Understanding the myth will one day be one of the most useful discoveries of the 20th century. Western man is no longer the master of the world: in front of him, he now no longer has “natives”, but interlocutors. It is good that we know how to initiate the dialogue: it is essential to recognize that there is no longer a solution of continuity between the “primitive” or “backward” world and the modern West. We must be aware of what is still mythical in a modern existence”. Here are some famous myth from around the world:
- Mesopotamia and Palestine
- Modern Europe
- XXth century
- Middle age
Mesopotamia and Palestine
Gilgamesh Sumerian Prince, hero of an epic from the ancient East (± -2000)
Genesis A vision of the creation of the world
Adam and Eve The Lost Paradise and the Origin of Human Suffering
The Tower of Babel The origin of the diversity of languages.
The Flood The world is flooded, only Noah survives in his ark with his family and the animals.
Jonah Character of the Bible, he miraculously stayed 3 days in the belly of a whale and survived
Samson Biblical character whose exceptional strength resided in his hair. He was seduced by Delilah who cut off his hair and allowed his enemies to capture him.
- The Story of Ra: Creation Myth
Not only is Ra credited with creating all the gods of the earth, he also traveled across the sky every day as the sun. At night, Ra would journey to the underworld, defeating the allies of chaos. Ra also ruled on Earth as the first Pharoah. Egyptian kings claimed they were descended from Ra, thus giving credence to their seat on the throne. They called themselves “The Son of Ra”.
- Isis and Osiris: Murder and Revenge
Isis and Osiris were two of the four children of Nut, the earth goddess. Isis and Osiris were married. As the eldest child, Osiris ascended the throne and the people loved him, but his brother, Set, was jealous of this and sought revenge. Set killed Osiris, cut him into pieces, and disperse the pieces all over Egypt. Isis, however, had great magical powers. She traveled across the land, collected all the pieces of Osiris, breathed life back into them, and resurrected him. Soon, they conceived a child together, Horus, but Osiris could not return to the land of the living and went on to rule the underworld.
- Horus and Set: A Mythical Murder Plot Continues
When Horus grew to be a man, he challenged Set to the throne. A series of battles ensued but, to no surprise, Set didn’t play fair and kept coming out the victor. Eventually, Isis stepped in to help Horus. She set a trap for Set, but he begged her for his life and she let him go. This infuriated Horus. His rage was so strong that it even upset the other gods. In a final match, a boat race, it looked like Horus was going to be the victor. Infuriated, Set turned into a hippopotamus and attacked Horus’ boat. Yet another fight ensued and their fellow gods declared the match a tie. In the end, Osiris was consulted to see who should be king. Osiris declared that no man should take the throne through murderous ways, as Set had. In the end, Horus took his rightful place, while his father continued to rule the underworld.
- Ma’at: The Goddess of Morality
Ma’at was the goddess of truth, justice, and morality. She was the daughter of Ra and wife of the moon god, Thoth. She weighed the hearts of the dead to decide who should have eternal joy in the afterlife. Her Feather of Truth was the determining factor. Once placed on a scale, if the deceased’s heart was heavier than her feather, they would not be permitted to journey to paradise. If the heart was deemed too heavy, a demon would devour it, causing the deceased to die a second time.Anubis: A Death Myth
Was an ancient Egyptian god who had many roles around death. He was initially the lord of the dead but as Osiris became more popular he took over that role. Anubis’ story was then changed and he came Osiris’ son and helper in the afterlife. Anubis was the protector of tombs and inventor of mummification. He was also tasked with taking the dead souls to the underworld and overseeing the weighing of the heart.
- The Book of Thoth
The Book of Thoth contained all the knowledge of the gods. It was nestled in the bottom of the Nile and locked in a series of boxes guarded by serpents. Many pharaohs tried to gain access to it during their reign, but it was never opened. It’s said that the knowledge in there was never meant to be possessed by mere mortals. Perhaps this helped the Egyptians make sense of the things they still couldn’t quite understand. Somewhere – out there in the bottom of the Nile – lay all the answers.
- The Girl With the Rose-Red Slippers: A Myth About Love
Ever wonder where Cinderella originated? Well, this is the tale of a Greek girl named Rhodopis who was sold into slavery in Egypt. A very kind man bought her and, in turn, provided her with a home and showered her with beautiful gifts. One day, an eagle swooped down and stole one of her rose-red slippers. It was delivered to the pharaoh Amasis. Amasis asked to meet the owner of that slipper and the rest, shall we say, is history. The two fell so deeply in love they even died on the same day.
