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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The Myths We Live by (Acknowledgement to Samuel & Thompson): Where the Greeks and Space Men Meet…

Annette M. Jordaan.

The myths we live by

"For it is only our consciousness that does not yet know; the unconscious seems already informed…." (Jung, 1964:78).

"Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance…" (Campbell in Flowers, 1988:5)

"We all are, I suppose. Trying to invent our version of the story, All human odes are essentially one: 'My life: what I stole from history, and how I live with it.'" Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible (1999:492).

The paper explores the meaning of myths in the lives of individuals and groups.

The terms "myth", "mythology" and "mythological" are defined and the origin of myths, as well as their nature and functions are discussed.

Reference is made to the so-called oldest mythological work in Western culture, the "Iliad" by Homeros, to the mythological substratum in the works of the prominent Afrikaans author, Etienne Leroux.

Jung's viewpoint on the origin of myths and the creation of archetypes is expounded.

The viewpoints of a number of scholars who researched the power of myths, especially Joseph Campbell, are also briefly outlined.

The impact of myths in the lives of human beings, even in our own times, is evaluated.

Finally the differences and similarities between historiography and mythology are outlined with special reference to the work of the historians Samuel & Thompson (1990), "The myths we live by"


Annette M. Jordaan  (South Africa)
Department of Afrikaans
University of Pretoria

Born in Pretoria, South Africa on 26th April 1950. Matriculated in 1967, did a B.A.-degree at the University of Pretoria, majoring in Afrikaans, English and Latin, became a teacher for some years. Married in 1972, raised five daughters with my husband, Chris, and returned to the Alma Mater as lecturer in 1989. Currently busy with a DLitt in Afrikaans. Also a part-time fiction writer under the pseudonym Magda Schmidt

  • Myths
  • Mythological
  • Mythical
  • Mythos vs. Logos
  • Iliad as mythology
  • Archetypes
  • Storytelling
  • Myth-making
  • Power of myths
  • Historiography

(30 min Conference Paper, English)