The article discusses the relationship between myth and ritual and the mechanisms of persuasive communication within the framework of world image theory. An example of this relation is given in Burkert's Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (). Burkert shows how certain Greek myths have a. Abstract. 'Myth and ritual' explores the myth-ritualist theory, according to which myth does not stand by itself but is tied to ritual. Myth is not just a statement but an .
Thus, the gods Apollo, Heliosand Hephaestus represent fire, and the god Poseidon and the river Scamander represent water. This approach tends to limit the meaning of a myth, whereas that meaning may in reality be multiple, operating on several levels. Romantic In the late 18th century artists and intellectuals came increasingly to emphasize the role of the emotions in human life and, correspondingly, to play down the importance of reason which had been regarded as supremely important by thinkers of the Enlightenment.
Those involved in the new movement were known as Romantics. The Romantic movement had profound implications for the study of myth. Myths—both the stories from Greek and Roman antiquity and contemporary folktales—were regarded by the Romantics as repositories of experience far more vital and powerful than those obtainable from what was felt to be the artificial art and poetry of the aristocratic civilization of contemporary Europe.
Ossian is the name of an Irish warrior-poet whose Gaelic songs were supposedly translated and presented to the world by James Macpherson in the s. Although largely the work of Macpherson himself, these songs made a colossal impact when they were published.
In Herder abandoned his job as a schoolteacher and took a boat from Riga, on the Baltic, to Nantes, on the Atlantic coast of France. In everything [on board ship] there is experience to illuminate the original era of the myths. In other words, for Herder ancient myths were the natural expressions of the concerns that would have confronted the ancients; and those concerns were the very ones that, according to Herder, still confronted the Volk—e.
Comparative Since the Romantic movement, all study of myth has been comparative, although comparative attempts were made earlier. The prevalence of the comparative approach has meant that since the 19th century even the most specialized studies have made generalizations about more than one tradition or at the very least have had to take comparative works by others into account.
Indeed, for there to be any philosophical inquiry into the nature and function of myth at all, there must exist a body of data about myths across a range of societies. Such data would not exist without a comparative approach. Mannhardt saw sufficient analogies and similarities between the ancient and modern data to permit use of the latter in interpreting the former.
Like Herder, he saw the source of mythology in the traditions passed on among the Volk. He collected information not only about popular stories but also about popular customs. Other people who examined myth from the folklore standpoint included Sir James Frazer, the British anthropologist, the brothers Grimm Jacob, who influenced Mannhardt, and Wilhelmwho are well-known for their collections of folklore, and Stith Thompson, who is notable for his classification of folk literature, particularly his massive Motif-Index of Folk-Literature Their importance stems in part from the academic diligence and meticulousness that they brought to the recording and study of popular tradition.
Collecting and classifying mythological themes have remained the principal activities of the folklore approach. In his Essai sur le don ; The GiftMauss referred to a system of gift giving to be found in traditional, preindustrial societies.
Observing that there was a mass of complex data on the subject, Mauss continued: In these total social phenomena, as we propose to call them, all kinds of institutions find simultaneous expression: In his introduction to the English edition Edward Evans-Pritchard commented on that passage: The exchanges of archaic societies which he examines are total social movements or activities. They are at the same time economic, juridical, moral, aestheticreligious, mythological…phenomena.
Both ask not what the origin of any given social behaviour may be but how it contributes to maintaining the system of which it is a part. In this view, in all types of society, every aspect of life—every custom, belief, or idea—makes its own special contribution to the continued effective working of the whole society.
Functionalism has had a wide appeal to anthropologists in Britain and the United States, especially as an interpretation of myth as integrated with other aspects of society and as supporting existing social relationships. Structuralist Structuralist approaches to myth are based on the analogy of myth to language. Just as a language is composed of significant oppositions e. Structuralist analysis aims at uncovering what it sees as the logic of myth.
It is argued that supposedly primitive thought is logically consistent but that the terms of this logic are not those with which modern Western culture is familiar. This logic is usually based on empirical categories e. Beginning with complex kinship systems and later exploring other taxonomiesstructuralists argue to the opposite conclusion: Another pattern Burkert explains in a similar way is found in myths about the driving out of the scapegoat.
This pattern, Burkert argues, stems from a real situation that must often have occurred in early human or primate history; a group of humans, or a group of apes, when pursued by carnivores, were able to save themselves through the sacrifice of one member of the group. The persistence of these patterns through time is explained, according to Burkert, by the fact that they are grounded in basic human needs—above all, the need to survive.