- The Princess of Bekhten: A God who Saved a Princess
Pharaoh was visiting Nehern, collecting his annual tributes, when the prince of Bekhten presented him with his eldest daughter. Pharaoh accepted the princess and took her back to Egypt, making her the chief royal wife. She was named Ra-neferu. Years later, her sister Bent-Reshet became ill. The prince of Bekhten asked Pharaoh for help. He sent a physician but her illness was the work of an evil spirit. Pharaoh then went to the temple of Khonsu Nefer-hetep and asked the god to heal her. The god confronted the evil spirit, immediately causing it to leave Bent-Reshet. The prince tried to keep the powerful Khonsu in Bekhten but after three years he returned home. The prince felt ashamed for trying to keep the god there and thanked him by sending many gifts and offerings. When the tribute arrived in Egypt the pharaoh placed it at the foot of the statue of Khonsu in the Great Temple.
- Prometheus: A hero brings fire to men, symbol of divine power, he is punished
- Oedipus: A hero kills his father and marries his mother: incest causes horrible consequences.
- Antigone: Antigone sacrifices her life to give a burial to her brother despite the royal ban.
- Theseus and the Minotaur: Theseus succeeded in entering and leaving the labyrinth where the monster devouring men was locked up thanks to the love of the young Ariadne and her thread.
- Daedalus and Icarus: Daedalus escapes from the labyrinth and his son kills himself by juvenile presumption
- Sisyphus: This king denounced the kidnapping by Zeus of the young Aegina. He was condemned to constantly roll a large rock up to the top of a mountain from which it immediately descends.
- Orpheus and Eurydice: A great musician, Orpheus obtains permission to bring Eurydice, his beloved, back from hell. The only condition is that he cannot look behind him.
- Narcissus: In love with his own image, Narcissus will die of it.
- Iliad: account of the Trojan war
- Iphigénie: Agamemnon, to ensure the success of her business, sacrifices her own daughter.
- Hector and Andromache: Hector, an exemplary husband, is torn between his duty as a leader and his role of husband and father.
- Odyssey: this famous myth is the story of Odysseus’ long adventure in seeking to regain his kingdom after the Trojan War
- Circe, a magician who made Odysseus’ companions drink and turned them into pigs
The monstrous, one-eyed Giant Cyclops who wanted to keep Odysseus prisoner. Ulysses escaped, blinding and ridiculing him.
- Phoenix: fabulous bird that was killed on a pyre and rose from its ashes
- Pygmalion sculptor who fell in love with his statue of Galatea. He got Aphrodite to give him life and he married her.
- The mysterious animal Sphinx with a human head and lion’s body that posed riddles to travelers and devoured those who could not find the answer. Oedipus solved the riddle and the beast rushed into the sea.
- Philemon and Baucis: Poor old men whose generous hospitality moved the gods. They were rewarded and got to die together after a peaceful old age.
- The Cave Prisoners have always lived in a dark cave, they kill whoever speaks to them about sunlight.
- Tristan and Yseut: Two young people are in love with each other by the action of a magic potion. They can neither stay close to each other nor stay apart.
- Perceval (Parsifal): knight in search of knowledge and truth (the Grail)
- Merlin the Enchanter: magician operating in Arthur’s cycle
- Héloïse and Abélard Abélard, the teacher and Héloïse, the student, were in love. Heloise’s father to avoid any misalliance made Abelard emasculate. The lovers took orders and continued a philosophical correspondence.
- Le Cid Rodrigue is in love with Chimène. Their fathers quarreled. What will the young man choose: his love or the family law?
- Don Juan: Inveterate seducer, DJ wishes to possess all women without belonging to any.
- Romeo and Juliet: Two young people from enemy families fall in love with each other.
- The Bajang: is considered a demon in Malaysia (South East Asia), included in the great family of Vampires. He is characterized by being bloodthirsty like any good European vampire. It often attacks newborns or pregnant women (stretch marks mean a bajang scratched you and fed on you during your pregnancy).
- The vixen woman (female fox): is a benevolent or evil spirit of Chinese beliefs. She uses the power (yin / yang) of the moon or the sun to complete her metamorphosis. She can be human, vixen, or both. And she binds herself to men (yang) to draw their strength and remain beautiful and immortal. The vixen woman is not always seen as a “Chinese demon”, but she does have the characteristics of one. The vixen woman is a cousin of the fairies (creature of European folklore), she has the moral and the beauty.
- Yin and Yang: The Chinese have separated the world into two universes “Yin” and “Yang”. Each represents a party opposed to the other, like the light and the dark. They also separated our soul, “Shen” and “Kwei”. Shen represents the benevolent part of our soul, while the Kwei, is demonic. In Chinese philosophy and in its magic, Yin and yang are two opposites. This belief is very old, because it was written in the “Book of Odes” or “300 poems”, which date from 1000 to 500 BC. At that time, yin and yang were more confused, but it separated the elements between a hot sun and a cold sun.
