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[Atheists & Agnostics] know more about your religion than you!

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Posts

  • JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Actually there's substantial evidence that, historically, almost all religious allegory was taken as allegory. In fact, if you ever have time to read the dryest, most insanely difficult to plow through book ever, read "Hamlet's Mill". It's a book about how huge numbers of our classic myths, legends, and religious stories may, in fact, be meticulous astronomical calculations and records, put into story form to prevent them from being forgotten.

    +1 to my reading list.

    JihadJesus on
  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    It seems the thread is coming to an end.

    Should we open another one to discuss religion? Or would it turn into a holy flame war here?

    Archsorcerer on
    XBL - ArchSilversmith

    "We have years of struggle ahead, mostly within ourselves." - Made in USA
  • emnmnmeemnmnme Heard about this on conservative radio:Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    It seems the thread is coming to an end.

    Should we open another one to discuss religion? Or would it turn into a holy flame war here?

    If you create a new thread, be sure to give it the title 'lolfundies'.

    emnmnme on
  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    [Religion] lolfundies, holy flame war here?

    Kierkegaard as the start topic?

    Archsorcerer on
    XBL - ArchSilversmith

    "We have years of struggle ahead, mostly within ourselves." - Made in USA
  • Namel3ssNamel3ss Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    JihadJesus wrote: »
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Well, technically whales are mammals.

    Most versions of the Bible describe the creature that swallowed Jonah as a "great fish" (Jonah 1:17 in the KJV uses "great fish", the NIV just says "fish"). The whale thing is interpretation. There's a great scene in "Religulous" where Bill Maher is asking a guy about "Jonah and the whale" and how the whole thing makes no literal sense, and the guy corrects him, noting that the text says "fish" and not "whale", as if that somehow makes it better.

    The ancient Hebrews didn't make a distinction between whales and fish (just like birds and bats in Leviticus). In the Old Testament Book of Jonah, the Hebrew is translated as "big/great fish". When Jonah is referred to in the New Testament, the creature in question is called "ketos megas". Ketos means "big fish", so the Greek emphasizes that this is a big, big fish. When the whole thing is first translated into Latin (which differentiates fish between piscis and cetus, with whales being included as cetus, though cetus may not exclusively refer to whales), the creature that swallows Jonah is referred to as "cetus". When we get into English translations of the Bible in the 16th century, people had a better idea that whales and fish aren't the same and "cetus" had come to refer to whales. Since the early English Bibles are translated from different sources (New Testament generally from the Latin vulgate, Old Testament from the Textus Recepticus in Greek), early translators translate "ketos megas" as "big fish" in the Old Testament Book of Jonah and the Latin "cetus" as "whale" in the New Testament references to Jonah.
    A gigantic fish that's very similar to a whale, then. So you're saying that clearly Jonah was swallowed whole by a whale shark, right? Because Jonah and the shark sounds pretty awesome...


    Not to mention that the whale shark is a filter feeder that consumes mostly plankton that are sifted down its throat around 3inches in diameter that bends before reaching its stomach.

    In fact there is no aquatic creature in known existence capable of getting a man into its stomach without taking one bite at a time. So, unless it went extinct and we have found no record of it, the story should go something like this:

    God was disappointed in Jonah for his disobedience so to show him the error of his ways. He designs a sea monster with a man habitat for a stomach and puts the creature on course with the ship Jonah is on. At which point, he causes a great storm in the sea and the sailors on board postulate that "hey, this storm must be because someone here has angered supernatural beings, not because we are out in the fucking sea or anything."
    They draw straws and Jonah gets tossed overboard to appease whatever angry God caused the wind. As it turns out, they were right and the storm stops; at which point, the designer monster swallows Jonah whole. At which point, Jonah looks at this chain of events and is thankful; he can clearly see now.

    Namel3ss on
    May the wombat of happiness snuffle through your underbrush.
  • RiemannLivesRiemannLives Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    But the study says that a lot of people don't eve went to Catholic School for 12 years and that one would probably trip me up a bit. I always get a little confused between Nazareth and Bethelham. :P

    This is my new pet peeve.

    Nazareth didn't even exist then, and Jesus fairly clearly had no relationship to Nazareth, it's the result of a confusion with "the Nazerean" and subsequent mistranslatations

    Eeeeee.

    Are you saying it did not exist because Josephus doesn't mention it during his history of the Judean war?

    edit: By which I mean, the Nazerith described in the NT is a tink podunk town and there's not any particular reason it should have been mentioned just like hundreds of other little villiages that were not.

    RiemannLives on
  • RiemannLivesRiemannLives Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Actually there's substantial evidence that, historically, almost all religious allegory was taken as allegory. In fact, if you ever have time to read the dryest, most insanely difficult to plow through book ever, read "Hamlet's Mill". It's a book about how huge numbers of our classic myths, legends, and religious stories may, in fact, be meticulous astronomical calculations and records, put into story form to prevent them from being forgotten.

    I do not buy that at all. There was a fad for a while in the mid 20th century to ascribe atronomicial meaning to all kinds of things where it just does not fit. Especially megalithic structures in northwest europe (various standing stones, henges, long barrows, "causwayed camps" etc...).

    That book in particular is pretty much total pseudoscientific wankery. I'm sorry, but there's really no other way to describe it. It's right up there with Atlantis and the healing power of crystals (and was written during that exact era).

    RiemannLives on
  • RiemannLivesRiemannLives Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Oh, one other thing while I'm here: I was rightfully corrected last page. The current edition of the Oxford Annotated Bible is the 4th. Not the Third as I said. It just came out last year and I've been using my 3rd edition for a decade now and keep typing "3rd" out of habit.

    RiemannLives on
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    But the study says that a lot of people don't eve went to Catholic School for 12 years and that one would probably trip me up a bit. I always get a little confused between Nazareth and Bethelham. :P

    This is my new pet peeve.

    Nazareth didn't even exist then, and Jesus fairly clearly had no relationship to Nazareth, it's the result of a confusion with "the Nazerean" and subsequent mistranslatations

    Eeeeee.

    Are you saying it did not exist because Josephus doesn't mention it during his history of the Judean war?

    edit: By which I mean, the Nazerith described in the NT is a tink podunk town and there's not any particular reason it should have been mentioned just like hundreds of other little villiages that were not.