Functions of myth and mythology Explanation The most obvious function of myths is the explanation of facts, whether natural or cultural. One North American Indian Abenaki myth, for example, explains the origin of corn maize: Obviously, a myth such as this one functions as an explanation, but the narrative form distinguishes it from a straightforward answer to an intellectual question about causes. The function of explanation and the narrative form go together, since the imaginative power of the myth lends credibility to the explanation and crystallizes it into a memorable and enduring form.
Hence myths play an important part in many traditional systems of education. Justification or validation Many myths explain ritual and cultic customs. In a mysterious manner Hainuwelea girl with extraordinary gift-bestowing powers, appeared.
Myth and ritual
The people killed her at the end of their great annual celebration, and her dismembered body was planted in the earth. Among the species that sprang up after this act of planting were tubers —the staple diet of the people telling the myth. With a certain circularity frequent in mythology, the myth validates the very cultic celebration mentioned in the myth.
The cult can be understood as a commemoration of those first events. Hence, the myth can be said to validate life itself together with the cultic celebration. Comparable myths are told in a number of societies where the main means of food production is the cultivation of root crops; the myths reflect the fact that tubers must be cut up and buried in the earth for propagation to take place.
Ritual sacrifices are typical of traditional peasant cultures. In most cases such customs are related to mythical events. Among important themes are the necessity of death e. In every mythological tradition one myth or cluster of myths tends to be central. The subject of the central mythology is often cosmogony origin of the cosmos. In many of those ceremonies that each society has developed as a symbol of what is necessary to its well-being, references are made to the beginning of the world.
Examples include the enthronements of kings, which in some traditions as in Fiji or ancient India are associated with a creation or re-creation of the world. Analogously, in ancient Mesopotamia the creation epic Enuma elishwhich was read each New Year at Babylon, celebrated the progress of the cosmos from initial anarchy to government by the kingship of Marduk; hence the authority of earthly rulers, and of earthly monarchy in general, was implicitly supported and justified.
Ruling families in ancient civilizations frequently justified their position by invoking myths—for example, that they had divine origins.
Myth and ritual - Wikipedia
Elites have also based their claims to privilege on myths. And in every known cultural tradition there exists some mythological foundation that is referred to when defending marriage and funerary customs. It may be that the educational value of myths is even more bound up with the descriptions they provide than with the explanations.
In traditional, preindustrial societies myths form perhaps the most important available model of instruction, since no separate philosophical system of inquiry exists. Healing, renewal, and inspiration Creation myths play a significant role in healing the sick; they are recited e. Thus, healing through recitation of a cosmogony is one example of the use of myth as a magical incantation.
The poetic aspect of myths in archaic and primitive traditions is considerable. Societies in which artistic endeavour is not yet specialized tend to rely on mythical themes and images as a source of all self-expression. Mythology has also exerted an aesthetic influence in more modern societies.
An example is the prevalence of themes from Greek and Roman Classical mythology in Western paintingsculpture, and literature. Myth in culture Myth and psychology One of the most celebrated writers about myth from a psychological standpoint was Sigmund Freud. The equivalent for girls was the Electra complex. According to Freud, this phenomenon was detectable in dreams and myths, fairy tales, folktales—even jokes. Later, in Totem und Tabu ; Totem and TabooFreud suggested that myth was the distorted wish-dreams of entire peoples.
That subsequent generations refrained from doing so was, Freud suggested, due to a collective bad conscience. His anthropological theories have since been refuted e. Another theorist preoccupied with psychological aspects of myth was the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jungwho, like Freud, was stimulated by a theory that no longer has much support—i.
The Myth and Ritual Theory: An Overview
Jung evolved a theory of archetypes. Broadly similar images and symbols occur in myths, fairy tales, and dreams because the human psyche has an inbuilt tendency to dwell on certain inherited motifs archetypesthe basic pattern of which persists, however much details may vary. But critics of Jung have hesitated to accept his theory of archetypes as an account of mythology.
Among objections raised, two may be mentioned. First, the archetypal symbols identified by Jung are static, representing personal types that conflate aspects of the personality: Second, Jungian analysis is essentially aimed at relating myth to the individual psyche, whereas myth is above all a social phenomenon, embedded in society and requiring explanation with reference to social structures and social functions. This reality changes continually throughout history, and these changes have especially occupied philosophers and historians of sciencefor a sense of reality in a culture is basic to any scientific pursuit by that culture, beginning with the earliest philosophical inquiries into the nature of the world.
The function of models in physics, biology, medicine, and other sciences resembles that of myths as paradigmsor patterns, of the human world. In medicine, for instance, the human body is sometimes likened to a machine or the human brain to a computer, and such models are easily understood.
