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Myths and Rituals

Myth is a symbolic form of religious narrative. It aims to explain human behavior and legitimize institution of power. It charters the natural and human order, which in turn, makes it indispensable. Myths are complex stories which humans regard as demonstrations of the inner meaning of the universe and human life. The relationship between myth and ritual is translating our myths into action. Simply put, it is the symbolic expression and communication of the sacred.

With that being said, myth is the “truth” through the story, while ritual is the performance of the truth through play. Without myth, we wouldn’t have sacred ritual. As ritual is the act, myth is the thought. We act out our rituals not for the effect (although reaching communitas is an essential part), but because in doing so we are reaching sacraments. It is the mere act of doing that is meaningful, as it is with retelling myths. The human “drama” is the action of the myths in ritual. It is one thing to think and attempt to explain the natural order of a community’s institutions and behavior, and another to perform them. As Malinowski says “it expresses, enhances, and codifies belief”, when performing a ritual, the question of “what we do it for?” is answered by the myth. It serves to answer our questions. Puberty can be considered a rite of passage, as it’s the elevation of a person from the childhood stage into the adult stage. The “drama” through-out, emphasizes how real this transition is. In advancing through these stages in life, you achieve a new status, and become part of the new community (which is of adults). We need “dramam” in order to act the “real principles”.

If I’m going to be honest, “drama” has been the most confusing part of these past lectures for me. Now I know it’s all the “play” that happens in our lives, the chaos. I originally didn’t understand myth either, because I naively thought it was just something science has proven to be incorrect (my knowledge of myths had basically just been the tv show myth-busters). But now I understand that it explains things uniquely in a way science doesn’t. The myth focuses on the story, the parable, the metaphor, and etc., and rather than providing a simple explanation, it dives deep into what occurs in these as well as what changes.

Rituals advance us from one stage of life to another. The goal is to strengthen the community. Just as rituals are archetypes of stories, so are myths.