Nature and mythology

This writing is part of the series of assignments I had for my mythology writing class. This brief article focuses on how nature may have been an influential player in forming mythologies.


Nature and surroundings of every civilization has played a very important and significant role to shape the culture of that civilization. We see that almost all civilizations try to speculate nature through their myths, folk stories, etc. in order to explain the natural phenomena which make these stories and relations unique to every civilization. For example, we see the role of Mt. Olympus in Greek myth, Cobra in Indian myth, etc. Especially, objects which are endemic to that certain region has always provided that culture with its unique stories related to those objects.

Similarly in Mayan mythology, we see such examples. We see mention of the animal Jaguar in many places. In part one, we find the story about how Jaguars devoured on the incompetent humans. It is also seen that the warriors of the Mayans were called as Jaguars. We can understand from this is that Jaguar must have been considered as one of the most powerful and fierce animals by the Mayans. The abundance of Jaguars in the then Mesoamerica has given them a special place in almost all Mesoamerican folk and mythical stories. Jaguar has been associated with power and pride over and over. We can see a picture of Hunahpu and Xbalanque wearing Jaguar skin in the text which proves the significance of the animal. Since it is an exotic animal and endemic to Mesoamerica, thus it reflects the uniqueness in Mayan culture.

We also see the mention of Rubber ball many times in the story. We even see pictures of rubber balls in the codex. Rubber was a product found only in the “New World” and from these stories we can trace its usage for a long time in Mesoamerican culture. Such mention of rubber is not seen in any other text until recent times.

Finally, we also read in the text about Gods of pus, jaundice, malaria etc. These reflect to the influence of the rainforests of that region and the commonly found diseases associated with it. In Enuma Elish we see that the bad gods have been depicted as war mongers which may allow us to speculate that the Babylonians usually faced war more often than others. While mention of pus, jaundice, malaria and sudden death by vomiting blood in Popol Vuh portrays how the Mayans would have been more worried about dying from these diseases than any other situations which caused them to even worship such diseases.

Thus, from these examples one can speculate how nature had influenced the Mesoamerican culture for a long time and its overall impact which led to personification of many endemic phenomena.


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