The term mythology refers to an accumulated collection of myths, folklore, legends and ancient stories from a given culture. Mythology is often associated with the paranormal, featuring strange creatures and supernatural powers.
Some of the most well-known mythological stories some from Greek, Roman, Norse and Canaanite mythology.
The various types of cultural story-telling can be broken into three categories:
- Myths: Stories referring to the very distant past; exploits of early humans and interactions with God(s).
- Legends: Historical stories which tend to be more recent and possibly based on fact.
- Fairytales: Stories which are generally considered fiction, often involving animal characters and morals.
Mythology and religion are closely entwined. Most religions include tales describing important events and characters such as the creation of the Universe. However adherents of any particular religion are likely to see "their" religious stories as factual while seeing stories from other religions as mythological.
Stories that are easily disproven are obviously more likely to be considered mythical than stories that cannot be easily tested. For example, the Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) have traditional stories that describe how New Zealand was originally a giant fish, and how the Sun was trapped with rope by a heroic figure named Maui. Although belief in these stories still persists in some quarters, it is uncommon for modern Maori to interpret these stories literally.
Creation stories from the Bible are not as easy for many people to dismiss. Science may have disproven the "6000-year-old Earth" scenario, but many ordinary people find scientific processes such as carbon dating difficult to understand. Misinformation also abounds, resulting in much debate over whether biblical creationism is fact or myth.