Myth, Folklore and Ancient Justice
In primitive and civilized cultures alike, myth has served as a foundational component of social structure and societal cultural self-image. For peoples with limitation on their skills of scientific inquiry and/or detached social observation, myth has served purposes ranging from explanation of the natural world to early visions of civil justice and a moral ethos. Such application of myth has necessarily and simultaneously provided adherents with the means of rationalizing the caprice and harshness of the natural world, as well as giving a means of accepting, even a fatalism, concerning injustice.
In general terms, myths and mythic figures have provided primitive and ancient peoples a means of mediating and understanding (1) man’s relation to nature; and (2) the requisites of a successful society. Folk lore, in turn, has occupied a subordinate role of providing illuminating, illustrative, and sometimes admonitory parables that reinforce ordinarily pre-established community norms. With regard to community norms, therefore, both myth and folklore have played mediating roles in aiding and enhancing a people’s ability to achieve orderly and successful societies.
Just as evidence of primitive and ancient cultures informs us of the cultural antecedents of much of modern civil justice, so too myth and folklore not only provide great storytelling, but also insights into the moral and ethical aspirations of prior cultures.
Date of this Version
Stuart Madden, "Myth, Folklore and Ancient Justice" (April 5, 2006). bepress Legal Series. bepress Legal Series.Working Paper 1242.