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The power of myth
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Author:  Hrvoje Butkovic [ 08 Apr 2008, 09:59 ]
Post subject:  The power of myth

In several places, I’ve come across the idea that the myths that help shape a culture (the cultural story, if you like) are very powerful and have definitive influence on it. The myths of our culture that come to mind are the good-evil polarity and hierarchical power structures. When I look at the good-evil polarity, it permeates our society, from children’s stories right through to conduct between nations. The question that interests me is to what extent will our efforts at transforming society be hampered by the underlying myths, and therefore how much attention should be given to changing the myths in an effort to change society?

Author:  Hex [ 08 Apr 2008, 21:19 ]
Post subject:  Re: The power of myth

Hrvoje Butkovic wrote:
The question that interests me is to what extent will our efforts at transforming society be hampered by the underlying myths, and therefore how much attention should be given to changing the myths in an effort to change society?


A great question. In anthropology, we can see that often, basic tenets of the society are linked to the myths and legends of a society. I make sure to add legends because these can be just as, if not more, powerful in their impact as myth.

Now, the sorts of things embodied in myth that can be seen to impact a society can be as simple and concrete as the Mayan importance of remembering the gods' holy days, their likes and dislikes, regular prayer, and the importance of taking care of your tools and animals. They can be as esoteric as the Norse views of the importance of being a just/ unbrutish ruler, the means by which one can explore with the knowledge that with exploration comes the chance of danger, and the potential and power that exists within every human.

Now, technically, in anthropological terms, myths end when the world is created and humans' roles are determined. It's in the time before history and after myth that legends fit in. They often describe/ account for the changes within a culture that a person notices when they look around and see that the world isn't like it was in the time of myth. And these legends need not stop with history, as the oral tradition is strong; an example of this would be to look to the U.S.'s first president, George Washington.

Tradition holds that he chopped down one of his father's cherry trees, told the truth about it, and got lauded rather than punished. It also holds that he was so physically fit/ able that he could throw a coin across the Potomac River. What's the big deal? Well, these are supposed to embody how Americans should be. In essence the legendary aspect attempts to re-write the values of the newly formed country at a time when it was in need of direction.

So, in asking how much attention should be given to changing the myths in terms of changing society, it's powerful. Look to the modern U.S. view of the founding fathers as definitive 'Christians' rather than deists. On the surface it seems fine, but the implication is that the U.S. does -not- have a separation of religion and state, but that it is implicitly a 'Christian Nation'. Proponents of this are willing to overlook the fact about how 'In God We Trust' on the money is a relatively recent thing, how the 'under God' in the pledge is only from the 1950's, or how the laws have more in common with the Code of Hammurabi than the 10 Commandments because these don't fit with the legend/ myth they want to see. :banghead:

Author:  HavenMage [ 09 Apr 2008, 22:16 ]
Post subject:  Re: The power of myth

Quote:
The question that interests me is to what extent will our efforts at transforming society be hampered by the underlying myths, and therefore how much attention should be given to changing the myths in an effort to change society?


Without question, at least in my mind, Myth and Legend are integral parts of the socialization process. They are the tales and stories that define how and why things are. Any meaningful change in a social pattern, any change that will become a permanent part of the social pattern, will require a change, of some sort, in the "Myth/Legend" language.

If you were to go back the classical Greek period and tried to establish a culture of gender equality, you would have to face off against the preconceived notions of the role of women in culture. The elements of the "Myth/Legend" sub-strata that you would have to contend with would involve the extra-ordinarily popular Amazon tales, the Myth's of Male child birth that were used to prove Man's primacy in child bearing (Athena and Dionysus come to mind), and the many legends of the women that betrayed men to the detriment of all things Greek (Helen of Troy, others).

In this circumstance, I believe that you would find Myth and Legend to be potent counter factors to the sought after change. Alteration of those myths, or introduction of myths that redefine their meaning, would become necessary for the change to become accepted and lasting.

Author:  jamessusan104 [ 11 May 2017, 01:54 ]
Post subject:  Re: The power of myth

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Author:  johnhozy [ 05 Jan 2018, 00:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: The power of myth

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