Glossary Item

mythology

A mythology is a body of stories which have become traditional for a given human society; very frequently, mythologies are associated with religious beliefs, and thus the word "mythology" often has distinct religious connotations. The stories which make up a mythology can vary dramatically. Proper "myths," for example, usually attempt to offer an explanation of a natural phenomenon, a learned behavior, a system of social organization, or a particular value or belief. One Native American myth tells the story of a time when rocks could move about like people. One rock, as the story goes, angered the Creator by chasing gods and trying to crush them; as a result, the Creator deprived rocks of the power of movement. This myth explains a natural phenomenon: the inanimation of rocks. Other types of stories which can be a component of mythology include legends and folktales. A legend is a story which purports to be based at least in part on historical fact, but which is interpreted and retold in an imaginative way by the storyteller; folktales, by contrast, usually incline much more toward fiction than toward fact (though even folktales sometimes have their origin in an actual occurrence). In U.S. culture, the midnight ride of Paul Revere is an example of a story which, though based on an historical event, has become legendary. Folktales include such stories as that of the "Callejon del Beso," or the "Alley of the Kiss," in Guanajuato, Mexico. According to the story, a young woman of wealthy descent was kissing her boyfriend, who was a poor miner, when her father came walking up the alley. The father had forbidden the two from seeing one another, and upon finding them in each others' arms he shot and killed the young man where he stood -- on the third step of the alley stairs. To this day, it is considered bad luck to walk down the alley with a lover or spouse without stopping for a kiss on the third step of the alley stairs. (Note: The word "mythology" can also be used in reference to the study of myths , as opposed to the myths themselves.)

The Web contains vast resources for those interested in mythology, particulary Greek mythology.-->


Use your browser's "back" function to return to the text

Browse glossary index