    Both Luke and Matthew say he lived in Nazareth despite being born in Bethlehem. They both have different justifications for why that was, but it wouldn't make sense for them to come up with a justification for him to have lived in Nazareth if he really lived in Bethlehem.

    Couscous on
  • RiemannLivesRiemannLives Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    But the study says that a lot of people don't eve went to Catholic School for 12 years and that one would probably trip me up a bit. I always get a little confused between Nazareth and Bethelham. :P

    This is my new pet peeve.

    Nazareth didn't even exist then, and Jesus fairly clearly had no relationship to Nazareth, it's the result of a confusion with "the Nazerean" and subsequent mistranslatations

    Eeeeee.

    Are you saying it did not exist because Josephus doesn't mention it during his history of the Judean war?

    edit: By which I mean, the Nazerith described in the NT is a tink podunk town and there's not any particular reason it should have been mentioned just like hundreds of other little villiages that were not.

    Both Luke and Matthew say he lived in Nazareth despite being born in Bethlehem. They both have different justifications for why that was, but it wouldn't make sense for them to come up with a justification for him to have lived in Nazareth if he really lived in Bethlehem.

    Well, actually there kind of is which Apo alluded to. Basicially, the Old Testament does not make predictions about a guy like Jesus. At all. Seriously, shit is just not in there which is a large part of why Christianity caught on so well among gentiles and not well at all among jews (which is who Jesus was interested in preaching to).

    So, to make things work out, Matthew and Luke (but especially Matthew) are really into taking out-of-context statements or predictions from various bits of the OT and then trying to apply them to Jesus. In a lot of ways, Matthew is the story from Mark with prophesy fufilment tacked on and a very pro-Jewish spin.

    One of those statements is about a "Nazorene" being a particuarly holy person which may have given reason for claiming Jesus as being from "Nazareth" (the names being similiar but the meanings different ... which is pretty much standard operating procedure for how fast and loose the NT plays the OT).


    Edit: However, the name "Nazareth" is as good as any for whatever tiny villiage Jesus happened to grow up in. Though, if you read the different gospels carefully, there are very contradictory stories about his birth and how he ended up there.

    RiemannLives on
  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    But the study says that a lot of people don't eve went to Catholic School for 12 years and that one would probably trip me up a bit. I always get a little confused between Nazareth and Bethelham. :P

    This is my new pet peeve.

    Nazareth didn't even exist then, and Jesus fairly clearly had no relationship to Nazareth, it's the result of a confusion with "the Nazerean" and subsequent mistranslatations

    Eeeeee.

    Are you saying it did not exist because Josephus doesn't mention it during his history of the Judean war?

    edit: By which I mean, the Nazerith described in the NT is a tink podunk town and there's not any particular reason it should have been mentioned just like hundreds of other little villiages that were not.

    Both Luke and Matthew say he lived in Nazareth despite being born in Bethlehem. They both have different justifications for why that was, but it wouldn't make sense for them to come up with a justification for him to have lived in Nazareth if he really lived in Bethlehem.

    Agreed. If anything, it's the other way around.
    Wikipedia wrote:
    Many modern scholars question whether Jesus was really born in Bethlehem, and suggest that the different Gospel accounts were invented to present the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlehem#Birthplace_of_Jesus

    gjaustin on
  • RiemannLivesRiemannLives Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Oh, one other thing, the history of western religions - especially Christianity and Judaism, is one of those things which wikipedia is unfortunatly absolutely terrible at and should not be trusted as a sole source.

    Their policies mean the articles tend to give way too much credence to fundamentalists and fringe groups.

    RiemannLives on
  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Oh, one other thing, history - especially everything, is one of those things which wikipedia is unfortunatly absolutely terrible at and should not be trusted as a sole source.

    Their policies mean the articles tend to give way too much credence to fundamentalists and fringe groups.

    gjaustin on
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The problem with wikipedia is they have no spine to actually determine what is correct based on evidence so every article devolves into a bullet point list of each sides statements.

    This is why they are a fantastic source for noncontroversial subjects but terrible for something like religion.

    Styrofoam Sammich on
  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The problem with wikipedia is they have no spine to actually determine what is correct based on evidence so every article devolves into a bullet point list of each sides statements.

    This is why they are a fantastic source for noncontroversial subjects but terrible for something like religion.

    And even if they did, you never know if someone just made some completely bogus change 5 minutes before you looked at the page.

    Still, it frequently ends up being much better than whatever other site pops up on Google. At least Wikipedia tries to present both sides and not be blatantly wrong.

    gjaustin on
  • Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Actually there's substantial evidence that, historically, almost all religious allegory was taken as allegory. In fact, if you ever have time to read the dryest, most insanely difficult to plow through book ever, read "Hamlet's Mill". It's a book about how huge numbers of our classic myths, legends, and religious stories may, in fact, be meticulous astronomical calculations and records, put into story form to prevent them from being forgotten.

    I do not buy that at all. There was a fad for a while in the mid 20th century to ascribe atronomicial meaning to all kinds of things where it just does not fit. Especially megalithic structures in northwest europe (various standing stones, henges, long barrows, "causwayed camps" etc...).

    That book in particular is pretty much total pseudoscientific wankery. I'm sorry, but there's really no other way to describe it. It's right up there with Atlantis and the healing power of crystals (and was written during that exact era).

    You've read it, then? How recently? I read it like six years ago (literally because I lost a bet) so I'm not sure I remember all the specifics. The writing is a bit disjointed and rambling and I could feel the authors stretching at some points, but many of the theories made quite a bit of sense. Also, the author wasn't just some random crystal-humper or mystic... he was a professor at MIT who studied the history of science and his writing partner was an ethnographer from an equally prestigious university in Frankfurt. Lumping them in with pop philosophers and pseudoscientists is blatantly wrong. This isn't just a bit of pseudomysticism cranked out in the 60s, rather it's the last work of an eccentric scholar with impressive credentials.

    That's not to say the book is perfect: Santillana was in poor health when they were working on it and the work clearly suffered. It may be the last, flawed theory of an eccentric scholar. I'm not saying I believe his theories are inviolate, I just believe they are interesting and have at least some theoretical foundation.

