A myth is a traditional narration which relates to events prodigious, involving supernatural beings or extraordinary, such as gods, demigods, heroes, monsters or fantasy characters, which seek to give an explanation to a fact or a phenomenon.

The myths are part of the belief system of a culture or a community, which considers them true stories. The set of the myths of a culture is called mythology. The mythology underpinning the worldview of a people.

Since in the Ancient greco-roman explanations of philosophical and scientific entered into competition with the mythical, the word myth can be loaded in certain contexts, of a value not pejorative, coming to be used often loosely as a synonym for hoax, widely believed but false, for example, the classless society is a myth communist, or the invisible hand of the market is a liberal myth. It is also common to use a rather lax of myth and mythic (legend or legendary) to refer to historical characters or contemporary (or even to commercial products) are loaded with prestige and glamour: Charlot is a myth of the silent film; the vicious are a group of mythical.

Like other genres of traditional narrative, the myth is a text of oral origin, whose details vary in the course of its transmission, giving rise to different versions. In societies that know the scripture, myth has been the subject of reprocessing of literature, thus extending its arc of versions and variants. Therefore, the myths have not disappeared at the present time, only displayed and transmitted through different media.


According to Mircea Eliade, the myth is a sacred story that tells an event happened during a time primeval, when the world did not yet have its current form. The events of nature that recur periodically are explained as a consequence of the events narrated in the myth (for example, in Greek mythology, the cycle of the seasons is explained from the abduction of Persephone). However, not all myths refer to a time "first", can also address events that have occurred after the origin, but to highlight its importance and the changes they brought with them.

According to the vision of Claude Lévi-Strauss, anthropologist structuralist, all myth has three characteristics:

  • Is an existential question, relating to the creation of the Earth, the death, the birth, and the like.

  • Is constituted by irreconcilable opposites: creation against destruction, life versus death, gods against men, or against evil.

  • Provides the reconciliation of these poles in order to stave off our anxiety.

Function of myth

The functions of the myths are multiple. However, in general, you can accept three essential functions: explanatory, meaning and pragmatics.

The explanatory function: it refers that the myths explain, justify or develop the origin, reason of being and cause of some aspect of social life or individual, for example, the Greek myth which tells of how it originated the world of "Chaos," or the Genesis that says the birth of the woman of the rib of a man.

The pragmatic function of myth implies that the myths are the basis of certain social structures and actions, as well, a myth can make a genealogical line and to determine who can rule or not. Thanks to this feature, the myths specify and justify why a situation is a certain way and not another.

The role of meaning refers to the fact that myths are not just stories that provide explanations or justifications for policies, they also provide a comfort, life goal, or calm individuals, and so it is with myths that speak of the death, the suffering or victory, therefore, myths are not stories that are remote from the person, but also work as a grab handle existential, a motive, according to the psychoanalyst, american, Rollo May.

The three functions are often combined in a constant manner.

This article was last modified: Jan. 6, 2018, 6:45 a.m.