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On a sheet of paper, answer these questions What are myths? What myths do you know? Why do you remember these particular myths? Why do cultures create mythology? What can a myth DO for a culture?
4 Functions of Mythology Make sure to take notes throughout this presentation. You will have a quiz over this, and you will eventually give a major presentation using this information!
A myth can help explain the supernatural and the natural universe (stories about the creation of the world, weather, gods and goddesses, etc. ). A myth can also help a culture explain what it values, and its traditions: how people should behave with other people in that culture. A myth can also help people grow as individuals by providing inspiration.
Function #1 --Metaphysical function: Humans relationship to The Gods (Man vs. God(s)) Explains humans’ relationship to the supernatural How people relate to the unknown/spirituality Covers: Gods/Goddesses, ghosts, spirits, magic. Anything “unknown” or “otherworldly”
Function #2 --Cosmological function: Humans relationship to Nature (Man vs. Nature) Explains humans’ relationship to the physical universe (things we can see, hear, touch, taste, smell) Explains the hierarchy of the world (Are animals higher or lower than people? Do they work together, or are they against each other? ) Covers: Animals, plants, nature, objects like desks or mountains, the weather, and time. Anything “worldly” that we can sense with 5 senses.
Function #3 --Sociological function: Humans relationship to Society (Man vs. Man) Explains humans’ relationships to each other. Explains how humans should interact in groups and relationships. Explains the place of the individual in relation to society Explains social norms, traditions, and values of a society. Covers: People in relationships with other people, values, how people should interact in groups.
Function #4 --Psychological function: Humans relationship to Themselves (Man vs. Self) Explains how humans should relate to themselves. How we are supposed to grow and change as people. Explains how the society expects people to deal with problems and everyday occurrences. Explains how we can become who we are really meant to be. Covers: People growing and changing within themselves. People learning things about themselves, overcoming personal obstacles.
Thinking ahead… We will spend a few days figuring out the 4 functions in some myths as a class; you will eventually do this with a myth I assign you. It is IMPORTANT that you ask questions about what you don’t understand. By the end of the week, you will be in groups working on analyzing your assigned myth for the 4 functions. Your final presentation will be a MAJOR grade!
Discovering the 4 functions of your myth: You won’t be able to FIND explanations of the 4 functions in your myth online anywhere. You will have to figure them out yourself. Here is the easiest way to do that: 1) Read several different versions of your myth. Make sure you know your myth really well. 2) Start with whatever seems like the easiest function. Re-read your notes for this function to make sure you know what it covers.
parts. You need BOTH parts for EACH function. a) Identify WHAT in your myth qualifies for this function. Write a sentence or two listing or naming the elements. Explain the LESSON or VALUES this myth promotes based on the element you found in (a). This is NOT a SUMMARY of your myth, but an explanation of the lesson in YOUR OWN WORDS! You have to “read between the lines” of your myth. What is the message or theme of this function? Let’s use Hamlet as our example.
Function #1: Metaphysical function: Humans relationship to The Gods WHAT in this story qualifies under this function: Hamlet sees a ghost and doesn’t know if he should believe it. He is unsure about death in his “To be or not to be” speech. Explain the LESSON or VALUES this myth promotes based on the element you found in (a). This teaches the lesson that supernatural beings are scary, out to get you and/or only care about their own agenda. It also teaches that some people are afraid of death because they don’t completely understand what comes after they die.
Function #2: Cosmological function Humans relationship to Nature WHAT in this story qualifies under this function: Hamlet is “fighting” against Time. He needs to seek revenge against Claudius before Claudius meets his own agenda. Hamlet spends the whole play trying to kill Claudius only to “run out of time” in the end. He kills Claudius, but because he didn’t do things in a timely fashion, meets his own demise, too. Explain the LESSON or VALUES this myth promotes based on the element you found in (a). The lesson learned is that Time will keep going even if a person can’t make a decision. If decisions aren’t made at the “right time” or a person is too indecisive, the consequences can be dire and even fatal to others and one’s self.
Function #3: Sociological function: Humans relationship to Society WHAT in this story qualifies under this function: Hamlet can’t get along with his mom because of her remarriage. Hamlet wants to kill Claudius for killing his dad, but didn’t like him to begin with because he married his mom. Hamlet’s heart is broken by Ophelia. Hamlet can’t trust anyone important to him, and the only person he trusts is Horatio, but only after Horatio has proven himself to be loyal. Hamlet’s lack of trust in anyone causes him to act rudely to those around him. Explain the LESSON or VALUES this myth promotes based on the element you found in (a). The lesson learned is that even in times of great distress, you might not be able to trust anyone around you. And if you do have one person to trust, they might have to earn your trust before you can confide in them completely. Also, not having anyone to trust can cause a person to act irrationally.
Function #4: Psychological function: Humans relationship to Themselves WHAT in this story qualifies under this function: Hamlet wrestles with committing suicide because he is depressed about his father’s death and mother’s remarriage. Hamlet is indecisive about when and how to kill Claudius, fulfilling his dead father’s desire for revenge. He spends the whole play going back and forth with his insanity and uncertainty which in the end gets him killed. Explain the LESSON or VALUES this myth promotes based on the element you found in (a). This teaches the importance of understanding what you value as an individual. Hamlet spends the whole play not really knowing what he wants to do because he doesn’t know what he stands for. “To thine ownself be true. ” The lesson is to know yourself and be true to yourself. Once he had the evidence he needed, he should have “manned” up and finished off Claudius.
Final thoughts: What we just did with Hamlet, you will do with your myths next week. We will practice this more this week with other myths. Notice that none of my “lessons” summarized the play, and it is in my own words. Remember to ask any questions if you are confused. You must be able to give good examples that meet the criteria of the function and then explain connection of the example and the lesson.