Death as Myth

Anubis_attending_the_mummy_of_SennedjemAfrican. The origin-of- death is a theme in the myths of many cultures. Death is a universal feature of human life. As such, it is a myth that often explains the origin of a culture and the subsequent problems that it faces. For example, in Africa, in the beginning there was no death. This is because the supreme being made people young again after they grew old. Later, if people did die it was because of an accident, a character flaw such as greed, stubbornness, or as a punishment for disobedience to the supreme being.

Native American. The origin-of-death is a common theme in Native-American mythology. The myth of the plateau tribes blames death on the trickster figure of the coyote. The Chirichahus Apache also blames the coyote for death. The plains tribes attribute death as a result of one taking unnecessary chances. For example, the Blackfeet tribe tells the story of an Old Man and Old Woman arguing over whether people should die, then the Old Woman whips up a drink of several toxic plants and urges her husband to drink it. She tells him her magic spell will protect him. It didn’t.

The early Native-American peoples of the western United States believed in a common explanation for death. They explained that death was the result of a debate between two people or animals in which one favored death and the other immortality. For example, the story of the Thompson Tribe was that Raven wanted death in order to insure that there were not too many people and animals inhabiting the Earth. However, Coyote preferred sleep to death but he was out voted by Crow, Fly, and Maggot, who sided with Raven. Raven’s daughter became the first to die and Raven then wanted to reverse his choice. But Coyote, the trickster, told the group that their decision was irrevocable.

Oceanic. In Oceania, the most common myth was that originally people had the power to rejuvenate themselves by shedding their skin like a snake. However, when somebody, usually an old woman shed her old skin, she frightened her grandchildren, who cried until she put her old skin back on, an act which mandated her death, and also death for future generations.

Polynesian. In Polynesian mythology, death is the result of the hero Maui being swallowed by Hades or Night. If Maui had been able to escape, mankind would be immortal. However, one of the birds that had accompanied Maui burst out laughing, This awakened Hine-nui-te-po who crushed Maui to death, ending all hopes of future immortality for him and future generations.

Biblical. In the Bible, the book of Genesis states that death is a consequence of the fall of man from an earlier state of innocence.

10_b8beeeb0366f0060647f6b514d0f0f3dGreek. In an early Greek myth, death is a consequence of a disagreement between Prometheus and Zeus, As a result of this argument, Zeus created woman in the form of Pandora, and presented her to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus, with death being one of the consequences of Pandora’s box, which she brought with her.

Collected by Tyler Reardon, Dramaturge

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