- Chinese dragons: symbolize luck, a favorable environment, power and nobility of soul. In Chinese culture, dragons embody power and might. They have supposed powers of control over meteorological phenomena such as, for example, invoking rain during a drought. In China, dragons are found everywhere, in legends, the Chinese New Year, Chinese astrology, the arts, names and even phrases.
Famous myth from Japan
- Izanagi and Izanami: the myth of the creation ofJapan: taken from the first book written in the Japanese language, the Kojiki (known as “Notes on the facts of the past”), the account of Izanagi and Izanami is one of the founding myths of Japanese cosmogony. Appeared in the 8th century, it reviews many theological fundamentals including the birth of Japanese deities and the creation of the archipelago. Even today, it is used as a basis for the cults of the spirits of the Shinto religion.
- Ameterasu cave: a sacred place in Japan. Sun goddess, Amaterasu has always been in competition with her brother Susanoo, the storm god. Not content with reigning over the seas, Susanoo one day set out to claim part of the domain of heaven bequeathed to Amaterasu. She then threw him a challenge which he won, and Susanoo took advantage of her victory to annoy her sister without giving her a break.
- Emperor Jinmu: 14 centuries of imperial legetimacy. Jinmu is considered the first Emperor of Japan. He ruled the archipelago from 660 BC to 585 BC, although its existence is not attested by historians strictly speaking. Indeed, as for all the first Japanese Emperors, all that we know about him is due only to the mythological accounts of the Kojiki. A book that has allowed the myth of Emperor Jinmu to be established throughout the country until today.
- Tanabata: the romantic astronomical phenomenon. Tanabata is a very popular summer matsuri in Japan. Traditionally held on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunisolar calendar, the “ star festival ” is a must-see event for many Japanese eager to get lucky in love. The tradition ? Hang your wishes on a bamboo shoot which will then be burned or thrown into the water to make the wishes come true.
- Momotaro: the legend of local hero. The legend of Momotaro appears during the Edo period (1603-1868) in the city of Okayama (Chûgoku region). Momotaro (literally ‘boy-peach’) is a little boy who fell from the heavens, arrived on Earth in a peach that floated on a river. Picked up by an old lady who was washing her clothes not far from there, he is brought up by her and her husband as their own son.
- The Good Savage: A man who is grown apart from human society will necessarily be good.
- Faust: A young man to obtain wealth, love and glory signs a pact with the Devil (Méphistophélès), he sells his soul to him.
- Carmen: Passionate love
- Beauty and the Beast (Love and Psyche): The love between a monster and a beauty
- Dr Jekill and Mr Hyde: In one person coexist a kind and generous being and a bloodthirsty monster.
- Shipwrecked Robinson: Crusoe who, on his desert island, managed to support himself with his knowledge and skill. He delivered a “savage” Friday who kept him company before returning to civilization. The Robinsons blog is dedicated to him
- Quasimodo: monstrous character of Notre-Dame de Paris, he burns with a pure and hopeless love for Esmeralda that he will save at the cost of his own death. (Cfr. Beauty and the Beast).
- Dracula: immortal being who feeds on the blood of the living
- Frankenstein :Frankenstein creates a being who is the cause of his “fall”.
- Marylin: Image of the femme fatale.
- The mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the appearance of a woman in the upper part of the body and of a fish in the lower part, which appears mainly in European folklore, but which finds similar figures in almost all cultures of the world. It should be borne in mind that this siren of the collective imagination differs considerably from the original sirens of the Greek religion.
- James Dean: film actor who died very young.
- Tintin: a clever young reporter and adventurous vindicator.
- Che Guevara: South American revolutionary.
- A yeti, big foot, or snowman is a two-legged, hairy mythical creature of the Himalayas. However, many claim to have encountered it at least once. Those who “saw” him say he looks like a huge gorilla, but there is something very human about him. He would live high in the mountains, where it is very cold and oxygen is scarce, which limits our knowledge of him.
- The “chupacabras” literally the “sucks goat”: In 1992, the local media of Puerto Rico spread a news concerning the death of several animals, which would have been found without a single drop of blood and with bites on the level of the neck. Due to the existence of similar cases in other countries, the legend spreads all over the world. According to those who saw him, the culprit was a species of little greenish-gray devil of about three feet and with a reptilian appearance, which is distinguished by its scaly skin and sharp thorns on its back. However, other accounts claim that it is more of a species of wild dog.
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