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Even equations convey an ideological slant.

When a chemist writes about the combustion of gasoline, the energy change is negative. The chemicals are losing energy. When an engineer writes about the same reaction, the energy change is described as positive. Who cares about the chemicals? We humans are gaining energy. When octane reacts with oxygen, our cars go vrrrooom! Plenty of people think of either George W. They have myriad motivations, some good, some bad. Only in our stories can they be simplified into monsters.

Oppenheimer was a regular person, too. He was good with numbers, and his team of engineers accomplished what they set out to do. My essay about the ways we mythologize discovery was recently published here , alongside surrealistically mythological art by Jury S. Eventually you probably would. For instance, there was an afternoon about three or four years ago when K left school during her lunch break to drive me to the university library. During our car ride to the library I was babbling nonstop about how excited I was to have a chance to read this book.

But they are never really stealing fire — no culture has one single flame that they have to keep burning in order to maintain their lifestyle. The stories are about humans stealing knowledge. The knowledge of how to make fire, sure, but why not include myths where humans are stealing knowledge or wisdom in general? The whole story about Ben Franklin with a kite in the rain.

Clearly a myth. Our origin myth for electricity. I definitely should have thought of this. And, besides, the Ben Franklin myth is great. Mad man out in the rain, risking death, discovering the phenomenon that enables our modern world. So I nodded. Ever since gaining that knowledge, we have also lived with the fear that we might wipe ourselves away. Look at all those stars! But… where are the starpeople? And, perhaps inevitably, I was disappointed after K dropped me off and I jogged up to the checkout desk and borrowed it.

His book is an impressive piece of scholarship: he collected the myths about the origin of fire from many different cultures around the world. A collection of stories. I wanted Frazer to address the idea of what makes something a fire myth although his definition seems to have been narrowly, a story about humans learning how to initiate oxidative combustion. But, phooey, I say!

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Jung would find some generalities to analyze. Oddly devoid of essayistic interpretation. Because Frazer seems to want folklore to be a companion science to archaeology, whereas I consider folklore to be primarily useful as a companion to psychology. For instance, no matter what you think about the historical veracity of the Bible or the Ramayana or the epic of Gilgamesh, like all literature those works reveal truths about the minds of the authors. The Yakuts of Siberia tell how fire was at first accidentally discovered by an old man who, having nothing better to do, amused himself by knocking two stones together, till sparks leaped from the stones and set fire to the dry grass.

We need not accept the tale as historical, but it is probably typical of what must almost certainly have happened over and over again in prehistoric times. At least his book was a great compilation of stories. After my initial dismay, I was pretty happy to be reading it. Probably my favorite myth is the South American one in which jaguars originally had fire.

Humans did not. Humans crept up and stole it away… and then, spiteful, jaguars stopped using it. And, also, they decided to start occasionally mauling and eating humans in punishment.

Pfff… fire? This is the most significant piece of information in this podcast, the most important thing to understand about the way I think George is writing his books: the main action of the story is written as mythology, in the language of symbolism, and can also be analyzed like mythology. Creating realistic background lore for his universe is one thing , but recreating those myths in the main action of the book is the truly amazing feat of creativity here. The main pattern of the astronomy theory on which this page is founded is that of the sun destroying the moon with a comet, followed by that moon raining down meteors on Planetos to cause the Long Night.

At first, I was not sure if I was hallucinating when I found the first few instances of sun-kill-moon metaphors. I can say with absolute confidence, more than any other assertion in any of my essays, that George is in fact writing large sections of the text in many chapters of every book, including TWOIAF and the Dunk and Egg novels, as extended metaphors depicting this basic astronomy pattern.

This use of symbolism in the main text is not limited to astronomy, of course. My own research focuses on the astronomical metaphors, but his use of symbolism and metaphor is essentially ubiquitous. This is why his text bears the level of scrutiny that it has received in the two decades that the books have existed. This is also one of the reasons, in all likelihood, why it takes him several years to write a book.

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Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa are the most famous ones, whose archetypal roles are based on the sun and the moon. These archetypes are like repeating patterns — there are many solar kings who take two wives, literally, and many more scenes where various characters do the same symbolically.

Whenever someone has a flaming sword, such as Beric or Stannis, or Jon in his dream of a wielding a burning red sword, you can be sure that they are playing the role of Azor Ahai in a metaphorical scene. Whenever anyone puts on an antlered helm, such as Robert or Renly, you can be sure that they are acting out some important bit of Garth the Green lore, or Sacred Order of Green Men lore the two being interconnected. Important note: most characters seem to have two archetypes, and shift or transform between them in various scenes or throughout the book, a fascinating topic in its own right.

Because George is using these archetypes consistently, and because he is using the characters in the main story to give us information about the characters and events of the Dawn Age and Long Night, it can therefore be asserted that.. The broad strokes of the important events of the Dawn Age can be determined by analyzing the in-world legends and main action of ASOIAF using the methods laid out above.

This is one of the central aims of my series of essays. And because we are currently still dealing with the unresolved issue of the first Long Night, and because characters and events seem to be being replayed in some form, I also assert that:. I am not big into predictions, it must be said — that is not the focus of my work.

But if we can learn about what it means to play the role of Azor Ahai, then we might begin to get an idea of what that could mean for Jon and Dany and anyone else who may be paying some part of that role. At the least, we will gain important context to their future choices and actions, so that when they make them, we will have a better understanding of what they are doing and what the implications might be. The specific methods of analysis I will be applying to A Song of Ice and Fire are as follows definitions from wikipedia :. Comparative Mythology — the comparison of myths from different cultures in an attempt to identify shared themes and characteristics.

