This is a detailed an longish article of interest to me due to my studies in Philology and in the myths of Religion and Society and in my studies in Psychology of Mind – and so I have decided to repress it in three parts. For smaller slices. -Part 2
Why did our ancestors so commonly use myth in their lives? Many texts state that the telling of or listen to a myth can confer some form of blessing on those who experience it. In this sense then perhaps myth is a form of programming, a mnemonic device that contains short-form symbolic representations of important facts about life, the process of living, the environment in which life takes place, and the inner life itself. The “blessing” here would be the increased responsiveness to one’s environment, the ability to make better, cleaner decisions with regard to difficult situations, or perhaps the ability to avoid the situation of difficulty altogether. The aforementioned myth about the lightning god Perkwunos may have been a simple and sensible warning to avoid standing under tall trees during thunderstorms, and likely was effective more than once in saving one of our ancestors from a crispy fate.
Myths were, and are, often recited as festivals and rituals, as a way to pay homage to and worship the gods. This, coupled with the kind of magical thinking we see today in such banal situations as Christian prayer and the notion that money is equivalent to wealth, likely created a situation where our distant grandfathers believed they could curry the favor of these abstract deities for personal and societal gain. There are commonly known examples of this kind of worship all throughout human history, from the rain songs of the Native Americans to the Occultism of Aleister Crowley, many people believe that through ritual activity, chanting, the telling of fable and myth, that divine or otherworldly powers can be bestowed onto the individual.
It is believed by some that these performances are likely to have led to the development of drama and the forms of acting and play in Greece, and it is easy to see why. The more dramatic and sophisticated your ritual, in theory, the more purchasing power it will have with the gods, which probably led to a sort of capping phenomena between tribes and religions, whereby ever more wild displays were encouraged as a sign of piety.
Many of these myths may have also had a dual function as forms of thinly-veiled social criticism, in somewhat similar fashion to the role in ancient society of the court jester or joker. By dressing legitimate critique of deleterious social patterns, behaviors, perhaps corruption in authority, in the language of humor and flippancy, we can get through into consciousness otherwise heavily repressed and suppressed information. Last night, I was watching a White House Correspondents Dinner featuring Late Night comic Seth Meyers telling jokes about the political class in North America. Comments that would, under any other circumstance, be met with derision, scorn or even outright aggression, were welcomed, and so then perhaps we can come to see myth as a method by which individuals can “soften the blow” of hard truths, especially in situations involving a potentially hostile and deadly authority.
Source: Proto-Indo-European: The world PIE Religion and Myth