    I don't see what's pseudoscientific about proposing that parallel mythologies may arise from different cultures creating stories based on observations of the same astronomical phenomena. There's no other good explanation for why we have so many deep parallels in the mythologies of wildly divergent cultures. The idea that they were based on primitive astronomy seemed substantially LESS hoodoo than most of the other explanations I've heard. We have a lot of theories as to why cultures that have been geographically separated for millenia develop parallel myths... but none of them make any goddamm sense. For an anthropologist it's one of our most awesome and frustrating mysteries, and Hamlet's mill offers a possible explanation that is at least as plausible as, say, "the collective unconscious." (Note: I'm a Jungian and am a big fan of the collective unconscious. I actually prefer that explanation, but this one was interesting enough to cause me to at least consider it).

    Basically the prevailing theory about the development of mythology and its relationship to astronomy is this:

    1) Mythology comes from basically nowhere... people just make it up. Then they do some astronomical observations and name things they observe after those mythological figures. Finally, we actually learn how to study Astronomy.

    Hamlet's Mill instead posits the following

    2) A long time ago people looked at the stars and kept loose track of their movements in a sort of primitive Astronomy. They they based myths on these observations. Later we rediscovered these observations through modern Astronomy.

    Now a lot of this rests upon the idea that pre-greek civilizations may have discovered and been aware of the Precession of the Axis, and that a lot of stories are based on the precession. There's no concrete proof that this happened, sure, but we have very little knowledge of many early civilizations. The idea that they might have noticed and remarked upon something as monumental as the precession doesn't seem that outlandish.

    Edit: Precession. Stupid flawed spellcheck.

    Cultural Geek Girl on
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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Sometimes a story about a jackass snake causing the first humans to sin and get kicked out of a utopia is a story about a jackass snake causing the first humans to sin and get kicked out of a utopia. Well, that and a story about why snakes don't have legs.

    Couscous on
  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Hamlet's Mill instead posits the following

    2) A long time ago people looked at the stars and kept loose track of their movements in a sort of primitive Astronomy. They they based myths on these observations. Later we rediscovered these observations through modern Astronomy.

    1) Perhaps many human societies had thunder and fertility gods because many human societies had thunder, and, well, sex. There are plenty of parallels in material conditions to draw.

    2) Socrates was put to death for promoting atheism, among other things. This is not consistent with 'myth-as-astronomical-record-keeping.' If myths were just mnemonics, then it would be a mystery why anyone actually believed them. And there is evidence that people actually believed them.

    3) The coincidence of a wide variety of human societies all independently deciding to encode astronomy into their myths is actually just as perplexing as the coincidence it is meant to explain, that of a wide variety of human societies all independently having similar myths.
    Generally, the more batshit-crazy a religious belief is, the stronger the ecumenical response to non-faith usually is. It's why you don't see too many Buddhist martyrs.

    I don't think that's actually true. Self-immolation, as in Viet Nam, is a buddhist martyring practice, for instance. I think that in the west we tend to think of Buddhism as more sane simply because we have less exposure to the full catalog and cultural history of it's insanity.

    MrMister on
  • taoist drunktaoist drunk Registered User
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    Generally, the more batshit-crazy a religious belief is, the stronger the ecumenical response to non-faith usually is. It's why you don't see too many Buddhist martyrs.

    I don't think that's actually true. Self-immolation, as in Viet Nam, is a buddhist martyring practice, for instance. I think that in the west we tend to think of Buddhism as more sane simply because we have less exposure to the full catalog and cultural history of it's insanity.

    Yeah, hunger strikes and self-immolation are both pretty common Buddhist martyr techniques. And the 2007 anti-government protests in Myanmar were led by Buddhist monks, who in turn became martyrs (because martyrdom exists relationally; if someone kills herself for her faith, she's only a martyr if people later regard her as a martyr). And those are just recent examples. I'm not well versed in the history of Buddhism, but I don't think the Buddhist martyr tradition began in 1963.

    taoist drunk on
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I don't think that's actually true. Self-immolation, as in Viet Nam, is a buddhist martyring practice, for instance. I think that in the west we tend to think of Buddhism as more sane simply because we have less exposure to the full catalog and cultural history of it's insanity.
    Tibetan Buddhism be crazy.

    Couscous on
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    I don't think that's actually true. Self-immolation, as in Viet Nam, is a buddhist martyring practice, for instance. I think that in the west we tend to think of Buddhism as more sane simply because we have less exposure to the full catalog and cultural history of it's insanity.
    Tibetan Buddhism be crazy.

    dem Buddhists be craaaaazy

    Styrofoam Sammich on
  • nescientistnescientist Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    1) Mythology comes from basically nowhere... people just make it up.

    This sounds familiar... where have I heard this before... oh, yes!
    "Life comes from basically nowhere... amino acids just fell into place like a 747 being assembled by a tornado"

    Admittedly, abiogenesis isn't that much more sophisticated an explanation than this, and I suspect that much the same applies to anthropological explanations for the apparent monomyth. But to claim that anthropology has simply thrown up it's hands and said "meh, people just make it up" on the subject of mythology is a deliberate oversimplification.

    nescientist on
    Carl Sagan wrote:
    The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.
  • nescientistnescientist Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    I think that in the west we tend to think of Buddhism as more sane simply because we have less exposure to the full catalog and cultural history of it's insanity.

    A major component of this, at least in my own case, is that some of the versions of Buddhism that were basically manufactured here on American soil in the '60s and '70s were deliberately reworked to excise mysticism and other crazy. Which isn't to say that Chogyam Trungpa wasn't crazy, but he was a pretty different flavor of crazy from your self-immolating monk types.

    nescientist on
    Carl Sagan wrote:
    The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.
  • Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Man, I don't even completely buy this whole Hamlet's Mill thing myself. In fact, I argued pretty strongly against it with the guy who made me read it when I lost that bet. That said, I still think the book has some merit, and you guys are disagreeing for the wrong reasons.
    MrMister wrote: »
    Hamlet's Mill instead posits the following

    2) A long time ago people looked at the stars and kept loose track of their movements in a sort of primitive Astronomy. They they based myths on these observations. Later we rediscovered these observations through modern Astronomy.

    1) Perhaps many human societies had thunder and fertility gods because many human societies had thunder, and, well, sex. There are plenty of parallels in material conditions to draw.

    This isn't the kind of thing I'm talking about, though. It's more akin to "why do a large number of societies have a myth about a mill, spindle, or other rotating object in the heavens which is destroyed by a catastrophe and leads to the destruction of an old king and the raising of a new one?"

