Portal:Myths

The Myths Portal

1929 Belgian banknote, depicting Ceres, Neptune and caduceus

Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as gods, demigods, and other supernatural figures. However, others also include humans, animals, or combinations in their classificiation of myth. Stories of everyday human beings, although often of leaders of some type, are usually contained in legends, as opposed to myths. Myths are sometimes distinguished from legends in that myths deal with gods, usually have no historical basis, and are set in a world of the remote past, very different from that of the present.

Myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests or priestesses and are closely linked to religion or spirituality. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. In particular, creation myths take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its later form. Other myths explain how a society's customs, institutions, and taboos were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and the enactment of rituals.

The term mythology may either refer to the study of myths in general, or a body of myths regarding a particular subject. The study of myth began in ancient history. Rival classes of the Greek myths by Euhemerus, Plato, and Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and later revived by Renaissance mythographers. Today, the study of myth continues in a wide variety of academic fields, including folklore studies, philology, psychology, and anthropology. Moreover, the academic comparisons of bodies of myth are known as comparative mythology.

Since the term myth is widely used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narrative as a myth can be highly controversial: many adherents of religions view their own religion's stories as true, and therefore object to those stories being characterized as myths, while seeing the stories of other religions as being myth. As such, some scholars label all religious narratives as myths for practical reasons, such as to avoid depreciating any one tradition because cultures interpret each other differently relative to one another. Other scholars avoid using the term "myth" altogether and instead utilize different terms like "sacred history", "holy story", or simply "history" to avoid placing pejorative overtones on any sacred narrative. (Full article...)

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A big moustached male head, with big eyes, big ears and thick eyebrows. Fangs protrude from the sides of his mouth. The head wears a conical crown, with a cobra hood at the top. A floral garland and gold necklace are seen around the neck.
Aravan worshipped at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore. A cobra hood is sheltering Aravan's head.

Iravan also known as Iravat and Iravant, is a minor character from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The son of Pandava prince Arjuna (one of the main heroes of the Mahabharata) and the Naga princess Ulupi, Iravan is the central deity of the tradition of Kuttandavar which is also the name commonly given to him in that tradition—and plays a major role in the tradition of Draupadi. Both these cults are of Tamil origin, from a region of the country where he is worshipped as a village deity and is known as Aravan. He is also a patron god of well-known transgender communities called ThiruNangai (also Aravani in Tamil, and Hijra throughout South Asia).

The Mahabharata portrays Iravan as dying a heroic death in the 18-day Kurukshetra War (Mahabharata war), the epic's main subject. However, the South Indian traditions have a supplementary practice of honouring Aravan's self-sacrifice to the goddess Kali to ensure her favour and the victory of the Pandavas in the war. The Kuttantavar tradition focuses on one of the three boons granted to Aravan by the god Krishna in honour of this self-sacrifice. Aravan requested that he be married before his death. Krishna satisfied this boon in his female form, Mohini. In Koovagam (கூவாகம்), Tamil Nadu, this incident is re-enacted in an 18-day festival, first by a ceremonial marriage of Aravan to ThiruNangais and male villagers (who have taken vows to Aravan) and then by their widowhood after ritual re-enactment of Aravan's sacrifice. (Full article...)

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Painting of Thor fighting serpent
Thor in Hymir's boat battling the Midgard Serpent, by Henry Fuseli (1788)

The stoor worm, or Mester Stoor Worm, was a gigantic evil sea serpent of Orcadian folklore, capable of contaminating plants and destroying animals and humans with its putrid breath. It is probably an Orkney variant of the Norse Jörmungandr, also known as the Midgard Serpent, or world serpent, and has been described as a sea dragon.

The king of one country threatened by the beast's arrival was advised to offer it a weekly sacrifice of seven virgins. In desperation the king eventually issued a proclamation offering his kingdom, his daughter's hand in marriage and a magic sword to anyone who could destroy the monster. Assipattle, the youngest son of a local farmer, defeated the creature; as it died its teeth fell out to become the islands of Orkney, Shetland and the Faroes, and its body became Iceland. (Full article...)

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