Mythology

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Real myths are often strange and startlingly unfamiliar, and don't always give up their meanings easily; you have to tease them out, and for me, that's one of the pleasures of reading older collections of lore. ~ Elizabeth Hand
Myths and endless genealogies ... promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. ~ Paul of Tarsus

Mythology can refer either to a set of myths (a mythos), especially those belonging to particular sacred, religious or cultural traditions of groups of people, or to the study of such myths, as stories told to explain or indicate aspects of nature, history, and customs.

Legend redirects here — for the 1986 fantasy fillm of that name, see Legend (film)
Alphabetized by author or source
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links

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  • In myth and legend the rainbow has been regarded variously as a harbinger of misfortune and as a sign of good luck.

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Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. ~ Richard Dawkins
Myths are fun, as long as you don't confuse them with the truth. ~ Richard Dawkins

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Myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the "supernatural") into the World. ~ Mircea Eliade
  • Myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the "supernatural") into the World. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today. Furthermore, it is as a result of the intervention of Supernatural Beings that man himself is what he is today, a mortal, sexed, and cultural being...
    • Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (1963), as translated by Willard R. Trask
  • Whereas "false stories" can be told anywhere and at any time, myths must not be recited except during a period of sacred time (usually in autumn or winter, and only at night).... This custom has survived even among peoples who have passed beyond the archaic stage of culture.
    • Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (1963), as translated by Willard R. Trask

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The disinterested imaginative core of mythology is what develops into literature, science, philosophy. Religion is applied mythology. ~ Northrop Frye
  • A purely individualized myth is an obsession, sometimes a psychosis. A purely socialized myth is an ideology, which sooner or later also becomes obsessive or psychotic. A myth that has either the direct current of transcendence or the alternating current of imagination rises clear of this grisly antithesis.
    • Northrop Frye, Late Notebooks, 1982–1990: Architecture of the Spiritual World (2002), vol. 2, p. 716

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  • Real myths are often strange and startlingly unfamiliar, and don't always give up their meanings easily; you have to tease them out, and for me, that's one of the pleasures of reading older collections of lore.
    • Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Hand on Mortal Love at HarperCollins (2004)

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  • It is necessary to recognize that with respect to unity and coherence, mythical explanation carries one much further than scientific explanation. For science does not, as its primary objective, seek a complete and definitive explanation of the Universe... It satisfies itself with partial and conditional responses. Whether they be magical, mythical, or religious, the other systems of explanation include everything. They are applied to all domains. They answer all questions. They account for the origin, for the present and even for the evolution of the universe.

K[edit]

Myth is the system of basic metaphors, images, and stories that in-forms the perceptions, memories, and aspirations of a people; provides the rationale for its institutions, rituals and power structure; and gives a map of the purpose and stages of life. ~ Sam Keen
  • A major component of the western myth is the belief that myth is a primitive and mistaken way of thinking about the world that has been replaced by science. Commonly, the word “myth” is now used to mean an illusion or a lie... Enlightened moderns are accustomed to looking at the queer beliefs of the Mayas or the Tassaday and seeing them as mythical. But we look on our own belief systems as rational and rooted in the realities of politics and economics. As Joseph Campbell says: “Myth is other people’s religion.”
    • Sam Keen, The Passionate Life (1983), p. 20
  • A living myth remains largely unconscious for the majority. It is the reality, not the symbol. … Some people in every culture, however, see through or beyond the myth. … Those whose amphibious minds move both within and beyond the myth may be though of as outlaws or metaphysicians. Myth and metaphysics are related to each other in the same way that religion is related to theology. The mythical mind is unreflective. It lives unquestioningly within a horizon of the culture’s images, stories, rituals, and symbols, just as the religious person rests content within the liturgy and creedal structure of the church or cult. The metaphysical mind reflects upon the myth and tries to make it conscious. It plays with the stories and images and lifts the basic presuppositions about life into the light of consciousness. In this sense, metaphysics is the thinking person’s religion.
    • Sam Keen, The Passionate Life (1983), p. 21

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  • Are there any mythical beasts which aren't simple pastiches of nature? Centaurs, minotaurs, unicorns, griffons, chimeras, sphinxes, manticores, and the like don't speak well for the human imagination. None is as novel as a kangaroo or starfish.

