As a kid, I always loved myths, especially Greek and Egyptian stories. As I grew older and started to delve into Wicca and Paganism, this love of myth grew with me. With the recent success of the new Wonder Woman movie, and the ongoing obsession Hollywood has had with superheroes in the last decade, now seems like a good time to talk about what a myth is and how they’re seen today. This entry was inspired by one of the beta lessons in the MCCA course.
In the lesson, I asked students to demonstrate an understanding of mythology, why it’s important, and to consider any modern or long-standing examples that come to mind. Mythology, as I understand it, describes the stories people tell to understand their world and the changes that take place. Hundreds and more years ago, we didn’t have the level of understanding we do now when it comes to weather, the earth, space, or the ocean. We’ve only barely breached the surface now in the grand scheme of the universe. So, people told stories to explore topics like those, as well as the nature of humankind and concepts like love and power.
No society in history has existed that did not tell stories in some form, and many of those stories were what we now consider myths, fairy tales, and legends. Some of those legends have not only lasted in the minds of man, but have been revived–in a form. This brings us to the portrayal of ancient myths in modern media, as well as the creation of new mythological heroes.
If you’re a movie fan like I and millions of other people, chances are you’ve seen a superhero movie in the last ten years. The highest grossing superhero film to date, The Avengers, presents a perfect example of an old myth brought to the modern eye with the character Thor. In fact, almost since their inception, comics and the media that branched from them have a history of taking old myths and reformatting them to suit the times. Before comics, many children may have never heard of figures like Thor and Loki, or Diana and the Amazonians. They may never have become acquainted with the underwater city of Atlantis or the heavenly Asgard. Truly, comics have kept certain heroes alive for generations.
In addition to these older stories, we have seen an influx of new heroes and legends. It may seem silly, but children have their own legendary characters they look up to. Superman seems like an obvious modern-day American legend. Children idolize the Man of Steel. They wear his colors and think of him when they’re scared. Those in harsh environments dream of their hero swooping down to save the day. Whomever the hero is, these stories appear to us as grand legends until someone tells us otherwise.
But even after we stop seeing our heroes as real, extraordinary people, even when we learn the meaning of fiction, many of us hold on to something of our childhood heroes. As children, they helped us understand the world. Superman helped us deal with bullies and helping others in need. For me, Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) helped me see that the world is full of people who feel like they don’t belong. My hero helped me navigate the rollercoaster of emotions and fears that came with growing up.
It is true that there are many different types of stories which serve the purpose of helping people understand their world. That’s basically what stories do. But myths, fairy tales, heroes—they all seem to linger in the minds of people far longer than the general story. They teach lessons, help us to grow, and give us a common thread through which to connect with our fellow humans. They are valuable because they linger. They are important, and I look forward to the future of myths, fairy tales, and great heroes.
Lady Morgana Brighid, MCCA HP