THE IMPORTANCE OF MYTHOLOGY
Myths are important to study, because they show how our ancestors thought and what they believed. Myths are our religious roots. They are, therefore, keys to understanding our culture.
Note: There are Two Keys to the understanding and appreciation of Western culture: the knowledge of Biblical and Classical literature. Education in times past included instruction in the Bible, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the languages in which they were written: Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. These sources influenced the works of Dante, Milton, and Michelangelo, and so, they remain of vital importance.
Some Myths spiritualize ideals or concepts. The Greek goddess Nike was the personification of Victory. (Her Roman name was Victoria.) The blindfolded goddess with scales is Justice. The goddess that stands in the New York harbor with a torch in her hand is Liberty. These divine figures were never living persons.
Other Myths have some basis in fact. Many of the gods were deified heroes. These are euhemerist myths. Examples:
a. Imhotep the pyramid architect became the god of engineering, science, and writing.
b. Æsclapius the physician became the god of medicine.
c. Odin may have been a human youth named Adonis, said to be the lover of Venus.
d. As to the three sons of Noah: Shem was named for ancient Sumer, Ham for Cham (ancient Egypt), and Japheth became the Greek titan Iapetos.
e. Sigmund Freud said that God himself is a deified Ancestor - the tribal Patriarch, the Father of a nation, or the elderly Judge.
f. The archæologist Heinrich Schliemann used Homer’s Iliad to find the lost city of Troy. And the Bible is still used to find forgotten cities in Israel.
Some Myths gave pre-scientific explanations for natural phenomena. These are ætiological myths. Examples:
a. What is the rainbow? It is a god’s warbow for shooting lightning arrows (Hebrew and Babylonian belief), or a necklace of the love goddess (Sumerian and Egyptian belief), or a bridge to heaven (Norse or Japanese belief), or a cosmic serpent (Phœnician belief).
b. Why does a sunflower turn toward the sun? It is a transformed maiden who was in love with the sun god.
c. Why do men hate snakes? A primeval snake stole the gift of immortality from the first man.
d. What causes harelip? A rabbit crosses the path of a pregnant woman, and its features are imprinted on the embryo.
e. Why do people have various skin colors? The sun chariot got off course and scorched some people (Greek), men were made from clay and baked at different durations (Indian), sin caused a darkening of the most sinful people (Mormon).
Useful Myths are everyday expressions that add colorful terms and poetic or fanciful notions to common speech. Most people do not actually believe these myths any longer. Some of them are:
a. Heaven is “up.” (celestial or ethereal realm, “above the clouds,” “over the rainbow.)
b. Emotion comes from the “heart.” (heartfelt, hearty, heartless, sweetheart, “with all my heart.”)
c. Happiness comes from the stars. (lucky star, guiding star, star-crossed, “wish upon a star.”)
d. Personal well-being comes from “fate,” “destiny,” or “luck.” (fortunate, destined, fated, lucky charm, “his number was up.”)
e. Light is “good,” and darkness is “evil.” (brilliant, fair, sunny, enlightened, benighted, “the dark side of nature.”)
Education in mythology enables one to identify myths, to think for oneself in religion and be able to sort myths from historical reality. Examples:
a. One can accept the historicity of George Washington but discard the legendary beliefs about him: that he never told a lie, that he could throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River, and that he could bend a coin between two fingers with his thumb.
b. One can view a painting with a religious theme and spot errors or fables or misrepresentations of that religion. Take, for example, Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation of Adam:
1. God is shown animating Adam by touching his finger. But the Bible says life was blown into the nostrils of the first man. (This alternate creation method was based on the Bible account that a dead person might sometimes be revived by the touch of a holy man - such as Elisha or Jesus.)
2. God is depicted as an old man with a white beard. On the contrary, He is an omnipresent Spirit, not localized in a body anywhere - except when an incarnation or theophany occurs.
3. God is shown wearing a robe that enfolds boys and girls. The youthful figures in the painting represent the souls of the unborn offspring of Adam and Eve. This idea is not supported in the Bible. It is based on the Jewish legend of a place in heaven called “the Guf,” where unborn souls reside. The figures in the painting are of various ages - youths and infants. They should all be infants.
4. Adam is pictured as a beardless young man. He is shown to be clean-shaven because that was the ideal of manly appearance among the Romans.
5. Adam is depicted with a navel. Since he had no mother, he would have had no navel.
All Religions are based on factual Truths, but intermixed with their historical origins are Fables, Legends, Folklore, and Mythology.
Every religion has a mythology.
Common Myths of most Religions are:
God is an old Man (Why not a God of eternal youth?)
Heaven is in the sky. Heaven is “up.” (Where is “up” on a globe?)
Mountain tops touch the sky and are thus sacred - venerated as the homes of divinities or as sites for worship.
The Sky is supported by a solid structure (or by a cosmic giant such as “Atlas”), and it can fall down. It is a firm firmament.
Hades is in the earth - the abode of dead spirits or dread spirits (demons). Ghosts can arise from the underworld and can haunt burial places or wilderness areas.
There are good spirits (angels) and evil spirits (demons).