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  • If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.
    • Bertrand Russell, Proposed Roads To Freedom (1918), Ch. VI: International relations, p. 97
  • There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.

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Myths have been used by inspired poets, by the best of philosophers, by those who established the mysteries, and by the Gods themselves in oracles. ~ Sallustius
  • That the myths are divine can be seen from those who have used them. Myths have been used by inspired poets, by the best of philosophers, by those who established the mysteries, and by the Gods themselves in oracles. But why the myths are divine it is the duty of philosophy to inquire. Since all existing things rejoice in that which is like them and reject that which is unlike, the stories about the Gods ought to be like the Gods, so that they may both be worthy of the divine essence and make the Gods well disposed to those who speak of them: which could only be done by means of myths.
    • Sallustius, On the Gods and the Cosmos (4th c.), III. Concerning myths; that they are divine, and why

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Friend Monkey is really my favorite of all my books because the Hindu myth on which it is based is my favorite — the myth of the Monkey Lord who loved so much that he created chaos wherever he went. ~ P. L. Travers
  • To some extent, mythology is only the most ancient history and biography. So far from being false or fabulous in the common sense, it contains only enduring and essential truth, the I and you, the here and there, the now and then, being omitted. Either time or rare wisdom writes it. Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years. The poet is he who can write some pure mythology to-day without the aid of posterity.
  • I think if she comes from anywhere that has a name, it is out of myth. And myth has been my study and joy ever since — oh, the age, I would think . . . of three. I’ve studied it all my life. No culture can satisfactorily move along its forward course without its myths, which are its teachings, its fundamental dealing with the truth of things, and the one reality that underlies everything.
    • P. L. Travers, on her creation of "Mary Poppins", as quoted in "P. L. Travers, The Art of Fiction No. 63" an interview by Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold, in The Paris Review No. 86 (Winter 1982)
  • Friend Monkey is really my favorite of all my books because the Hindu myth on which it is based is my favorite — the myth of the Monkey Lord who loved so much that he created chaos wherever he went. … when you read the Ramayana you’ll come across the story of Hanuman on which I built my version of that very old myth.
    I love Friend Monkey. I love the story of Hanuman. For many years, it remained in my very blood because he’s someone who loves too much and can’t help it. I don’t know where I first heard of him, but the story remained with me and I knew it would come out of me somehow or other. But I didn’t know what shape it would take.
    • P. L. Travers, as quoted in "P. L. Travers, The Art of Fiction No. 63" an interview by Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold, in The Paris Review No. 86 (Winter 1982)
  • More and more I’ve become convinced that the great treasure to possess is the unknown. I’m going to write, I hope, a lot about that. It’s with my unknowing that I come to the myths. If I came to them knowing, I would have nothing to learn. But I bring my unknowing, which is a tangible thing, a clear space, something that’s been made room for out of the muddle of ordinary psychic stuff, an empty space.
    • P. L. Travers, as quoted in "P. L. Travers, The Art of Fiction No. 63" an interview by Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold, in The Paris Review No. 86 (Winter 1982)
  • The true fairytales … come straight out of myth; they are, as it were, minuscule reaffirmation of myths, or perhaps the myth made accessible to the local folky mind. One might say that fairytales are the myths falling into time and locality … is the same stuff, all the essentials are there, it is small, but perfect. Not minimized, not to be made digestible for children.
    • P. L. Travers, as quoted in Myth, Symbol, and Meaning in Mary Poppins: The Governess as Provocateur (2007) by Giorgia Grilli, Ch. 2, p. 39

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Before I discovered science fiction I was reading mythology. And from that I got interested in comparative religion and folklore and related subjects. And when I began writing, it was just a fertile area I could use in my stories... ~ Roger Zelazny
  • An entire mythology is stored within our language.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993) Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 133

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  • The mythology is kind of a pattern. I'm very taken by mythology. I read it at a very early age and kept on reading it. Before I discovered science fiction I was reading mythology. And from that I got interested in comparative religion and folklore and related subjects. And when I began writing, it was just a fertile area I could use in my stories...

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External links[edit]

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