Do you have any advice if someone wants to create an entirely new mythology for their story?
Mythology is a human creation which serves as a way to make
sense to the world, surroundings and, mostly, natural events. Mythology tells
the story of origins of the world, of people, of elements, and such. My approach to the creation of new mythology will have the
geography as the foundation for mythology. The reason for this is that we try
to explain, or find a reason, to what we see, hear, or sense. I can not
explain, even with a myth, snow if I have never seen it, or heard about it. I
can not explain the Aurora Borealis if I don’t know it exists. This might be
reductionist since mythology relies on more than meets the eye (aka symbolism,
rites, traditions, roles, kinship, among others), but it is a starting point.
When creating a new mythology you have to know where the story will take place
and the conditions of said place. The weather, the animals, the flora, the
natural events, and so. How do the people of your story understand and perceive
the sunrise, the sunset, the waves, the rivers, the eclipses, the storms. Is
there a story behind the shape of the mountains, are the animals a
representation of gods and godessess. What about the stars, do they mean
something to them? Compile the geography of your setting, use mythology to
explain what your characters can see, the vital elements to their survival, and
natural events that can happen from time to time. The geography itself can play an important role in the
developing of the story, take for example a city surrounded by mountains, the
sun rises from the mountains and sets behind them. There are no hurricanes, no
tornados, no tsunamis, nothing that can harm the population to a big extent.
What role do the mountains play here? Are they protectors of the city? How do
the people feel when they travel to a place where there are no mountains? On
its counterpart, what about people living on an island, how do they feel about
the ocean? What it means to them?
How did things begin for the people in your story? What’s the beginning of their
world. What are the elements arround it? Did a powerful entity created it, was
it because of a natural, yet untraceable event. How did the rivers become
rivers, who or what created the moon, or is i tan entity on its own?
Is life given or is it created? If so, who, or what, gives it; who, or what,
creates it? What is the definition of life to the people of your story? Is the
ocean alive? Do the mountains speak to the people who can understand them? Is
life a synonym of movement? Is the wind an influx of life? Are living organisms
separated into body-mind, body-mind-soul, body-soul?
Some natural events can fall into the destruction category, such as volcano
eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, among others. For your people, is
the creator also a destroyer, or are there other entities besides the creator.
Is the destruction seen as something bad or as something natural and even
Is death the opposite of life? What do the people of your story consider death?
Is it given, is it earned? Who can die, who can live forever? Does the sun dies
after it sets? What happens to the body after death? Is there an afterlife
people can look up to?
Is time linear or circular? How is it measured by the people on your story? Do
the days turn into weeks or do they remain days forever? How do people
differentiate one season from another? Is there an entity that controls the
time, or is it time an entity on its own?
Do the entities have a correspondece here on earth, are specific symbols
associated to them? Are certain events a warning for something bigger? Do the people wear objects that resemble the
entities they worship? Is there any iconography for these entities?
Are there any prophecies in your mythology? It could be about the end of the
world, about the arrival of a different group of people, about a natural event,
Mythology also relies on heroes who have accomplished great tasks in order to
prove themselves worthy of something. They are usually portrayed as role models for the society, as they embody the values of it.
Rites (also involved in religion)
Are there any rites involved in your mythology? This could be before eating,
before hunting, before a birth, or after those above. A rite is usually a
sacred act that allows people to go from one state to another within their
Traditions (like rites, they respond to a diferent structure)
These are a less sacred form of rites. Traditions carry the past on them as
they rememorate an event of importance to society, to a family, ore ven to a
single person. A birthday celebration can be labeled as a tradition.
Below you’ll find a list of books written by anthropologists and such, about
mythology. Not all of them are explicit about it. Also this books were written by people outside the societies they wrote about, so read them with a critical eye.
Tim Ingold - The temporality of the landscape (paper)
Pierre Clastres - Chronicle of the Guayaki India
Claude Levi-Strauss - Mythologiques / How myths die / Many of his work
Mircea Eliade - Many of his work
Louis-Vincent Thomas - Anthropologie de la mort
Joseph Campbell - Transformations of Myths through time
Fernando Santos-Granero - Writing history into the landscape: Space, Myth, and Ritual in Contemporary
Define what is sacred and what is profane for the people in your story.
The same goes for values and moral expectations. Think of archetypes here.
In many cultures, as well as in many mythologies, you can find a universal flood and universal fire myth. This is because both elements have cleansing properties. There can be mythological creatures associated to them or not. As well, these myths can be replicated when someone is born or when someone dies.
Mythology is part of the worldbuilding, and it plays an important role in society since it permeates to daily life.
As time passes, myths change, or are changed, to keep them alive. At the same time, they can be transformed to fit societal changes.
Mythology is not the same as religion. This being said, monoteism is not a higher or more advanced state than animism or polyteism.
I hope this works for you!
Below there’s a not-so-short passage of the book Blindness by José Saramago. It isn’t a major spoiler but it shows how much incidence we, humans, have on the gods we create and re-create. It’s rather long, so if you want to skip it, or read the book (which I advice), feel free to do it. Also, I cut off some parts, but it stills makes sense.
I gooooofed my layers so this isn’t getting colors until I’m patient enough to get rid of all the white in the lineart layer. xD ANYWAY. Sewer man & revolutionary helps in a lambing for the first time; gets emotional about it. ^u^