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An Introduction to Mythology

Mythology, it is a word that is often erroneously to the Bible and its contents. Yet the Bible is not a myth written by a bunch of goat herders in the Bronze Age. It is a book that reveals God to us.

Sadly, from Adam’s time to the present many people do not want to know God or follow his ways thus they create their own ideas of what a god is and what religion ought to be. Here is a definition of the word Myth:

A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society: (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/myth)

The Greeks, Romans, the Germanic people, the Hindus and the Egyptians all have their own myths of supernatural beings and the following is just an introduction to them. It is impossible to put every ‘god’s’ name in the list so the reader will have to look the rest up on their own time. The information below is taken from 1. Manual of Mythology by Alexander S. Murray, 1935  (indicated by MM below) & 2. Dictionary of Classical Mythology by JE Zimmerman, 1964 (indicated by CD below)

I do not think that more up-to-date books would hold much different information but since this is only an introduction these works will suffice. The key for believers is to learn why these people strayed from God and started their false beliefs; then not follow in their footsteps.

Even in the past 200-300 years we have discovered many different societies that have their own myths, their own gods and goddesses. From the North American Indians to the primitive tribes of Papau New Guinea to the jungles of Brazil.

Without the gospel of Jesus to shine the light on these deceived eyes these people will be lost for eternity. We need to not judge these people for their different beliefs but seek ways to reach them for Jesus.

Many people have felt the call of God to go to these different people, though for the ancients it is too late, and the book The Peace Child is but one record of their efforts.  The movie, End of the Spear, records another. These are but two of the countless stories of people sacrificing for Jesus; sadly the need is still there and we need to reach out to those who have not heard and give them an opportunity to be saved.

Part One: Introductions

How far we may find just cause for admiration or the contrary with regard to her religion remains to be seen. But whichever way it be, we shall at any rate find abundant evidence of the intense hold it had upon the great mass of the people, and of the important influence it was calculated to exercise on their civilization (MM pg. 2)

Everywhere in nature was felt the presence of August invisible beings: in the sky, with its luminaries and clouds; on the sea with its fickle changeful movement; on the earth with its lofty peaks, its plains and rivers. It seemed like man himself, and everything around him, was upheld by divine power…(MM pg. 2)

Whether the gods were supposed to love the whole of mankind, or only such as led good lives, is not certain. It would seem, however, from the universal practice of offering sacrifice, and expiation on the occasion of any wrong, that they were believed to be endowed with some deep feeling of general love, which even sinners could touch by means of atonement. (MM pg. 3)

Scientists have found mythology a treasure chest in providing names for animals, plants, constellations, planets, and… missiles and space vehicles like Gemini, Apollo, Mercury and Zeus. The old myths have always been a source of inspiration for designers, engravers, and other craftsmen. (CD pg. vii)

A knowledge of classical mythology is indispensable in understanding and appreciating much of the great literature, sculpture, and painting of both the ancients and the moderns. (CD pg. vii)

Two imperishable treasures of our cultural heritage, ancient literature and ancient art, are the chief sources of our knowledge of mythology. The subject matter of greatest importance to the ancients was from myth, and their masterpieces of literature and achievements of sculpture were inspired by their religious beliefs, the family of gods and goddesses, and the adventure of their heroes. (CD pgs. viii-ix)

Unlike their Aryan kinsfolk, the Greeks, the Tuetons were not a literary people. Their mythical tales were preserved not in books, but in memory. And Christianity, as represented alike by the missionaries and by Chralemagne himself, did its best to destroy Teutonic paganism root and branch.  Hence it happens that of the myths of the gods and heroes of those great nations who, in pre-Christian times, inhabited the territories now included under the general name of Germany,no complete and systematic account has been transmitted to modern times. (MM pg. 356)

In the Veda, the earliest record of the Sanscrit language, many of the myths common to the Aryan nations are presented in their simplest form. HENCE THE SPECIAL VALUE OF Hindoo myths in a study of Comparative Mythology. But it would be an error to suppose that the myths of the Greeks, Latins, Slavonians, Norsemen, old Germans and the Celts were derived from those of the Hindoos. For the myths, like the languages, of all these various races, the Hindoos included, are derived from one common source. Greek, Latin, Sanscrit, etc., are but modifications of a primitive Aryan language that was spoken by the early Aryans, before they branched away from their original home, wherever that may have been, to form new nationalities in India, Greece, Northern Europe, Central Europe, etc. 

The Sanscrit language is thus not the mother, but the elder sister of Greek and the kindred tongues: and the Veda mythology is, in like manner, only the elder sister of of the other Aryan mythologies. It is by reason of the discovery of the common origin of these languages that scholars have been enabled to treat mythology scientifically. For example, many names unintelligible in Greek are at once explained by the meaning of their Sanscrit equivalents. Thus, the name of the chief Greek god, Zeus, conveys no meaning in itself. But the Greek sky-god evidently corresponds to the Hindoo sky-god Dyaus, and this word is derived from a root div or dyu, meaning ‘to shine’. Zeus, then, meant originally ‘the glistening ether’; and the Snascrit devas, Greek theos, and the Latin dues, meaning ‘god’ are from the same root, and signify ‘shining’ or ‘heavenly’. (MM pg. 376-7)

Egyptian myths undoubtedly originated and were developed similarly to the myths of all other nations with which we are acquainted. Yet an indication of the various stages of that development, and an understanding of the system as a whole and as it is now known to us, are far more difficult in the case of the Egyptian than of Greek, Norse, Germanic or Hindoo mythology. The reason for this is very evident. The Egyptian religion seems ot have reached its abstract or metaphysical stage long before any of the religions to which we have referred; and as its records belong wholly to that stage, there are no means of enabling the student to bridge over the gap between its earliest and its latest formations.

