Mythology can refer to the collected myths of a group of people—their body of stories which they tell to explain nature, history, and customs—or to the study of such myths.
Mythology can refer to the collected myths of a group of people—their body of stories which they tell to explain nature, history, and customs —or to the study of such myths.
As a collection of such stories, mythology is a vital feature of every culture. Various origins for myths have been proposed, ranging from personification of nature, personification of natural phenomena to truthful or hyperbolic accounts of historical events, to explanations of existing ritual. Although the term is complicated by its implicit condescension, mythologizing is not just an ancient or primitive practice, as shown by contemporary mythopoeia such as urban legends and the expansive fictional mythoi created by fantasy novels and Japanese manga. A culture's collective mythology helps convey belonging, shared and religious experience, behavioural models, and moral and practical lessons.
As the study of myth, mythology dates back to antiquity. Rationalists in ancient Greece and China devised allegorical interpretations of their traditional stories. Rival classifications of the Greek myths by Euhemerus, Plato's Phaedrus, and Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and revived by Renaissance mythographers. Nineteenth-century comparative mythology reinterpreted myth as a primitive and failed counterpart of science (E. B. Tylor), a "disease of language" (Max Müller), or a misinterpretation of magical ritual (James Frazer).
Some recent approaches have rejected a conflict between the value of myth and rational thought, often viewing myths, rather than being merely inaccurate historical accounts, as expressions for understanding general psychological, cultural or societal truths.