Importance of Myth and Legend in Society


Myths will always be popular and necessary part of society. Long before writing was invented, myths, legends and other information were passed down from generation to generation through oral traditions. Stories were told in homes, around campfires, at large gatherings. Some were passed on by travelers and entertaining troupes. These stories helped people explain their origins and make sense of the world they lived in.

According to Joseph Campbell, myths have four basic functions:
  • Mystical--they allow us to experience the awe [and unexplained phenomenon] of the universe
  • Cosmological -- they explain the origin and shape of the universe
  • Sociological -- myths support and validate social order, morals and behavior.
  • Pedagogical -- they help human's make sense of, and deal with, the circumstances, events, calamities, etc. of life.

Sometimes the word “myth” is used as an umbrella term to cover the meaning of legends and folklore as well, though many authorities are quick to suggest the differences. Myths often contain religious or supernatural elements, unlike legends which generally focus on the story more than its significance. While legends can still offer moral and philosophical meaning, they are not rooted in the archetypes common in most myths.

Where myths and legends may contain certain aspects of truth and are often accepted as true stories, folklore is commonly differentiated as being fiction and mostly attached to a particular region.

Every culture has symbols, based on myth and legend, which persist today. The seemingly endless Celtic knot is a reminder of the eternal nature of the spirit and in many instances, is worn as a charm to ward off sickness and other misfortunes. In this case, the Celtic knot is often used as an emblem, popular in home décor, clothing and jewelry.

The Northwest Coast Native American tribes revered animals, believing that they were once people with the power of speech and other human characteristics. Some Native American tribes honored the trickster, Raven, who stole the sun and placed it in the sky, or the wisdom of the bear, who taught humans many skills. Native Americans create crafts based on their rich history of oral myth and legend and Native American jewelry with mythic symbols is popular.

Today, many popular fiction books (like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson & the Olympians) are based on myths and legends and the film industry often incorporates urban myth and legend into movie plots.

It’s clear that myths have always played an important part in how we, as humans, make sense of the world in which we live. They validate social morays, offer religious and philosophical insight, and help us understand the cosmos and the origin of the universe. More importantly, though, myths satisfy our innate desires to exist in a world rich with mystery, wonder and heroic ideals.

Hillstar House recognizes the important role of myths and legends in society. That’s why we offer the finest selection of sterling silver jewelry crafted with culturally inspired themes. Our pieces beautifully incorporate Celtic, Western and Native American myths and legends into masterfully crafted, art-quality pieces sought after by collectors worldwide.