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Chapter 2

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Jane Leverick

Mythology 30/09/2013 9:34:00 AM The Nature of Myths  People see lives and experiences through a cultural lens that imposes meaning on their world o Some experiences cannot be controlled or understood, such as the origin of their world and the interconnectedness between plants/animals/landscapes/societies and humanity o People question the existence and meaning of disaster/illness/death Worldview  Worldview is the way in which societies perceive and interpret their reality o this provides them with an understanding of how their world works -> template for thoughts/behaviours + gives them an understanding of their world origins and the relationship between humankind and nature  Ex. worldview of Navaho o largest Native group in the US o large reserve in Arizona and New Mexico, but many Navaho have moved on to live elsewhere  Navaho see the world in terms of relationships and connections that bind the various elements that make up the world -> all elements affect other elements; for the universe to function, people must behave properly by Navaho culture, otherwise there will be disharmony that leads to natural disasters/illness/death  To “walk in beauty”  Tony Hillerman: wrote “Dancehall of the Dead”; Euro-American murder mystery author; novels set on Navaho reserves  Ex. Worldview of Euro-American o See humans as occupying a very special place in the universe o The world was created for the benefit of humankind and that humans have the authority/right to exploit the natural world - > to control nature/fix the world Stories of the Supernatural  Worldview is expressed though creative modes, such as art/drama/jokes/folk music/festivals  Ex. Snow White: published 1823, written from oral presentations -> European origin o talking mirror (divination instrument o Queen cooks and eats the boar’s heart (ritual cannibalism)  Story provides moral lesson -> the evils of envy and jealousy and what can happen to someone who exhibits these attributes (one version Queen attends wedding + has to wear red-hot iron slippers; dances until dead)  Story is supernatural, but not religious (not sacred/holy, no deities) Myths  Sacred stories that tell the origin of the world o Humankind, gods/spirits, traditions, illness/death o How to behave and how to distinguish good from evil  Thought to be accounting of real people, supernatural beings/places/events from the past; misconception that myth means untrue  Bible/Qur’an stories are myths  Written or oral (written in literate societies; to be recited/memorized/basis of ritual) The Nature of Oral Texts  Oral recitations are more than a presentation, they are performances; change of facial expressions/costumes/voices add to the experience -> in some societies, specialists perform the recitations (actors/storytellers)  Oral narratives are long and complex, and are often told in many sittings or just partially when need arises o They can change with each generation; most narratives have a lot in common, but there are major differences between families  Alan Dundes points out that while texts are written from oral narratives, the texts incorporate more than one version of the story o Ex. Old Testament; two creation stories (Genesis 2:4-3:23, Genesis 1:1-2:3)  Earlier text (2:4) dates from the Two Kingdoms, Israel and Judah) -> written 960-915 BCE; creation of man first, then garden of eden, then animals, then woman from the rib  Later text (1:1) dates after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and talks about the world made in 7 days  Text is acting as social charter; patriarchal worldview + human “masters” of the universe How Myths Change through Time  Written myths are stable as long as they are not translated  Ex. Qur’an: qur’an means “recitation” -> foundation of Islam o Word of god revealed to Mohammad by archangel Gabriel in th the early 7 century; word revealed to Mohammad in Arabic, so rituals are held in Arabic (translations exist, but not used for ritual); perfect transcription and should not be changed  Language changes, and written texts often are not written in the spoken language of the time (religious dialects) o Ex. Bible: Catholicism emerged in the Middle Ages (500-1500 CE); original bible was written in Latin, and church services were held in Latin  This was not seen as a problem, as the goal was to interpret the word of god, not read it  Many translations arose for those who were literate  Famous translation: 1611 King James I of England  Many inaccurate translations of passages and words, due to the knowledge and th political atmosphere of the 17 century The Gender-Neutral Christian Bible Controversy  Late 1990s, Zondervan (world’s largest bible publisher) announced “Today’s New International Version”; a gender-neutral translation of the New Testament -> “he”, “man”, “son” became “they”, “humankind”, “children”; Eve was a “partner”, not a “helper” o This version was created due to the idea that language shapes the way we think about the world, and to update gender roles/ideology/patriarchal roots of Christianity  Critics argue that the meaning is lost in some translations  Him becoming them can show that it was not an individual, as the bible intended  Man becoming mortal can show a shift from human to mortality Wogeo Narratives  Narratives in a nonliterate society: Wogeo  Wogeo: society that inhabits a small island off the coast of New Guinea (Melanesia culture area)  Myths are called nanasa: religious stories that took place before recorded time -> stories of ancestral gods (nanarang) who created the landscape, invented material objects, and set forth customary behaviour; nanarang looked/behaved like humans, and then disappeared + were replaced by wogeo (ancestors) o Origin nanasa: Tidlap took girl from nearby village and made her his wife; he accused her of infidelity and killed her -> his relatives canoed away, scared that the wife’s kinsmen would take vengeance; Tidlap followed, and was dismembered by his relatives, his body becoming the lands  Trunk became Island of Mushu; head became Island of Kairiru; fingers became coral reefs; legs became Torricelli Moutains of the New Guinea mainland  Tidlap behaved in a socially unacceptable way, and paid the price/consequences The Navaho Creation Story  Dine Hahane: complex creation story, recited partially for rituals; several versions exist (typical of oral narratives) o Story of the Holy People (supernatural beings) that are immortal/travel on rainbows/follow sunrays/control winds and thunder o Story tells of the world directly around people; people relate to the landscape -> this makes it difficult for outsiders to understand the story  Landscape can be described in terms of a 4-point compass; each point relating to one of the Holy People; different colours for each of the Holy People (white, blue, yellow, black)  Many early parts of the narrative take place in layers underneath the ground; thought to be as real as geographical features on the surface of the eath  First man and first woman were made from ears of corn (important for Navaho rituals); life force comes from the wind (likened to person’s breath) Approaches to Analysis of Myths  3 approaches: functional, structural, and psychoanalytic Functional Analysis  Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski  Myths are seen as a force to help maintain the society; myth is a basis for rituals, which are the means by which individuals come together and bond with one another  Criticism: myth is selective in the features that it chooses to emphasize, and myths can be divisive (different, competing versions of a story) Structural Analysis  Claude Levi-Strauss, Edmund Leach  Focuses on the underlying structure of the myth; how humans see in binary terms, myths divide the world in binary opposites cross- culturally (man/woman, light/dark, day/night, heaven/earth) o Opposites are generally mediated by a 3 rdanomalous category (life/death mediated by eternal life in paradise)  Stories that seen very different on the surface may have a similar underlying structure  Ex. Gururumba Creation story: nature vs. culture is related to the differences between the sexes -> women are nature, and men are culture o Brothers find eggs, and first woman is created -> she matures and the man tries to have sex with her, but she does not have a vagina; he throws a sugarcane at her and creates a vagina -> he tries to catch her but she turns into an animal every time; when he catches her, they have sex and she has a son -> when the son grows older he is not seen as a man, and becomes a fish; the wise man from the woods turns him back into a man; the boy realizes that there are men in the woods with no pigs or wives, so he sends his sisters there with pigs -> begins exchange relationship  Criticism: seen as sterile approach and dehumanizing; complicated Psychoanalytic Analysis  Freud, Carl Jung  Freud thought that myths were a type of shared dream, sharing unconscious wishes; his analyses were very sexual in nature o Freud focused on shared individual experiences  Ex. Little red riding hood: red cape (menses), unbroken wine bottle (virgin), eaten by wolf (aggressive inter
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