Creating Culture: Religion: Mythology
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Last week I talked about dealing with the divine in your novel. That post focused on figuring out what the actual system of the deities looked like--monotheistic, polytheistic, pros and cons, the like.
This week I'm going to talk about some of the common myths your culture should probably have, regardless of which deity system you choose.
1. Creation Myth
How did the world come into being?
This can be a war between gods and giants, titans, each other, so on and so forth. But the goal of this myth is to create an explanation for the way things are in the natural world. You're answering questions such as:
a. How did the sky come to be?
b. What are the stars?
c. Why are there oceans?
d. Why are there natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, volcanoes, floods)?
e. Where did animals come from?
f. What is the purpose of man in relation to the gods/god assuming the gods/god created man for some purpose (otherwise, why create them?)?
Next, your going to have relational myths that fall into three categories:
2. Deity + Deity Relationship Myths
You guessed it, this first type of relational myth looks at how the gods interact with each other (or, in the case of a single god, how he views himself).
a. Are they family?
b. Are they rivals?
c. What happens when they fight?
d. How do they solve disputes?
e. What effect do those disputes have on the world?
f. What happens when they work together?
g. Are there power struggles?
h. What compromises do they come to?
For each of these cases, the myth will be a story that illustrates the situation. Think in terms of the stories an elder would tell to children to help them understand the world around them. These are the stories that will also dictate how the people of the culture are expected to interact with each other, since they will inadvertently act in the way that the gods they want to emulate will act. If a god was valiant in a battle, the humans will try to be valiant like that god.
3. Deity + Nature Relationship Myths
These myths will help you determine the ways in which gods interact with nature.
a. What are their sacred animals? Why?
b. What are their sacred spaces? Why?
c. What would a god who loves nature do to a human who destroyed a forest?
d. What would a god who's all about infrastructure do in the same situation? (and, looking at the last section, how would those two gods interact with each other?)
4. Deity + Humanity Relationship Myths
These myths set the rules for how humans are allowed to approach the gods, what happens when humans don't follow those rules, and can create some really good backstories for heroes of the world.
a. What happens when humans meddle in the affairs of the gods?
b. What happens if a god and a human fall in love?
c. Can humans ever reach the gods on their own, or do the gods have to go to them? What does that look like?
d. Why are certain sacrifices okay but others aren't?
Tune in next week to read a little more about religious systems and how religious systems impact culture.
J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she creates YouTube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, or would simply like to chat in a consultation, please let her know. Like what you see and want to get more content like this, or have your specific questions answered? Check out how you can support her on Patreon for as little as $3 a month.
There was no YouTube video this week due to technical difficulties.