Cultures are shaped by their physical environment. Mythologies reflect the cultures that give them birth. Cultures that are widely seperated in space but share similar physical environments (e.g. the people of the Amazon, the tribes of the Equatorial African jungles, or the clans of the jungle areas of South East Asia) should in theory have the same sort of mythologies? The reason I ask the question is because I've recently been reading on of the books of Joseph Campbell, who was well known for his research on myth, and it set me thinking about the problem.
12-16-08, 01:27 PM
I'm not aware of similar mythologies within disparate jungle peoples, but a common cultural phenomenon seems to revolve around ancestor / spirit worship and is usually always correlated with the local drugs.
12-16-08, 02:17 PM
Yes, jungle cultures tend to by polytheistic, and pastoral-agricultural cultures tend to be monotheistic.
12-16-08, 02:58 PM
Joseph Campbell was the leading popularizer of Carl Jung's work. Jung used the term archetype for instinctive beliefs that are pre-programmed into our brains. Their origins are not always easy to understand. Some were clearly survival traits (e.g. believing that an animal with both eyes in front of its head is a predator to run from), others may have been survival traits in eras whose dangers are not so easily understood, and some are doubtless the detritus of genetic drift and genetic bottlenecks.
In any case because archetypes are universal, the same ones occur in nearly all societies in nearly all eras. A myth is usually an archetype, although local and timely myths occasionally pop up and slowly fade away. But a mythology is a collection of archetypes.
Archetypal myths may be reinterpreted in individual cultures, recast in the local environment and history, but at their core they are virtually always the same. However, collecting them into a mythology may take a different course in two different cultures.