Religion, myth, and ritual, when you hear these words what pops into your head? A man in a white robe, a dragon, or perhaps candles and pentagrams? All these things would be right. Religion, myth, and rituals are all independent variables in a much larger equation. Each religion has its own myths as well as rituals. These myths and rituals help define the religion and in turn the religion helps define the culture and society that follows it. To get a better understanding of this we need to look at each one individually.
Religion is a guiding tool for humans. Ever sophisticated society enables the practice of religion in some way. There are four major types of religions in which all religions follow. According to Religion (2014), one of those systems is a polytheistic system or polytheism, a religious system that believes in many gods. Polytheism roots have to been traced back to about 2500 BC with the creation of Hinduism. Polytheism was a popular religion of ancient times. Cultures that had roots in this religion included Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Ancient polytheist religions worshiped many deities. Most of these deities controlled different aspects of daily life and natural events such as weather or passion. When an ancient civilizations could not rationally explain why something was happening they would relate that event with certain deity. This deity would then control all aspects of this event. For example, one of the most commonly known ancient polytheist religions is the Olympian gods and goddess of Ancient Greece. They had twelve major deities with hundreds of sub-deities. The main twelve had the most influence on things like the weather, love, or war.
On the opposite side of the spectrum of polytheism, there is the belief of a single god. According to Religion (2014), the monotheism religion covers religions such as Judaism, Christianity and the Muslims religions. In monotheist religions, you have on god responsible for everything from life to death. Even though there is only one god in these religions, he has other deities do most of his work. In religions such as Christianity, these other deities are called angels. Angels are responsible for carrying out God's will, being his messenger, or fighting wars.
Religion is a fascinating thing. It helps guide and inspire at the same time. The main source of guidance and inspiration, that religions give us, is through myth. According to Magoulick (n.d.), there are five general conceptual frameworks that help define what a myth is. The first is that they are cosmogonic narratives. They are in some way connected with how the universe began and how humans came into existence. Secondly, they are sacred narratives that are connected to certain types of rituals. These types of myths are often foundational or key narratives that are associated with particular religions. These myths, whether metaphorical or literal, are believed to be true within the religion they spawned. The third type of myth helps reiterate the values or social order within the culture. The next type of myth helps a culture or society understand something that they can explain, such as light and dark. Next are the myths involving heroic characters or gods. These myths can take on many different paths. They can involve characters who reconcile us to our realities, or establish the patterns for life. Every religion and culture has their own myths that are help define what they wish to portray as a whole.
A lot can be learned about a culture, simply by studying their myths. For example, every religion or culture has their own way they think the world came into existence. They tell this story thought creation myths. If we look at each individual creation myth, it can help explain the type of religion the culture practices. Myths can also explain what type of morals the cultures hold the highest. Hero becomes heroes by doing exceptional deeds or by holding to a strict moral code. If we look at hero myths within each culture, we can pull out the morals the heroes adhere to and in turn link those to the top morals of the culture.
It extremely fascinating on how cultures pick their religions, myths, and rituals. How certain religions die and new ones are born. There are numerous religions myths and rituals around the world. I believe there is always some kind of truth within each myth (metaphorically or literally). What certain rituals mean, even more challenging, how each ritual originated, can show the significance of the religion and/or culture itself. Every religion has a truth and authenticity within itself and each has its own significance that must be understood.
Magoulick, M. (n.d.). What is Myth? Retrieved December 2014 from, https://faculty.gcsu.edu/
Religion. (2014). Origins of Religion. Retrieved December 2014 from, http://www.allaboutreligion.org/