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Celia Capace - Gods, Goddesses, Myths and Legends

I’ve always had a slight fascination with Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece.  These deities held superhuman traits that were specific to each individual God or Goddess. Gods that supposedly held the fate of humanity in their hands could change a mere mortal’s destiny on a whim.  The favoured of these celestial beings protected and rewarded. Others were not so fortunate and were condemned to a fate of tragedy and pain. A favourite example of mine is Oedipus Rex. Poor Oedipus Rex was condemned to a pre-ordained and twisted destiny before he was even born; one that was to involve killing his own father and marrying his mother.  This was a punishment by the Gods for his parents daring to go against their will.

It’s strange how many ancient cultures had similar beliefs and a need to appease deities. Offerings and prayers were often ritually performed to ensure prosperity and a means of survival, whether it was for success in harvest, fertility, war, or just for a sense of protection against perceived evils.  The majority of humanity has always had an inborn belief of a higher power and a shared belief in the power of celestial beings even though their diverse cultures were once cut off from each other. Aztecs, Vikings, Ancient Egyptians, indigenous Americans, Celts, Imperial China . . . and the list goes on.  Even in modern cultures this inborn need for belief in deities persists.

Another similarity that these diverse and isolated cultures each share were myths and legends.  Some myths and legends are very specific to certain cultures yet there are other myths and legends that are similar.  The walking dead, ghosts and evil spirits have been common in almost every culture since humanity began. From the Chinese mythical version of a snake-like creature with four clawed legs that could breathe fire to the European version that was a portlier creature with large bat-like wings, dragons were legends that existed in cultures from opposite sides of the world.  Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is a commonly known legend in North American folklore yet there is a creature in Australian Aboriginal folklore known as the Yowie that shares many of its features.

How did it come to be that cultures once cut off from each other shared such similar beliefs in myths and legends?  Is it that for early humanity sharing a primal fear resulted in a mindset which constructed a shared manifestation of those primal fears?  Or, is there some truth in it? Could it be that with all our perceived differences we are more alike than we realise?