Why We Create Myths

In Door of Return by Akilah Walcott

Designed by Nabra Badr

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved stories. I’ve spent years of my life fascinated with books that kept me on the edge of my seat, tales so gripping that I could almost feel the emotions as they jumped off the pages. And it never matters that the character is merely just an imaginary being because words can paint a picture so vivid in your imagination that you hear music, you feel fear, you feel love. That’s how powerful storytelling is. 

Myths are the world’s oldest form of storytelling. The term “myth” comes from the Greek word “mythos”, meaning story or tale. Myths were generally delivered by word of mouth or through song, but either way they were created to help people make sense of the world and their place in it.

“A myth is… a story handed down in oral form from our forefathers which explain reality, concepts and beliefs and further serve as explanations of natural events such as creations, origin of things, history of a race or a people.”

Humans are story-tellers by nature. Having questions unanswered leaves us feeling perplexed, as so we must create stories to make those questions answerable. But myths are not just products of imagination, they are direct expressions of reality. The universe is full of stories, much like the creatures in it. And the subject of myths often reflect collective concerns of humans through history–birth, death, good, evil.

Myths also act as mirrors reflecting back to ourselves. They tell the tales of ordinary people that have experienced extraordinary challenges. If told in the form of stories, the character is required to look deep within themselves and harness their creativity in the midst of conflict, learning new lessons and rel-learning forgotten ones as they work towards defeating the evil. The feeling of triumph we feel when goodness wins is like a silent prayer answered. We feel hope that we can each overcome our own challenges in extraordinary ways. I think that myths were created as a bridge between imagination and reality, allowing the lines to blur so much so that certain aspects of our imaginative experience can become just as mundane as they are magical. It allows us to hold up a mirror to our individual experience and recognize the extraordinarily complex stories within ourselves. We discover the hero and the villain in each other. 

Myths transcend time and answer timeless questions–who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. It is because of this that we can use the proverbs we’ve been told as children to look within the minds of the present and revisit the minds of the culturally distant past. 

Caribbean and African folklore is powerful. These tales tell origin stories, stories of heroes, of tricksters, of survival and resistance. They are the collective tales told by the people that came before us. Proverbs have been passed down and used to connect us all  to our past and purpose, and provide insight into our present and future. We tap into our cultural narratives and collective wisdom as each story teller adds a new layer of their experience through history. It is so easy to forget the power of our cultural proverbs and what they have to offer us. It is my hope that this volume will get you reacquainted.      

                    Works Cited

Jaja, J. (2012, January 4). Myths in African concept of reality . Retrieved from International Journal of Educational Administration and Policy Studies .