Making Myth

April 30, 2016

Creating Pagan Myth Part One

Filed under: Intro to Myth Making,Theory — Tags: , — Myth Maker @ 9:17 pm

What type of myth do we choose to tell?


In the European mythic tradition, there are two basic types of myth. There is the Iliad and there is Le Morte d’Arthur. The difference between the two types of myths is that in one Achilles kills Hector with savage glee and in the other Sir Lancelot does his best to not kill Sir Gawain.

Of course, the important thing is not what Sir Lancelot and Achilles do, but why they do it. The tragedy of Sir Lancelot is that his final fight is not necessary because Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain serve the same God. Their fight is the result of the sins of men and in the grave that comes after they will be reconciled. On the other hand, the tragedy of Achilles is that the fight is necessary because the gods themselves struggle against one another. And if even the gods cannot find peace, what hope does man have to challenge the fates that drive him to war?

This division between a tragedy based on “sin” and a tragedy based on “fate” goes beyond Morte d’Arthur and the Iliad respectively. Western European myth can be divided between “Catholic” myths that have a fundamentally moral universe and the “Pagan” myths that have a fundamentally amoral universe. This key dividing line between myths exists even in the myths of our own day.

To see how this division plays out in modern times, one has to only compare Star Wars to The Watchmen. In the Star Wars the line between good and evil is clear. And if you do morally bad things in the Star Wars universe then bad things will happen regardless of the circumstances. In The Watchmen good and bad is vary dubious concept and the “heroes” wind up being complicit in mass murder on the grounds that it is the best that can be done for an amoral humanity. In short, Star Wars is a “Catholic” myth whereas The Watchmen is a “Pagan” myth.

It is the nature of the moral order that defines the difference between a “Catholic” myth and a “Pagan” myth. If there is a moral order that brings about consistent results it is “Catholic” myth. If there is no moral order and nothing practical to distinguish between the various moral choices then it is a “Pagan” myth.

The key point to note is that the difference between “Catholic” myth and “Pagan” myth does not revolve around the existence of one God vs. many gods. If you create a myth set atheistic world that conforms to the Whig view of history in which all good people will eventually come around to the same set of values, then you have created a “Catholic” myth. If you create a myth with only one God but he is an indifferent God who does not care what men do, then you have created a “Pagan” myth.

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