Of Myth and Mud
By Sarah Saltwick, Directed by Jenny Kokai
November 8-16, 2013 @ Weber State University.

Origin of Mythology

(Bulfinch's Mythology)

"Whence came these stories? Have they a foundation in truth, or are they simply dreams of the imagination?" Philosophers have suggested various theories of the subject:

The Scriptural theory; according to which all mythological legends are derived from the narratives of Scriptures, though the real facts have been disguised and altered. Thus Deucalion is only another name for Noah, Hercules for Samson, Arion for Jonah, etc. Sir Walter Raleigh, in his "History of the World," says, "Jubal, Tubal, and Tubal-Cain were Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo, inventors of Pasturage, Smithing, and Music. The Dragon which kept the golden apples was the serpent that beguiled Eve. Nimrod's tower was the attempt of the Giants against Heaven." There are doubtless many curious coincidences like these, but the theory cannot without extravagance be pushed so far as to account for any great proportion of the stories.

The Historical theory; according to which all the persons mentioned in mythology were once real human beings, and the legends and fabulous traditions relating to them are merely the additions and embellishments of later times. Thus the story of Aeolus, the king and god of the winds, is supposed to have risen from the fact that Aeolus was the ruler of some islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where be reigned as a just and pious king, and taught the natives the use of sails for or ships, and how to tell from the signs of the atmosphere the changes of the weather and the winds. Cadmus, who, the legend says, sowed the earth with dragon's teeth, from which sprang a crop of armed men, was in fact an emigrant from Phoenicia, and brought with him into Greece the knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, which be taught to the natives. From these rudiments of learning sprung civilization, which the poets have always been prone to describe as a deterioration of man's first estate, the Golden Age of innocence and simplicity.

The Allegorical theory supposes that all the myths of the ancients were allegorical and symbolical, and contained some moral, religious, or philosophical truth or historical fact, under the form of an allegory, but came in process of time to be understood literally. Thus Saturn, who devours his own children, is the same power whom the Greeks called Cronos (Time), which may truly be said to destroy whatever it has brought into existence. The story of Io is interpreted in a similar manner. Io is the moon, and Argus the starry sky, which, as it were, keeps sleepless watch over her. The fabulous wanderings of lo represent the continual revolutions of the moon.

The Physical theory; according to which the elements of air, fire, and water were originally the objects of religious adoration, and the principal deities were personifications of the powers of nature. The transition was easy from a personification of the elements to the notion of supernatural beings presiding over and governing the different objects of nature. The Greeks, whose imagination was lively, peopled all nature with invisible beings, and supposed that every object, from the sun and sea to the smallest fountain and rivulet, was under the care of some particular divinity.

All the theories which have been mentioned are true to a certain extent. It would therefore be more correct to say that the mythology of a nation has sprung from all these sources combined than from any one in particular. We may add also that there are many myths which have arisen from the desire of man to account for those natural phenomena which he cannot understand; and not a few have had their rise from a similar desire of giving a reason for the names of places and persons.

A Small Sample of Mythological Gods Through Time Around the World
Indian: Brahma (creation god) and Sarawati (goddess - his wife)
Norse: Odin (King of the Gods) and Frigg (Queen of the Gods)
Greek: Zeus (King of the Gods) and Hera (Queen of the Gods)
Egyptian: Re-Atum (creation god, sun god and ruler of everything) and Hathor (his wife)
Egyptian: Osiris and Isis
Chinese: Mu Gong and Xi Wangmu (god and goddess or Immortality - together they created the heaven and the earth and everything that lives)
African (Yoruba): Olorun (great king of the universe) and Olokun (his wife)
African (Bushongo in the Congo): Bumba (creation god of vomit)
Japanese: Izanagi (the male who invites) and Izanami (the female who invites)
Aztec: Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatl (both male and female)
Inca: Con Tiqui Viracocha (creation god in the form of a man without bones)
South Pacific island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Makemake (creator of all humanity and god of fertility)
Mesopotamia: Shamash (Sumerian sun god, also the god of justice, truth and right)