Are you interested in Great World Mythologies? Then this guide is for you!
Myths play an integral role in a people’s culture. They help us to understand our roots, the source of our beliefs, and our development as a people.
In many ways, myths help us to bring a sense of order into our lives. They help us to understand why things are the way they are.
This is likely to bring a sense of comfort and calmness in an otherwise chaotic world.
The word mythology has its origin in two Greek words mythos (a story about a people) and logos (speech/word).
As such, Mythology can be said to be the spoken word about a people or the spoken word for the people.
So, a study of mythology involves a deep look into the folklore, and tales, and oral literature of a certain culture.
Although there are hundreds of myths in the world today, some have had a more forceful impact than others.
The impact of the greatest mythologies can be felt in almost every sphere of human existence – education, science, religion, sports, health, agriculture, etc.
Here’s a quick look at some of the world’s greatest myths.
What are the Great World Mythologies?
#1 – Roman Mythology
The ancient Romans had one of the richest cultures in the world. They had an elaborate religion that was backed by a rich belief system.
It is noteworthy that a good portion of the Roman culture was derived from the Greeks, who had developed a rich culture of their own way before the Romans.
As such, some scholars prefer to talk of the Greco-Roman culture/religion/mythology.
The rich works of ancient Roman writers like Virgil and Ovid will convince most people that Roman mythology can stand on its own.
The Romans themselves were not known for being great myth-makers.
However, their culture produced legendary figures that have had a long-lasting impact on many spheres of human civilization.
Think of the fame and impact of Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome), the two-sided Janus, Vesta (goddess of the home), and Aeneas, the Trojan hero.
Others include legendary heroes like Hercules, Marcus, Silvius, and the gods/goddesses Apollo, Athena, Ceres, Artemis, and Jupiter.
Although some of these characters were borrowed from other cultures, the Romans were able to make them truly their own.
The gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines featured in the myths united the Romans by giving them a unique identity as a nation.
Most of these fables covered themes that were close to the Romans’ hearts – love, betrayal, war, conquests, death, sorrow, horror, and the afterlife.
The distinctive Roman flavor in these tales brought the people together and gave them a sense of belonging.
It assured them of one destiny and gave them pride in their nation.
#2 – Greek Mythology
The Greeks tried to explain the happenings in their world, their beliefs, and their hopes in the afterlife through myths.
To fully explain their world, the Greeks used impactful myths that featured heroes and heroines, mythological creatures, gods, and goddesses.
Some of the great Greek heroes and heroines include Hercules, Aeneas, Odysseus, Jason, Medea, Hecuba, Electra, and Alcestis.
Some of the notable gods and goddesses are Zeus (called Jupiter among the Romans), Poseidon, Hera, Hermes, and Aphrodite.
Greek myths were not always straightforward. They were often capricious, complex, and flawed. They were heavily intruded on by human feelings and flaws.
But, the important thing is that these myths managed to effectively unite the people by talking about their rites and customs, the passing of time, and their natural and unnatural world.
Greek mythology featured themes that reflected the people’s way of life. Some characters came across as being loving, caring, protecting, and devoted.
Others come across as being vengeful, lustful, jealous, petty, and hateful.
In Greek mythology, gods and goddesses were not far removed from the common people. The deities meddled in the daily affairs of the mortals.
They meted punishment and gave rewards in equal measure. The mortals had to be perpetually on the lookout not to challenge or pose a threat to the deities.
The impact of Greek mythology can be felt across many areas of our existence.
For example, one of the world-famous sports brand, Nike, derives its name from the Greek goddess of triumph and victory.
Other deities that have found their way into the sporting world in modern times include the Versace logo (Gordon head), and Asus (from Pegasus, the Winged Horse).
Greek fables hold important moral lessons that can be used today as they were in ancient times. Their symbolism and relevance affect our lives to this very day.
RELATED: Hecate’s Wheel.
#3 – Egyptian Mythology
Egyptians had big questions about their world that they answered through well-woven fables and tales.
The Egyptian religion highlighted powerful gods that dictated how they lived. Their mythology indicates that the gods would interact with the mortals in their daily lives.
