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World Mythology 101: A Complete Guide to the Myths and Legends that Define Us

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Mythology always has an important role in society; myths provide explanations for things that cannot be explained and give people hope during difficult times.

Even in modern times, we turn to our superheroes and science fiction epics, our own versions of mythology, for comfort. All use mythic themes.

The world is home to a wide variety of cultures and beliefs. Whether you are looking for the stories of Native Americans, ancient Greek Mythology or Japanese folklore, we have compiled a list of some of the most popular mythologies from around the world!

Let’s dive in with some of our favorites:

Greek Mythology

Greek myths are the stories of the gods, goddesses and heroes. They are one of the key aspects that define Greek culture.

The Greeks have a rich history of storytelling which has endured for thousands of years because these stories were so resonant.

It’s no surprise that Greek mythology is so popular today in movies, books and games.

One way to look at Greek mythology is as an early form of psychology or sociology, with each god representing an archetype that was seen as central to society.

For example Hermes represented commerce while Athena embodied wisdom or Nike stood for victory in battle.

And it wasn’t just about deities who battled one another – there were also many Greek myths about humans who interacted with them on earth, like Jason and the Argonauts who had to complete a series of quests in order to get the Golden Fleece.

The Greeks heavily influenced the Romans, who continued Greek traditions and culture. Most Greek myths were passed on to the Romans as well, but there are a few stories that never made it into Rome. One example of this is the story of Orpheus and Argus. And there were some that the Romans had that never originated in Greece, such as the foundation myth involving Romulus and Remus.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Etruscan Mythology

Norse Mythology

Norse mythology is a huge topic that, like most on this list, can’t be covered in one article. But let’s cover the basics of Norse Mythology and why it’s still important today.

Norse mythology was created by Germanic tribes in northern Germany and Scandinavia. 

The Germanic people believed they were descended from two groups: the Æsir (gods) and the Vanir (nature spirits).

Odin was the ruler of Asgard, which he built with his brothers Vili and Ve after killing their father Ymir to create Midgard or “middle earth.” Odin is said to have understanding of all things past, future, and present. He was associated with war, wisdom, magic, victory in battle, poetry and writing.

Thor, another famous Norse god, was the god of thunder who protected Asgard from the giants of Ginnungagap using a hammer made by dwarves named Mjolnir (thunder). 

His mother is Jord which is an aspect of Gaea or earth.

A lot more detail could be added here but you get the idea!

Some related mythologies include:

  • Finnic Mythology
  • Germanic Mythology

Egyptian Mythology

Egyptian Mythology is a complex topic. It’s made up of many different myths, all with their own gods and goddesses. The Egyptian pantheon was amazingly diverse, which is one of the reasons why Egyptian mythology is still important today.

The most well-known god in Egypt was Horus who was often depicted as a falcon or man with a falcon head wearing the double crown that symbolized Upper and Lower Egypt.

Some other famous Egyptian gods include Anubis, the god of embalming and mummification; Bastet who was a cat-goddess with the head of a human or cat; Sobek who was depicted as a crocodile or man with the head of a crocodile and Bes, another god in Egyptian mythology.

Egyptian mythology is one of the most important mythologies in world history. The importance of Egyptian mythology has been seen in things related to art and writing and other everyday life items, such as the ankh and hieroglyphics.

The ancient Egyptians beliefs were so important that they had rituals for everything they did, including their funerals and burials. The ancient Egyptians believed that they would be judged while on their way to the afterlife and if they were not good, then they would be punished.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Berber Mythology
  • Dedun (Nubian) Mythology

Celtic Mythology

Celtic Mythology is an ancient mythology that is still important today. The Celts existed before the Roman occupation of Europe, which started around 50 BC. But there are many early records and writings about Celtic beliefs by other cultures like Greek or Roman civilizations because they wanted to understand why Celtic tribes were so powerful at the time.

Celtic Mythology is not as well known as Greek or Roman mythologies, but it’s just as important. The Celtic Pantheon is very complex because there are many different tribes across Europe who had their own unique beliefs about deities like Lugus, Cernunnos, Teutates, Epona and Brigit.

They all shared similar characteristics and they were associated with sovereignty of land or cattle; fertility rites at springtime; healing arts such as herbalism and midwifery; war-crafts including strategy/tactics & battle frenzy (ríastrad); bards & poets; and druids.

