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As mythology (from ancient Greek μῦθος myth "narration, speech" and -logie ; μυθολογία mythología originally: "saga history"), German also legend world , the totality of the myths of a cultural area or a people , a region or a social group as well as their systematic exposition referred to in literary , scientific or religious form. There are also several cross-cultural divisions as the astral mythology , the number of mythology and eschatology . The German word "Mythologie" was first used in 1712 in the book Die teutsche Mythologie or Description of Pagan Gods .

Mythology as science

In addition to being understood as a collection of stories of a mythical character, the term mythology  - especially in modern times - has also been interpreted as the “science of myths” (myth research) in parallel to similar conceptualizations (such as theology, biology ). The scientific mythology understood in this sense deals with the question of the origin of the myths and their relationship to other narrative forms such as legend , saga or epic . Modern fairy tales often contain elements that make them comparable to myths. The development of myths as a narrative genre and their transformation into fairy tales is an object of narrative research . The emergence of myths is also the subject of psychology , especially the peoples psychology that emerged in the course of the 19th century , which found a successor in Carl Gustav Jung's theories of the collective unconscious and archetypes .

In so far as the subject of myths is viewed religiously, its research is closely related to the history of religion . Information from myths is important for the reconstruction of religious ideas, which sometimes combine contents of different mythological origins into one system. British writer Robert Graves defined mythology as "exploring those religious or heroic legends which are so alien to the student's experience that he cannot believe them to be true." Joseph Campbell pointed out that, from a religious point of view, myth is considered to be "the Other people's religion ”can be defined. In this respect, religion is "misunderstood mythology". The misunderstanding consists in the fact that "mythical metaphors are interpreted as references to irrefutable facts".


Central themes of cosmogonic myths are the creation of the world from the primordial ocean, the order of the world around a mountain of worlds as well as processes of destruction and subsequent renewal of this order (compare creation stories ), often in connection with the struggle of different powers (both concrete gods, heaven and Earth, as well as abstract properties like good and bad , light and dark ). They are not intended as historical reality, but rather as a representation of an archetypal , metaphysical structure "behind reality" in linguistic images (compare biblical Genesis ).

Another focus of mythologies is the creation of man and, starting from the first man, the genealogical derivation of ruling families, more rarely of gods or other peoples of high standing. They serve the legitimation of religious rule and the sense of belonging among tribes through the "we-feeling" of the same origin. The Old Norse Ynglingatal can serve as an example (see also legend of origin , Origo gentis ).

See also

Portal: Mythology  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of mythology


  1. The mythology of the indigenous peoples. 1996, ISBN 3-423-30571-1 .
  2. Mythology of the east. 1996, ISBN 3-423-30572-X .
  3. Mythology of the west. 1996, ISBN 3-423-30573-8 .
  4. Creative mythology. 1996, ISBN 3-423-30574-6 .

Web links

Commons : Mythology  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Mythology  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Mythology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Betz: From "Gods Word" to "Mass Dream Image": On the Word History of "Myth". In: Helmut Koopmann (Hrsg.): Myth and Mythology in 19th Century Literature. Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt / M. 1979, pp. 11-24.
  2. ^ Richard Aldington (ed.): New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Putnam, New York 1968, pp. ?? (English).
  3. ^ Joseph Campbell: Myths from West to East. In: Eliot (ed.): Myths. [Place? Year?], P. 31 (English).