Classifications of Mythology
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Eliot discerns four major classes of myth (and several minor classes):-

  1. Primitive - shamanic and nature myths, often from cultures where the ancestors and elders of the group (tribe) have great importance
  2. Pagan - tales and characters from Classical Greek and Roman mythology, but also Norse and Indian. Typically there is a pantheon of charismatic gods who sometimes teach and lead the humans, but often seem to quarrel among themselves, and are a source of danger to their people, who may therefore try to please them with gifts and sacrifices. These pantheons of gods are often linked to the planets, e.g saturn, mars, venus, mercury, and are thought in some way to BE the planets.
  3. Sacred. Typically, sacred myths are based on a sacred book, such as the Torah, Bible or Koran, given out by a Great Teacher. The philosophies, morals and ethics ("Truths") contained in the sacred book are mediated by a priesthood for consumption by the general public. Other aspects focus on the myth of the 'great individual' rather than his teachings, and then later on the church itself as a path (a career).
  4. Scientific. Science proceeds by creating sets of hypotheses which are accepted by the scientific community, which are tested, and then used until they are found to be inadequate, and then a new set of hypotheses is developed. Sometimes this replacement of theories is so far-reaching that it is called a 'paradigm shift', and a paradigm is clearly mythical, not "real".

He also states the following as minor classes of myth:-

  1. Personal Mythology, where one 'tells a story' to oneself or to others to help give meaning to ones life
  2. Fairy Tales. Which are simple tales told to children, chiefly of European (and particularly Nordic and German) origins. This could be the reason he omits them, as they are not a global phenomenon.
  3. One could perhaps also add "Urban Myths" to this list (everyone has heard of the poor person who was lost and drove 3 times round the M25 for 24 hours, but no-one has ever met him/her )

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