Unnatural Explanations for a Natural world
A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths were made as a way for people to explain what was at the time deemed unexplainable. This is important because what man does not know, he seems to fear or hate. This would not make for a good way to live in a world where you cannot explain everything with your present knowledge. Man made myth to explain certain things he did not understand.
Myth has been around so long that it has become very important to us. It holds our history, it holds our ethical foundation. One such a myth or belief was about what people thought deformed babies were. They thought these babies were changelings, and performed tests to prove to themselves that this was true. These creatures from the supernatural were called faeries. Not those bite-sized little flying people like Tinker Bell in the movie Peter Pan; those are fairies. The faeries that are being referred to are those that are in fairy tales. A gnome would be considered a faery. The evolution of the faery beliefs have coursed through time for many centuries. It has gone from the ideas and beliefs of the Celts to explain natural events they could not explain with their intellect to a full religion with ceremonies, practices, and rites with which one could deal with the supernatural world the fairy beliefs created. As it slowed down, and other religions began to take hold in society, these beliefs turned into superstitions and held to the background of everyday life. These kinds of beliefs did not stop there; they traversed into the world of science. Superstition made its way into that realm, and dealt out such things as stress causing ulcers, or that bees came from heaven (so people traditionally used candles made from wax). Also, from these faery beliefs come children's stories like Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, which were often used to amuse or teach. Today, we have satires and literary allusions. To understand better how the Celt's faery beliefs have made their transition from one point to the other, one must look closer at their meanings.
To begin with, most belief systems are based on what people perceive as true. The Celts came from the Northern British Isles or what is known as Scotland. Their supernatural beliefs dealt with what was thought of by the Celts as only explainable as unnatural. Then again, the unnatural was probably natural to them. These beliefs were called faery beliefs because of what they mostly dealt with, and that was supernatural creatures, often referred to as a faery. The best explanation of a faery is that a faery is a creature that dwells in a realm apart from man's reality and only on certain times do they come out.
One such a belief stems from little dark-skinned people who lived in the forests of Northern Europe and the British Isles. They were conquered by invading Germanic and Celtic tribes. These people lived in little dome-shaped huts that looked remarkably like mounds. They wore green clothing, and the Celts thought they were faeries, which meant that they must be evil. They were called Goblins and were blamed for many of the misfortunes that befell the Celts.
A second creature was one called a Banshee. It is said that a Banshee had long hair and fire red eyes. They were always wearing some kind of burial shroud; they were always crying because of the hardships they must endure. These hardships had to do with the message that they always brought, and that was death. When a person died, a Banshee would show up at a person's place of birth, often for several days.
Another creature was the Troll. They varied in size, but were larger than most fairies. They were hairy and very grotesque. Trolls hated most everything even their own kind, and were very mean. There were also things like the Incubi and the Succubi that were magical creatures, one male and the other female, who were said to visit people in the night and procreate with them. There were so many bad beliefs and supernatural creatures that seemed to roam the world that there was a need to overcome them in a spiritual manner. Thus, the religion that formed was a result of their faery beliefs.
A religion is a system of attitudes, beliefs, ceremonies, and rites by which an individual has a relationship with god or a supernatural world, and uses a set of values to judge events in the natural world. The Celt's faery beliefs fit into this definition perfectly. It had many ceremonies and rituals that were used to ward off evil spirits or faeries. Religion can control much of man's everyday life, making the religion more powerful than the man. This has been evident throughout history. Greek and Roman Gods are such examples, as are the mythical creatures of the Norse Universe.
There were things such as gargoyles, who seemed to watch what people did throughout the day atop their perches on many Gothic buildings. Gargoyles were said to represent demonic or lesser forces in the universe. Mostly, though, these beliefs were used to show that one needs to obey God and to keep people from sinning. Even then, the Celts made rituals to protect themselves and appease their gods and spirits. One of these rituals or ceremonies had to do with wood. This was where touching or knocking on wood was used for a common evil-averting ritual, usually done after bragging or expressing hope for the future. This ritual was used to avoid tempting fate or the spirits from puncturing your pride or depriving you of your good fortune. This ritual and others were an everyday part of the religion, but as with many religions it lost its support of the society.
Having lost its support, it then became a superstition. Being a superstition, it still had a hold on society and was working in the background. A superstition is basically a religion that has gone lax, many of the rituals have been lost or replaced but it still has retained many of its sayings or ideas. There were quite a few superstitions that survived, such as the superstition that lighted candles serve as protection against spells. It was also said that if you carefully watch how they burn, they will tell you about your future life. If you blew out the candles then your wish would come true. A second superstition was that if you sneezed your soul was said to leave your body. People would say "God bless you!" so that your soul would find its way back to the body before it was snatched up by evil spirits. Another superstition is where it was thought that a tombstone held down the corpse and payed homage to the good spirits that resided within the stone. A fourth superstition was where having a cake at a celebration, like a birthday, was thought to insure fertility, good luck, and riches as well as to drive away all possible evil. However, as has happened many times in history, people have made new discoveries to disprove their past beliefs. Thus, the beliefs of the supernatural become a science of real life.
