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Switch to Forum Live View Is the term mythology a pejorative?
6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 12:28PM #1
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663
Relating to a slight conflagration in another thread, I was curious as to other people out there, believe the term mythology can be used as a pejorative. I'm beginning to see why some individuals and groups could take offense to what they believe being referred to as myth, or mythology, but that's mostly conjecture on my part, so maybe we can hammer out some discussion about the issues involved?
Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 12:43PM #2
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663
I suppose I'll start then.

Coming from a Pagan background, and a Reconstructionist present, the term mythology means to me, a collection of stories, folklore, legends and beliefs based in a regional, cultural, national or religious context. When I refer to the "Myth's" of the "Tales" of my own faith, I am doing so in the same manner that I would refer to any other religions mythology.

I believe the term mythology could be interpreted as a pejorative because many people associate the term Mythology, with the stories, legends and folklore of other people's belief, but not their own.

There would appear to be a disconnect between many of the Pagan NRM's understanding of the word, and more established religious movements.
Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 12:48PM #3
allthegoodnamesweretaken
Posts: 11,634

gorm-sionnach wrote:

Relating to a slight conflagration in another thread, I was curious as to other people out there, believe the term mythology can be used as a pejorative. I'm beginning to see why some individuals and groups could take offense to what they believe being referred to as myth, or mythology, but that's mostly conjecture on my part, so maybe we can hammer out some discussion about the issues involved?



I think it is only a pejorative if it is being used by someone in an attempt to set their beliefs above those of another because they are just "myths". 

all

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 12:59PM #4
itty
Posts: 2,949

gorm-sionnach wrote:

Relating to a slight conflagration in another thread, I was curious as to other people out there, believe the term mythology can be used as a pejorative. I'm beginning to see why some individuals and groups could take offense to what they believe being referred to as myth, or mythology, but that's mostly conjecture on my part, so maybe we can hammer out some discussion about the issues involved?



To sweeten the pot, Gorm, I am going to throw out some definitions:

From http://www.dictionary.com/

myth
1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

2.stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.

3.any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.

4.an imaginary or fictitious thing or person

.5.an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

and

myth
[LIST=1]
[*]A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society: the myth of Eros and Psyche; a creation myth.
[*]A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal: a star whose fame turned her into a myth; the pioneer myth of suburbia.

[*]Such stories considered as a group: the realm of m
[*]A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.
[*]A fictitious story, person, or thing: "German artillery superiority on the Western Front was a myth" (Leon Wolff).[/LIST]The portions of these definitions that I bolded are the ones I use. The ones I emphasized in blue are the ones that people could get the idea that myth,or mythology are pejorative.

Then we need to deal with mythos. Again a couple of definitions from dictionary.com to get us started.

mythos
1.[he underlying system of beliefs, esp. those dealing with supernatural forces, characteristic of a particular cultural group.
2.myth (def. 1).
3.mythology (def. 1).


and

[LIST=1]
[*]Myth.
[*]Mythology.
[*]The pattern of basic values and attitudes of a people, characteristically transmitted through myths and the arts. [/LIST]The definitions I bolded are the ones I use.

Mythology in dictionary.com is:

mythology
[LIST=1]
[*]A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes.
[*]A body of myths associated with an event, individual, or institution: "A new mythology, essential to the . . . American funeral rite, has grown up" (Jessica Mitford).
[*]The field of scholarship dealing with the systematic collection and study of myths.[/LIST]and this one, bolded, that I use:


The body of myths belonging to a culture. Myths are traditional stories about gods and heroes. They often account for the basic aspects of existence — explaining, for instance, how the Earth was created, why people have to die, or why the year is divided into seasons. Classical mythology — the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans — has had an enormous influence on European and American culture.

I see where a couple of these definitions can be seen as pejorative. I also see a very valid and useful connotation to most of these definitions. I will shut up and see what other people think.

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 1:14PM #5
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

Friend! wrote:

Why such t'sorus? Suppose I beleive in the mythology of the separation of church and state? Who's to care?[

Suppose I beleive in the mythology that women are as intelligent or as capable as men? Don't tell my wife with her three accredited degrees, but who's to care, eh?

Suppose I procliam my belief in the mythology of racial equality? So who's to care?

Don't see any offense in that as long as you use the word mythology, right? :)
Oy veh!



One could easily see offense, mostly because all of those examples are falsifiable based on evidence. But the point you raise is a good one, and answers my question.

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 1:25PM #6
itty
Posts: 2,949

Friend! wrote:

Why such t'sorus? Suppose I beleive in the mythology of the separation of church and state? Who's to care?

Suppose I beleive in the mythology that women are as intelligent or as capable as men? Don't tell my wife with her three accredited degrees, but who's to care, eh?

Suppose I procliam my belief in the mythology of racial equality? So who's to care?

Don't see any offense in that as long as you use the word mythology, right? :)
Oy veh!



