Examples of myths born from findings?

Sagas, myths, legends, Hollywood, Fantasy, and all the non-historical topics

Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Livio Asta on July 7th, 2013, 2:22 pm

Hi.

Sometimes i read hypothetic explanations like "The myth of Cyclops was created because of the finding of prehistorical elephant skulls", or "The myth of dragons origined from dinosaur fossils" and so on. Not only in palaeontology: decades ago a prominent scholar, Sjoestedt-Jonval, stated that the core of Cuchulainn story was created in Ireland after the observation of Gaulish coins.

My personal opinion is that it generally works the other way round: humans imagined Cyclops, dragons, unicorns, etc. ("mixing" or transforming common reality features) and later, maybe, in some case, actual findings were misinterpreted because of these mental structures.

So, my question is: do you know myths (of every time and place) that can be reasonably proven to come from actual findings?
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Zach H on July 7th, 2013, 8:48 pm

I've often thought about this as well with mythical monsters. Like how did we come up with the idea of the Werewolf? Was some guy just going nuts and thought he was a rabid dog or something?
I know archaeologists and Mycenaean scholars think they found the city that inspired The Iliad. I don't know about Celtic myths though.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Angus M on July 8th, 2013, 2:54 am

A few years ago I worked on a Norwegian ship, where we got Norwegian t.v. channels. There was an interesting documentary about an archeologist who had a theory that the Norse gods (Thor, Freya, Loki, etc.) had started out as ordinary living people, but after their deaths, their descendants had told tales of their lives, which became a sort of ancestor-worship, until it became a major religion. He was exploring ancient burial mounds in Scandanavia and Russia (Russ was the name the Norse gave themselves, Russia is a land carved out of the wilderness by them), and he believed he might one day find the burial sites of the individuals who were immortalised in Norse mythology.
The Cuchulain legend has spread up the western seaboard of the Scottish Highlands ~ the Cuillin hills of the Isle of Skye are supposedly named after him. A strange coincidence then, that the old Norse name "Kjollen" means a high rocky place....
Oh, and as for the Unicorn; there is a type of antelope called the Oryx. A large, white antelope which lives in the Great Nejd Desert of Saudi Arabia and surrounding regions. It grows two long straight horns, twisted lengthways like wrought-iron pokers.There is a genetic aberration which means that occasionally a calf is born with only one horn-bud, growing on the left or right side. Very rarely, a calf is born with one horn in the centre of its head. When I worked in Saudi Arabia, twenty years ago, the King had a safari park with all the area's native animals. There was an Oryx, with one horn growing in the centre of its forehead. I learned of it just two days before I was due to leave the country for good, and I never got to visit or even obtain a photograph.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 8th, 2013, 12:35 pm

George Shipway's novel Warrior in Bronze has ancestors of the Myceneans as people who became gods, Agamemnon visits Grandfather Zeus's grave for example. Then I have seen the hill or mountain that looks like the sleeping Zeus on Crete.

For a novel doing the same for the Norse gods see Votan by John James
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/06/being- ... in-ireland

There is a condition known as lycanthropy in which the sufferer thinks of themselves as a wolf BUT is this in part a learned delusion because the werewolf legend exists?
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Bob Rafferty on July 8th, 2013, 10:01 pm

Great topic! Curiously, the source of the unicorn myth seems to have been identified in this article:

http://phys.org/news/2013-06-tandem-hor ... china.html

As you pointed out the Cyclops is likely a response to mammoth/mastodon/elephant skull/skeletons. There is also the slightly famous Corintian krater showing a monster:

http://www.neatorama.com/2007/05/05/fos ... greek-art/

It is pretty clearly a depiction of an exposed fossil skull.

The gryphon has been tied to the beaked, frilled dinosaurs similar to the Ceratopsids. While many of this Family had horns like the well-known triceratops, some varieties were hornless. Their skeletons lend themselves to misinterpretation just as the elephantine ones do for the Cyclops.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Andrewsi.jpg

Werewolves are interesting, if for no other reason than how much popular perception has changed. Until more recently, werewolves were not considered the dangerous menace of modern mythology and movies. Previously such creatures were saviors and guardians of those lost, especially in the woods. Dr. Phillip Bernhardt-House wrote what is, at least to date, THE book on the subject Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-Headed Men in Celtic Literature:A Typological Study of Shape-Shifting. The basic idea holds true for most of pre-Christian Europe.

The idea that the Gods are just ancestors who have become deified is not a new one. In many cases it springs from a desire to diminish the Gods of others, a philosophical exercise, an attempt to carve out a scholarly/literary name/niche for oneself, or something similar. If the Gods of various Indo-European groups didn’t share so much in common, the ancestor angle might hold some water. There are just too many similarities. The idea that the Gods are representations of how the world should be ordered based upon the society of those who revere them is much more likely an explanation of where the Gods came from.
slán go fóill,
JRR
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 9th, 2013, 3:02 am

I'm sorry but how many home lives of the gods in any mythology could be used as an example for people's real lives? Adultery, random killing, infanticide, patricide, almost as bad as the bad-tempered Old Testament God sanctifying rape, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

More after brekkies.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 9th, 2013, 3:35 am

Delicious but simple thanks, having wiped my chin and poured some more coffee I return to the topic. Now, not claiming any godhead but isn't this how the old gods behave, their own appetites satisfied first then mortals played with?

I have always liked the earlier versions, Titans, Giants, Dwarves, of gods. These were probably gods of conquered or dispossessed peoples. Now, are their stories similar to the "universal" aspects of gods or are there significant differences?

Titans and Giants are cunning with a robust sense of humour, maybe representing eras of greater egalitarianism before patriarchy managed to get SkyFatherdom as the dominant theme or meme. I don't hold much with the equally hierarchical Great Mother idea either.

