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Keywords

myth, Levi-Strauss, culture vs nature, evolution, mimetic communication, universal

Abstract

By analyzing myths from around the world to build an argument regarding the relation between cosmology and community, Amazonian myths are set within a broader set of mythic imageries. Lévi-Strauss showed how a structural description of myth should fully incorporate the entire set of variant arrangements through which its elements or terms could be related to one another. Despite the criticism to which his approach has been subject (references?), the notion that certain kinds of logical operations could be gleaned in the organization of myth continues to yield valuable insights. In this paper, I contend that the mimetic representation of empirically observed relations of nature and human periodicities, beginning with the correlation of lunar cycles and female menstruation, may be seen to have generated a well-defined stable complex of mythical themes the world over. In their general outline, the themes reveal an understanding of relationships and process that constitute a cosmology that can be found to center around broadly similar concerns around the world. Central elements of this cosmology concern its derivation of nature from ideal thought, a distinction between its timeless, holistic origins and the existing state of affairs, as well as its inherent reversibility. Detailed description of the analogies, homologies and inversions in the character of mythic protagonists and their actions presented here provides grounds for arguing that myths throughout the world correspond to a mode of communication and representation of natural periodicities and death and reproduction based on empirical observation that arose historically prior to the emergence of language.

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