Mythologies of the World
Over centuries, people have done many things to make sense of their existence, as well as those of the world and everything else in it. Today, we use observation, experimentation, and other scientific methods to explain this.
Other than the use of hard sciences, we have also created stories to explain this. Myths are narratives that attempt to explain natural phenomena, such as the creation of the world, the existence of living beings, and celestial beings. They are also cautionary tales of ancient humans that attempt to teach moral lessons and mistakes that should be avoided.
Mythology is the study of these myths and how they affect their respective cultures. It also means the collection of these narratives. Various cultures hold different beliefs and values, often affected by their mythologies. Sometimes, mythology also dictates the religion of a culture. To this day, mythologies still inspire modern ideologies and works of art, as they have before.
All mythologies have the following: a creation story, a pantheon of gods and goddesses, mythical creatures, and narratives involving both humans and supernatural beings.
The most popular mythologies in the world are Greek and Roman. Though they are defined separately, they are very nearly the same thing. The Titans and Olympians of Greek mythology all have counterparts in Roman mythology (Ouranos = Uranus, Gaea = Terra, Zeus = Jupiter, Aphrodite = Venus, Poseidon = Neptune, Hades = Pluto), as do many of the minor gods. They have the same creation story and share similar narratives (Heracles is Hercules, Eros is Cupid). Both Greek and Roman mythology have inspired and continue to inspire many modern stories.
With the popularity of their pantheons, many have assumed that Greek and Roman pantheons have counterparts in all cultures.
But that is not the case. Read on to know more about some other pantheons in the world.
The Ainu are an indigenous Japanese people who live in Hokkaido today. Their mythology tells of a supernatural being called Kamui, who created a round ocean on the backbone of the giant trout. He sent down a bird to create dry land. After the world was created, the devil tried to corrupt it by swallowing the sun. Kamui sent a crow to make the devil choke. The world was so beautiful that all the animals wanted to live in it. Kamui also created the first humans made of earth, weed, and willow.
The Ainu pantheon has several gods. Kanna is god of thunder and storm, whose children live and ride on the clouds. Aioina is a god and a hero who taught the Ainu people how to cook. Wakka-Ush is the goddess of the waters. Hashinau-Uk is the goddess of the hunt. Kotan is the god who watched over the Ainu villages with his owls.
One of the more unique deities of Ainu mythology is the fire goddess Fuchi. In Ainu culture, the hearth is considered the passage to the afterlife, and Fuchi mediated communication between the two worlds. The Ainu firmly believed that Fuchi is the only being with the power to bestow a child upon a woman.
Aztec mythology greatly influenced Mexican culture. In this mythology, colors, numbers, and days of the calendar were each associated with a deity. In Aztec mythology, the earth was completely dark until the god Nanahuatzin jumped into the fire and emerged as the sun. In order for him to move through the sky, all the other gods had to give their blood. This mythology bore one of the more familiar traditions of ancient Aztec culture—human sacrifices. The Aztecs believed that the sun had to be kept alive by feeding it with blood.
The oldest deity of Aztec culture is Ometecuhtli, who had both a male and female side named Ometeotl and Omecihuatl, respectively. The offspring of these two sides became known as the creator gods of Aztec mythology. Tezcatlipoca is the lord of the night sky, the color black, and the north. Quetzalcoatl is god of learning, the color white, and the west. He didn’t accept human sacrifices, only sacrifices of animals and jade. Huitzilopochtli is the god of war, the south, and the sun. Warriors who died in battle are said to turn into hummingbirds and follow him. Xipe Totec is the god of vegetation and spring, torture and sacrifice, the color red, and the east. Xipe Totec’s duality is said to represent universal balance.
One of the major myths of Aztec mythology is the story of the five suns. Aztecs believed that there had originally been four worlds before the one we have now. Each one was destroyed by a catastrophe. Another major part of Aztec mythology is the belief in destiny and predetermined fate.
Slavic mythology is part of religion practiced by ancient Slavs. This includes most of Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. The mythology is cyclical as it follows a series of festivities and seasons. Like Norse mythology, Slavic mythology also has the World Tree. Three universes are located in the Slavic World Tree: the crown housed the deities, the trunk had all the mortals, and the roots held the underworld.
The supreme god of Slavic mythology is Perun. In the narratives, Perun is often accompanied by another god, Veles. The two gods represent good and evil, respectively. Perun is the god of thunder, lightning, and the dry. Veles, on the other hand, is the god of waters, earth, and the wet. He is also the ruler of the underworld. Jarilo is the god of fertility and vegetation. His sister and wife, Morana, is the goddess of nature and death. Jarilo and Morana are associated with the moon and sun, respectively.
One of the more popular stories from Slavic mythology is the tale of Baba Yaga the witch. Baba Yaga has a house that is alive and can move by itself. What many don’t know is that Baba Yaga sometimes disguises herself as a wise hag who gives wisdom to heroes and heroines. All they had to do was ask.
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