Take the Pharaoh, for example. The Pharaoh was the physical manifestation of a deity, Maat. He was tasked with making sure that the mortals were orderly and well organized.
As such, he directed the people’s economic and spiritual welfare.
Some other deities captured in Egyptian folklore include Ra (Amon-Ra), Horus, Osiris, Hathor, Ptah, Anubis, Sekhmet, Nut, Isis, and Neith.
These gods and goddesses were well represented in Egyptian myths. They were part of the people’s daily life, as they guided their behavior and socio-economic activities.
By around 130 BCE, Egyptian mythology was one of the richest in the region. It’s no wonder that it started spreading rapidly to other nations around this period.
Its rapid spread was made easier by the opening of the Silk Road. Before long, Egyptian mythology found its way into Mesopotamia, Rome, and Greece.
Actually, some concepts found in other mythologies have their roots in Egypt. Take the ideas of reincarnation and the afterlife, for example.
Most cultures around the Mediterranean region received these ideas from Egyptian myths, tales, and fables.
Egyptian mythology is unique in its rich selection of metaphors and symbols. For example, the myths taught that the soul was composed of multi-layered elements – the akh, the ka, the shut, and the ba.
This made Egyptian myths highly appealing in many cultures, and their influence still reverberates around the world today.
Indeed; because of its richness and influence, Egyptian mythology is one of the most studied in the world today.
RELATED: Eye of Horus vs. Eye of Ra.
#4 – Celtic Mythology
This is one of the oldest mythologies in Europe. Most of the fables in Celtic mythology capture the geographical features of the general area that is modern-day Ireland.
However, the original myths of the Celts are derived from all parts of Europe.
This is because, in ancient times, Celtic tribes were to be found in almost all parts of southern, central, and western Europe.
In the early days, Celtic mythology was passed down by oral tradition. It was passed down in fables, proverbs, and wise sayings.
These myths were heavily influenced by the geographical location of the particular Celtic tribe. One generation would pass tales of the tribe to the next generation.
This went on until around 11 CE when Christian priests arrived in the Celtic lands.
They recorded some of the fables and oral traditions – though most of the original flavor was lost in the process.
The Christian priests inculcated an element of Biblical narratives into Celtic mythology. As such, most of the Celtic myths you find today have strong similarities with some Biblical stories.
Because of the big geographical area covered by the Celtic tribes, their mythologies do not have exactly the same components.
For example; though one fable could have the same storyline across the different tribes, the gods and other characters could be different.
This is because the Celtic tribes never really unified. They remained in far-flung lands and retained distinct cultures.
All the Celtic tribes were eventually assimilated into the Roman culture.
Most of the Celtic mythology at our disposal today has been derived from the works of ancient Romans and Christian writers.
All the same, there are some Celtic myths to be found in Ireland, Turkey, Britain, Portugal, Wales, and Scotland.
The Irish mythology is seen to be the most authentic reflection of the Celtic one. The Celtic mythology and the Irish one feature similar characters.
They have typically the same animals, warriors, religious figures, and kings and queens. Notably, both mythologies talk of Morrigan, a goddess of war, and Dagda who’s the chief of the other gods.
Both the Irish and the Celtic mythologies highlight some of the qualities that were cherished by the Celtic tribes.
Over the past century, more and more people have shown a keen interest in Celtic mythology.
One of its biggest inroads into the modern world is through the 3-part movie The Lord of the Rings, which was based on a book by the same title.
#5 – African Mythology
Africa mythologies are so diverse that it would be a tall order to cover them all as one. However, this complexity can be lessened by bundling the mythologies by region.
Granted, each tribe has its own individual culture. But there are some glaring similarities in the mythologies of communities that come from the same region.
The myriad of African mythologies can be classified as those from northern and western Africa, and those from southern and eastern parts of Africa
Northern and Western African Mythologies
These mythologies capture the cultures just south of the Mediterranean (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, etc.), to the cultures in the western parts of Africa (Nigeria, Niger, Ivory Coast, etc.).
