Mythology has had lasting effects on the influence of our society in numerous ways. Western Culture has a relationship to its parent Greek and Roman culture. Mythology contains the basic questions the western civilization has been posing for more than two thousand years. The fantasy element of mythology allows for flexible learning. Though out history there have been many attempts to explain the cultures in the universe. Nearly every individual has his or her own perception of what our universe is. Now in the modern times we live in, advanced scientific knowledge has led us to the assumption that we have a trustworthy grasp on how the universe works. Language, chemistry and physics, along with mathematics, make up the science we use to prove the questions of the universe. Any person educated in these fields will state they know our universe. A person in any of these fields has had to touch base with the origins of the universe. When we examine past cultures as far back as history will allow us, we are forced to recognize the symbolic similarities in language, ideologies, and heroism.
I will reveal to you some of these similarities in regarding to our modern language, present ideologies, and the heroism within our societies. We now are using names and symbols from as far back as 800 B.C.E. (Homer) to relate ideas to each other.
We acquire these names and symbols from the mythological stories we hear about now. Let us come to a clear understanding of what the words myth and mythology mean today. Webster’s Dictionary has this: The collected body or system of the traditions or legends of people in which are embodied in their beliefs concerning their origin, gods, heroes, etc.; the science of myths; a treatise on myths. Webster says a myth is a legend; poetic fiction; a fabulous narrative founded on some event; especially in the early existence of people, and embodying their gods, natural phenomena. The terms myth and mythological often carry with them negative or untrue meanings.
The myths and sages we can read about hold powerful traditional stories that cultures have used and have passed down to unfold their own explanation of the universe a couple of thousand years before there were the theories of science. We now have created what some would consider to be a modern day myth of god creating the world in seven days and thus creating a world of science for us to explore. The myths we read of with the Titans has its own explanations for the creation of the universe. The Titans in myths are the family of giants born of Uranus and Gaea and who rule the earth until overthrown by the Olympian Gods. Though our imagination struggles to even begin to believe these myths we use them in relation to our modern day happenings with each other every day. ******************************************
We tend to use the name of characters from myths as words in our modern vocabulary in relation to the character’s personality for definition. Take Tantalus for example, he was an immortal character who that fed his son to the gods and in return was sent to Hades where he was placed in a pool of water up to his neck, and fruits hung from a tree above him out of his reach. Tantalus was punished with always having his food slightly above his lips and water just out of his tongue’s reach. We now know the word ‘tantalize’ in our vocabulary carrying the meaning of keeping in sight but out of reach.
In myth, Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory. We now use the word mnemonics to refer to the study of memory. Then there was Hypnos, who was the god of sleep, relating to the word hypnosis we use to mean a sleep like state. The echo in our vocabulary means the repetition of sound, when read in myths Echo refers to the character who could only repeat the last word. AT LAST there is the character Atlas would held the world on his shoulders, and we use Atlas to refer to a book of maps. Odyssey meaning an adventure or journey comes from the classical Greek myth by Homer, the Odyssey. The hero Odysesseus is returning from the Trojan War, it takes him nine long years, where along the way he has a multitude of adventures, from the Lotus Eaters to Cyclops.
A person who is always lucky is said to have the ‘Midas touch’ stemming from one of the most famous tales of King Midas who was granted the wish that everything he touched turned to gold. However, he soon realized that he could not eat or drink, or even hug his daughter. We use the word Lesbian to refer to a women who is homosexual. Again coming from the Greek mythology, based on a legend of a Greek island of Lesbos. When it is hot outside you may here someone say “it is as hot as Hades today”, referring Hades the ruler of the underworld. Do you ever ask someone to stop ‘harping’ on you, well the word harp actually originates from the animals in myths called Harpies. The Harpies are winged womanly creatures who constantly snatch the food and drink from Phineus.
You can see through these examples we have carried the personalities of mythological characters through out our definitions of modern day English. Much of the modern day scientific discoveries have carried on the meaning behind traditional myths.
