Friday, July 27, 2012

Power Of Myth-The Evolution Of Myth

My latest reading of The Power Of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers had some fascinating ideas such as that following your bliss shows you that you are exactly where you want to be in live.  He went on to say that everyone needs their "bliss station", that place where they are at peace with the universe and nothing can affect them.  For me that is often as simple as putting on my headphones or, on really bad days, turning on my favorite television show.  It's a place that makes everyone relax and forget about that bully at work or the pressures of too many deadlines or responsibilities.  In ancient times, sacred spots were where people were allowed to find their bliss, to get a few minutes or hours away from the demands of this world and worship something they trusted.  He goes on to explain that when people settled a new spot, they "sanctified" the spot through rituals such as having their house face depending on their beliefs of the sun or spirits, or having their settlements a specific distance apart.
   One of the interesting ideas Campbell and Moyers talk about is that geography helps shape a culture and religion.  If you compare the nomadic cultures to the agricultural cultures, you can often see what they mean.  They often mentioned that the Goddess religions were often found in agricultural societies, where women domesticated animals and harvested the crops while the men would go on long hunts.  The women became very important in those days but the spread of Christianity, with the unusual idea of only one deity, a male, turned women into little more than a possession to power hungry men.  They also speak of the idea that most early religions were very familiar with the idea that from death comes life.  There was not the finality that death possesses in Christian cultures where death is the end of things on Earth, but an idea that one end really is a beginning for new life of something else.  It's an idea that Christians have forgotten.  Death is not the absolute end but merely a new beginning to a much longer life in Heaven or Hell.
   They continue to talk about how creation myths, such as the Native Americans and the Bible tell very similar stories but don't quite explain how two sons become whole nations when wives are not mentioned as being created.
   An interesting side note to think about when creating fictional societies comes from the Mayan version of basketball.  I remember learning about the game in grade school so I know it is at least partly common knowledge.  The teams would arrive at the huge court and play a hard game to get the balls through the vertical hoops while crowd watched and cheered.  Then the victory celebration was that the winners were sacrificed to the gods.  Unlike the Hollywood idea that the ancient sacrifices were forced to die or were resigned to their fates, these teams fought hard for the chance to die in honor of their gods.  It definitely creates a different possibility for religion.  What would a culture be like where the aim of people's lives was to be worthy of kill for their gods' pleasure, that to die of old age or sickness was a shame?  It would certainly be different from the modern American idea to accumulate material goods and live as long as possible as comfortable as possible. 
It’s interesting thinking about all the parts and pieces that go into the psychology of a budding society, according to historians.  Figuring out where your fictional society is in its evolution can do a lot in telling you the mythical history of your people.

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