nature motifs (gardens, seasons, trees of life, forest guardians like Humbaba)
symbols: serpents, trees, seeds, the pomegranate, mistletoe, etc.
relations: of humans to god(s), of humans to nature, of god(s) to nature
archetypes: (characters): tricksters, heroes, villains, donors, helpers and hinderers, etc.
(deities): underworld gods, fertility gods, mother goddesses, sky gods, thunder gods
actions: descent / ascent to underworld, heroes' journeys, struggles for power
human attitudes: towards death, underworld, nature, deities, power
Good Questions to Ask about Myths
how and why are beings and natural forces are created?
how do good and evil enter the world ("fall")?
what makes deities revered or special, what are deities' attitudes to humans, nature?
how do similar motifs take on different meanings in different stories, contexts?
outcomes: who gets what at the ends of stories and why?
what do you think the story says about the relations between gods and humans?
Good Questions to Ask about Gods
1. Why do you suppose people worshipped this particular divinity? (What do you think they got out of this worship--psychologically, morally, religiously, as a society? Way #1)
2. Can you discern any disguised history in the stories about this god? (This question is difficult. Way # 2)
3. In what ways might this deity be connected with natural events? Do you think the stories about this deity explain natural events, and / or does this god embody some power of nature in some way? Explain. (Way # 5)
4. What else might this myth explain besides natural events? In what ways is this explanation like or unlike a scientific explanation? (Way # 6)
5. In what ways could this myth be seen as a charter (or basis for--a founding constitution) for various customs, institutions, or beliefs? If so, say what you think the myth is a charter for and why. (Way # 7)
6. What power(s) does this deity possess? In what ways are these powers "beyond the human"? (Way # 8. This question is related to questions # 1, 3 and 4 above.)
7. What elements of ritual or magic can you find in the stories or descriptions of this god? What elements of the story involve sacrifice, initiation ("mysteries"), purification, and / or seasonal renewal? (Way #9)
8. Do you see any themes or motifs in this myth that you have seen before in other stories or in dreams? (Ways # 10 and 11)
9. What basic social, religious, psychological, personal, and natural contradictions does this story seem to be working out? Another way of asking the question: what problems in human existence or in the relations of human beings to gods (the divine or the sacred) do you think this myth is grappling with? (Example: if Gods are better and stronger than we are, then why do we get to eat the meat at sacrifices?) Do you think the story presents a solution to these problems? If so, how, and do you think the solution is a good one? Why or why not? (Way # 12)
10. Write down what you found puzzling, unusual, exciting, or strange about this myth. How is this story similar to or different from your ideas of how gods should act, of how and why people worship (or honor) god(s), and of how a story should be told?