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A manashi or traditional storyteller at Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, July 2002.
© Simon Garbutt

The Voice of the Peoples
Mar 03, 2010

Most scholars have traditionally assumed that mythology arose from a primitive inability to understand forces that we now comprehend. But an alternative view has gained considerable support from plasma science. This view holds that our forebears witnessed intense electrical phenomena beyond anything occurring today.


‘Plasma mythology’ works from the understanding that many myth lines, including the global themes of creation mythology, were ultimately based on eye-witness accounts of complex near-earth plasmas accompanying prehistoric geomagnetic storms of unimaginable magnitude. As such, plasma mythology effectively represents a contemporary revival of the ‘nature schools’ of mythology that were in vogue in the academic world until the meteoric rise of Freud’s and Jung’s ideas. The extraordinary advantage of a naturalist theory of myth, especially a catastrophist one, is that it does not make a mockery of the traditional insistence of indigenous cultures that creation mythology embodies true history. On the contrary, in contrast to the dominant theories of the 20th century, plasma mythology offers an approach that traditional non-western societies can potentially sympathise with.

In identifying genuine natural phenomena that may have caused events remembered in myths, plasma mythology places itself much closer to the typical ‘uncultured’ understanding of what the myths were about than did the theories of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Émile Durkheim, Georges Dumézil, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and a bevy of others. Though these authorities did, of course, offer some very insightful ideas as they charted the psychological, sociological and neurological dimensions of myth, they systematically missed the historical essence of their sources, pushing their own interpretations in an arrogant academic spirit of Besserwisserei. This happened at the expense of the very explicit claims of traditional peoples that the mythical events were real historical occurrences that genuinely explain how the present state of the world has evolved from an earlier one. At a loss to make sense of such claims, the big names in the comparative mythology of the 20th century have had to ignore or deny such claims of historicity, thereby distancing themselves from the native, ‘literal’ understanding that prevailed practically everywhere until ‘reason’ stepped in.

Insofar as the present endeavour initially involves little more than just ‘listening in’ to traditional reports and distilling recurring patterns from the welter of data, without imposing too many a priori assumptions, it takes a much closer and, arguably, more respectful stance towards indigenous understanding of creation myths in particular. One must dismiss an absolutely literal interpretation of myths, according to which the sky would have been populated with real talking animals and hybrid creatures, and is forced to embrace a symbolic reading of the myths, recognising that a ‘dragon’, a ‘serpent’ or a mythical ‘ancestor’ may really refer to a natural prototype that resembled a snake or a person. The fluidity of mythical metaphors, if anything, dictates such a symbolic understanding. The essential difference with the psychosociological paradigms of the past century is that these metaphors must have been inspired primarily by real, visible phenomena in nature, not by abstract patterns in the unconscious mind. So the type of symbolism of which the mythical narrative is woven together is much more visual than abstract. On that provision, plasma mythology takes the historicity of mythical events and the reliability of the reports much more seriously than its intellectual precursors have done, who typically had to resort to excessive measures of poetic elaboration, exaggeration and superstition while making a laughing stock of ethnic naivety.

Plasma mythologists are not alone in vindicating traditional claims of historicity in myths; geomythologists and those who recognise mythical reflexes of cometary apparitions participate in the same Renaissance of mythological theory. Bruce Masse is an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, who has done particularly much to drive this home, writing:

“The scientific study of myth is dominated by a paradigm that recognizes myth as having been viewed as truthful narrative history by past traditional cultures and yet is considered false or otherwise suspect by the modern scholars who study myth. Although virtually all scholars recognize that myth was of critical importance for traditional cultures, the attempt to elicit scientific reasons for this importance has led to many competing theories, few of which place an emphasis on the validity of myths as representing the product of actual observed historical natural events. This paradox may hinder our understanding of the origins of myth and prevent us from fully appreciating a critical aspect of why myth was so highly valued by past cultures.” Masse continued:

“Myths are cultural accounts of major events that typically happened in the remote past of that culture, when the world was different to today. They are considered truthful by the traditional knowledge keepers who transmit the stories, and mostly are profoundly sacred or at least are imbued with strong religious and ritual overtones. … The fact that virtually all traditional knowledge keepers believe myths (and legends) to be historically true whereas nearly all scientists presume they do not represent factual historical events is a disquieting conundrum that tells us more about the biases of western science than the nature of myth. The great diversity of the scholarly works on myth shows that, although being one of the most studied subjects in the history of the social sciences and the humanities, it has not yet been entirely understood. At the crux of this confusion is the simple and straightforward question of whether or not the storyline content of myth has any basis in historical events or processes.”

Masse went on to present his own take, which agrees with ours: “It can be demonstrated beyond any doubt that at least some myths and categories of myth are based on the observation of specific real natural phenomena and events that can be accurately placed in both space and time and can be linked to various types of physical evidence for the historical event.” And: “Astronomy shares with the Earth sciences a kindred relationship in that both can be used not only to demonstrate the reality of many myths but also to serve as vehicles by which to mine myths for important information about these natural processes and events …” The respective fields of enquiry that explore the reflexes of such natural phenomena in the sky and on earth can be labelled cosmomythology versus geomythology.

Contributed by Rens Van der Sluijs

Further Reading:

The Mythology of the World Axis; Exploring the Role of Plasma in World Mythology

The World Axis as an Atmospheric Phenomenon



"The Cosmic Thunderbolt"

YouTube video, first glimpses of Episode Two in the "Symbols of an Alien Sky" series.


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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
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