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What is a Myth?

Michael Meade is said to have defined a myth as, “a series of lies that tells the truth”. (Note: this phrase is often associated with fiction and art as well).

One of my favorite poets, Jalaluddin Rumi, has a poem titled, “Unfold Your Own Myth“.

But when I think about… it’s ironic– defining a myth.

It’s like someone points at you and says, “Tell me the TRUTH about these fictions!”

We’re obsessed with substantive thought, aren’t we? Which some attribute to Socrates and Plato, but let’s not get too brain-y here.

The Definition of a Myth

Myths are highly respected stories, which do not need to be grounded in science for historical accuracy or analyzed for deductive truth.

At D&M, we respect myths for their innate ability to reflect back individual and collective depth to the listener.

  • Myths are oceans of depth … in droplets of stories.
  • Myths are melodies that reverberate the soul’s tuning fork.
  • Myths are parables, metaphors, revealing metaphysical realities.

Are All Myths Fictional?

The infamous Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari says that the distinguishing characteristic of humans is their ability to believe fiction(s).

We go about our lives constructing ideas about what’s happening, all the time, but everything we perceive is shaped by our own subjective perspectives.

We tell stories about what’s going on– from our own vantage points.

For me, this is central to what a myth is… it’s stepping into a story.

Perhaps this is why myths are so central to self-discovery.

Because we cultivate empathy with characters and relate to their struggles, challenges, experiences, and as we examine mythology (and our dreams and dream characters), we learn to become more connected creatures.

We’re wiser because we integrate myths and stories into our psyche.

What is the Difference Between Myth and Legend?

There are thoughtful people who say these are one and the same, and there are thoughtful people who say they are different.

If there is a difference highlighted, it is typically that Legends are more often considered to have a real historical basis.

What is the Purpose of a Myth?

  • To open our eyes
  • To teach important life lessons
  • To pass down cultural values

What is One Distinguishing Characteristic of a Myth?

Perhaps my favorite distinguishing aspect of a myth is the universal patterns (and archetypes) that show up repeatedly across cultures, eras, and people groups.

Joseph Campbell, professor of comparative Mythology, coined the “Hero’s Journey” in his renowned book Hero With A Thousand Faces.

You may have heard of the hero’s journey before.

J.C. lays forth a pattern of departure, initiation, and return, which is a recurring pattern in ancient and modern mythology.

Mythology and Dreams

For the purposes of this site, the thread we are hunting for in both dreams and mythology is the mirror of wisdom. When we read a myth or dream a dream, we find ourselves in the stories and characters.

This is the universal pattern that we are discovering within ourselves, our dreams, and the mythologies of the world.

Self-discovery.

Concluding Notes:

We’ll continue to update this post as our site grows. We hope to answer more questions such as:

  • How Many Myths Are There?
  • What is a creation myth?
  • What is a hero myth?

Stay tuned.

Other Definitions of Myths and Mythology

… the deepest function of a myth… is to lend narrative order to apparently disconnected bits of information, the way constellations group impossibly distant stars into tight, easily recognizable patterns that are simultaneously imaginary and real

Christopher Ryan

Myth is the natural and indispensable intermediate stage between unconscious and conscious cognition”

Carl Jung (see more Carl Jung quotes)

Mythology is the loom on which [we] weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story.

David Fenstein and Stanley Krippner (psychologists)


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