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My Journey Begins (Diary of a Time-traveller)


Before I begin, I must point out that the title is a misnomer. A misnomer is a fancy word for an inaccurate designation, and yes, I came across it in one of my recent travels. So pardon me for showing off, and bear with me if I do it again, alright? My travels through time had begun a long time ago, so this is is the start of a different sort of journey. 

A journey with you, my readers.

And here is my first question to you - don't you ever wonder what used to happen out there? When there were no cities, and not even farms - when we lived in caves and hid from the beasts of the night? When the cave boy who has just emerged into his teenage years, and has fallen in love with a girl from the next-cave tribe... what did he do? 
Write love poems? Well, yes... I saw one do it, about how he had fought a mammoth to get to his love.
Just kidding!

No. Seriously, what did they do? You might know if you were there - and even if you weren't there, you could look at the ancient caves where their art is preserved.
These formless drawings have no names. But they were the first manifestations of our imagination, mingling with our awe and fear of the natural world.

In course of my journey, I have developed a curious hobby aside from my professional duties - observing the nature of humans, and their awe with the natural world. The awe and fear which makes them label natural elements or nature of things as gods. Or demons.Or angels.Or dragons.Goblins.Pixies.Werewolves. All sort of beasts that haunt our mind - they have their origin out there. In the waves of seas.In the fires of volcanoes.In the darkest, most treacherous jungle and swamp. 


And also in here.

In our fiercest anger, our deepest sorrows, our burning passions, and even our darkest regrets and fears. There's most certainly some mythological creature based on it.
However, I have seen people personifying these abstract objects and concepts even before there was mythology. Even before the Egyptians built pyramids... before the Greeks produced the flowering of myth... before the Romans waged war. And then, I was there even during the fall of Troy. When the great epics of the world were composed... let me just cough and say in a noble tone, I was there to witness it all.

Now I am no expert.

But soon I started noticing a pattern in these myths, and how they were written and re-written, adopted and manifested themselves in different forms... and I, with your sincere permission, would like to note those patterns down. Again, let me repeat that I am no expert, just a curious observer thirsty for knowledge, and eager to share what I have learnt with my fellow knowledge-seekers. Sorry if there is a shorter word for 'knowledge-seeker' that I should be writing instead.

I started seeing similarities... between the mythologies of different places and different times... don't believe me? Well then, how would you explain that the flood-myth is present in all ancient myths? Not just in the story of Noah, but also the Mesopotamian epic, The Epic of Gilgamesh... they all talk about a giant flood which wiped away humanity, but one man saved some survivors on a boat. A similar tale appears in the story of Matsya, the fish avatar of Vishnu who guided humanity to safety in the midst of a storm.

Which just points to how strangely similar every human mind is. Yes, you, reading this, have a similar mind to the person who might have stolen your lunch at school, which leads us to the first point...


Psychology

Remember about having a similar mind with your school bully? Well, apparently, you are kind of similar to the first people who inhabited this Earth as well.
Still don't believe me?
Well then, what do you have to say to the fact, that almost every polytheistic religion has a sun god, a god of thunder and sky and a sea god? The similarities might arise from  how we fear fire, tsunamis and lightning storms. Yes, lightning storms are scary, because even I spent my childhood sitting in the attic, with my ears covered every time lightning flashed...
See? Similarity in psychology. Once, I had considered establishing myself as the god of smartphone when I had gone to the country of the Aztecs... to strike fear in their hearts by playing some extremely loud, extremely annoying music. I often wonder how they would depict me if I had done so... an awkward-looking person with strange clothes and a smartphone in his hand.
Thinking about how that would baffle archaeologists often make me giggle. Also, 'polytheistic' is a fancy word I learnt to make myself sound better, and it means a mythology with a host of different gods.

Geography

Don't run away... I won't bother you with big words any more. I promise. But this, perhaps, is one of the most famous examples.
It is why the Egyptians didn't have a sea god or goddess, because they lived in the scorching Sahara. What they did depend on was the river Nile and personified it as the goddess Nephthys. While the Greeks lived by the sea, and they had the sea god Poseidon (an old dude with a trident and sometimes depicted as a fish tail). The presence of several rivers in the country also manifested in the creation of river nymphs called naiads. 
That is also why the Egyptians have a hippopotamus goddess (I am not kidding!), but the Greeks don't. They almost did, as I felt mischievous enough for it, but hippopotamus aren't transport-friendly.

History

Knowing the myths most certainly did help humans piece together history. The fact that Romans took over the Greek civilisation was clear, because they made the Greek gods their own. Thus, Zeus became Jupiter, Hermes became Mercury, Athena became Minerva, Artemis became Diana, Ares became Mars and so on... 
It was also seen when the Aryans invaded the Indian subcontinent, and Shiva, who used to be a minor mountain deity, emerged to become one of the most prominent male gods of the pantheon. 

Origin

Similar myths also point to the origin of human beings from a single point, from where they spread out to occupy the corners of the Earth (misnomer again, because it is a sphere; I am in love with the word). Various similarities have been found in the religious terms used in different cultures of Europe and India. The Greek sky-god Zeus Pater, the Roman sky-god Jupiter, and the Indian (Vedic) sky-god Dyaus Pater sound similar.
Oh! And know remember pyramids in Egypt? Not just them, but Mayans and Aztecs have the same structure as well. I know, because I tried to climb all three kinds of pyramids, and failed... and let me tell you, it hurts when you hit the ground.
And as for the bonus point... here you go...

Adaptation 

Copyright wasn't invented back then, so writers of those ancient myths couldn't protect their characters from future references. Thus, poor Ulysses was used by both Dante and Alfred Lord Tennyson in their works. Of course, the characters hold different relevance in their times... and Tennyson's Ulysses seems to mock the traditional notion of what a hero should be. When Milton wrote Paradise Lost, based on the Biblical story of Lucifer's fall to become Satan... did he ever imagine, that people would later consider the fallen angel as charismatic and logical?

Well, that's the beauty of myth folks - it is a reflection of the human mind. And as human perception changes, so does the way in which myths are perceived. 

Sutirtho