The Meaning of Myth: With 12 Greek Myths Retold and Interpreted by a Psychiatrist
by Neel Burton
Acheron Press

"Myth, magic, religion, philosophy, and science are all means of apprehending the world, and they are not, it seems, mutually incompatible."

Award-winning author Burton here shares his extensive knowledge of mythology in its multiple aspects. He presents a wide-ranging, studious approach to the subject, examining the stories variously called myths, legends, fairy tales, or fables as well as their abbreviated forms: metaphor and allegory. Why have people often chosen to make animals the actors in their fables? Why are females often depicted as evil influences? What is the role of monsters in mythology and the human psyche? Burton also explores twelve major myths and their meanings in lively detail. Persephone, for example, is an archetypal female trying to respect her mother while seeking her own path. Theseus, the founder of Athens, voluntarily descended into the labyrinth and slew the minotaur. In doing so, he changed his homeland's governance from island to mainland, illustrating the connection between real events and the mythologies that often underpinned them. Plato’s "Myth of Er" ponders the afterlife, perfection, and the wisdom needed to make good choices.

Burton’s erudition is apparent throughout this highly readable construction, balanced by a personable style and subtle humor. He clearly wishes to introduce mythological archetypes to a new generation that is appropriately developing its own, as evidenced in fantasy fiction like Star Wars and Game of Thrones. He reminds readers of the connections between the parables of Jesus and the animated stories that preceded them from the earliest times. He also sagely suggests that while Europeans dismissed “the narratives of the peoples they colonized,” they retained “their own Garden of Eden, the Holy Trinity, and Easter Resurrection” as theological constructs. By infusing ancient, engaging tales with intelligent associations to modern science and particularly psychology, Burton’s work invites thoughtful readers to give fresh consideration to the role of mythology in the current era.

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