Mythology is either a set of myths linked to a particular civilization, religion or theme, or the study of these myths.

Researchers who study mythologies are called mythologists.

Understood as a set of myths, the notion of mythology is generally used to describe sets of stories and divine, human or monstrous figures mixed by the religious systems of ancient civilizations or traditional societies, distant in space or in time.

Understood as the study of myths, mythology also dates back to Antiquity, to the extent that the ancient Greeks very quickly took a critical look at their own myths, which led to interpretations linked to a desire for realistic or moralizing rewriting. , via currents such as evhememerism and the practice of allegorical commentary.

But it was not until the nineteenth century that mythological studies became a discipline with a scientific claim, in the context of the development of the social sciences, in particular anthropology.

It was also at this time that comparative mythology was born, first conceived on the model of comparative linguistics.

From this evolution came the main currents of mythological studies in the 20th – 21st centuries, such as the ritualist interpretation, the approach of psychoanalytic or structuralist inspiration.

The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, applying his structural method to the analysis of myths, developed in the 1960s an original approach for the time, of holistic and cognitivist inspiration.

Mythology as a set of myths

Like the notion of myth, the term “mythology” originates from Greece and was first used in the context of ancient Greek culture. Subsequently, the two concepts were applied to all kinds of cultures, sometimes radically different.

This can pose methodological problems when studying these cultures, insofar as the use of these notions amounts to assuming at the outset that all religions. Ancestral cults and narratives function in exactly the same way as those in Greek mythology, while more careful studies have often revealed profound differences from one culture to another.

In addition, we generally speak of mythologies in the plural: the question of to what extent they can be grouped under a unified concept is a complex problem, which falls under comparative mythology.

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