    That's the only example I remember from the actual book, since it's the one the title is based on. There are a huge number of others... and most of them rely on several cultures having tales in which very specific things are repeated: set numbers of years, set numbers of people, meetings at a common location. It isn't that these myths all concern fundamental human experiences, rather that they share some unusual details.

    Could all this be coincidence? OF COURSE. Probably is. Or it's related to the collective unconscious in some way. Or these cultures had interactions with each other that we're unaware of. But it isn't just this guy saying "all cultures have a fertility god because they accurately observed Venus." Rather he's saying "these stories that all use these specific numbers and these corresponding events may be describing the same astronomical occurrence."
    MrMister wrote: »
    2) Socrates was put to death for promoting atheism, among other things. This is not consistent with 'myth-as-astronomical-record-keeping.' If myths were just mnemonics, then it would be a mystery why anyone actually believed them. And there is evidence that people actually believed them.

    I'm not saying that nobody ever believed in these things. Nobody's claiming that. The book is suggesting that some people understood what the hell these stories meant in relation to astronomy, while the rest just learned them as pure stories.

    Actually there's a section in here directly about Socrates. In Plato's Phaedo he talks about the last things Socrates said before his death. Some of it is a weird description of the earth as a 12-sided shape like a ball made of tessellated leather. Then he goes into details about the weird rivers that are underneath this dodecahedron. Hamlet's mill posits that weird, senseless seeming descriptions of the "true earth" that Socrates related to Plato on his deathbed, passages like this:
    There are many large streams of every sort, but among these many there are four that I would mention in particular. The largest, the one which flows all round in a circle furthest from the centre, is that which is called Oceanus; over against this, and flowing in the opposite direction, is Acheron, which flows through many desert places and finally, as it flows under the earth, reaches the Acherusian lake, where the souls of most of the dead arrive and spend certain appointed periods; before being sent back again to the generations of living creatures. The third of these rivers issues forth between these two, and near the place where it issues forth it falls into a vast region burning with a great fire, and forms a marsh that is larger than our sea, balling with water and mud. Thence it makes its way, turbulent and muddy, and as it coils its way round inside the earth it arrives, among other places, at the borders of the Acherusian lake , but it does not mix with the water of the lake; and having coiled round many times beneath the earth, it flows back at a lower point in Tartarus. This is the river they call Pyriphlegethon, and volcanoes belch forth lava from it in various parts of the world. Over against this, again, the fourth river flows out, into a region that is terrible and wild, all of a steely blue-grey colour, called the Stygian region; and the marsh which the river forms as it flows in is called the Styx. After issuing into this marsh and receiving terrible powers in its waters, it sinks down into the earth, and coiling itself round proceeds in the opposite direction to that of Pyriphlegethon, and then meets it coming from the opposite way at the Acherusian lake. The water of this river likewise mixes with no other, but itself goes round in a circle and then flows back into Tartarus opposite to Pyriphlegethon; and the name of this river, according to the poets, is Cocytus.
    aren't just some dying guy trying to make an arcane philosophical point. Rather they suggest that Socrates' description of the the dodecahedral "true earth" that lies above us are, in fact, descriptions of astronomical phenomena.

    Maybe they aren't! Maybe they're giving Socrates way too much credit here, and the stuff he says at the end of the Phaedo is crazy nonsense that belies his essential lack of understanding about the nature of our planet, or some obscure metaphor about the afterlife or gods you say he was executed for not believing in. A lot of modern scholars DO believe that the dodecahedron, at least, represents the Zodiac and the Year. The question, then is this: if Socrates could do the whole elaborate metaphor for astronomical observations thing, why couldn't anyone before him have done the same thing?
    MrMister wrote: »
    3) The coincidence of a wide variety of human societies all independently deciding to encode astronomy into their myths is actually just as perplexing as the coincidence it is meant to explain, that of a wide variety of human societies all independently having similar myths.

    I'm not sure why you feel this way. Most cultures have myths that obviously and easily correspond to the movement of the sun and moon across the sky and the cyclical progression of the seasons. It's obvious that earlier cultures observed at least the sun and moon and were concsious of things like the solstices, the phases of the moon, etc. The question is... if societies based myths about sun and moon gods on their actual observation of the sun and moon, why couldn't they have based their stories about the Mars God on actual observation of the movement of Mars? Mars isn't that hard to see or track. Neither is Venus. You basically can't HELP seeing them in the sky.

    And that's essentially the point of the book: if we can believe that myths about (anthropomorphic representations of the) seasons come from observation of the seasons, and that myths about the sun and moon can come from observation of the sun and moon, why is it unreasonable to believe that myths about anthorpomorphised versions of Mars and Venus can't be based on observations of the movement of Mars and Venus in the heavens?

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  • MrMisterMrMister A pup must first get in the water to be successful as a seal!Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    This isn't the kind of thing I'm talking about, though. It's more akin to "why do a large number of societies have a myth about a mill, spindle, or other rotating object in the heavens which is destroyed by a catastrophe and leads to the destruction of an old king and the raising of a new one?"

    ...

    Most cultures have myths that obviously and easily correspond to the movement of the sun and moon across the sky and the cyclical progression of the seasons. It's obvious that earlier cultures observed at least the sun and moon and were concsious of things like the solstices, the phases of the moon, etc. The question is... if societies based myths about sun and moon gods on their actual observation of the sun and moon, why couldn't they have based their stories about the Mars God on actual observation of the movement of Mars? Mars isn't that hard to see or track. Neither is Venus. You basically can't HELP seeing them in the sky.

    I don't think that I properly understood the claim then. What I understood the claim to be was that myths were explicitly created as a record-keeping system for tracking fairly sophisticated astrological phenomena. That strikes me as more or less obviously ludicrous. That there could be some relation between mythology and relatively basic astrological observations, by contrast, seems fairly uncontroversial (and unexciting). Mythology anthropomorphizes all sorts of aspects of nature; why not the stars?

    When it comes to specific claims about particular mythologies being inspired by astrological observation, especially when this claim is put forward as a putative explanation of cross-cultural commonalities, the big worry is that the claim is just a glorified just-so story. If you mine the data enough and are selectively loose with your categories ("a mill, spindle, or rotating object", "raising of a new king") then you can find all sorts of commonalities even in more or less random data. Hell, people can find messages in the bible if they're allowed to gerrymander their search algorithms sufficiently.

