The Meanings of Mythology

The council of gods, the Olympians receive Psyche. Raphael and pupils, 1517-18.

Theories through History about Myth and Fable


Ever since the time of Ancient Greece, people have speculated about mythology - its meaning, origin and to what extent it should be trusted as true account of past events. Here I present the major theories about it through the centuries.



Mythology and Fable

The term myth comes from the Greek mūthos, meaning a word or a saying also as in a narrative, mainly spoken. Homer and Hesiod used it in the sense of story, without thereby implying anything about it being fiction or fact.

       Actually, they as well as several pre-Socratic philosophers used it interchangeably with logos, a term later strongly connected to the idea of rational thought. Not until Plato is there evidence of the opposition between the two words, common thereafter. [Gerard Naddaf, 'Allegory and the Origins of Philosophy', Logos and Muthos: Philosophical Essays in Greek Literature (ed. William Wians), Albany 2009, 101.]

       In Ancient Greece, Plato was the first to use the word muthologia, and did so with several meanings to it: the myths of a culture, collecting myths, telling them, making them, and studying them critically. [Naddaf 2009, 102.]

       It was not until the 19th century the word myth was being used in literature, but the word mythology was widely used in previous centuries. [The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, edited by T. F. Hoad, Oxford 1986, 307.]

       Instead of myth, the term fable signified the same, though mainly referring to the Greek myths as did the term mythology before the 19th century.

       Samuel Johnson's Dictionary from 1755 has no entry for myth, but for mythological, mythologically, mythologize, and mythology. The word myth is not even mentioned. Instead the word fable is used, as in the definition of mythology:

       System of fables; explication of the fabulous history of the gods of the heathen world. The modesty of mythology deserved to be commended: the scenes there are laid at a distance; it is once upon a time, in the days of yore, and in the land of Utopia. ['Mythology' in Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, London 1755, vol. 2, p. 1345.]


NEXT

Mythology and fable in the first encyclopedia: Louis de Jaucourt.


© Stefan Stenudd 2015

Mythology Meanings Menu

  1. Introduction

  2. Mythology and Fable in the First Encyclopedia: Louis de Jaucourt

  3. Thomas Blackwell: Instruction by Fable

  4. Antoine Banier: Mythology as Idolatry

  5. Eusebius: Myths as Heathen Remnants

  6. Plutarch: Battle of Daemons

  7. Euhemerus: Myth as Actual History

  8. A Scientific Revolution of Mythology

  9. Andrew Lang: Rational versus Irrational

  10. Max Müller: Disease of Language

  11. Edward B. Tylor: Animism Turned Personification

  12. James G. Frazer: Myth as Ritual






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Creation Myths Around the World
How stories of the beginning began.


The Meanings of Mythology
Theories through history about myth and fable.


Archetypes in Myths
The mythological symbols and what they stand for.


The Logics of Myth
Patterns of creation.


Contact

CREATION MYTHS IN DEPTH


Creation in Rig Veda 10:129
The paradox of origin, according to an Indian myth.


Genesis 1
The first creation story of the bible scrutinized.


Enuma Elish
Babylonian creation myth.


Xingu Creation of Man
The insoluble solitude of gods and humans.


ON MY OTHER WEBSITES


Psychoanalysis of Myth
What Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung thought about myths, their origins and meanings.


Myth of Creation
An introduction to the subject of creation myths and the patterns of thought they reveal.


Cosmos of the Ancients
What the Greek philosophers believed about the cosmos, their religion and their gods.


Life Energy
The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained.


Taoistic
Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy of life explained. Also, the complete Tao Te Ching online.


My Books:

Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients
The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia
Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker
Fiction. A brunch conversation slips into the mysterious, soon to burst beyond the realm of possibility. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. I've also written books about Taoism, the Tarot, and life force concepts around the world. Click the image to get to my personal website.