Celtic mythology is still important today because of the role it plays in modern day neopaganism, which includes people who practice Gaelic reconstructionism and Gaelic revivalism as well as Wiccans or witches. 

There are even Celtic festivals that take place every year to celebrate these myths!

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Basque mythology
  • Brythonic mythology
    • Breton mythology
    • Cornish mythology
    • Welsh mythology
  • Cantabrian mythology
  • Goidelic (Gaelic) mythology
    • Irish mythology
    • Manx mythology
    • Scottish mythology
  • Lusitanian mythology
  • Spanish mythology

Mesopotamian Mythology

Mesopotamian mythology, which dates back many millennia, is still relevant today. Mesopotamia was the place where civilization began and it’s one of the oldest civilizations in history, so their myths are very old too! The term “Mesopotamian Mythology” refers to all myths from Sumer, Akkad, Assyria & Babylonia who were part of modern day Iraq.

Akkadian gods included Anu (the sky god), Enlil (ruler of earth/storm god) Ea (god of water), Ishtar-Inanna a goddess associated with fertility & war as well as Tammuz his consort known for being grieved by her death every year which led to winter. Hittites on the other hand, had mostly storm gods like Tarhunt & Teshub.

Babylonian myths were likely the most popular in Mesopotamia and they included Marduk who was a sun god that rose to power by defeating an older generation of gods (Tiamat). The Epic of Gilgamesh is also important in Babylonian mythology which includes Enkidu-the friend/companion of Gilgamesh; Humbaba-their enemy; Lilith -Adam’s first wife according to Jewish folklore; Siduri -a siren or wise woman living near the ocean.

Mesopotamian Mythology has been passed down through time because it influenced many cultures including Christians & Jews with tales such as the creation myth from Genesis as well as the flood myths.

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Elamite mythology
  • Hittite mythology
  • Iranian mythology
    • Kurdish mythology
    • Persian mythology
  • Babylonian mythology
  • Sumerian mythology
  • Armenian mythology
  • Circassian mythology
  • Georgian mythology
  • Ossetian mythology
  • Vainakh mythology

African Mythology

African mythology refers to the myths, beliefs and religious symbolism that is found in Africa.

There are many different animistic religions within Africa, each of which has their own creation myth. One common concept with African myth is the idea that the creator god is not all-powerful.

Creation myths are often explained with stories about “sky fathers”, who carve out the Earth from a gourd of corn, or “earth mothers”, who create humans from clay.

The Yoruba people have an extensive mythology with many different deities. The most important deity in Yoruba mythology is Olodumare who is the supreme being and the source of all divinity.

African mythology is very old and it still influences the cultures that exist today. It also had a major impact on many religions, which is why it’s important to be aware of these beliefs so you can understand them.

Some of these many African mythologies include:

  • Central Africa
    • Baluba mythology
    • Bushongo mythology
    • Kongo mythology
    • Lugbara mythology
    • Mbuti mythology
  • East Africa
    • Dinka mythology
    • Kalenjin mythology
    • Lotuko mythology
    • Maasai mythology
    • Somali mythology
  • Southern Africa
    • Lozi mythology
    • Malagasy mythology
    • San mythology
    • Tumbuka mythology
    • Zulu mythology
  • West Africa
    • Akan mythology
    • Dahomean mythology
    • Dogon mythology
    • Efik mythology
    • Igbo mythology
    • Serer mythology
    • Urhobo mythology
    • Yoruba mythology
  • African Diasporic
    • Candomblé
    • Hoodoo
    • Kumina
    • Obeah
    • Palo
    • Quimbanda
    • Santería
    • Umbanda
    • Vodou

Hindu Mythology

Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in India. It’s also the oldest living major religion and it has around 900 million adherents worldwide!

Hindu mythology is all about stories of Gods & Goddesses, who are called “Devas” or “Asuras”, with their many incarnations (avatars).

For example, the supreme god Vishnu takes on various roles throughout Hindu myths including protecting humanity from evil forces as well as preserving cosmic order. The other important deity within Hinduism is Shiva, a creator-destroyer god that dates back to Indus Valley civilization before 2000 BCE.

There are many different types of gods/goddesses within Hindu Mythology but they’re usually categorized into three main groups: Devashining ones; Asura-like ones; and the All-gods called “Visvadevas”.