The purpose of science is to best explain what happens in the world around us in a calculated, but not necessarily rational way. In the myths on the Greeks and Romans, it was believed that power of the world was held by the gods, so for one to live, one must obey them. If someone disobeyed them, then something unfortunate would happen as a punishment from the gods. A more concrete way to explain what the science was is to tell what herbs were thought of. For example, it was believed that rosemary was an aid to memory. Also, it was said that sage could heal infirmities, or render men immortal according to the faery races. A multiple healing compound was said to be mustard which could heal toothaches, bruises, cricks in the neck, or hair loss. Another herb was Basil which was said to be good for the heart and could eliminate stress in a person's life. There were many things that the Celts used to aid in life; these were just some of them.
Since many of these beliefs dealt with behavior, such as how people should act so as not to anger a god, it seems fitting that fairy tales came about as a way to teach children.
These children's stories were used as a way to teach the young about how to act in life and society. Though teaching is their main purpose, they are also used to amuse and entertain people. These tales mostly involve those mythical creatures of the Celtic belief; hence the name fairy tales. An example of one of these stories is Little Red Riding Hood. In this story a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood has to go and deliver a basket of food to her grandma's house. On her way she met a wolf, who was hungry. The wolf beat her to her grandmothers house, then tried to eat Red. A woodsman, hearing the screaming, comes to Reds rescue and kills the wolf. The lesson that this story tries to impose is for people to beware of strangers--they may be a little bit stranger than one thinks. Another example of such stories is The Frog Prince. In this story, a princess drops her ball down into a well and pleads to a frog to get it back for her. He gets the ball, but then says that she must give her a kiss to pay back for his deed. She does so and the frog turns into a prince, thus they live happily ever after. The lesson in this story is that when you do something nice to other people they will in turn do something nice to you. A third example of these fairy tales is the story Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. In this story there is a Queen who is very vain, but she has a daughter who is fairer than she is. Thus, does she reveal her other side as an evil witch. Snow White is poisoned by the witch who has given her an apple but she is saved by the seven dwarves and a handsome prince. The lesson in this story is that friends will help you out when the need arises. This does not, however, always work in a changing society and sometimes the lesson or moral of the story needs to be changed to fit societies' needs of the time.
This leads to politically correct fairy tales; which means the wording of a fairy tale has been changed to be more politically correct, thus showing some aspects of today's society. This is often called satirizing, hence these stories are called satires. The purpose of a satirized fairy tale is to make them fit more with society and also to try and reach kids. A more firm definition is to make fun of society to exact change. The stories mentioned have been affected by satirization. Many of their phrases have been changed, almost making it an entirely new story. One such a phrase from Little Red Riding Hood is, "Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult." This phrase means that not all elderly people needed to be taken care of. Another phrase; from Snow White and The Seven Dwarves is, "She was apparently unfettered by the confines of regular employment." This phrase was used to say poor in a nice way. Another phrase from The Frog Prince is, "...middle-aged, vertically challenged, and losing..." In this phrase, the writer was trying to say short in a nice way. A third phrase from a story not mentioned before is from Rapunzel. This phrase is, "There Rapunzel grew to wommonhood." This was used because in today's society women do not want to be dependant on men. This is perfect to prove a point, society may have gone too far with things like this. Society changes as time goes on, one may not even recognize this society a hundred years from now. Some of these changes may be just a bit too drastic or exaggerated in their effects; such as a woman not wanting to be dependent on man. This is fine, but one does not have to demean man or any such thing. That is where satires come in. They can be used to show society how exaggerated some of these changes are. Now one may think it stops there and that these myths will just fade into children's stories. This is not true however, they are present in advertising, writings, and even speech.
These myths are everywhere in today's modern world. They are in the advertising, the cartoons, how people speak and write, even in the names of computer programs. An example of advertising can be seen in the name of the car repair company Midas. Midas was the name of a king who's touch could turn anything to gold. So the name of the company means that their service is gold and that they are successful. Another literary allusion can be seen in the word cereal. This word comes from the Roman god Ceres. Ceres was the god of wheat and breakfast. A third example of a literary allusion can be seen in the name of a computer program. This is not necessarily a good program but it does live up to its name. It is called the Trojan, which comes from the Trojan War. Like the Trojan horse in the war, it hides behind a simple program but then when inside the computer, it reveals its vicious fangs and shows that it is a virus ready to hurt your computer. These myths may sort of fade out and their origins may be forgotten, but they will never go away. They will always stay with us. They are a part of everyday life, and are a part of who we are and our past.
Myths have been man's creation throughout time. The Celt's faery beliefs are just one example of what has happened to them and how they affect us in society today. The Celt's belief have gone from ideas and beliefs of natural events they could not explain, to religions with ceremonies, practices, and rites so one could protect them. It later slowed down and other religions began to take hold in society, then turned into superstitions and held on in the background of everyday life. They even transversed into the world of science. The fairy beliefs also turned into children's stories, like Snow White, which were often used to amuse or teach. Today, we have satires and literary allusions that affect us in many different ways. These myths are very important, they not only helped the people of that time to understand events that seemed unnatural to them, but also they show man's need to understand. It is evident that humans need to understand the reality around so that they can exist without being in constant confusion and fear. They attempt to explain what they see and feel throughout their existence. Myths have been around for a long time. Fact in times long ago became myth now, and in turn, the facts that we have today may become a myth in the future. Who knows, maybe Dog will become a mythical creature in the society of the future who does not have Dogs among them.
posted by dharh 2:28 PM Aug 3rd, 2007