From Karen Armstrong’s ‘A Short History of Myth’
‘First, it is nearly always rooted in the experience of death and the fear of extinction.
Second…Mythology is usually inseparable from ritual. Many myths make no sense outside a liturgical drama that brings them to life, and are incomprehensible in a profane setting.
Third…The most powerful myths are about extremity; they force us to go beyond our experience. There are moments when we all, in one way or another, have to go to a place that we have never seen, and do what we have never done before. Myth is about the unknown; it is about that for which initially we have no words. Myth therefore looks into the heart of a great silence.
Fourth, myth is not a story told for its own sake. It shows us how we should behave…Correctly understood, mythology puts us in the correct spiritual or psychological posture for right action, in this world or the next.
Finally, all mythology speaks of another plane that exists alongside our own world, and that in some sense supports it. Belief in this invisible but more powerful reality, sometimes called the world of the gods, is a basic theme of mythology. It has been called the Perennial Philosophy because it informed the mythology, ritual and social organisation of all societies before the advent of our scientific modernity, and continues to influence more traditional societies today. According to the perennial philosophy everything that happens in this world, everything we can hear and see here below has its counterpart in the divine realm which is richer, stronger and more enduring than our own. And every earthly reality is only a pale shadow of its archetype, the original pattern, of which it is simply an imperfect copy. It is only by participating in this divine life that mortal, fragile human beings fulfil their potential. The myths gave explicit shape and form to a reality that people sensed intuitively. They told them how the gods behaved, not out of idle curiosity or because these tales were entertaining, but to enable men and women to imitate these powerful beings and experience divinity themselves.’ pp 3-4