Once a model has gained acceptance, it is difficult to replace, and in this respect it resembles myth, while at the same time, just as in myth, there may be a great variety of interpretations. In the 17th century it was assumed that the universe could be explained entirely in terms of minute corpuscles, their motion and interaction, and that no entities of any other sort existed.
To the extent that many models in the history of science have partaken of this somewhat absolutist character, science can be said to resemble myth.
There are, however, important differences. Despite the relative infrequency with which models in science have been replaced, replacement does occur, and a strong awareness of the limitations of models has developed in modern science. Overview[ edit ] The " myth and ritual school " is the name given to a series of authors who have focused their philological studies on the "ritual purposes of myths.
Hooke supported the "primacy of ritual" hypothesis, which claimed that "every myth is derived from a particular ritual and that the syntagmatic quality of myth is a reproduction of the succession of ritual act. GolosovkerFrank-KameneckyOlga FreidenbergMikhail Bakhtin"grounded the study of myth and ritual in folklore and in the world view of popular culture. However, it has not supported the notion that one preceded and produced the other, as supporters of the "primacy of ritual" hypothesis would claim.
According to the currently dominant scholarly view, the link between myth and ritual is that they share common paradigms.
Many religious rituals—notably Passover among Jews, Christmas and Easter among Christians, and the Hajj among Muslims—commemorate, or involve commemoration of, events in religious literature. Tylor[ edit ] Leaving the sphere of historical religions, the ritual-from-myth approach often sees the relationship between myth and ritual as analogous to the relationship between science and technology.
The pioneering anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor is the classic exponent of this view.
4. Myth and ritual - Very Short Introductions
Ritual applies that explanation to control the world. Myth from ritual primacy of ritual [ edit ] Against the intuitive idea that ritual reenacts myth or applies mythical theories, many 19th-century anthropologists supported the opposite position: This is known as the "primacy of ritual" hypothesis.
William Robertson Smith[ edit ] This view was asserted for the first time by the bible scholar William Robertson Smith. In contrast, the myths that justified those rituals could change. In fact, according to Smith, many of the myths that have come down to us arose "after the original, nonmythic reason [ Worshipers mourned Adonis's mythical death in a ritual that coincided with the annual withering of the vegetation.
According to Smith, the ritual mourning originally had a nonmythical explanation: In the combined stage myth, as for Smith, explains the point of ritual, but from the outset. Without the myth of the death and rebirth of that god, the death and rebirth of the god of vegetation would scarcely be ritualistically enacted.
Still, myth for Frazer, as for Tylor, is an explanation of the world — of the course of vegetation — and not just, as for Smith, of ritual. But for Frazer, unlike Tylor, explanation is only a means to control, so that myth is the ancient and primitive counterpart to applied science rather than, as for Tylor, to scientific theory. Ritual may still be the application of myth, but myth is subordinate to ritual. The severest limitation of Frazer's myth-ritualism is not only that it, like Smith's, precludes modern myths and rituals but also that it restricts even ancient and primitive myth-ritualism to myths about the god of vegetation, and really only to myths about the death and rebirth of that god.
Where Smith discusses the case of Adonis only in passing, Frazer makes Adonis a key example of the myth and ritual pattern of the dying and rising god of vegetation. Consistently or not, Frazer actually places Adonis in all three of his pre-scientific stages of culture: Frazer locates the celebrated potted gardens of Adonis in his first, magical stage. In this stage humans believe that impersonal forces rather than gods cause events in the physical world.
Ancient Greeks would have been planting seeds in earth-filled pots not to persuade a god to grant growth but, by the magical Law of Similarity, to force the impersonal earth itself to grow: Rather, he is vegetation itself. Vegetation does not symbolize Adonis; Adonis symbolizes vegetation. In Frazer's second, religious stage gods replace magical laws as the p. As the god of vegetation, Adonis could, most simply, have been asked for crops.
Or the request could have been reinforced by obedience to the god's ritualistic and ethical dictates. Frazer himself writes that rites of mourning were performed for Adonis — not, as in the next stage, to undo his death but to seek his forgiveness for it. For Adonis has died not, as in the next stage, because he has descended to the Underworld but because in cutting, stamping, and grinding the corn — the specific part of vegetation he symbolizes — humans have killed him. Yet Adonis is somehow still sufficiently alive to be capable of punishing humans, something that the rituals of forgiveness are intended to avert.
Since, however, Adonis dies because vegetation itself does, the god is here really, as in the first stage, only a metaphor for the element that he supposedly controls. Again, as vegetation goes, so goes Adonis. In Frazer's third, combined stage Adonis seems at last a god.
If in stage two as vegetation goes, so goes Adonis, now as Adonis goes, so seemingly goes vegetation. Frazer assumes that whether or not Adonis has willed his descent, he is too weak to ascend by himself. By acting out his rebirth, humans facilitate it.