Hindu mythology is based on oral tradition, which means it’s been passed down from generation to generation through stories. It has influenced many cultures including Buddhism and Jainism.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Scythian mythology
  • Ayyavazhi mythology
  • Tamil mythology
  • Vedic mythology
  • Buddhist mythology
  • Manipuri mythology
  • Romani mythology

Slavic Mythology

Slavic Mythology is so old that it influenced other cultures like Russian, Polish & Ukrainian. The term “Slavic mythology” indicates the myths of Slavs which has been passed down through stories and legends!

There are many different gods within Slavic Mythology but only one family: the Gods of Dazhbog. These include Perun (god of thunder), Veles (a god associated with cattle) Svarog who is also known as Koliada – giver of sun; Stribog who is connected to wind/air; Dažbog who brings happiness and fortune & finally Svetovid, a solar deity sometimes called White God or Sun Man because he was said to ride across sky in chariot each day.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Baltic mythology
    • Latvian mythology
    • Lithuanian mythology
    • Prussian mythology
  • Hungarian mythology
  • Paleo-Balkan mythology
    • Albanian mythology
    • Dacian religion
    • Illyrian mythology
    • Thracian religion

Chinese Mythology

Chinese Mythology is the mythology of China, passed down through generations via oral tradition.

One important god within Chinese myth is Pan Gu, who holds up the world after separating Yin & Yang with a huge axe. He would later die of exhaustion after creating the Earth & Heavens.

Another major deity in Chinese Mythology is Sun Wukong (also known as Son Goku). He’s an immortal monkey born from stone and he can defeat any enemy because of his many magical abilities that include immortality, invisibility, shape-shifting powers & super strength.

Chinese mythology includes stories about spirits/ghosts like Nian – ghoulish creature that comes out during New Year to eat children; Tien Kwan – earth spirit with human head & fish body; and then there’s Qi Gui – a spirit that takes the form of an old man who lures young girls into his house.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Ainu mythology
  • Bai mythology
  • Chinese mythology
  • Manchu mythology
  • Mongolian mythology
  • Qiang mythology
  • Ryukyuan mythology
  • Siberian mythology
  • Tibetan mythology
  • Turkic mythology

Japanese Mythology

Japanese Mythology is all about stories of gods, demons & monsters!

One important god within Japanese Mythology is Izanagi-no mikoto who created various islands that make up modern day Japan with his sword. His wife then gave birth to Amaterasu (goddess of sun) and Tsukuyomi (god of moon). Together these two are known as “the heavenly deities” because they lived at the top part of ancient world tree which symbolized life itself.

Another major deity within Japanese myth was Susanoo or Susa-no-o who battled Yamato Takeru – son of Emperor Keiko over lands on Earth until he died after falling off a cliff while battling.

Some related mythologies include:

  • Korean Mythology

Oceania Mythology

Oceania Mythology is the mythology of the indigenous peoples of Oceania including Australia, New Zealand & other Pacific Islands.

One important god within Oceanian Mythology is Tangaroa who was first-born son of Atanua – goddess of dawn and dusk. He’s very protective over his children especially if anyone tries to take them away from him!

Another major deity in Oceanian mythologies is Tiki who created Earth with help from gods like Rangi (god/sky) & Papa (earth mother). They are also known as “the Birdman” because they’re often depicted by carving out their images on rocks which symbolizes fertility power.

And then of course, there’s Maui, who is known as a trickster who has magical fishing hook that he uses to bring up islands from the bottom of sea.

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Burmese mythology
  • Indonesian mythology
  • Balinese mythology
  • Malaysian mythology
  • Philippine mythology
  • Vietnamese mythology
  • Thai mythology
  • Australian Aboriginal mythology
  • Melanesian mythology
    • Fijian mythology
    • Papuan mythology
  • Micronesian mythology
  • Hawaiian mythology
  • Mangarevan mythology
  • Māori mythology
  • Rapa Nui mythology
  • Samoan mythology
  • Tahitian mythology

North American Mythology

North American Mythology is the mythology of Indigenous peoples in North America including Canada, Greenland & United States.

One example of an important god within North American Mythology is Manabozho who was born when creator spirit Nanabush walked on ice that then cracked open to reveal man. He’s known as a trickster because he saves people from trouble which shows how much he cares for his children! Some legends say that if you lie to Manabozho, it’ll lead your death so always think before speaking!