    MrMister on
  • Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    This isn't the kind of thing I'm talking about, though. It's more akin to "why do a large number of societies have a myth about a mill, spindle, or other rotating object in the heavens which is destroyed by a catastrophe and leads to the destruction of an old king and the raising of a new one?"

    ...

    Most cultures have myths that obviously and easily correspond to the movement of the sun and moon across the sky and the cyclical progression of the seasons. It's obvious that earlier cultures observed at least the sun and moon and were concsious of things like the solstices, the phases of the moon, etc. The question is... if societies based myths about sun and moon gods on their actual observation of the sun and moon, why couldn't they have based their stories about the Mars God on actual observation of the movement of Mars? Mars isn't that hard to see or track. Neither is Venus. You basically can't HELP seeing them in the sky.

    I don't think that I properly understood the claim then. What I understood the claim to be was that myths were explicitly created as a record-keeping system for tracking fairly sophisticated astrological phenomena. That strikes me as more or less obviously ludicrous. That there could be some relation between mythology and relatively basic astrological observations, by contrast, seems fairly uncontroversial (and unexciting). Mythology anthropomorphizes all sorts of aspects of nature; why not the stars?

    When it comes to specific claims about particular mythologies being inspired by astrological observation, especially when this claim is put forward as a putative explanation of cross-cultural commonalities, the big worry is that the claim is just a glorified just-so story. If you mine the data enough and are selectively loose with your categories ("a mill, spindle, or rotating object", "raising of a new king") then you can find all sorts of commonalities even in more or less random data. Hell, people can find messages in the bible if they're allowed to gerrymander their search algorithms sufficiently.

    Start with myths based on relatively basic astronomical observations. The question then becomes "how much further is it possible they took these observations?" and "what is the cutoff point for phenomena ancient man could have plausibly recognized?" If ancient man could observe the sun and moon and the easiest-to-observe planets and base mythology on those, how much further could he have gotten? If ancient man was recording the position of Mars throughout the decades and centuries, what other astronomical observations might he have made?

    The specific question that Hamlet's Mill centers on is this: Could man have figured out the precession of the equinoxes and based some of his myths on that?

    We're not talking about ancient man observing things you can't see without a telescope. We're also not talking about all of myths comprising a secret language. The main question is: do you think it is completely unreasonable that several world cultures could have been aware of the precession of the equinoxes before around 150BC, the accepted date for its discovery? Is it possible that, say, ancient egypt may have had detailed enough astronomical data to know that, over centuries, there was a slight, miniscule change in the position of certain constellations? And if so, might they have incorporated this into their mythology?

    Let's look more closely at ancient Egypt (note: figures and dates are approximate):

    1) Let's say ancient Egyptians built a temple in 1900 BC. They build it to face constellation X on the vernal equinox.

    2) 700 years later in 1200 BC they realize that the temple is now around 10 degrees out of alignment (as it would be due to the Precession). They tear it down and rebuild it so it accurately faces constellation X on the vernal equinox again.

    3) The ancient Egyptians put 2 and 2 together. "Hey guys" they say "maybe the alignment of this constellation changes by 10 degrees every 700 years."

    Most scholars agree that the Egyptians based at least some of the orientation of their buildings on the position of certain astronomical bodies. There is a decent amount of evidence at Karnak that the Egyptians may have torn down old temples and rebuilt them to fix the alignment. It is point three where there is the most contention: is it possible that the Egyptians deduced the precession when they noticed that the alignment of stars changed over the centuries? There's no real way of knowing, but they certainly had a lot of data (over 2000 years worth of hieroglyphic writings, some of which reflected astronomical phenomena).

    If it is possible that the Egyptians may have noticed and developed stories about the Precession of the equinoxes, might the Sumerians (who were around at the same time and also possessed writing) have drawn similar conclusions?

    The answer to those questions is a pretty firm "maybe." There's a lot of evidence for detailed Egyptian stargazing, but no direct hieroglyphic evidence that they knew about the Precession. There are some Egyptian and Sumerian myths that seem to describe the precession, in the same way that other myths seem to relate to, say, the phases of the moon.

    It's all a question of time. Is it possible that humans had already noticed the precession in 3000 BC or 1000 BC, or are we reasonably certain that nobody figured it out before the ancient Greeks?

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  • The Muffin ManThe Muffin Man Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    Myths have plenty of value. Heracles' trials don't become less interesting because they didn't happen.

    Yeah but people don't insist (Well, SANE/MODERN people) that Heracle's trials are real and we should all live by the examples set by Our Lord Heracles, Strangler of fucking Lions.

    The Muffin Man on
  • KalTorakKalTorak Way up inside your butthole, Morty. WAAAAY up inside there.Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    Sometimes a story about a jackass snake causing the first humans to sin and get kicked out of a utopia is a story about a jackass snake causing the first humans to sin and get kicked out of a utopia. Well, that and a story about why snakes don't have legs.

    Snakes don't have legs because if they did they would look ridiculous.

    Also, 8:03

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhf2p6W2uzw&p=CF7D7F4ED87F6FA8&playnext=1&index=7

    KalTorak on
  • President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It said a slim majority of Protestants didn't know the Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther.

    Not to derail the derailing, but I'll reach back to the first page for this.

    Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 (to signal the onset of the Protestant reformation), but assorted groups had been arguing against the Catholic way of doing things for many years (there's a reason we have things like the Nicean Creed).

    Initially the church was small, so small divisions were addressed by councils of clergymen. They hammered out ideas of whether God and Jesus were one and the same or if they were technically individual gods. Transubstantiation also came up in this form; people have argued for centuries whether the bread and wine ingested as part of communion symbollically represent the body and blood of Christ or physically transubstantiate into blood and flesh (side note: this is one of the reasons Romans greatly disliked Christians - they didn't like cannibals).

    Sects like the Cathars, Paulicians and other more arbitrarily Christian groups had protested against the Catholic approach to religion centuries before Martin Luther arrived. The flashpoint for the Protestant reformation is Martin Luther, but depending on what sect you're adhering to, the actual origin of reforming or protesting the Catholic church could be linked to a much earlier date and patron.

    But then I've seen Lutherans who didn't know Lutheranism is Luther's eponymous sect.