There are monsters: dragons, gigantic animals, multi-formed animals, and deadly beasts in far lands and forbidden places.
Some objects and places are taboo - too sacred to see, to touch, to hear, or to eat (dietary taboos).
Offenses such as disregarding taboos or breaking arbitrary religious rules are sinful and subject to divine wrath.
Divine wrath can be placated by making sacrifices - throwing objects of worth into a fire or into bodies of water.
Portents and natural disasters are viewed as “acts of God.”
Fate, or personified Fates, determine the destinies of human beings.
Spiritual merit can be gained by asceticism or self-torture.
Scriptures are holy, venerable oracles of divine truth. (All of the myths listed here must be explained away.)
Mythology still exists in the beliefs of many people. Religion can be purified by distinguishing factual concepts from those that are allegorical, symbolic, legendary, or mythical. Good religion is purged of superstition, magic, anti-intellectualism, life-negating philosophies, pre-scientific worldviews, repressive taboos, fanatical militancy (hate), and inferior theodicy (attributing evil to God).
Some myths of the Bible are:
Heaven is “up,” and Hell is “down.” (A flat earth is presumed.)
God sits somewhere on a “throne.” (God, a Spirit, is not localized.)
There is a “bottomless pit” in the ground. (Not possible in a spher- ical earth).
Rain falls through “windows” in heaven. Heaven sits on “pillars.”
The sky is a “firmament,” i.e., a flat, firm ceiling or a dome that will “roll up like a scroll” at the end of time.
The elements (weather) are controlled by “elemental spirits.”
Heaven is a walled City with gates (of pearl) and streets (of gold). (Since walls keep out enemies, this belief presumes that God fears an invasion of heaven.)
The Universe was created in six days. (Since the sun was not created until the fourth day, the concept of “day” cannot apply until that time. Actually the universe is fifteen billion years old.)
One-third of the stars will fall and hit the earth at the end of time.
Death and Hades are persons. (These are the Greek gods Thanatos and Hades. Such pagan deities do not belong in the Bible.)
Dragons, satyrs, unicorns, multi-headed beasts, and giants exist.
God defeated a dragon named Leviathan before making the world.
The first Man was made from dust. (Actually Mankind is part of the Animal Kingdom. He is a thinking mammal - a primate with a soul.)
Life is in blood, so it is forbidden to eat blood or to touch it (taboo). The blood flow of females makes them ceremonially unclean.
Certain animals are unclean and cannot be eaten.
Sin entered the human experience by eating a Forbidden Fruit.
Jesus as an Infant never cried. (“The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” - words in a Christmas carol. This is a Gnostic myth contradicted by the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”)
Some myths of the Quran (Islamic Scripture) are:
Islamic Cosmology is pre-scientific, being based on that of the Bible.
The Sky is a canopy that will roll up “like a scroll of parchment” at the Last Day.
The Heavens, divided into seven Levels, are supported by invisible pillars.
Devils continually try to climb to heaven on invisible ladders.
Angels repel the devils by throwing shooting stars at them.
A Black Meteorite embedded in a wall at Mecca is venerated.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is said to be Miriam, the sister of Moses.
The Christian Trinity is composed of Jehovah, Jesus, and Mary.
Senseless ceremonies, such as running back and forth at a shrine and throwing stones, are said to be essential.
Some myths of the Vedas (Hindu Scripture) are:
The venerable Cow produced a Sea of Milk in primordial times.
The Earth was created by being churned up like a lump of butter from the cosmic Sea of Milk.
The Earth rests on the backs of four Cosmic Elephants which stand on the back of a Cosmic Turtle.
A Cosmic Serpent encircles the Earth with its tail in its mouth.
Gross sexuality, immorality, and cruelty among the gods is accepted.
Society is divided into Castes - divinely-sanctioned discrimination.
Astrology, Numerology, Divination, and the use of Charms and Talismans are valid practices.
Certain animals are taboo and cannot be killed or eaten.
Spiritual merit can be gained by self-torture.
Some myths of Buddhism are:
Buddhist cosmology is pre-scientific, being based on that of the parent Hindu religion.
The Earth was formed on the Cosmic Sea as skim forms on milk.
Buddha spoke and walked immediately after he was born.
Buddha fasted until he could touch his stomach and feel his spine.
Buddha had a third eye in his forehead.
Buddha left his footprint in a rock on a mountain in Ceylon.
Astrology, Numerology, Divination, and the use of Charms and Talismans are valid practices.
Some myths of Taoism are:
The first Being was a cosmic giant whose body was congealed from a primordial Cloud (identical to Norse mythology).
When the Cosmic Man thrashed about in the Cloud, it separated into fragments of yang and yin. Yang went up to make the sky and yin went down to form the earth.
Three cosmic animals - a Dragon, a Phœnix, a Tortoise - made things on the Earth. A Dragon-goddess made the human race.
Some myths of the Book of Mormon are:
Native Americans are Semitic - descended from Jews who migrated to America. (Anthropologists class them as Mongoloid.) (Mosiah 15-16a, 1 Nephi 15:12b, 18:22-23)
Sin causes human skin to darken, and this was the cause of the colored races. When a dark-skinned person becomes a Mormon, his skin becomes lighter.
