Tag Archives: legends

Animism, Myths, Legends & Folktales

Animism is one of the oldest spiritual concepts. It refers to the belief that non-human entities possess some form of spiritual life.  Animism acknowledges the existence of souls or spirits, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena like thunder, and geographic features like mountains or rivers.  

Animism is a component of the world view of some hunter-gatherer cultures in which the human being is regarded on a roughly equal footing with other animals, plants, and natural forces. Respect for the non-human life and objects, therefore, is critical. Ritual becomes essential to win the favor of the spirits of one’s source of food, shelter, fertility; to wards off malevolent spirits; and to provide for the successful passage of a deceased’s spirit to the afterlife.

Mythology is related to animism because a large part of mythology is based upon a belief in souls and spirits (animism).  Mythology later came to focus largely on the sacred stories of origins and transformation and death and doom myths.

The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural heroes and humans—a true account of the remote past. Myths explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established. Myths are closely related to legends and folktales. Legends, however, are stories that are traditionally considered true but are set in a more recent time and feature humans as their main characters. Folktales can be set in any time and any place and are not considered true or sacred by the societies that tell them.

Tomorrow, Creation Myths    Rita Bay

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Introduction: Myths & Legends & Worldview

Setting Myths and Legends as a theme for October was easy.  October has traditionally been the month in which stories and tales of the paranormal reigns—and there’ll be some of those.  It’s important, however, to look at what is behind those stories and tales—worldviews that differ immeasurably from the modern world’s where logic and the scientific method hold sway. 

When looking back on the past, archaeologists process what they discover using the scientific method, a linear (methodical) way of observing, investigating, interpreting and explaining data.  Their conclusions, however, may reveal only an infinitesimal piece of the real, sometimes nonlinear, puzzle that is the past.

Imagine yourself 30,000 years in the future.  Much of what exists from today will have rotted, corroded, toppled.  What would archeologists, if they still exist, make of what they see?  Without context, they can only attemp to fit pieces that they discover into a framework that will create a muddy picture of who and what we actually were.

A Bone Flute

Looking backward, where our myths and legends were born, presents a similar problem.  Many observations about how early man thought and lived have changed over time.  Is the hollow bone pierced at the top discovered by an archaeologist excavating a cave a necklace ornament, a sewing needle or a musical instrument?  What does it tell us about how the person who owned it thought or what they valued?

Myths and legends can answer some of the questions about a culture’s worldview.  For instance, What is the society’s explanation of the world?, Where are we heading? (the future), “What should we do?” (ethics and values), “How should we attain our goals?”, “What is true and false?” (knowledge), and Where did we come from? (origins).  (Source of worldview points: The Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA))

So tomorrow, when we look at animism, pantheism, mythology, and philosophy as a framework for our myths and legends, keep those questions in mind.  Rita Bay


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