    ...Also I don't know what's going on about this book people are talking about, but quite a few myths were started to attempt to explain why the world is the way it is or to maintain a more epic tradition of things that happened in the past. You've spent your entire life within 15 miles of your birthplace, why wouldn't the Gods live on an unreachable mountain 200 miles away?

    President Rex on
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    KalTorak wrote: »
    It said a slim majority of Protestants didn't know the Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther.

    Not to derail the derailing, but I'll reach back to the first page for this.

    Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 (to signal the onset of the Protestant reformation), but assorted groups had been arguing against the Catholic way of doing things for many years (there's a reason we have things like the Nicean Creed).

    Without the invention of the hammer and nail, the protestant reformation never would have occurred.

    Loren Michael on
    2ezikn6.jpg
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    Myths have plenty of value. Heracles' trials don't become less interesting because they didn't happen.

    Yeah but people don't insist (Well, SANE/MODERN people) that Heracle's trials are real and we should all live by the examples set by Our Lord Heracles, Strangler of fucking Lions.

    Of course not. Odin is obviously the better choice.

    Aesop's fables are better than most biblical parables anyway.
    One day an Ox-driver was taking the Ox-team and wagon along a road that skirted a ravine. The wagon tottered atop the ravine, and then slid down bringing the Oxen with it.
    The Driver turned to the Heavens, and prayed to Herakles to rescue the team. To the Driver's surprise, Herakles actually appeared and spoke:
    "First you climb down the ravine. Then put one hand to a wagon-wheel, and with the other hand goad the Oxen."
    A passenger ship carrying a rich Athenian, and many other people as well, capsized. Everyone began to swim towards the distant shore, but the Athenian cried louldly to the goddess Athena:
    "Save me, a citizen of your city, Athena, and I will offer you riches in thanksgiving."
    And with that the Athenian began to sink like a stone.
    Someone swimming nearby shouted, "Pray, yes. But you also must keep moving your arms, too!"

    One day a Woman was standing along the shoreline. She watched a passenger ship flounder in the water, and then quickly sink. No survivors reached the shore.
    The Woman cried out to the heavens that the Gods were unjust. She moaned that many innocent people had perished.
    "And why?" she cried out.
    "So that one guilty passenger could be punished," she answered herself.
    Just then an Ant bit her on the foot. The Woman quickly stomped on that Ant. In doing so, she crushed all the other Ants nearby.
    An Athenian and a Theban were on the road together, and passed the time in conversation, as is the way of travellers. After discussing a variety of subjects they began to talk about heroes, a topic that tends to be more fertile than edifying. Each of them was lavish in his praises of the heroes of his own city, until eventually the Theban asserted that Hercules was the greatest hero who had ever lived on earth, and now occupied a foremost place among the gods; while the Athenian insisted that Theseus was far superior, for his fortune had been in every way supremely blessed, whereas Hercules had at one time been forced to act as a servant. And he gained his point, for he was a very glib fellow, like all Athenians; so that the Theban, who was no match for him in talking, cried at last in some disgust, "All right, have your way; I only hope that, when our heroes are angry with us, Athens may suffer from the anger of Hercules, and Thebes only from that of Theseus."

    Couscous on
  • LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    LadyM on
  • Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    LadyM wrote: »
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Cultural Geek Girl on
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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I like the funnier ones.
    Once, at the beginning of the dry season, a frog and gazelle had a race. When the frog lost, he asked the gazelle to give him another chance to compete. He said, "Can you come back to life? Burn down my house, and see what happens!"

    The gazelle proceeded to burn down the little house, with the frog and his wife still inside.

    Then all the neighbours wept for the couple.

    Six months passed. The rain began to fall and that very first night, when the gazelle went to drink at the water hole, he was amazed to see the frog and his family alive in the water!

    "Where have you been?" asked the gazelle.

    "Since the day you killed us, we were in the land of the dead," replied the frog.

    "So, what's it like over there?" asked the gazelle.

    "Very pleasant," responded the frog. "Don't you see how healthy we are? The Lord of the Dead has truly blessed us."

    Now the gazelle was not only curious, but jealous. He burned down his own house with all his family inside it. Sad to say, they never came back to life. The ignorant gazelle did not realize that frogs could "sleep" in the earth between rainy seasons.

    Couscous on
  • NarianNarian Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    LadyM wrote: »
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Does not mean they all are nor that those that are are necessarily correct.

    Narian on
    Narian.gif
  • Phoenix-DPhoenix-D Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Depends if the stories were before or after said events. While the stars/sun/moon were important in many ancient religions, its just as easily possible that those were "Oh shit something terrifying and weird happened, explain it kthnx" myths.

    Phoenix-D on
  • Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Narian wrote: »
    LadyM wrote: »
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Does not mean they all are nor that those that are are necessarily correct.

    I'm... not entirely sure what you're saying here.

    Nobody's claiming that all myths are astrological interpretations. The closest anyone in this thread has come to such a claim is me saying: "It's a book about how huge numbers of our classic myths, legends, and religious stories may, in fact, be meticulous astronomical calculations and records, put into story form to prevent them from being forgotten."

    I don't say all myths are astrological interpretations. I don't even say say most. I said I'd read an interesting book that claimed that many myths may be based on astronomical calculations.

    My reference to Hamlet's Mill and its theories was in direct response to someone else claiming that historically most myths and parables were all interpreted literally, and that interpreting them as allegory was a modern invention. I disagreed with this idea and was arguing that it is very likely that, throughout history, many people have realized that myths, legends, and religious parables aren't literal occurrences but are instead either representative or symbolic. In some cases they're metaphors. In some cases they may be records of astronomical occurrences. In some cases they're exaggerations of historical events like wars or famines.
    Phoenix-D wrote: »
    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Depends if the stories were before or after said events. While the stars/sun/moon were important in many ancient religions, its just as easily possible that those were "Oh shit something terrifying and weird happened, explain it kthnx" myths.

    A little research into Chinese history may be revelatory in this case. The main legend I'm referring to comes from ancient China, where the astronomers of the court consistently predicted eclipses starting about four thousand years ago. When the court astronomers failed to predict an eclipse in approximately 2100 BC they were executed for failing to perform their duties. The emperor was upset because he had not been prepared to scare away the dragon eating the sun - even though the eclipse naturally ended anyway.

