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Entry task
On a sheet of paper
please answer the
following questions.
How do you take good
notes during a
What is mythology?
What is mythology?
• A one sentence
definition of
“Mythology” is what
we call other people’s
– Joseph Campbell
According to our text. . .
• “Myths symbolize human
experience and embody
the spiritual values of a
culture. Every society
preserves its myths,
because the beliefs and
worldview found within
them are crucial to the
survival of that culture.”
(Rosenberg, xiii)
Popular views
• Myths are often stories of origins, how the world
and everything in it came to be in illo tempore.
– Eliade.
• Sometimes myths are public dreams which, like
private dreams, emerge from the unconscious
– Freud.
• Indeed, myths often reveal the archetypes of the
collective unconscious.
– Jung
Mythological study roots.
• Paleontologists,
anthropologists, and
many other different
professions have all
spent many hours, years
etcetera studying the
belief systems of different
Myth/religion are distinctly human.
• Many modern paleontologists have
recently broached the theory that the key
difference between early humans and
neandertals (hominids) is possibly the
belief in something beyond death.
• This belief is tracked by many to
• be representative of the earliest
spiritual/religious practices.
The need for myth.
• From a sociological perspective,
mythology serves a greater purpose for
each society. The need to create laws and
practices of acceptable behavior
encourage the creation of
• mythological stories to provide
• for a motivation to reinforce
• good societal behaviors.
Psychological needs
• From an individual level, mythology serves a
very basic human need.
• The need to know “Who am I?”, “Why am I
here?”, “Do I serve a purpose?”, “Is there
something else?”
• The contemplation of the reason for each
individual’s existence is believed by many to be
the foundation of mythology. Even as we need
motivation as a society to follow the rules, we
desperately need something as an individuals to
motivate us to keep living.
Psychological continued.
• One belief system about how humans
come into the world is Tabula Rasa.
• Tabula Rasa, literally defined as blank
slate. This is the concept that all humans
are started completely blank at birth and
then create their values systems, belief
systems based on what they are exposed
to around them.
What happened yesterday?
• On a sheet of paper, please answer the
following: (you may use your notes)
– In your own words, please define mythology.
– What is Tabula Rasa?
– What sociological and psychological purposes
does mythology serve. (2 different things)
Carl Jung
• He emphasized understanding the psyche
through exploring the worlds of dreams, art,
mythology, world religion and philosophy.
Although he was a theoretical psychologist
and practicing clinician, much of his life's work
was spent exploring other areas, including
Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy,
astrology, sociology, as well as literature and
the arts. His most notable ideas include the
concept of psychological archetypes, the
collective unconscious and synchronicity.
• Rejected Tabula Rasa theory of development.
• Believed in Communal Unconscious
– Universal underlying connection to all humanity.
Jung continued…
• He believed that the universal
unconscious can be seen in the universal
images which all people across cultures
seems to understand.
• These universals are typically called
• The word archetype appeared in
European texts as early as 1545.[1] It
derives from the Latin noun archetypum
and that from the Greek noun αρχέτυπον
(archetypon) and adjective αρχέτυπος
(archetypos), meaning "first-moulded"[2].
The Greek roots are arkhe- ("first" or
"original") + typos ("model", "type", "blow",
"mark of a blow").
Archetypes continued
• Just as every object can be “boiled down”
artistically to its basic shapes, so to every
mythological, symbolic, and often fictional
character can be reduced to its
Claude Levi-Strauss
Lévi-Strauss sees a basic paradox in the study of myth. On one hand, mythical
stories are fantastic and unpredictable: thus, the content of myth seems completely
arbitrary. On the other hand, myths from different cultures are surprisingly similar:
On the one hand it would seem that in the course of a myth anything is likely to
happen. […] But on the other hand, this apparent arbitrariness is belied by the
astounding similarity between myths collected in widely different regions. Therefore
the problem: If the content of myth is contingent [i.e., arbitrary], how are we to explain
the fact that myths throughout the world are so similar?[6]
Lévi-Strauss proposed that universal laws must govern mythical thought and resolve
this seeming paradox, producing similar myths in different cultures. Each myth may
seem unique, but he proposed it is actually just one particular instance of a universal
law of human thought. In studying myth, Lévi-Strauss tries "to reduce apparently
arbitrary data to some kind of order, and to attain a level at which a kind of necessity
becomes apparent, underlying the illusions of liberty".[7]
According to Lévi-Strauss, "mythical thought always progresses from the awareness
of oppositions toward their resolution".[8] In other words, myths consist of (1)
elements that oppose or contradict each other and (2) other elements that "mediate",
or resolve, those oppositions.
Structuralism example
• For example, Lévi-Strauss thinks the trickster of many Native
American mythologies acts as a "mediator". Lévi-Strauss's argument
hinges on two facts about the Native American trickster: (1) the
trickster has a contradictory and unpredictable personality; (2) the
trickster is almost always a raven or a coyote. Lévi-Strauss argues
that the raven and coyote "mediate" the opposition between life and
death. The relationship between agriculture and hunting is
analogous to the opposition between life and death: agriculture is
solely concerned with producing life (at least up until harvest time);
hunting is concerned with producing death. Furthermore, the
relationship between herbivores and beasts of prey is analogous to
the relationship between agriculture and hunting: like agriculture,
herbivores are concerned with plants; like hunting, beasts of prey
are concerned with catching meat. Lévi-Strauss points out that the
raven and coyote eat carrion and are therefore halfway between
herbivores and beasts of prey: like beasts of prey, they eat meat;
like herbivores, they don't catch their food. Thus, he argues, "we
have a mediating structure of the following type":[8]