Myth is at the heart of most religions and belief systems - it is a poetic, artistic and literary way of understanding the world through stories that are rich in symbolism. Myths tell tales of gods, goddesses, heroes, monsters and men in ways that reflect our own desires, fears, feelings and hopes.
The Mythology Bible, a new book by Sarah Bartlett in the Godsfield Bible series, is a guide to myths from all over the world, including Egypt, Rome, Greece, Scandinavia, Europe, the Americas, Australia, Africa and Asia. What I particularly like is that it not only covers myths I am reasonably familiar with - such as those of Greece and Rome - it also covers gaps in my knowledge, such as many of the myths from Africa and the Australian Aborigines.
As interesting as individual mythic stories are in themselves, what I find most fascinating about mythology is why it is important to human beings everywhere, from the earliest times.
Myths are much more than simply works of fiction - they serve psychological, social, cultural and spiritual purposes. Various people have tried to explain why this is, and how this works. The Mythology Bible gives a succinct account of major theorists, such as mythology professor Joseph Campbell and psychologist Carl Jung.
The book also covers comparative mythology - themes that reoccur in many different myth systems. These include creation stories; the origins of the sun, moon and stars; battles with beasts and monsters; the trials of love; heroes, tricksters and quests; and death and the underworld.
The Mythology Bible is a lovely reference book if you want an overview of world mythology that is easy to read, with beautiful artwork. It is something you can easily dip into and could be a good starting point for more in depth study of mythology in general or a specific belief system.
The Mythology Bible: Everything You Wanted to Know About Mythology (Godsfield Bible) goes on sale on July 6 with an RRP of £12.99. It is available to order through Amazon.