These cultures have unique forms of religion that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s only in recent centuries that the influence of Arabic culture has become palpable in north Africa.
Otherwise, they have had their own unique mythologies that reflected their way of life.
There has been a remarkable exchange of culture, myths, and traditions between north and west Africa because of the trade that has existed between these two regions for centuries.
As such, you will find many similarities in their myths and other ways of life.
Southern and Eastern Africa Mythologies
People in southern and eastern parts of Africa have had many exchanges over the centuries.
Indeed, many of the inhabitants of eastern Africa are immigrants from the south who escaped wars and natural calamities in their original homes.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the south and the east of Africa share many elements of their culture, chief among them being their mythologies.
Their myths reflect a spiritual and naturalistic way of life. Their mythologies show that these people were preoccupied with establishing and enforcing a hierarchical way of life.
According to the southern and eastern Africa mythologies, everything that happens in our natural world is ordered from the spiritual one.
This means that everyone must conduct themselves in the prescribed manner lest some punishment is meted from the world of the spirits.
#6 – Norse Mythology
The Norse mythology reflects the life and religion of the ancient Germanic peoples generally referred to as the Vikings.
These myths are rich in song, dance, poetry, and epics that capture the intriguing beliefs of the Vikings.
By nature, the Vikings were a conquering people. They spread their tentacles as far east as Russia, where their influence is to be found today.
Indeed, some folklores from the eastern parts of Europe show a powerful influence of Norse mythology.
At the very heart of the Nordic culture were the powerful figures of Odin, Loki, Frig, Freya, and Thor.
These figures have been so impactful that they affected the naming of some of the days of the week in the Gregorian/New Style/modern calendar.
For example, Thursday, the 5th day of the Week, takes after the Norse god Thor. Friday was initially referred to as Freya’s day.
Norse mythology depicts harsh and often sordid living conditions the Vikings were living under in their time.
The myths tell of courage, love, conquests, vengefulness, and adventure. They depict the Nordic people’s love for war and sea travel.
Norse mythology has affected modern culture in many ways. For example, Nordic trolls (supernatural beings) have found their way into comic books and films.
RELATED: Web of Wyrd.
#7 – Japanese Mythology
Japanese mythology depicts the traditions and beliefs observed by the inhabitants of the many Japanese islands.
These myths explain the traditions, customs, history, and religious practices of the ancient Japanese. Most myths express the pride of the people in their rich cultural heritage that spans centuries.
The ancient Japanese took much pride in their royalty. Most of their mythologies reflect this pride as they heavily feature the monarch and the ruling class.
Originally, the Japanese myths were initially passed from one generation to the next through the word of mouth.
With time, they were written down and stored for posterity. For example, the shoki and the kojiki are a collection of myths and folklore that indicate the lineages of the emperor and the ruling class.
By having their power and influence immortalized in myths and folklore, the ruling class perpetuated their grip of power on the people.
Japanese mythology is rich in powerful characters such as Susanoo, Izanami, Izanagi, Amaterasu, and Inari.
It also captured the influence of the many deities in Shintoism on the people and their way of life.
The characters highlighted in Japanese mythology were involved in intricate tales of love, struggles, triumph, sacrifice, tragedy, horror, revenge, and death.
#8 – Chinese Mythology
China is a vast land with people that belong to many sub-groups and sub-cultures. As such, it is not a surprise that you won’t have one mythology to deal with when looking at this country.
China has existed for centuries – it had one of the longest-running dynasties. Indeed, over the years, the Chinese people have seen it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As such, the myths that come from the Chinese cultures are some of the richest in terms of depth and diversity.
These myths feature the people’s history, their struggles and conquests, their emperors, and deities. The Chinese myths also bring you face to face with Chinese religion and their philosophical beliefs.
A deep study of Chinese mythology reveals that you will be delving into more than just mythology.
It will take you on a journey to many religions, the rise and fall of empires, and the influence of the Chinese on other cultures.
Some Chinese myths are shared across sub-cultures and religions while others are exclusive. This means that categorizing Chinese mythology is a complex affair.
