Re: When does myth record actual events?

James Moylan (
Mon, 22 Jul 1996 12:21:56 GMT (Aaron Clausen) wrote:

>The difficulty of attempting to corellate myths with historical events is that
>myths often predate those assumed events. Look at the commonality among
>Indo-European mythologies. Certainly figures like Thor and Hercules may have
>had some basis in real individuals, but I suspect that the myths predated the

>Aaron Clausen Port Alberni, BC Canada

A further difficulty lying within a seemingly innocuous question such
as addressed here is in the definition of "myth", perhaps the question
could be "Does the commonality of knowledges current within a society
accurately reflect actual events ?" or could be "Does the fragmentary
remains of the social knowledges bequethed us by earlier generations
reflect actual events ?" or could be "Have i the intimate knowledge of
the current social discourse active within the *culture* to be able to
trace the nature of the actual events they are based upon (if at

My expertise is in the semiotic analysis of fairly recent (19thC)
documentation and I am constantly surprised by the incredible
difference 2oo years has had on the suite of social knowledges which
are current even within the same strictly defined geographical
boundaries. Even if a "myth" were reporting actual events the utility
of the events related changes as the generations roll on by with the
same stories having different "meanings" and being utilised for
different reasons by each subsequent airing. Can you say that a story
which has evolved into something completely different to its original
and is being utilised to say new things about events which didn't
happen until well after the events the story was based on is
reflecting the actual events which gave rise to the "myth" ?

Perhaps it might assist if you did a little reading in communications
theory as this might enable you some insight into the utility of
"myth". Mythologies by Roland Barthes is a good starting point.