    This illustrates my point exactly. The Emperor may have believed the myth literally or he may have merely believed the tradition of scaring away the dragon was important to his power and dignity. The court astronomers, however, clearly had access to data that allowed them to predict the eclipses (there are centuries worth of Chinese eclipse records that document the eclipses being predicted in advance, and this is the only recorded case of them failing to accurately do so) - it may have been that they were taught the legend as a tool for determining when new eclipses were going to take place, while the emperor may have been taught the myth as a literal account of a danger he needed to protect the world from.

    It could be that the Emperor knew the truth as well and was just so angered by the astronomer's screw-ups that he had them executed anyway, even though their failure to predict the eclipse didn't actually doom the world.

    Cultural Geek Girl on
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  • President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Narian wrote: »
    LadyM wrote: »
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    Does not mean they all are nor that those that are are necessarily correct.

    I'm... not entirely sure what you're saying here.

    Nobody's claiming that all myths are astrological interpretations. The closest anyone in this thread has come to such a claim is me saying: "It's a book about how huge numbers of our classic myths, legends, and religious stories may, in fact, be meticulous astronomical calculations and records, put into story form to prevent them from being forgotten."

    I don't say all myths are astrological interpretations. I don't even say say most. I said I'd read an interesting book that claimed that many myths may be based on astronomical calculations.


    Most cultures had a caste of priests dedicated to record keeping. Generally this knowledge was initially formulated via astronomical observance long before any calculating took place (if the giant river you're next to floods every 180 times the sun rises, then you may figure there's something important about 180 day cycles and learn that the floods you depend on for food are bi-annual occurences). The knowledge was practically preserved because most cultures relied heavily on knowing what time of the year it was.

    However, I'm not familiar with any myths that explain cyclical events with the precision you're talking about. Myths began as oral traditions, as such it would be incredibly difficult to ensure each storyteller remembered comprehensive information "The hunter would come out to shoot his volley of arrows at the celestial deer after the first snowfall" could be indicative of a constellation only visible during winter, but that's neither exact nor reliable.

    Generally it's things like "Bob and his chariot cross the horizon to light his fire ball and comes back the next morning to bring us light." They're not "Bob will cross the distant horizon at 4:38 AM and light will appear, and then at 8:24PM his light will burn out and he'll need to fetch a new one and then the next day Bob will cross the horizon at 4:39 AM..." Even the myriad myths surrounding the Great Deluge (i.e. "Noah's story") all likely refer back to a singular cataclysmic event in Mesopotamian history (potentially the flood of the Persian Gulf or Black Sea, or simply a season of torrential rains).
    My reference to Hamlet's Mill and its theories was in direct response to someone else claiming that historically most myths and parables were all interpreted literally, and that interpreting them as allegory was a modern invention. I disagreed with this idea and was arguing that it is very likely that, throughout history, many people have realized that myths, legends, and religious parables aren't literal occurrences but are instead either representative or symbolic. In some cases they're metaphors. In some cases they may be records of astronomical occurrences. In some cases they're exaggerations of historical events like wars or famines.

    Whether or not most people took mythological tales seriously is incredibly difficult to determine. Unlike today, very few people were capable of expressing their doubts or beliefs in religious matters in a permanent fashion. But what difference does it make if a titan gave a man's ancestors the capacity to make fire or if the story is just an allegory for a group of nomads who stumbled upon the secret of firemaking? He can use fire now.

    Take for instance a fundamentalist Christian who believes every word of the bible is true, and another who is Christian but attempts to reconcile scientific discoveries with theology. How does believing a man put two of every creature on a ship impact someone's life more than believing Noah's tale is representative of floods' great power and regenerative properties in the sense of agriculture and hunting (short answer: aside from crazies trying to find the ark, it doesn't).

    Unfortunately we can't easily extrapolate our experiences and system of thought to people who came before us. The vast differences in modern cultures (e.g. LadyM's experience with Indian parables) often make it difficult to commit to another culture's thought processes even when we can openly converse with living members of the culture.

    Now try to put yourself in a culture where you get fire from a communal furnace and a group of priests who worship the fire god can make fire from stone. Where the men go to raid a neighboring city-state while the crops grow, but return to peace for harvesting. Where your evenings of respite are hearing storytellers repeat stories of distant lands and personages and where you retire to bed when the sun goes down.

    President Rex on
  • Casually HardcoreCasually Hardcore Once an Asshole. Trying to be better. Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    So I read some of the essays in the 'Oxford' edition of the bible (specifically how to read the bible) and it actually makes the bible make a lot more sense. Too bad a lot of Christians that I know seem to have never read this essay, or decided that sounding like a raging lunatic is a better option.

    I don't know. Without a childhood worth of 'This is the word of God. All of it is true!' I can't view this book as something more then what the Homer's Odyssey is now currently, a collection of literature works that incorporates both mythical and historical events to tell a good story. I honestly don't see why it haves to be something more.

    Casually Hardcore on
  • LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    LadyM wrote: »
    The idea of myths being some elaborate system to track the stars seems really, really far-fetched. The common denominator is that they all spring from the human psyche . . . That's why there are similarities.

    That being said, I read a book of old Indian (as in "from India") fables once and it was really striking how some of the morals were not at all what you'd find in western fables. The one that particularly stood out to me was one about how a couple had five daughters with speech impediments. The village matchmaker was coming to look them over and their parents told the girls firmly not to speak the entire time she was there. They told the matchmaker that the girls had sore throats, but the oldest girl forgot to keep silent and revealed her speech impediment at one point . . . According to the ethnographer who'd collected the story, this symbolized how the oldest daughter dashed the chances of the younger daughters (for marriage) through her flaws.

    I found a lot of the fables in that book very unsatisfying from my western preconceptions of how a story "should" go.

    So legends about someone eating or stealing the sun (or a light or creator god going away to hide at proscribed times) are not related to the tracking and prediction of eclipses, even if the years cited in the stories perfectly correspond with times when we know there were eclipses?

    A story about someone swallowing the sun / fire could be inspired by an eclipse, sure. But "most fables"? The movements of the heavens were not the only things that interested people of various cultures. Relationships between humans and nature, humans and other humans, the natural progression of life--these are all things that early fables and myths may make commentary about. Now, sometimes the stars/moon/sun tie into this, like a connection between a constellation and the growing season. But not always.

