Levels in Myths

Submitted by admin on Fri, 09/02/2016 - 22:24

Mythology can be a complex subject, even where there is an apparently simple myth. For example, the myth of the Three Kings who came to visit Jesus after his birth. When we look at this both from the perspective of Eliot's classes of myth, and also when we look at the elites involved, and we find quite an interesting story of different levels:-

  1. they are alternatively called wise men and Kings
  2. if we were to read a similar Native American myth of three wise men coming to the birth of a child, we would not be at all surprised by this context, so we can see elements of this tale as having a primitive origin
  3. from memory, Robert Graves recounts similar legends from pagan mythologies in the Middle East, i.e. from Mesopotamia or Ancient Greece
  4. obviously the story itself is part of the Christian religion, and although it does not seem to be a central belief of Christianity, it is one of its more attractive stories. However, when we look at it from the perspective of elites, we find an interesting story - Israel at that time was ruled by a Roman military and economic elite, but there was also a dominant native Jewish religious and social elite. Yet the visitors are reported to be kings from afar, that is, they are not part of either the Roman or Jewish elites, but seem to be from some other 'foreign' elite, or from another culture.
  5. entertainingly, there are continual attempts by scientists and historians to reconcile their calculations of astronomical data with biblical history such as the details given in this story. They do this with the intention that the details given in the bible can be verified and an exact date given for these events. These attempts seem doomed to failure, even if only because of the radical differences between the systems of religious and scientific myths. The myth in either system does not need to be true to be of value to its adherents.
  6. The story has key elements which might also be expected in a fairy story, of kings and gifts, and then flight to a foreign land

From this simple story we can perhaps see more ancient origins and connections for this myth, some information about the elites and cultures of that historical period, and a idea of how scientific myths operate on a different level to sacred myths