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4 Reasons To Know Your Mythology

Why do they force you to learn this stuff in school? Why should we care about old stories people believed a bajillion years ago? I'll give you four good reasons to know your myths:

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1. For the same reasons those old guys studied them.

The ancient Greeks had a story they told about Daedalus and his son Icarus. After Daedalus figured out how to make wings he and his son could use to fly, he warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun. The stupid kid did it anyway, and the wax holding his wings together melted away. Icarus fell out of the sky and died. The story is meant to teach a lesson about arrogance and disobedience; Icarus's downfall taught that lesson well in the ancient world, and it teaches that lesson just as well in 2017. We keep telling the story of Icarus because folks keep making mistakes like the one he makes in the story.

2. You'll get a lot of references.

This point is a little shallow, but let's just admit it: we all like to amaze our friends with random, somewhat-useful facts we happen to know. Knowing your mythology will open a lot of doors to those kinds of opportunities! It's just good to know that the days of the week were named after Norse and Roman gods. Plus, you'll have a better grasp of fantasy fiction like Harry Potter--did you know that J.K. Rowling didn't invent the basilisk or the hippogriff? Knowing your mythology will help you understand why Rowling (and others) include certain references in their works.

3. You'll learn about the cultures and ideas of the myth-makers.

Here's a great example from Cherokee mythology (warning: you can't always trust the Internet when it comes to Native American traditions, because some people think it's cool to just make stuff up and publish it). The First Woman in Cherokee tradition was Selu, Corn Woman, who is "resurrected with each harvest." This tells you a lot about the importance of agriculture--particularly the growing of corn--in Cherokee culture. It also paints a picture of the connection between growing food and life, since Selu's life is connected to the corn harvest.

4. You'll learn about the culture and ideas of humanity in general.

That's not an exaggeration; corn might be more important to some cultures than others, but some things are universal. For example, you'll find that stories about giants, dragons, and catastrophic floods show up in cultures all over the world. That tells us something about the basic fears that all people have. Here's a great list of common mythological tropes and some possible reasoning behind a few of them. If different versions of the same basic story are told all over the world, even among cultures that never had any contact with each other, it must say something about human nature.

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