#9 – Mythology of the Americas
The native people of the north, central, and south America were quite diverse. This means that it’s not possible to merge their cultures and mythologies into one.
Their mythologies are some of the richest in the world in terms of metaphor. These myths can be generally grouped based on the regions: north, subarctic, arctic, and northeastern Canada.
North American Myths
The Native American tribes are more or less the same in terms of societal structure and overall development.
They also have similar economic undertakings – with most being either hunters or livestock keepers. They traversed their vast lands a lot in search of livelihood.
All this is captured in their rich myths, which show their love and respect for nature. Their myths also talk about the Great Spirit – the supreme deity who’s omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
These myths were passed from the ancestors to their descendants through word of mouth. This way, the culture of the tribe was kept alive.
Subarctic American Region (Inland Alaska and Inland Canada) Myths
The myths of these peoples reflected their environment and its contribution to their social and economic development.
Their mythology mentions the extreme weather, and their dependence on deities to help them have a bountiful harvest of salmons and other seafood.
Arctic American Region (Coastal Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland) Myths
The extreme climatic conditions in which these people lived play a major influence on their mythology.
For example, the myths feature the god of Earth, Anguta, and his daughter Sedna. These deities are revered for their power to control the seas, rivers, winds, and the earth itself.
Sedna has protective powers, which she uses to shield these natives from the ravaging effects of the extreme weather.
Northeastern Canada, Northeastern US, and the Great Lakes Region Myths
Female deities feature heavily in the myths of these peoples. For example, there’s the First Mother who produced the first farm crops for use by humans.
Then there’s the Big Turtle, the creator deity. Other female deities highlighted in these myths include Glooskap and Manabus.
Generally, the myths and fables in this region fall into four categories to reflect the uniqueness of the four main tribal groupings.
These are the Iroquois, the Ho-Chunk, the Wyandot, and the Seneca mythologies.
What’s the Significance and Meaning of Mythologies?
In the last couple of centuries, world scholars have identified and recorded hundreds of different world mythologies.
Some of these mythologies include Chinese, Buddhist, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Arabian, African, Hindu, Egyptian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Slavic, Etruscan, Norse, and Japanese.
These mythologies have notable similarities as well as glaring discrepancies. Scholars will tell you that some of these mythologies have gained worldwide fame more than others.
The more famous myths have a bigger impact on the socio-economic life of different peoples across the globe.
Rarely will you find a myth that doesn’t mention deities and the impact of the Divine and celestial beings on that culture.
Most myths also carry the theme of good vs evil and its influence on the human condition.
Some myths explain the origin of life; including the origin of humans, animals, traditions, and even the earth itself.
Myths allow people to give a full expression of their relationship to their god or gods, and the values or beliefs they hold as a culture.
Mythology has been an integral part of human civilization.
Anthropology (the study of human culture) reveals that human beings developed belief systems long before they came up with myths.
This can be seen in the pre-historic paintings and drawings seen in monuments, caves, tombs, and stone slabs.
This clearly shows that myths did not develop ex nihilo or out of nothing.
Since myths are a reflection of a people’s culture, they provide us with a lot of material to better understand ourselves as human beings.
A study of some of the greatest myths in the world reveals that each culture has its unique contribution to the world.
This makes our world a collage of different cultures that make us unique as the human race. As such, we may want to take a moment before we start castigating each other along religious and racial lines.
We may want to pause before we rip each other apart along political sectarianism.
A good study of the world’s mythologies tells you that we have more reasons to love one another than to hate.
Most of the myths are rooted in a people’s reality, and they shape the modern world in many ways.
They carry important lessons about our morals that can be applied today as they were thousands of years ago.
Based on their origin and uses, myths can be classified as historical, etiological, or psychological.
History myths take about past legends and their accomplishments. These myths take an event from the past and exaggerate it for effect.
Etiological myths tell us why or how certain things came to be. They try to explain natural phenomena.
Psychological myths, on the other hand, try to explain the world of the unknown. They transport the audience to the afterlife or to the world of the dead.
Psychological myths try to help you bridge your internal consciousness with the physical and the surreal worlds.