On the one hand the enactment employs the magical Law of Similarity. On the other hand the enactment does not, as in the first stage, compel but only bolsters Adonis, who, despite his present state of death, is yet hearty enough to revive himself, just not unassisted.
In this stage gods still control the physical world, but their effect on it is automatic rather than deliberate. To enact the rebirth of Adonis is to spur his rebirth and, through it, the rebirth of vegetation. And so Frazer must do. Yet he does not. In Ovid's version Adonis has never before died and been reborn, and Venus is disconsolate exactly because he is gone once and for all. How, then, can his short, mortal life symbolize eternal rebirth, and how can he be a god?
How myth-ritualism is possible when there is no longer a god to be ritualistically revived and when there is only a description, not an explanation, of the course of vegetation is not easy to see.
In now taking mythology as a symbolic description of natural processes, Frazer is like a group of largely German nineteenth-century theorists known appropriately as nature mythologists. Jane Harrison and S. Hooke The next stage in the myth-ritualist theory came with Jane Harrison — and S. Hooke —the English leaders of the initial main groups of myth-ritualists: Both largely follow Frazer's first myth-ritualist scheme, though Hooke, nearly as inconsistent as Frazer, sometimes follows the second scheme.
Unlike Frazer, Hooke and Harrison postulate no distinct, prior stages of magic and of religion. Both begin instead with the equivalent of Frazer's combined stage. Like Frazer, they deem myth-ritualism the ancient and primitive counterpart to modern science, which replaces not only myth-ritualism but myth and ritual per se. Harrison and Hooke follow Frazer most of all in their willingness to see heretofore elevated, superior religions — those of Hellenic Greece and of biblical Israel — as primitive.
The conventional, pious view had been, and often continues to be, that Greece and Israel stood above the benighted magical endeavours of their neighbours. Venturing beyond both Frazer and Hooke, Harrison adds to the ritual of the renewal of vegetation the ritual of initiation into society. She even argues that the original ritual, while still performed annually, was exclusively initiatory. There was no myth, so that for her, as for Smith, ritual precedes myth.
God was only the projection of the euphoria produced by the ritual. Subsequently, god became the god of vegetation, the myth of the death and rebirth of that god arose, and the ritual of initiation became an agricultural ritual as well. Just as the initiates symbolically died and were reborn as fully fledged members of society, so the god of vegetation and in turn crops literally died and were reborn. In time, the initiatory side of the combined ritual faded, and only the Frazerian, agricultural ritual remained.
Against Smith, Harrison and Hooke alike deny vigorously that myth is an explanation of ritual: Myth is still an explanation of what is presently happening in the ritual, just not of how the ritual arose.
Myth is like the sound in a film or the narration of a pantomime. Both Harrison and Hooke go further than Frazer. Where for him the power of myth is merely dramatic, for Harrison and Hooke it is outright magical.
Contemporary myth-ritualists like the American classicist Gregory Nagy appeal to the nature of oral, as opposed to written, literature to argue that myth was originally so closely tied to ritual, or performance, as to be ritualistic itself: Once we view myth as performance, we can see that myth itself is a form of ritual: Application of the theory The classicists Gilbert Murray, F.
Cook, all English or English-resident, applied Harrison's theory to such ancient Greek phenomena as tragedy, comedy, the Olympic Games, science, and philosophy. These seemingly secular, even anti-religious phenomena are interpreted as latent expressions of the myth of the death and rebirth of the god of vegetation.
Among biblicists, the Swede Ivan Engnell, the Welshman Aubrey Johnson, and the Norwegian Sigmund Mowinckel differed over the extent to which ancient Israel in particular adhered to the myth-ritualist pattern.
Engnell sees an even stronger adherence p. Invoking Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, whose theory was considered in Chapter 1applied his own, qualified version of the theory to the myths of native peoples worldwide. Malinowski argues that myth, which for him, as for Smith, explains the origin of ritual, gives rituals a hoary past and thereby sanctions them. Society depends on myth to spur adherence to rituals.
But if all rituals depend on myth, so for Malinowski do many other cultural practices on which society depends. They have myths of their own. Myth and ritual are therefore not coextensive. Mircea Eliade, whose theory was discussed in Chapter 3applied a similar form of the theory, but he goes beyond Malinowski to apply the theory to modern as well as primitive cultures.
Myth for him, too, sanctions phenomena of all kinds, not just rituals, by giving them a primaeval origin. For him, too, then, myth and ritual are not coextensive.
But Eliade again goes beyond Malinowski in stressing the importance of the ritualistic enactment of myth in the fulfilment of the ultimate function of myth: