Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Web Review:
Mythology in a Click:
The Encyclopedia Mythica

Reviewed by Ann Kuykendall
2004, Ann Kuykendall


http://www.pantheon.org

World mythology is a big subject, but also a rich one for anyone interested in adding a touch of the fantastical to their writing.  However, it doesn't have to be wild beasts with six legs and super-strong men.  Mythology also gives archetypes and stories that can be adapted into a non-fantasy setting, and there is a great many to choose from--all around the world, mythology has vastly different elements, and also consistent elements that appear in nearly all civilizations.

With thousands upon thousands of figures, gods, events, and monsters in the global realm of mythology, where can a writer start?  The Encyclopedia Mythica is a brilliant jumping point for anyone who wishes to dabble in legends and lore, but find that they may not have the time to read through volumes of books on the subject.  (Or, for that matter, aren't sure what books and subjects they want to start with!)

The Encyclopedia Mythica totes itself as "an encyclopedia on mythology, folklore and legends."  It boasts over 6100 articles on various subjects from heroes, to goddesses, to items, and even some events.   In addition to articles, the site also hosts some images of the mythological, a few online versions of older texts, and supplementary links to off-site pages giving more information about the subject at hand.

The Encyclopedia Mythica features articles divided into the following sections:

Mythology

The Encyclopedia Mythica has information on mythology from the following geographical areas:  Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.  Once you have selected your geographical region and the particular culture/area you want information on, a convenient frame appears to the side with all of the relevant articles, listed in alphabetical order. The articles range from a single sentence to multiple pages.  Small illustrations and photographs are often provided when appropriate, and key words and references to other articles are linked in the text. 

The mythology area focuses on figures and events, rather than on actual stories.  In this section, for example, you will not find an exhaustive account of Hesiod's Theogany, Homer's Iliad, or Ovid's Metamorphosis, but you will find information on the gods and stories mentioned within them. 

The typical and most well-known areas of mythology, such as the Classical, are present.  However, the Encyclopedia Mythica goes much further.  There are articles available on lesser known mythologies, such as that of the Basque region in Europe, Korea in Asia, Aboriginal and Polynesian mythology in Oceania, African mythology, and the legends of South and North America.  In addition, they also have a section for those cultures which have no yet been pigeon-holed into the larger categories, including the Hittites and Madagascar. 

Folklore

The Folklore section has four main areas.  The first is a series of articles about the people, places and things of Arthurian Legend, as well as a handy introduction.  The next is called "folklore" and has international information on things such as spirits, ghosts, demons, and "creatures from cryptozoology".  The third section covers folktales and has stories from various regions of the world.  The last section focuses on Classical heroes and monsters from the Ancient Greek world.

Bestiaries and Heroes

These two areas include indexes of monsters and heroes from myth and legends.  You can find these in the other sections of mythology and folklore, but they are also separated into this one to narrow the search.

"Featured Items"

This section currently includes four electronic texts, including one on witchcraft.  These texts appear to be older and no longer protected by copyright laws.

Image Gallery and Genealogy Charts

The articles contain some images, but these sections have a few more images to peruse from various mythologies.  There are also various genealogy charts for gods and heroes.

The Encyclopedia Mythica is a fantastic collection of myth and legend.  It can be used for basic research on a god, to gain a general sense of a culture's mythology, and also for stories of folklore.  Whether you're looking for inspiration to jump off of, a place to start research in a large subject, or are just curious about beliefs around the world, the Encyclopedia Mythica is a corpulent resource to get lost in for hours--and find what you need quickly.