Rigt in the sense of these myths being "an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution."

You may have just hit the nail on the collective head here. These could also be part of the American mythos in a way. Those were certainly part of our culture for many years.

The really interesting issue here in your statements is the way mythos changes. Today were you to put them out, in public, you would be crashing into that change. Is that what the real issue for thinking of myth and mythos as pejoratives comes from? We have a culture shift in the US that has happened over the last century and into this one. Many of our myths have changed to meet that shift.

In a religious sense with respect to using cultural religious values your list doesn't fit. There I see the usage of myth as symbolism and a way to relate to Deity in our hearts. The stories may not be literally true. The values, the symbols and the insight they bring to us certainly are.

Do you accept the definition of myth, mythology and mythos as only being fiction with no purpose but to spread a lie? I don't.

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 1:35PM #7
itty
Posts: 2,949

Friend! wrote:

Only one of the assertions is proveable!

Let us employ considerate speech that we may enjoy the pleasure of each other's company, and that's no myth!



You have also answered my question with respect to the definition(s) you use. They are not the ones that I use.

Why is it not considerate to speak out of one's deeply held convicitons and perspective while using terms like myth, mythos and mythology? Given that I don't use the definitions of these terms as denigrating and use them with respect to my own religous POV I don't get it.

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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 1:57PM #8
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

Friend! wrote:

That is just the point. Only one of the assertions is proveable or disproveable. That is the myth of separation of church and state, which is not in the US Constitution. The contstitutional law school professor's accurate wording is "establishment clause" issues. Yet the word 'myth' is appropriate as applied to some people's views of the US Constitution when used to describe a concept that lacks logic or proof or flies in the face of truth. Knowing the difference between myth and fact could have prevented a lot of legal mischief.



I disagree, but there are other posters here who can much more succinctly sum up why there is a separation of church ans state in the US.

]The other two issues, however, are still being debated. I welcome the debate in other forums, not here. I cited them as examples only. So it offends you if someone used the term MYTH to describe them? I am sure it should come as no surprise, then, that people of devout faith in any belief system react the same way.



No, the opinions stated are offensive, the use of the term myth is not.

This of course, all pertains to the manner in which one uses the term mythology. As Itty pointed out, it does indeed fit one, of the many meanings of the word. However, it is not the only meaning the term can convey, this was the point I was referring to when I said there was a disconnect between how some individuals use the term, and how others interpret those wrote:

The other two issues, however, are still being debated. I welcome the debate in other forums, not here. I cited them as examples only. So it offends you if someone used the term MYTH to describe them? I am sure it should come as no surprise, then, that people of devout faith in any belief system react the same way.[/quote]

No, the opinions stated are offensive, the use of the term myth is not.

This of course, all pertains to the manner in which one uses the term mythology. As Itty pointed out, it does indeed fit one, of the many meanings of the word. However, it is not the only meaning the term can convey, this was the point I was referring to when I said there was a disconnect between how some individuals use the term, and how others interpret those usages.

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 3:14PM #9
Innerpoint
Posts: 1,067
[QUOTE=The Celt;958148]I think it all has to do with how the word is used.  A lot of myths are not litterally true, but I find that most people don't have a problem with that.  The word "myth" becomes a pejorative when someone says a person's tales and stories are not litterally true, and are therefore worthlesss.  There are people who believe that some thing has to be true for it to have value.  I think that's why some Christians insist that the Bible is litterally true.  I think some of them are afraid that if it's not true, then it is worthless.  If this is the case, then all fiction is worthless.[/QUOTE]You may be right and that could be where I miss the point, sometimes.  In my understanding of the words 'myth' and 'mythology'.  I've never seen either use of that word as meaning worthless.  I suppose there are people who use it in that way through attempted ridicule or 'one-up-manship'.  Perhaps, as in the instance of itty's usage on the other thread, it's always best to ask?  That way, there could be no misunderstanding. 

If we are going to start being word police without giving consideration to all definitions of a word, , its usage in context, and not requesting clarification, discussion becomes pointless.

(Let me note that often when I respond to a post by quoting it, it's not always a response to the person that wrote it.  Something that was said in the idea expressed prompted an idea, in turn, that I wanted to state.)
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6 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2008 - 3:57PM #10
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

Friend! wrote:

I am impressed, Itty.  It is a pleasure to read a well-written and thoughtful post. 

You express my concern over the variable meanings -- some insulting -- attached to words. 

Do you accept the definition of myth, mythology and mythos as only being fiction with no purpose but to spread a lie? I don't.

I can accept this definition, but prefer to avoid the word myth altogether.  In school some of our professors used 'myth' to describe some of our own beliefs much to the annoyance of some of my fellow seminarians!  That is why I avoid the term except to illustrate a point as in this case. Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.



What then would you call the stories, legends and tales of say the Olympian Gods and Goddesses of Greek culture? Or would you simply refer to them as stories, legends and tales?

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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