    Consider the following Native American fable (spoiler'd for longness):
    One day Wolf said to his brother, Coyote. "I would like some seeds. I like them better than meat. Go to your aunt's place and get some for me." Coyote said, "We have no relatives." Wolf said, "Yes; we have. You go over there and see."

    Coyote went out to find the seeds and met two girl cousins, two bear cubs. They looked like twins. They were gathering seeds. Coyote talked to them for a little while. Then he choked both of them; they died. 36 He laid them side by side and covered them up with a rabbit-skin blanket. Then he started to gather seeds.

    About sundown, Coyote's aunt, Bear, came to where the girls were. She was carrying seeds. She said, "What are you doing there, sleeping at this time?" She walked over to them, and pushed and pinched them, trying to wake them up. When they didn't move she looked under the blanket and saw that they were dead. This made her angry. She ran to Coyote and clawed all the meat off his back with her fingers. Coyote howled, "Wheeeeee." Then he ran away.

    Coyote covered his back with a blanket and went home without his seeds.

    When he arrived at his home, Wolf asked for the seeds. Coyote said, "I did not see any." Wolf, who knew everything, said "Yes, you did. Why do you cover your back? I know you killed those girls and your aunt clawed you." Coyote admitted that this was so.

    Wolf wished Coyote asleep. He had this power. Wolf then went out hunting and killed a very small fawn. He cut the meat off its back in thin strips. It was very smooth and tender. When he got home, Coyote was still curled up asleep. Wolf slipped Coyote's blanket off and mended his back with the fawn's back muscles. He made it smooth, just like new.

    In the morning, Coyote stretched himself and felt his back. He said, "My back meat has returned. Last night it was gone and there were just bones back there, but now it has come back. It is fine and smooth!"

    Wolf said to Coyote, "Now you be good. You are always fooling me. Don't go back and bother your aunt. But, if you do, be sure to skin her and cut up all the meat and bring it home. Don't leave any of it."

    Coyote said he would not go back, but he went nevertheless. He met Bear and cut her throat. He skinned her and cut up all the meat and wrapped it in the skin, but he forgot a piece of tripe. On the way home he remembered the tripe, and what Wolf had said about bringing all the meat home, so he went back for it. The Tripe had moved to the north. Coyote chased it but could not catch it. He asked, "What are you doing?" Tripe said, "I am well now. I am going to tell my people what you have done to my daughters." Coyote said, "Go ahead. I am glad."

    When Coyote returned to the camp with the meat, he told Wolf he had brought it all home. Wolf said, "No you didn't. You had better watch out. When you see your people, you will find out why." Coyote said, "There are no people here. What is the matter?" Wolf only said, "In a few days you will see."

    In a few days Wolf said to Coyote, "Stand away from the fire and look to the north." Coyote said, "Why should I? It is cold." But he looked, and in the north there was a crowd of people. They looked black in the distance. There was lightning. Finally Coyote said, "It looks like people coming closer. I can see arms and legs. You look, Wolf." Wolf would not look, but he said to Coyote, "You had better pack everything, and move away." Coyote said, "Why should I move?"

    Wolf went out to see the people coming. The men in the crowd shot Wolf and he died. Then they skinned him, and taking the skin with them they went back to the north. Coyote was afraid, but he followed their tracks until he came to a big camp. The people had made things ready for a circle dance around a fire.

    Coyote didn't dare go into the camp, but stayed on the outside, watching them. An old woman came up to him there and said, "Maybe you are Coyote." Coyote said "What is this Coyote?" The old woman said, "He lives at Tin Mountain (i. e., Charleston Peak), Coyote said, "What is he, a bad Indian?" She said, "I think you must be Coyote." He said, "I come from the north, but my grandfather told me about Coyote's brother, Wolf, who lives on Tin Mountain. Have you ever heard of him?" The old woman said, "Yes, my son has killed Wolf. My people have Wolf's hide. At sundown we will dance all night." The old woman then told Coyote that during the dance she tended the children of the dancers. She gathered them all around her and covered them all up with Wolf's hide. She said that was why she was crying. She told him that during the night while the children slept she, too, could dance a little, but in the morning the children would cry, "Mama, mama, come and take care of me."

    When Coyote heard this, he had an idea. He killed the old woman. He beat her and beat her and broke all her bones. He then made a little opening in her skin and pulled all the bones out and made a sack. He climbed into this sack and looked just like the old woman. He took her stick and hobbled into the camp. The children all cried, "Grandma is coming." After sundown, the people all said, "Mama, look after the babies while we dance."

    While the people were dancing, Coyote quietly choked the children to death. He held their noses, and choked them. The people thought the children were asleep and they asked him to dance. Coyote said, "All right." Then he jumped out of the old woman's skin and put on Wolf's hide. He ran out of the house shouting, "I am the man you killed," and then fled from the camp.

    The people followed him, but he ran, ran, ran, ran, and finally came to a wooded mountain. Here the people lost the track and returned home. Coyote walked back to the place where Wolf had been killed. Wolf's carcass was all dried up and stiff like wood. Very carefully, he fitted Wolf's skin over the carcass.

    In the morning he went out to look and saw that the nose had moved a little and was slightly wet. The next morning Coyote was awakened by hearing Wolf howl. He got up to look, but found that Wolf had gone to the northeast. Wolf was alive but he was very angry.

    He left Tin Mountain and never came back. That is why there are no wolves or bears on Tin Mountain now.

    I think a lot of fables are jumbles like that--maybe something that starts as a simple story gets added onto or altered or eventually splits into two separate stories. To say "It's a way of remembering the movement of the stars" . . . Well, in a general sense of "the moon waxes or wanes", "sometimes there are eclipses", or "the sun rises and sets every day", in that sense I agree that is the purpose of some stories. (Usually not in a very hidden way, but more like "lemme tell you about the tarantula that pulls Sun through the sky.") Or in reference to seasonal events--"when this constellation is in the sky, it's the planting season." But "meticulous astronomical calculations"? No. These fables and myths begin as oral histories. They change from speaker to speaker, things are added or left out. Stories are merged, or one story splits into two. The fable above, it probably didn't start out as a story about why there weren't wolves and bears on Tin Mountain, but that's where it ended up--along with "be careful who you mess with, they make seek vengeance" and "don't waste parts of a kill."

    LadyM on
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