There is a fine line of difference between myths and legends. It is not hard to understand but easy enough to confuse. While legends have at least some base in actual facts and are just embellished history, myths are concocted stories used to explain something that has no concrete answer / logical explanation.
Myths and legends have, however, been uniformly confused since times immemorial, because sometimes history by itself is just fictitious and any embellishment to it is therefore, and extension of the fiction. Sarcastic comments aside, the definition of both these words decree that myths and legends should not be confused or mingled.
Meanwhile, both myths and legends come together for one purpose – they both give birth to superstitions that have been followed and developed upon since ages. Every superstition that ever, at one point, originated from a myth or legend. If the superstition does not really have a known base, it is safe to assume that myths were concocted around the said belief to give the superstition some value.
For without stories, there are no lessons, and without lessons, no stories can be generated. They intermingle to a point where the stories need some amount of backing that might have originated from some lesson. These stories behind lessons enhance the value and make them more memorable.
Fear has been the biggest motivator, and it has rendered most superstitions more potent and make them longer lasting than they would have normally been. Perhaps, at one point, it might have been just superstition to say that touching an open fire burns the skin. It might have taken countless lessons and further experiences to prove that the fire can hurt, and even more to prove that it can be tamed for our use.
In that way, superstitions can leave way to interpretations, and over time, lose the story behind them but leave the moral intact. For in all lessons, it is the moral that is important, the story becomes just a tool. With time, the morals that are part of the story get distorted, and newer stories are concocted in their place to explain, that perhaps, the moral would have come from this.
And then the story that is originally a myth then becomes a legend. Someone said that someone else in some other place experienced something, and all of a sudden hearsay is the tale of something that once had definitely happened. The story has successfully become history.
That is, perhaps, how myths gave way to superstitions that then got supporting arguments that became legends in their own rights, effectively altering, if not completely erasing, the origin of any particular belief. Somewhere down the line, there are superstitions that lose their value over time, and become completely irrelevant.
Case in point is the one that says – taking a photograph reduces one’s lifetime.
For those of you who have not heard this one yet, this is actually a very prevalent superstition that was very much in practice less than fifty years ago. But thence, it has been proven that there is no relationship between taking a photograph of someone and them losing years and days off their life. With the advent of digital cameras, where everything and everyone is photographed, will this superstition have any meaning?
But when I researched on this topic, I stumbled upon some interesting facts that made me wonder, that perhaps, not all myths were completely false. Did the photo-life myth originate because when they were first designed, cameras required the subjects to be stationary for many minutes, and some people found it impossible to stay still but also wanted their photographs to speak their legacy, making this gory practice quite common – people’s heads were clamped and positioned with them being dressed after their death for one final photograph – probably the only one where they would be able to sit completely still.
Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and myths make better sense than legends. My journey to find out weird and unique superstitions will continue even beyond the end of the year, as I try to delve into the fascinating world of tales and folklore that makes my skin tingle with every fact I uncover!
And the Happy Post is here!