The Planets of our solar system have been named after great mythological gods. Pluto being the God of the underworld is the planet furthest from the sun. Neptune, god of the sea, is the eighth planet from the sun. Uranus the father of the Titans is the seventh planet from the sun. Saturn god of agriculture and father of Jupiter in the sixth planet from the sun. Mars who in myth is the god of war is the forth planet from the sun. Venus, who represented the great goddess of love is the second planet from the sun. Mercury, god of merchandise, trade and theft, also known as the closet planet to the sun.
We have even named constellations of the stars after mythological characters, such as the constellation Hercules which sits between Opiuchus and Draco. The inner most moon of Saturn is named after the strongest of the Gods Atlas; who was supposedly punished for his part int revolt against the Olympians by being forced to hold the world upon his shoulders for an eternity. The brightest group of stars in the constellation of Cassiopeia is named Cassiopeia Chair, for the distinct outline of a chair.
Hephaestus created the mythological character Pandora, whom he gave to Epimetheus along with a box in Prometheus had confined all the evils of the world. Pandora opened the forbidden box and this released into the world all the troubles of mankind. Science now knows Pandora to mean one of the nine satellites of the planet Saturn. Prometheus, who in myth was punished by Zeus for giving fire to man is also known to science as a satellite around Saturn.
Now we have seen the relationship between myth and science, let us explore some other ways our society incorporates the meanings and personalities of mythology into our everyday living. Companies have realized the power of these mythological characters and the great heroism the carry behind their names, thus they have put this to use for advertising purposes.
Majority of use has or have had some type of Nike apparel. The Nike name originated from the goddess of victory named, Nike. The Nike company is attempting to tap into women’s inner deity. As part of their marketing strategy to target women, Nike has created nikegoddess.com to be followed by Nike Goddess Magazine. Ever ate a ‘Mars’ candy bar while viewing a movie produced by ‘Orion’ films. Looking for a new vehicle with historical meaning try a Saturn, Aurora, or a Mercury. Even some of our basic household items have picked up on the revelation of mythological marketing, referring to products such as Ajax, the cleaner, also know a character from myths.
Lets look at some ideologies that have survived thousands of years. A couple falling head over heals in love for each other might be referred to as being struck by cupids arrow. Cupid was the God of erotic love, when struck with his arrow you were cursed to fall in love with and long for the next person you saw. Today the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone is called the Achilles tendon, also referring to a small but dangerous weakness is known as the “Achilles heel”. This dating back to the greatest warrior in the Greek war against the Trojans, Achilles. As an infant Achilles was dipped in the River Styx, which in turn made him invulnerable everywhere expect the heel by which she held him. You may refer to things being chaotic or in chaos, meaning disorderly or extreme confusion. According to the Latin poet Ovid, chaos represented the disorder before the gods.
A myth about two monsters by the names of Scylla and Charybdis, who were situated in the Strait of Messina to trap sailors between them. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis is a phrase that has come to mean being stuck between two equal alternatives, neither of which can be passed without encountering the other, commonly known for being caught between a rock and a hard place. The modern band ‘Police’ have a song, ‘Wrapped around your finger’ that contains in it lyrics a referral to Scylla and Charybdis.
“You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis
And I know how it feels to be weakened like Achilles
With you at my heals” The band Indigo Girls in their song “Ghost” say
To bring your heart back to my island” This verse is referring to the Helen of Troy, who is said to have been so beautiful that her abduction was the cause of the Trojan War, which in turn led to the launching of a thousand ships.
The idea of modern Olympics came from the archeological discoveries at Olympia during the ninth century, but the Olympics in ancient timers was more local. There idea was to have an event in replace of War. It obviously did not work considering the twentieth century we had the worse wars ever. The ancient Greeks also had a torch, the winner would light the torch on the altar. The marathon race is based on the run during the Persian Wars to announce the victory at Marathon in 490 B.C.E.
Though languages change over time; the relation between time and language should be obvious to all of us. If we listen to radio and tv programs recorded thirty or forty years ago, we notice differences in the choice of words, in sentence structure and even in pronunciation, but seldom will find a word’s definition to be altered. The lessons of Myths need not be forgotten but they must be handled with care to maximize their intended benefit. When a flaming bush speaks to a character in a story, we must not be tempted to take this literally. As seas become parted, dragons slain, witched reduced to puddles and water turned to wine, we must realize that these stories have guided and set social mores for societies for more than two thousand years.
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