“Myths have a very long memory.”
Bryan Sykes, Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland
Mythology! The very word has to power to evoke strong emotional responses because myths speak to the heart of human experience. We long for certainty in a fragile and finite existence in order to build lives within reasonably secure surroundings. Instead, we are born into a complex world that hurls more questions at us than it does answers. Myths carry tradition within its narratives. And because we are a curious species, we use them in an attempt to explain natural or social phenomenon. Perhaps their greatest task is to provide us with the assurance of our beginnings and endings.
When we think of mythology, we think back to earliest times where supernatural beings and events seemed to have a rightful place in ancient civilizations. Yet, there is clear evidence that mythology is well entrenched within our DNA. Karen Armstrong in A Short History of Myth wrote, “We need myths that will help us to identify with all our fellow-beings, not simply with those who belong to our ethnic, national or ideological tribe. We need myths that help us to realize the importance of compassion, which is not always regarded as sufficiently productive or efficient in our pragmatic, rational world.” Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, comes from a different perspective: “Myths, whether in written or visual form, serve a vital role of asking unanswerable questions and providing unquestionable answers. Most of us, most of the time, have a low tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. We want to reduce the cognitive dissonance of not knowing by filling the gaps with answers. Traditionally, religious myths have served that role, but today — the age of science — science fiction is our mythology.”
We are a global community with the means to communicate and share knowledge. What better way to celebrate our humanity than by recounting the myths, legends, folklore and tales that have come down through the generations. Myths do indeed, have a very long memory.