demeter, her mother, who made plants grow, mourned so for her daughter that she asked Zeus to intercede.
It was granted that the girl might return if she had eaten nothing in Hades. She had eaten four seeds of a pomegranate, she was compelled to return to Hades for four months each year, during which time the earth suffered and winter came fast.
In Daughter of Earth, Gerald McDermott tells the Roman version of the myth, visually contrasting the cool greens of earth above with the smoke reds of the underworld.
The hero myths, found in many cultures, do not attempt to explain anything at all. These myths have some of the same qualities as wonder stories.
The hero is given certain tasks or, in the case of Heracles, labors, to accomplish. Frequently, the gods help or hinder a particular favorite or disliked mortal.
Monsters, such as gorgons, hydras, and chimeras, are plentiful in the Greek stories, but these provide the hero with a challenge.
Characteristic of the hero or heroine is that he or she accepts all dangerous assignments and accomplishes the quest or dies in one last glorious adventure.
The myths with which you are most familiar are those of the ancient Greek's collected by the poet Hesiod sometime during the eight century B.C.
The Roman versions of these myths were adapted by the poet Ovid during the first century B.C. in his well-known Metamorphoses.
This has caused some confusion, in that the Roman names for the gods are better known than the Greek, even though the stories originated with the Greeks.
However, the more recent versions of these myths are using Greek names. In working with children, it is best to be consistent in your choice of names, or they will become confused.
You might wish to reproduce Resources for Teaching, ''Some Gods and Goddesses of Greek and Roman Mythology'' for their references.
Greek mythology is composed of many stories of gods and goddesses, heroes, and monsters. The Greeks were the first to see their gods in their own image.
As their culture became more sophisticated and complex, so too did their stories of the gods.
Those who personified gods could do anything that humans could do, but on a much mightier scale.
The gods, although immortal, freely entered into the lives of mortals, helping or hindering them, depending on their particular moods.
Their strength was mighty and so was their wrath.
Many of the myths are concerned with the gods' conflicts and lovers. Their jealousy and their struggles for power often caused trouble for humans.
Some of the stories concerning the loves and quarrels of the immortals are inappropriate for children.
Greek Mythology includes the creation story that Earth and Sky were the first gods. Their children were the giant Cyclopes and the Titans, one of whom was Cronus, who drove his father away with a scythe. The source of the traditional picture of Father Time.
Cronus swallowed his children so they would not usurp his place, but his wife gave him a stone in place of her last child, Zeus. Off-course, Zeus overthrew his father and made him disgorge his brothers and sisters, who were still alive.
Zeus married the jealous Hera, who caused all kinds of trouble.
Prometheus was a Titan who defied the other gods in order to give fire to mankind. Zeus punished his disobedience by chaining him to Mount Caucasus. Each day his liver was devoured by an eagle but each night it was renewed.
Zeus also sent Pandora a box of trouble to punish Prometheus and humankind. Pandora's Box shouldn't be opened but Pandora couldn't help herself.
So curious, she had to know what is inside the box. All the evils of the world were released, but hope remained in the box and gave humans the ability to endure.
Another story concerned Zeus's punishment of the greedy King Midas, the curse was that everything be touched including his little daughter, returned to gold.
Children who have a good background in folktales will find that many of the same elements are present in the Greek myths.
The gods could not tolerate human pride, which the Greeks called hubris. Arachne was transformed into a spider because of her pride when she foolishly challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest.
Bellerophon slew the monster Chimaera, defeated the Amazons, and rode Pegasus. When he boasted that he would fly to Olympus, the offended Zeus caused a gadfly to sting Pegasus, who bucked and tossed Bellerophon to his death.
Other stories of the disastrous results of hubris include the myths of Daedalus and Phaethon. Daedalus is presented as a proud Athenian inventor who is banished for inadvertently killing a nephew.
Exiled to Crete, he designs and builds a labyrinth for King Minos but years later gives the Athenian Theseus the key to its maze.
In punishment for this, Daedalus and his young son, Icarus, are imprisoned in a high tower. Using candle wax, Daedalus makes a framework of wings from bird feathers.
As they are about to escape, he warns his son not to fly too high or the sun will melt the wax, but Icarus does not heed his father's warning and falls to his death in the ocean.
Descended from the sun god, Helios, Phaethon, desires to drive the sun chariot to prove his parentage to his friends.
When his father is finally tricked into agreeing, Phaethon cannot control the sun chariot and nearly burns up the earth.
Zeus saves humankind by killing Phaethon with a thunderbolt.
Pride is also the downfall of Atalanta, a young woman who is a skillful hunter and the swiftest of runners. Reluctant to marry and give up her life of freedom, Atalanta finally agrees to wed the man who can beat her in a foot race.
Melanion, a suitor whom she has admired, is given three golden apples by Aphrodite, who is angered by Atalanta's lack of reverence for the gods.
As the two races side by side, Melanion throws an apple in Atalanta’s path, distracting her so that he can win the race. The two marry and live relatively happily for many years, but because they have ignored the gods, Aphrodite punishes the two by changing them into lions.
In Cupid and Psyche a story is retold where Cupid has been sent by the jealous Aphrodite to find a horrible mate for the beautiful Psyche. Instead, he falls in love with her. Invisible, cupid woos Psyche, and she falls in love with him sight unseen.
When Psyche's sisters talk her into lighting a lamp in order to see her husband, Cupid flees. To win him back, Psyche must perform difficult tasks, and the last one kills her. Cupid carries her to Olympus, where the gods honor her for her steadfastness by making her immortal.
What do you think of Mythology?
What types of mythology interests you?
Myths and Beliefs
© 2013 Devika Primić