What is a myth?

As basis for our project we have been allowed to use a new definition of "myth" which has been developed over the preceding years and is being in preparation for print in Christian Zgoll 20191 and has kindly been made available before publication:

A myth is defined as (Erzähl-)Stoff which meets the following criteria:

  • it is polymorphous, i.e. it exists in several variants (or can be presumed to)

  • generally each of its variants is polystratic, i.e. it combines elements which have different origins

  • it presents a "transcending" reworking of what can be experienced, i.e. it features the active intervention of supernatural powers

The essential point of this definition and its theoretical framework, worked out by Christian Zgoll and the Collegium Mythologicum Goettingen, is that myths are plot-like raw material which can be built into different kinds of media like mythical texts or mythical pictures etc. It is on this basis that the Jerusalem-Goettingen joint venture project operates. But it is a real challenge to implement the theory in practice.

  1. Christian Zgoll 2019, Myths as Polymorphous and Polystratric Erzählstoffe: A Theoretical and Methodological Foundation, in A. Zgoll / C. Zgoll (ed.), Mythische Sphärenwechsel. Methodisch neue Zugänge zu antiken Mythen aus Sumer und Akkad, Ägypten, Hatti und Hurri, Israel, Griechenland, Rom und frühem Christentum, Mythological Studies 2, Berlin/ New York.