Mythology is evidence only of the infinite ingenuity and capacity of human minds to create stories.
Although myths are built upon the foundation of the art of storytelling, they are infinitely more complex and layered than most people in modern times realize. In his book 'How Homo Became Sapiens', scholar Peter Gardenfors writes,
"Myths, sagas, and fairy tales have been important carriers of culture. They have also contained much of the knowledge accumulated by a society... Myths are also tools for transmitting knowledge about causal relationships to new generations. The fictive, often magical worlds contain elements that provide explanations for weather, solar eclipses, illness, hunting luck, etc."
These are examples of the uniquely human phenomenon known as ‘cumulative culture’ and the methods used to transmit this wisdom and knowledge vary from one culture to the next. To name one of the more interesting examples, the Penan people of Borneo record their cultural history upon the landscape of the jungle. According to Kristian Petri,
"A turn of the river can carry the name of a special person or an event that took place a long time ago. Trees, rivers, stones: the entire jungle is an immense cultural landscape, invisible for others than the initiated. The jungle is the history of the Penans, their living memory that speaks of events and social relations. So when a person travels through the jungle he revives the landscape, creates it anew by naming it. The jungle is the memory of an entire people, a way of memorizing. This is one of the great tragedies involved in the felling. It is not only the possibilities for the Penans to obtain food and fuel that is torn away, but their complete history that is not written down since it consists of the trees, the stones, the rivers, and the water falls."
It is highly probable that this practice was a very ancient and widespread one. However, because of the transient nature of the jungle landscape, over the course of thousands of years, the cultural information contained in myths were transferred to a more permanent landscape: the night sky. According to astronomer Edwin Krupp, the stars and constellations provided “practical services: timekeeping, season marking, calendrics, weather signs, concentrations of supernatural power, and symbolic containment of important cultural data.” Likewise, the mythologists Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend contend that the wisdom and knowledge stored in ancient myths were hung upon the star-strewn landscape of the night sky. And here, then, is the underlying meaning of the myths passed down to us from the Greeks. And when analyzed properly, they actually reveal some rather advanced scientific and astronomical information...
Post Edited (20-Jan-13 08:22)