The Purpose of Eschatological Myths at Mount Shasta
In times of crisis, apocalyptic and messianic myths re-emerge and promise the hope of a new world. These movements usually focus on a prophetic leader and project a catastrophic end of the world. Commonly found is the promise of a return of a cultural hero to lead the battle against evil. For Mount Shasta, these myths provide a context for channeling spirits who may promise humankind reunification with star people or extraterrestrials.
In mythology, culture heroes are not responsible for creation but make the world fit for humans to live in; an example is Prometheus in Greek mythology, who provides fire technology to humankind. In Christian beliefs, like many millenarian and messianic movements, there is an expected end of the world and renewal of heaven and earth. Similar beliefs are common in Zoroastrianism regarding the Last Judgment and the salvation of the world.
Myths of Eschatology
Myths of eschatology emphasize the origin of death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Examples of eschatology myths are messianic myths, where a future salvation figure emerges, and millenarianism, the belief in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In myths of eschatology, there is the final battle between good and evil.
Many eschatological myths are concerned with eternity and mortality. For example, in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible, Daniel recounts four kingdoms that will pass before God establishes an everlasting kingdom. In Judaism, there is believed to be a 1,000-year period between each of the four worlds and also before the creation of the everlasting kingdom. The theme of creation after destruction also occurs in Vedic scriptures and Stoic philosophies that were dominant in the distant past.
The Hero Myths
The hero myth has three elements: a hero or protagonist, the environment where the story takes place, and the narrative that describes the interaction between the hero and his environment. In the setting of the story, the hero enters the unknown, struggles, and finds something of value to return to the community. It is in this framework the hero undergoes a rite of passage or initiation that leads to a change in status for the hero. For psychologists, the mythical hero character symbolizes the ego, and the hero’s adventures symbolize the encounters with the unconscious.
The hero character encounters tests that challenge strength and stamina, representing the extreme of human behavior, going beyond the expected norms, usually for the good of the group. There is a definite function of culture heroes in society, and that is to demonstrate courage, good intentions, and how to undertake large tasks effectively. Moreover, heroes show people how to acquire knowledge and use it properly. For structural anthropologists, the hero characters in myths are mediators between dualities, usually good and bad, and demonstrate universal human characteristics.
The meaning is not in the story itself but in the underlying relationships of the plot and its symbolism. At a subconscious level, these dualities help people cope with ambiguities and contradictions encountered in life. A modern example of a hero myth is the movie Star Wars where the hero, Luke Skywalker, struggles against all odds to battle and defeat the dark Lord Vader.