Read e-book online A Short History of Myth PDF

By Karen Armstrong

"Human beings have consistently been mythmakers.” So starts off best-selling author Karen Armstrong’s concise but compelling research into fantasy: what it really is, the way it has advanced, and why we nonetheless so desperately want it. She takes us from the Paleolithic interval and the myths of the hunters correct as much as the "Great Western Transformation” of the final years and the discrediting of fable by way of technological know-how. The background of fantasy is the historical past of humanity, our tales and ideology, our interest and makes an attempt to appreciate the realm, which hyperlink us to our ancestors and every different. Heralding an immense sequence of retellings of overseas myths via authors from all over the world, Armstrong’s regularly insightful and eloquent ebook serves as an excellent and thought-provoking advent to fable within the broadest sense—and explains why if we brush off it, we accomplish that at our peril.

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As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth. In this short history of mythology, we shall see that every time men and women took a major step forward, they reviewed their mythology and made it speak to the new conditions. But we shall also see that human nature does not change much, and that many of these myths, devised in societies that could not be more different from our own, still address our most essential fears and desires.

Like the hunter, he brings food to his people. In Greenland, for example, the Eskimos believe that the seals belong to a goddess, who is called the Mistress of Animals. 16 It is likely that the Palaeolithic peoples had similar myths and rites. 17 Palaeolithic mythology also seems to have been characterised by great reverence for the animals that men now felt compelled to kill. Humans were ill-equipped for hunting, because they were weaker and smaller than most of their prey. They had to compensate for this by developing new weapons and techniques.

But, as we shall see, it was not merely a pragmatic enterprise, but, like all their activities, had a transcendent dimension. The shaman also embarked on a quest, but his was a spiritual expedition. It was thought that he had the power to leave his body and to travel in spirit to the celestial world. When he fell into a trance, he flew through the air and communed with the gods for the sake of his people. In the Palaeolithic cave shrines of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain, we find paintings depicting the hunt; alongside the animals and the huntsmen, there are men wearing bird masks, suggestive of flight, who were probably shamans.

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A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

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