(Alma 3:6-9, 2 Nephi 5:21, 3 Nephi 2:14-15, Moses 7:8,22, Pearl of Great Price)
The God of this universe has a harem of goddesses, and when a Mormon man dies, he becomes a god of a different universe, which he peoples through the offspring of his harem.
(Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses 1:50, Abraham 4:1,PGP,
Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20,52,55,62, D&C 131:1-3)
A woman must be married in order to go to the highest heaven of the gods; otherwise she becomes a slave of the gods (a “minis- tering angel”). (D&C 132:15-17)
The Book of Mormon was written in “reformed Egyptian hiero- glyphics” and translated into English by means of reading through magic spectacles. (1 Nephi 1:2, Mormon 9:32,34, Mosiah 1:4a, Origin of the Book of Mormon at beginning of the Book)
There is magical efficacy in the secret rituals practiced in the Mormon temples, even though such rituals as practiced by other secret societies are condemned. (Helaman 6:22, 3 Nephi 3:9)
Some myths of Wiccanism (Witchcraft) are:
Human beings can have the power to control Nature (through sorcery or magical ceremonies.)
Human beings can bless or curse other human beings.
Human beings can summon dead spirits and evil spirits (demons).
Human beings can levitate (fly, as with a broomstick).
Human sex acts can make crops grow and livestock reproduce.
Magical power is stronger on seasonal transition days.
Magical power is strengthened by use of blood or human sacrifice.
Magical power is infused into amulets, charms, and potions.
(Note: Wiccanism shares many beliefs with New Age occultism, and it easily develops into Satanism.)
The Rivers of Paradise in Eden The medieval Fountain of Youth
The Tree of Life in Eden The Apples of the Youth Goddess
Lucifer, the Angel of Light Lucifer, the Morning-Star God
Fallen Angels put in Tartarus Titans imprisoned in Tartarus
The Snake, the wisest Creature The Owl, the wisest Animal
The talking Serpent of Eden Æsop’s fabled talking Animals
Eve’s Curiosity about a Fruit Pandora’s Curiosity about a Box
The Flaming Sword of Eden The Fire-Ring of Brynhild
Cherubs (human-headed bulls) Sphinxes (human-headed lions)
The Rainbow, the Warbow of God The Rainbow, Ishtar’s Necklace
Earthquakes of Yahweh (Jehovah) Earthquakes of Poseidon (Neptune)
Ezekiel carried by an Angel Aladdin carried on a Genie’s back
grasping his hair
Satyrs dancing on the ruins of Babylon Satyrs living in the hills of Greece
The Symbols of the Hebrew Tribes The Signs of the Greek Zodiac
Winds controlled by Angels Winds are Four cosmic Titans
The Archangel and the Dragon St. George and the Dragon
The Trumpet of Gabriel The War Horn of Heimdal
Note: You don’t have to believe everything literally in Genesis and Revelation. Some things are right out of Hollywood, thrown in for spectacular effect.
Richard L. Atkins
THE RAIN ARC IN MYTHOLOGY
The curving band of prismatic colors arcing across the sky after a rainstorm is such a wonderful display that it merited treatment in all ancient mythologies.
In English, the term “rainbow” comes from the idea that the multi-colored arc is a weapon for shooting arrows of lightning by the divine Archer. During a rainstorm, darts of heavenly fire are launched by means of the Bow, and then after the tempestuous violence is spent, the Weapon is hung up in the sky as a sign of victory over the chaotic elements.
In the Babylonian Creation Epic, the champion of the gods, Marduk, used a variety of weapons to subdue the cosmic dragon, Tiamat.
He constructed a bow and marked it as his weapon.
He fixed its bow-cord and attached thereto an arrow.
He raised his mace with the grasp of his strong right hand.
At his side he let hang the bow and quiver.
In front of him he set the lightning,
And with a blazing flame he enveloped his body.
Then he made a net in which to snare Tiamat...
After his victorious combat, Marduk was acclaimed by all the gods, and his weapons were admired.
Enlil then raised the warbow of Marduk
and laid it on the table before them.
Then he exhibited the net of Marduk,
and all the gods, his fathers, saw it.
When they saw the bow, how skillfully it was made,
The fathers all praised the workmanship he had performed.
Raising the bow, Anu spoke to the great assembly of the gods,
And he kissed the bow, saying, “This is my daughter.”
Then he gave all the names of the bow as follows:
“Longwood is the first name. Rainbow is the second.
Bow-star is the third, and in heaven I have made it shine.”
He placed the bow in the heavens,
where all gods, Marduk’s brothers, could see it.
The similarity of this account to that of the Flood story given in the Bible is striking.
A SUMMARY OF RAINBOW MYTHS
A divine warbow for shooting lightning arrows (Babylonian and Hebrew belief).
A divine necklace of the love goddess (Sumerian belief) or a pectoral ornament of the gods or the pharaohs (Egyptian belief).
A bridge to heaven (Norse and Japanese belief).
A cosmic serpent that holds up the sky (Phœnician belief).