Etiology — the study of causation, or origination. An etiological myth, or origin myth, is a myth intended to explain the origins of cult practices, natural phenomena, proper names, etc. Cosmology — the study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe. Religious or mythological cosmology is a body of beliefs based on mythological, religious, and esoteric literature and traditions of creation and eschatology.

Another motive for studying the sky is to understand and explain the universe. Myth was a tool for achieving this and the explanations, while not reflecting the standards of modern science, are cosmologies. I am not going to go into further detail for all four of these disciplines, as they really all dovetail into comparative mythology for our purposes here.

In a nutshell, comparative mythology strips down mythologies to their fundamental aspects, themes, and symbols, and then compares them one to another to see if they might be telling the same story.

Myths Of The Origin Of Fire

Myths which function as cosmologies are really what we are discussing here. It was this knowledge which became encoded in mythologies, which in turn functioned as a cosmology for the people who carry on the myth. When one takes into account that most if not all world mythology has a basis in human observation and interaction with astronomy and nature, it becomes even easier to identify the commonalities. The list of gods and goddesses who die in the fall and resurrect with the spring, or who are trapped in the underworld for the same period of time, is a very long list indeed.

This is of course a simple way of understanding the cycle of the seasons — the sun grows weak for a few months, everything gets cold, the plants die, etc.

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Then the sun comes back strong again, the earth warms, and the plants begin to grow. There are countless variations of this idea, but they all relate to the cycle of the seasons. Everywhere you go, comets are described as snakes and dragons. On the American continents we Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent of Aztec myth and his Mayan equivalent Kulkulkan , who is identified with the Morningstar Venus as well as comets.

Flaming comet swords, a reborn Morningstar who remakes the world in terrible fashion — the reason these ideas remind you of Azor Ahai is because George is drawing from well established mythological precedent. Jesus Christ of the Christian Bible is associated with ushering in a new world age though his death and resurrection.

Joseph Campell is the most well known person associated with comparative mythology, for his seminal works The Power of Myth and Hero With a Thousand Faces, as well as many other books and countless lectures. Comparative mythology is often used to attempt to trace patterns of cultural transference. If two separate peoples have a similar myth, down to specific identifying details or characteristics, a common ancestor or source can be potentially be inferred.

Much debate occurs around this, of course. Some tend to see the common, recurring mythological archetypes as the result of a common ancestor, including some who think all myth must go back to one civilization such as Atlantis or some similarly vanished culture of advanced knowledge and learning.

The flood myth is the most well-known example of a monomyth which almost certainly points to real meteorological events: the period of intense global flooding during the meltdown of the recent Ice Age which we are still technically emerging from. The flood myths which are nearly ubiquitous in world myth must surely date back to this time. Comparative mythology is what leads me to connect the story of the Grey King to the story of Durran Godsgrief, and the Hammer of the Wayers, as well as that of the Bloodstone Emperor. After Durran Godsfgrief steals the goddess Elenei from heaven, the storms rage up the narrow sea.

The Ironborn myths also include mermaids, which are another incarnation of the drowned goddess idea, as well as hammering waves, drowned land and drowned fire. All four of these myths may be telling the same story, on a certain level, a story which we can corroborate by looking for metaphors about fallen stars, drowned or bloody moons and moon maidens, and flood tides in the main text and drawing comparisons between them and these foundational myths listed above. This question gets down to reason mankind creates myth, the function of myth.

He has a fantastic four-fold description of the role of myth in human society which appears at the end of The Masks of God: Creative Mythology , and which he also referred to in many lectures as a free-standing concept.

Instead of doing my own inadequate paraphrase, I will quote directly from wikipedia. Some of these ideas have been addressed above and will simply gain further illumination here. The Functions of Myth. The Metaphysical Function — Awakening a sense of awe before the mystery of being. According to Campbell, the absolute mystery of life, what he called transcendent reality, cannot be captured directly in words or images.

Symbols and mythic metaphors on the other hand point outside themselves and into that reality. The Cosmological Function — Explaining the shape of the universe. For pre-modern societies, myth also functioned as a proto-science, offering explanations for the physical phenomena that surrounded and affected their lives, such as the change of seasons and the life cycles of animals and plants. The Sociological Function — Validate and support the existing social order.

Ancient societies had to conform to an existing social order if they were to survive at all. Mythology confirmed that order and enforced it by reflecting it into the stories themselves, often describing how the order arrived from divine intervention.

The Pedagogical Function — Guide the individual through the stages of life.

Myths of the Origin of Fire

As a person goes through life, many psychological challenges will be encountered. The reason that myth is important is because symbolic forms of communication are the only means of transmitting esoteric truths. Man has used symbolic thinking for thousands of years to understand the most important truths about life itself and the world around us; but in only the last few centuries have we almost completely transitioned over to a rational-materialist, scientific way of thinking. We have surely learned much from this new form of thought, this new configuration of consciousness, and I in no way mean to denigrate it.

However, I do wonder if we run the risk of being too quick to abandon our older traditions and ways of thought which have coalesced over the course thousands of years of human existence in favor of the wholesale embrace of the potential of this new, highly logical, scientific mode of thought to explain all the mysteries of life. I think that George R. Martin is doing a tremendous service to the world by creating modern art which participates in this grand tradition of symbolic language and esoteric communication.

I have gained a renewed and deepened understanding of myth and symbolism through the process of writing and researching these essays, which has been of tremendous benefit to me in my own personal life. While proper understanding of esoteric forms of learning are tremendously beneficial, the opposite can be quite painful.

It is a lack of understanding of symbolic thinking that leads to religious extremism of the sort which causes violence and oppression. To quote Campbell on religion:. Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble. Interpreting metaphorical teachings literally has undoubtedly led to a great deal of suffering, to put it mildly.

The great tragedy of this is that the wisdom of an inspired person becomes an instrument of subjugation and oppression.