Mythology: timeless fascination

Mythology: timeless fascination


Rubens, Baucis and Philemon painting

Despite the familiarity that we all have with the stories of mythology, the myth remains a mysterious object that every culture seems to forge according to its own criteria and that never ceases to fascinate.

The myth is something that happens every day like Bible’s tales.

Mythology: origins

The idea of ​​a mythological sphere as an organic universe of stories that would precede the birth of logos and philosophy is however foreign to the Greeks.

The opposition between myth and logos takes place in a slow and tortuous way: Greece remains a frontier land, where the „fabulous“ survives alongside „scientific“ reason.

Plato’s opinion

In Plato‘s political project, the identity of the myth and of the spoken word acquires an extreme evidence that invests the life of the city.

Speech must be at the service of the ideals of the city.

Why do we continue to be fascinated by the myth, by the „once upon a time“, so much so that we often make it enter our daily life?

If the first mythology has long been considered the effect of a parasitic disease of language, the traces of which are still recognizable on the written surface of the most rational societies, mythology in the modern sense is therefore an invention of writing.

It is born when the written sign it immobilizes the flow of the living word that is repeated in an infinite number of variations.

The myth of Plato's cave

The myth of Plato’s cave

Studies about the mythology

To save a certain idea of ​​mythology, as Marcel Detienne maintains, the inventiveness of memory and oblivion is all too often evoked, lived in perfect union with the naturalness of Philemon and Baucis, a fable contained in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, in which it will be told of the virtue of hospitality that is rewarded.

Only today has the struggle of memory and oblivion become alive and almost vehemently present, since societies have multiplied, where historians have become nothing but officials and official bureaucrats, in which the struggle against power does it force men and women to get up at night, to repeat, against all hope, the words of their deceased deprived of writing, or the fleeting and unforgettable lines of the banned and murdered poets?

But is there a paradise for memory and oblivion? Or perhaps there is nothing but the work of both and the ways of working that have a history. A story yet to begin. However nothing is more familiar than mythology, because as Levi-Strauss argued, „a myth is recognized as such by every reader, in every part of the world“.

Memories and history

What is it that fascinates us most about mythology in a world without myths, where in the space of two or three generations, everything that is said is subject to continuous and inevitable changes, whatever the authority and number „of the ministers of memory „?

Perhaps this flow of words, stories and tales to which each of us can remove or add something, perhaps more pleasant, as Fontanelle said, but not with the aim of coloring something already „false“.

To our ears, the memorable it is unconsciously and necessarily true and we will never tire of repeating and listening to certain stories.

So won’t mythology be the fruit of a memory extraneous to the processes of writing and free from the tyranny of the text? Only inventive memory, sister of oblivion, could completely save mythology or remove it from the wandering into which the Greeks led it, during our readings.

Semi-oclastia could be the answer?

On this particular aspect, Roland Barthes can come to our rescue according to whom mythology can only have a historical foundation, because myth is a word chosen by history and cannot arise from the ’nature‘ of things ”.

In summary, Barhes wants to tell us that the myth is a communication system, having all the characteristics of a message.

The myth – he affirms – does not deny things, on the contrary, its function is to talk about them; it simply purifies them, makes them innocent, institutes them as nature and as eternity ”.

Of one thing we are sure, the myth is not a bad thing, but how to make it live in an „eternal“ way in an idolatrous and no longer iconoclastic society like ours?

Always in the wake of Barthes, for whom there is a need for a science of mythology based on semi-oclastia, it would probably be appropriate to recognize in myth-logical narratives an eternalizing element to be demythologized, bringing these fables back to their inescapable historical foundation.

After all, our reason is also based on some fictions. And this can represent something not necessarily negative.


Source: M. Detienne, The invention of mythology

Annalina Grasso
Annalina Grasso
Journalist, blogger, social media manager, art curator. I love writing, art, literature, cinema. I collaborate with Juliet Art Magazine and I manage the cultural magazine '900letterario. I write critical texts for artists. I was born and live in Italy, I like to travel, visit exhibitions and listen to classical and rock music.