For long, I’ve thought that one way of reinforcing on my children the idea that the Christian god is not real, was to expose them to other religions, and in particular, polytheistic religions. A fun way of doing this is through myths – though unfortunately I’m a terrible story teller and don’t know that many myths myself. Indeed, I hate to admit it, by my knowledge of the Classics is rather poor.
Still, we talk about the Greek gods all the time (and the Egyptian ones, but I think the Greek ones are more important from a cultural point of view) and a few years ago, I picked up a book on Greek myths at the British Museum (Mini Greek Myths for Young Children) and today Mika and I started reading them together. I wouldn’t say the story telling in this book is the best, but it held Mika’s attention quite well (but she’s 8, Camila, 5, wasn’t even interested in hearing them).
We read the myth of Prometheus and the fire, and then the one of Pandora and her box. I had told that story to Mika before, but I guess she was too young for it and she didn’t remember it. This time, though, we talked about it and she definitely understood it.
As we talked, I realized how remiss I’d been on telling Mika Judeo-Christian myths, so I told her the story of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from paradise. She was quick to realize the parallels between the two stories – which led to conversation on why people develop myths in the first place. But this also gave me an opening to another subject I haven’t explored enough with her – sexism. Mika was actually quite surprised to learn that for many people women are not equal to men (she thinks we’re better šŸ™‚ and that throughout history men tried their best to oppress women. One of their ways to do so, I told her, was through stories which placed the blame for whatever evil had occurred on women (Pandora and Eve, who, with their curiosity, brought pain to the world). Alas, we didn’t have more time to explore the issues with these myths in particular, and the larger issue of how religion works as a principal form of social (and sexual) control, but I’m not sure if Mika is ready for such concepts yet. In any case, I think it won’t take much for her to figure out these things by herself.
We continued our foray into Greek mythology with the story of Persephone and the Seasons. Once again, I was quite pleased with Mika – who figured out the meaning of the story way before we got to it. Apparently she had read a story called (The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story), based on a Native American myth. In the story, animals and birds play a ball game to see who is better. Nobody wants the bat (who has “teeth” as animals and “wings” like birds) on their team – but finally one of the animals takes pity on him, lets him play with them, and he ends up winning the game for them. As the winner, the bat tells the birds their penalty is that they will have to fly south for half of each year (which coincides with winter in the Northern hemisphere). Well, the parallels she saw between the Persephone myth and this story were enough to make Mika predict that the half year Persephone would spend on the earth with her mother Demeter would be summer, while the time she spends in the underworld with Pluto would be winter. WTF? There is no question that my older girl has an amazing brain in her head.
We finished our foray into Greek mythology by reading the story of Arachne – a myth I had never heard before, but which told us why spiders are called “arachnids” (Arachne was a weaver who incurred the wrath of goddess Athene, who in turn turned her into a tiny eight-legged creature and cursed her to weave forever with no one wanting what she weaved).
I’m hoping we’ll be reading more of these myths tonight before bed šŸ™‚