, Research Paper Jeff Cressy Cressy1 The purpose of myths is to answer questions, to educate, and to entertain. How was man created? Why does the earth do the things it does? Cultures all throughout the ancient world tried to answer these questions in the form of myth. In Greece, Australia, and New Zealand, ancient storytellers created unique stories that entertained taught values and helped explain their worlds.
, Research Paper
Jeff Cressy Cressy1
The purpose of myths is to answer questions, to educate, and to entertain. How was man created? Why does the earth do the things it does? Cultures all throughout the ancient world tried to answer these questions in the form of myth. In Greece, Australia, and New Zealand, ancient storytellers created unique stories that entertained taught values and helped explain their worlds. Even though the people of these countries were separated by thousands of miles, there are an astonishing amount of similarities between their myths. While the inhabitants of these regions may have looked totally different from each other, their myths showed that the aspects of life for man are similar.
Cultures that have myths normally have explanations for the creations of many different things. In Greece, the creation of the giants and the furies occurred after the god Cronus thrust a sharp sickle in the body of his father, Uranus. The oozing blood of Uranus created the above-mentioned creatures. Meanwhile, the people of Australia had their own creation myths. In the story of The Rainbow Snake, Chinimin also slewed his father with a spear. His father, a snake-god slithered with pain over the formless, desert earth. As he moved, he created rivers, valleys, and mountains. The snake?s dripping blood created insects, animals, and finally Man. Each region had a creation story in which a young, brazen son stabs his ruthless father. Both peoples associate blood with life.
Although the stories share many similar qualities, differences do exist. The gods of the regions differ greatly. The Greek creators all possessed man-like qualities. The gods of the Aborigines were animals with extraordinary powers. This shows that the two cultures have a different outlook of earth. By making their gods man-like, the Greeks believed that humans were the supreme creatures on earth. The Aborigines on the other hand made their gods animals. The creation of animal gods suggests that the native peoples of Australia had a deep respect for all of the creatures that inhabited the earth.
Another connection between The Rainbow Snake and Greek mythology is the explanation of rainbows. The aboriginal people of Australia believed that rainbows were created when the wounded snake-god slithered back to his home in the heavens. The Greeks believed that the Goddess Iris caused rainbows. Messages from her fellow deities would pass through Iris on their way to earth creating a rainbow. Rainbows in both cultures signified a path for godly things. In Greece, they represented the path of the God?s messages while in Australia they signified the actual path that their creator took from earth to the heavens.
Dreams are the places where man can be whom ever he wants. They reveal secrets, prophesize futures, or serve as grounds where gods can communicate with man. The Australian aborigines and Greeks believed that dreams were very significant. Almost all of Australian mythology is derived from what the aborigines called the Dreamtime. Aborigines believed that during the Dreamtime, all of the earth?s natural
features, animals, and ultimately man was created. A culture that believes its existence was created during a dream sees its value.
The Greeks too, saw the importance of dreams. The Greeks had a God of dreams named Morpheus. Morpheus guarded all dreams, sending deceptive ones as often as prophetic or meaningful dreams. The story of Ceyx and Halcyone demonstrates how dreams were useful communication devices. Ceyx died on a journey at sea to see the oracle of Apollo. As he drifted to the depths he prayed to Neptune to send his body to Halcyone to be buried. Month after month passed with Halcyone praying to Juno for her husbands return. Anguished and unable to help an already deceased man, Juno decided to inform Halcyone that she should not have hope. Morpheus himself flew to Halcyone?s dreams disguised as Ceyx to deliver the message. He told her that he died in a shipwreck on the Aegean Sea. Once again a human received a message of a god during a dream.
The Greeks and the Maoris revealed like emotions in their mythologies. These cultures saw that as long as there is social stratification within a society, forbidden love would occur. The Maori people of New Zealand tell of this type of love in the story Hine-Moa Loves a Commoner. Hine-Moa, the most beautiful Maori princess ever, had many reasons to be happy. However, she felt an undeniable void in her life. One day she happened to meet a commoner named Tutenekai. She loved him for his youth, his modesty, and for the way he played his music. One day he sent a message to Hine-Moa begging her to join him in his house across the lake. When Tutenekai told his father of his wishes, his father said, ?impossible.? Hine-Moa?s royal family suspected that she was
going to make the trek across the lake so the hid every canoe. Hine-Mao fashioned a raft and eventually made it to Tutenekai?s house. The next morning a messenger found the
couple together in the house. He announced the news to the town. The town was in awed by the love of the two. The two were so happy, they were, ?shining with happiness and grace.?
The people of Greece also had stories of forbidden love. The story Hero and Leander tells of Leander?s pursuit of the beautiful maiden Hero. Hero?s parents forbade the two from seeing each other. Leander decided to swim to Hellespont to have a secret rendezvous. Leander accidentally swam off course on his way and drowned. The next morning upon seeing Leander?s lifeless body, Hero threw herself in the ocean to drown.
Each story has characters that love someone in a different social class. Also, both of the tales have family members that did not approve of the love the young people possessed. By having the lovers across large expanses of water, the Greeks and the Maoris demonstrated that love is a difficult journey. The endings show differences in the two cultures. The Greek myth had a pessimistic outcome. This suggests that the Greeks had a bleaker view of love than the Maoris. It could also demonstrate that the Greeks had a more sophisticated form of entertainment. Greek storytellers, with their tragedies, could pull from a much wider pool of emotions than their Maori counterparts.
Often in mythology, a deity goes against his fellow gods for the purpose of helping mankind. The most famous in Greek mythology was the Titan Prometheus. Prometheus was the creator of man, fashioning them with clay from the river Arcadia. These men were feeble, being born to a harsh world. Prometheus gave his creations many
advantages such as an upright walking position, and especially the power of fire. Prometheus made huge sacrifices for the benefit of man.
Aboriginal myth also talks of gods helping man against the wishes of deities. During the Dreamtime, the Sun didn?t feel the need to rest. Day after day the sun blasted the earth with his rays. This made the people of earth very tired and wary. The god Norralie decided he would trick the Sun into resting for the sake of the human beings. He began singing a mystical chant. This made the Sun drowsy and eventually made him fall asleep. From that day on the Sun slept at night to renew its fires for the next day. Finally man was able to sleep.
Although the Greek, Australian, and Maori cultures may have looked, acted, and thought differently, they shared the same basic experiences of being human. With numerous related experiences that all people share, one can see why myths from around the world have so many similarities. If one studies the scores of archetypes in world mythology than he would not separate people by races or beliefs. He would look at the different groups simply as humans.
Bailey, John. Gods and Men: Myths and Legends from the Worlds Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Eliot, Alexander. The Universal Myths: Heroes, Gods, Tricksters and Others. New York: New American Library, 1976.
Herzberg, Max, J. Myths and Their Meaning. 1984.
Watters, Lynnette, F. Homepage. 23 Nov. 2000
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