One possibility is that gods came from stories, note stories not explanations, about origins and natural phenomenom that might have become embedded with certain people seizing the main chance to fan the embers of superstition along with rulers buying into the idea and thus a religion is born.

Interestingly the Skyfather religions do have one thing in common and this is that knowledge must be limited and controlled as, of course, any contemporary dictatorship must try to do the same. See Prometheus and the "apple" that Eve enjoyed.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Angus M on July 9th, 2013, 7:12 am

Indeed, life was simpler in ye olden days; if you wanted a god, just carve one out of a log!

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/sco ... /index.asp
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 9th, 2013, 7:48 am

Wasn't that how missionaries viewed African "Ju Ju", "they just chose a log and worshipped it"?
You have to wonder at their position.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Angus M on July 10th, 2013, 2:48 am

That condescending attitude to other peoples' religion was widespread then and indeed, still is today. You might say it is being used to justify certain wars and/or industrial conquests such as the Oil War in Iraq or the Copper War against tribal communities by Rio Tinto-Zinc ( see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Tinto_ ... nvironment ), but you wouldn't want to say it in case a bunch of heavies turn up and you have to hide in the Venezualan Embassy for the rest of your life...
O for the simple days of yore when you could just collect skulls and feast in your roundhouse. Or build an enormous mead-hall to entertain guests( but then some pesky Grendel character turns up.... *eek*).
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 10th, 2013, 3:08 am

Except that the Iraq conflict was not an Oil War. Fundamentally wrong but popular cry "It's because of the oil!", dictators controlling oil resources will sell it. In fact they have to in order to stay in power thus there was no danger of Saddam cutting off supplies.

From my point of view, previously mentioned on here, there was far too much emphasis given to the "fact" that native societies had and were concentrated on a religion by anthropologists et al. Always amuses me to hear a professional religious person talking about major world religions as though they had any more basis in reality than a small animistic group in The Gambia. The world probably came about because of a relationship between Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner about which they have argued ever since (get your Acme Gospel Company texts online).


"Grendel, Grendel! Don't talk to me about Grendel, if he turns up I'll rip his arm off."
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Dru Durman on August 24th, 2013, 4:32 pm

If characters like Thor, Freya, Lugus etc WERE originally real people (not discounting it), they were a LONG way back. With myself being British Pagan and my brother being Heathen (Northern Tradition), we've seen a LOT of similarities between the pantheons (and not just "Oh look, we've got a god for that too!")

Further examination then continues many of these similarities into Hindu religion, strongly suggesting that, like the language, these religions descended from a Proto-Indo European source.

And yes, I can discuss development of religion and still be deeply religious with very definite beliefs. What I don't do is tell the public at events that what I believe is how religion was done in the Iron Age. I very definitely keep my religion and my reenactment separate!
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Denis Grabow on September 6th, 2013, 2:37 pm

Germanic pantheon and celtic pantheon have quite a few touching points. Also, religions influenced each other. The romans for example took Apollon and Hercules into their pantheon. Ok, greek and roman panthon were very similar to begin with. But even they had some differences at the beginning.

The idea that gods once were human isn't that far fetched, I think. Famous people became legend, legend became myth, myth became god. But maybe Odin isn't just one person, but several with similar backgrounds. After all, the gods are archetypes. So, for example, we have several actresses that became famous when young, then fame got to their head, they fell hard, some died. Lindsay Lohan might be one example, Marilyn Monroe another. Or Britney Spears.
So all those personalities with similar, though not identical stories became part of an ethnics (oral) tradition. Some may be imported from other tribes, because the stories are so similar. And instead of talking about Lindsay or Marilyn, they mixed together. Became myth over generations, the stories maybe exaggerated. "The great Marilindsay once drank 100 barrels of beer in one night." Until that mythical figure became the goddess of song, beauty and party.

And such, the gods, the different archetypes, became known. The wise allfather god, the warrior, the fertility goddess, and so on.
s
I don't say all the gods came into being that way. But for some it might be possible. For example Hercules, who once was (demi)human. And assended into the heavens after his death. And became a god later on.


Dru Durman wrote:And yes, I can discuss development of religion and still be deeply religious with very definite beliefs. What I don't do is tell the public at events that what I believe is how religion was done in the Iron Age. I very definitely keep my religion and my reenactment separate!


I agree with you completely there. I'm pagan myself, though quite eclectic. My personal belief is very different from what old legends would indicate 'the celts' belief might/would be.
I love to discuss with people both about my own belief and about historical beliefs of the 'celts'
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Edwin Deady on September 6th, 2013, 3:07 pm

The creation of gods from real people could have come about because of obsessive mourning by bereaved elite members of the ruling family. We can see this even today, shrines of bedrooms etc. Given the control exercised on junior members of the tribe by their leaders then selective "ancestor worship" could promote the deceased to godhead over time especially if a professional priesthood seized the main chance.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Shaun Noble on December 31st, 2013, 2:33 am

I have often thought that the myth of Dragons may have come from European explorers coming into contact with saltwater crocodiles for the first time. Of course they do not fly, nor breath fire, but most myths and legends are exaggerated in their telling. As Europeans explored the world they would have had first time encounters with these creatures, surely bringing back wild tales with them upon return to their homelands.
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Re: Examples of myths born from findings?

Postby Angus M on September 9th, 2014, 10:36 am

Shaun Noble wrote:
I have often thought that the myth of Dragons may have come from European explorers coming into contact with saltwater crocodiles for the first time.


Myth ??? *surprised*

Komodo_dragon_with_tongue.jpg

<!-- ReMOVED downlaod wording from attachmnets
Komodo Dragon with flame-like tongue
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