Myths are stories; stories narrated for a thousands of years, having life of their own in our minds and subconsciousness. They are reflection of our belief system, an eternal fight between evil and good, a struggle for achieving beyond perceived, understood and obvious. Mythology can relate to many religious rituals as well, where in the form of songs, poems and stories was used as a vehicle to explain to younger generations how people acquired speech, fire, grain, wine, oil, honey, agriculture, metalwork, and other skills and arts.
In mythology everything is possible: existence of Gods, Goddesses, beings with supernatural powers and humans taking traits that makes them larger than life and heroes in our minds. For example, Parson Weems created a myth about George Washington in the story of the cherry tree, describing an event that never took place, but used to illustrate the moral behavior of a young George.
Parson Weem’s Fable (Amon Carter Museum of American Art)
Many crafts, like astrology use the power of mythological creatures and language of symbolism to emphasize the archetypes of human nature, where even the heavenly bodies take on the roles of Gods, and as they “dance” in the sky they “plot” the scenes of our life events.
Mythology was a communicating medium among indigenous people, as it can be found in ancient texts and it is foundation upon which modern culture has been built.
But this is not where the power of mythology stops. It’s well established in the modern western cultures as classical scholar and professor Elizabeth Vandiver claims: Star Wars, Star Trek and other similar stories are myths as authentic as those found in Hesiod, Homer, and Ovid. They have the elements of classical mythological tales and are so engraved within our culture, that metaphors and psychological profiles defined, we often use in our everyday life as a reference.
And look at poetry:
Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
Yeats’s poem was inspired by a Greek myth about Zeus and Leda, the daughter of a king named Thestius. Zeus disguised as a swan seduces Leda and takes advantage of her. In the poem this event Yeats in every, tiny detail described very powerfully. And as we know how the myth continues, Leda gets pregnant and gives birth to Helen of Troy.
Many men were enchanted by the Helen’s beauty and she becomes abducted by a young man named Paris that led to the Battle of Troy, the centerpiece of Homer’s Iliad. Yeats’s poem hides between the verses a drama that takes place in the tragic fall of Troy; it illustrates familiarity that Yeats had with artistic story of Leda and the swan, retold by sculptors and painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.
This poem was written in the same year Yeats was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1923. Here, he poses the question of predominant misuse of power and how an apocalyptic consequence that might have, beyond the possibility of what our mind can conceive.
So, in a nutshell, mythological approach to storytelling can help us:
- convey the message on diversity, especially looked from the perspectives of cultural backgrounds;
- argument the importance of ethical approach in business and other types of relationships;
- make story more “alive”, entertaining as people like myths: it captivates their attention and ignites imagination, lifting their experience to the level of adventure and pleasant uncertainty.
Let your story become a myth.