Other major dieties in North American myth include Ojibwa’s Wakan Tanka – giver of life and supreme being; Nokomis – grandmother goddess who watches over Earth with love while giving guidance during hard times; Winonah- beloved daughter of Nokomis who is tricked by evil geezer and must find her way back home.

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Abenaki mythology
  • Blackfoot mythology
  • Cherokee mythology
  • Choctaw mythology
  • Creek mythology
  • Crow mythology
  • Haida mythology
  • Hopi mythology
  • Inuit mythology
  • Iroquois mythology
  • Lakota mythology
  • Navajo mythology
  • Nuu-chah-nulth mythology
  • Ohlone mythology
  • Pawnee mythology
  • Tsimshian mythology
  • Zuni mythology

Mesoamerican Mythology

Mesoamerican Mythology is the mythology of the indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica, such as the Aztec, Maya and Olmec.

One example of an important god within Mesoamerican Mythology is Tezcatlipoca who was often feared for his bad temper that included mood swings; powerful jaguar roars & violent hurricanes (he’s also known to be self-destructive). But because he can create anything like humans from clay, some Aztecs believe they are the children of Tezcatlipoca!

Another major deity within Mesoamerican myth includes Quetzacoatl – feathered serpent god that included importance on life after death which came from power to transform into animals. He’s often depicted with a snake-like appearance along with bird feathers/wings that symbolize something greater than what meets eye!

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Aztec mythology
  • Maya mythology
  • Mixtec mythology
  • Olmec mythology
  • Talamancan mythology
  • Zapotec mythology

South American Mythology

South American Mythology is the mythology of the indigenous peoples in South America such as Inca, Aymara and Guarani.

One example of an important god within South American Mythology is Viracocha who was known to create people from clay by using his hands; he also created sun & moon when we went too far away before leaving Earth for good!

And then there’s Inti – giver and sustainer of life who brings warmth like Sun while giving strength during hard times (he later became aspect of nature). Other major dieties includes Pachamama- goddess that embodies Mother Nature with mountains, rocks; she’s often worshipped through use of natural elements like corn. Then lastly, there’s Mbochi- culture hero & trickster who brings order to Earth and is often depicted as half-human & half-beast.

  • Chilote mythology
  • Guarani mythology
  • Inca mythology
  • Mapuche mythology
  • Muisca mythology

Abrahamic Mythology

Abrahamic Mythology is the mythology of Jewish, Christian & Muslim peoples.

The most important god within Abrahamic Mythology is Yahweh who created Earth with a word in Genesis while being the giver and sustainer of life in all beings – human or animals since he’s considered as one!

Other major deities (sometimes considered the same diety) includes Allah- giver and sustainer that represents mercy; loving father to his children but can also be anger if disobeyed which leads to hellfire (he later became aspect of nature).

Then there’s God/Allah’s son Jesus Christ who was born from the virgin Mary, as well as 12 apostles including Paul for guidance during hard times when teachings were forgotten by humans. And then there are archangels like Michael & Gabriel, who work closely with God/Allah to take care of Earth while balancing things out.

Some included and related mythologies include:

  • Jewish Mythology
  • Christian Mythology
  • Islamic Mythology
  • Arabian mythology
  • Canaanite mythology

Arthurian Legends

Lastly, we have the Arthurian Legends, which are related to Celtic mythology,  though are sometimes considered its own thing.

The Arthurian myths center around King Arthur, who is the son of Uther Pendragon & Igrayne, who is also considered as giver and sustainer that includes importance on life after death.

Other important characters in Arthurian myth include Morgan Le Fay, who was known to be a powerful sorceress while also creating magic.

Then there are various figures like Merlin who can shapeshift into any form – human or animal; he also has the power to bring back dead along with providing knowledge for Arthur throughout his adventures!

Finally, there’s Lancelot du Lac – King Arthur’s closest companion knight who eventually became a lover of Guinevere. He became one of the Knights of the Round Table alongside many others.

The Arthurian mythos eventually ended in tragedy, with the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot leading to King Arthur’s final battle came from Mordred. Almost everyone dies, including Arthur himself.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, all of these mythologies have major aspects that we can relate to, which is what makes them important and something worth learning more about!

Mythologies are important because they provide insight into how people used to understand the world around them, and how we continue to do so today.

The themes and messages that these stories communicate can be valuable to contemporary society.