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Translated under the direction of Wendy Doniger
With 395 original articles written by leading scholars, it is a remarkable encounter with the mythologies of cultures past and present—the web of stories, traditions, rituals, practices, beliefs, divine figures, sacred objects, and great themes that define civilization.

Drawing on a breathtaking array of sources, from the history of religions to anthropology, archaeology, literature, and linguistics, the contributors define a new approach to the understanding of myth in society.

For this first English-language edition, the articles have been rearranged by region or culture. Together they comprise an exceptionally broad, stimulating introduction to the religious and mythical traditions of the world—from the idea of death in Ancient Egypt to the ideology of nationalism in modern Europe. Greeks and Romans are here in force, naturally, but so too are the Bantu, Dinka, and Dogon of Africa and the Armenians, Mongols, and Turks of Asia.

Readers of Mythologies will discover a wealth of fresh primary sources on such little known traditions as those of the Vietnamese—and bold, provocative new interpretations of well-studied traditions, such as those of classical Greece.

1,306 pages | Two-volume set. 660 halftones | 8-1/2 x 11 | © 1991

Folklore and Mythology

Literature and Literary Criticism: Classical Languages

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion


"The appearance of this monumental work in a beautifully produced and richly illustrated English edition is a publishing event of considerable significance."

Mark C. Taylor | New York Times Book Review

"The almost 100 contributors combine, with characteristic precision and elan, the arts of science and poetry, of analysis and translation. The result is a treasury of information, brilliant guesswork, witty asides, and revealing digressions. This is a work of genuine and enduring excitement."

Thomas D'Evelyn | Christian Science Monitor

Table of Contents

Just a sampling of the 395 articles
The Interpretation of Mythology
Graphic Signs and the Seeds of Knowledge: The 226 Basic Signs in West Africa – Masks and Practices of Sacrifice among the Dogon – Yoruba Myths and Religion and Their Afro-American Extensions – Astronomy and Calendars in West Africa
The Ancient Near East
The Divine and the Gods in Ancient Egypt – The Cult of Isis Among the Greeks and in the Roman Empire – Mesopotamian Cosmogony – The Religions of the Pre-Islamic Arabs and the Nabataeans – Ugaritic Gods and Myths – Animals and Zoomorphism in Hittite Anatolia
Celts, Norse, Slavs, Caucasians, and Their Neighbors
Mother Goddesses and Collective Deities in the Celtic and Celtic-Roman Worlds – Celtic Sacred Monsters – Sacrifice in Germano-Norse Paganism – Norse Magic – The Kinship of Slavic and Norse Mythologies – The Religion and Myths of the Georgians of the Mountains
The History, Geography, and Religion of Greece – Myth in the Greek City: The Athenian Politics of Myth – Plato’s Mythology and Philosophy – Gods and Artisans: Hephaestus, Athena, Daedalus – The Powers of Marriage in Greece – Heroes and Gods of War in the Greek Epic – Origins of Mankind in Greek Myths: Born to Die
Sacrificial Cults and Rites in Pre-Roman Italy – Etruscan Demonology – Myths and Cults of the Ancient Veneti – The Latins and the Origins of Roman Religion – Roman Religion – Roman Gods – Roman Sacrifice – Roman Religion and Greek Philosophy – Augurs and Augury – Minerva – Priapus: The Last of the Gods – Venus
Western Civilization in the Christian Era
The Survival of Myths in Early Christianity – The Gnostics and the Mythologies of Paganism – The Survival of the Ancient Gods in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – Alchemy and Mythology – Gypsy Myths and Rituals – Romanticism and Myth in Blake, Nerval, and Balzac – The Androgyne – Napoleon as Myth – Myth in Twentieth Century English Literature
South Asia, Iran, and Buddhism
Vedic Cosmogony – Soma as Sacrificial Substance and Divine Figure in the Vedic Mythology of Exchange – Deva/Asura: Celestial Gods and “Demons” in Hinduism – The Main Myth of the Mahābhārata – Avatars – Pre-Islamic Iran – The Guardian of the Gate: An Example of Buddhist Mythology, from India to Japan
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian Origin Myths and the Founding Myths – Earth Spirits in Southeast Asia – Southeast Asian Myths and Rituals of the Moon – Indonesian Rites of Passage – Indigenous Indo-Chinese Cosmogony – Vietnamese Mythology
East Asia and Inner Asia
Sky and Earth, Sun and Moon, Stars, Mountains and Rivers, and the Cardinal Points in Ancient China – Ancient Chinese Goddesses and Grandmothers – The Great Flood in Chinese Mythology – Japanese Conceptions of the Afterlife – Magic in Japan – Introduction to Tibetan Mythology – Turkish and Mongolian Shamanism – Finno-Ugrian Myths and Rituals
The Americas and the South Pacific
The Mythology of the Inuit of the Central Arctic – The Creation of the World in Native American Mythology – Mesoamerican Mythic and Ritual Order – The Sun Dance among the Native Americans: The Revival of 1973 – Indians of the South American Forest – Religions and Mythologies of Oceania

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