Indeed, it would appear as if  precisely the same kind of differences existed between the Egyptian and the Greek  genius as between the Greek  genius and that of the Hindoos.

Part Two: Stories

The Creation of the world:  In thinking of the origin of the world in which they lived, the Greeks for the most part, it would appear, were satisfied with the explanation given by the poet Hesiod—that in the beginning the world was a great shapeless mass or chaos, out of which was fashioned the spirit of love, Eros (cupid) and the broad chested earth, Gaea; then Erebus, darkness, and Nox, night.  From a union of the two latter sprang Aether, the clear sky, and Hemera, day.

The earth, by virture of the power by which it was fashioned, produced in turn, Uranus, the firmament  which covered her, with its vault of brass,as the poets called it, to describe its appearance of eternal duration, the mountains , and Pontus, the unfruitful sea. Thereupon Eros, the oldest and at the same time the youngest of gods, began to agitate the earth and all things on it, bringing them together, and making pairs of them.

First in importance of these pairs were Uranus and Gaea, heaven and earth, who people the earth with a host of beings, Titans, Giants and Cyclopes, of far greater physical frame and energy than the races who succeeded them. (MM pg. 22)

Among the greatest and most interesting adventure stories are those of Aeneas, Apollo, Bellerophon, Daedalus, Heracles, Jason, Meleager, Oepidus, Odysseus, Perseus, Theseus an the earlier war between the Titans and the Olympians. The greatest destroyers ofmonsters were Apollo, Bellrophon, Heracles, Odysseus, Oepidus, Pereus, and Theseus. Among the great expeditions are Greek mythology’s four main rallying points: the journey of the Argonauts, the Calydonian boar hunt, the campaign against Thebes and the Trojan War. Others were the journeys of Odysseus home to Ithaca and of Aeneas to Italy. (CD pg. xv)

Through the myths we become acquainted with the earliest civilization, history, ideas, imagination, philosophy, religion, society, and science of the Greeks. Mythology was considered history, it explained the mysteries of nature, and it was closely allied with religion. One theory (Euhemerism) maintained that the gods and goddesses had once been actual kings, queens and warriors who destroyed the oppressors of society.  Another theory held that the gods and goddesses were the earth, heavens, sun, moon, stars, sea, winds and fire and explained the phenomena of nature. (CD pg. xvi)

Norse Creation: In the prose Edda, Ginki, the wise king, travels in search of knowledge to the home of the Asia folk- the Norse gods—each of whom supplies the visitor with some piece of special information. The cosmogonic history thus patched up between them closely corresponds in main points with that contained in the Hesiodic poem…From this middle world, or Midgard, arose the Norse Olympus, or Asgard, whereon dwelt the Asa folk—Odin and the twelve Aesir. It contained two mansions—Gladsheim for the gods, and Vingolf for the goddesses. There also was Walhalla, wherein Odin placed one-half of the heroes salin in battle, the other half being received by Freija, the wife of Odin… (MM pg. 358)

***There are no stories to present here from the Hindu and Egyptian myths.

Part Three: gods & goddesses

Greek & Roman: Saturnus, Rhea, Zeus or Jupiter, Hera or Juno, Poseidon or Neptune, Hades or Pluto, Amphitrite, Cora or Libera, Demeter or Ceres, Hecate, Hestia or Vesta, Ares or Mars, Hephaestus or Vulcan, Aphrodite or Venus, Athene or Minerva, Apollo, Helios or Sol, Artemis or Diane, Selene or Luna, Dionysus or Bacchus, Hermes or Mercury, Themis (MM pgs. 25-141)

Norse & German: Odin, Thor, Baldr, Tyr, Bragi, Hodr, Heimall, Vithar, Vali, Ullr, Ve, Forseti. (MM pgs. 360- 368)

Vedic: Dyaus, Varuna, Indra, Surya, Savitar, Soma,Agni, VayuUshas (MM pgs. 379-387)

Brahmanic: Brahma, Vishnu, Siva

*Note: The word ‘avatar’ means in its plain sense, Descent- that is, from the world of the gods to the world of men. In these descents, or incarnations, the purpose of Vishnu has always been a beneficent one. (MM pgs. 389-392)

Egyptian: Neph, Pthah, Khem, Amun, Sati, Neith, Maut, Bubastis, Ra, Seb, Osiris, Apis, Serapis, Isis, Anubis, Thoth, Anouke, The Sphinx. (MM pgs. 396 – 408)

***Note that these lists are only of the major gods and goddesses