Annotated Bibliography for Catastrophism: Mythology and Religion

Bullen, J. B. The Sun is God.
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989.

Burkert, Walter. Ancient Mystery Cults.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA., 1987.

Burkert, one of the foremost contemporary historians of Greek religion, compares the rituals, membership, organization, and dissemination of five major mystery cults: those of Eleusis, Dionysis (Bacchus), Meter, Isis, and Mithras. The contents of the book are based upon four Carl Newell Jackson Lectures which Burkert presented at Harvard University in 1982. Burkert attempts to dispell a number of misconceptions and stereotypes about the mystery cults. This book includes excellent notes and a good bibliography for further research.

Butterworth, E. A. S. The Tree at the Navel of the Earth.
Walter de Gruyter and Co., Berlin, 1970.

Butterworth considers the mythology of the World Tree and the Tree of Life with emphasis on Asiatic variants, especially the Meditteranean fringe, Mesopotamia, Iran, and Egypt. Butterworth discusses the important symbols (the lunar crescent, the bowl, the sun, the thunderbolt) as well as the relationship of the world tree to ecstatic rituals, shamanism, and yoga. Butterworth shows the human body was mapped onto the cosmos by ancient peoples, and how the human spine was related to the cosmic axis or world tree. In the final chapter, Butterworth relates all these ideas to the background of Christianity by closely examining the meaning of the engraving of the crucified Christ on the Lotharkreuz at Aachen. Butterworth's text provides an excellent complement to James's Tree of Life.

Cook, A. B. Zeus.
Cambridge, 1940.

This massive work -- almost 1,300 pages in three volumnes -- on the Greek sky-god Zeus represents the life work of Arthur Bernard Cook. It is a treasure-trove for anyone interested in Greek religion and mythology. The section on meteorite worship is particular interesting since the Greeks associated the "thunderbolts" thrown by Zeus with meteors as well as with lightning bolts.

Dundes, Alan, ed. The Flood Myth.
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988.

Forsyth, Neil. The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth.
Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1987.

Forsyth presents a dense, scholarly, yet readable book about the origins and development of the figure of Satan in Jewish and Christian thought. Forsyth begins with an overview of combat myths from the Near East and Greece, followed by the combat at the Red Sea expressed in the Biblical story of the Exodus. Forsyth then discusses the history of Satan in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Forsyth goes on to discuss the relationship between the demiurge and Satan as expressed in Gnosticism, and concludes with a lengthy discussion of the role Augustine played in fashioning the current conception of Satan in Western Christianity.

I am intrigued that Forsyth does not consider the possibility of an astronomical origin for the combat myths, nor for attributes of cosmic serpents, the demiurge, or Satan.

Kirk, G. S. Myth: Its meaning and functions in ancient and other cultures.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1973.

Kirk examines the relationship of myths to folktales and rituals, the validity of structuralist approaches to myth, the influence of Near Eastern myths on Greek myths, the special forms taken by Greek myths, and the status of myths as expressions of the unconscious, as universal symbols, or as byproducts of narrative schemes. Kirk provides an excellent scholarly but readable introduction to the study of mythology, a useful contrast to the approaches often adopted by catastrophists in interpreting myths. Also see Kirk's The Nature of Greek Myths.

Kirk, G. S. The Nature of Greek Myths.
Penguin Books, London, 1990.

This reissue of Kirk's 1974 book covers some of the same ground as his earlier Myth: Its meaning and functions in ancient and other cultures, but concentrates on Greeks myths. The sections discussing monolithic theories of mythology and why these don't work is especially valuable. The discussion of Greek heroes will be very illuminating for those who have only read about these subjects in the catastrophist literature.

Larsen, Stephen. The Shaman's Doorway.
Station Hill Press, Barrytown, New York, 1988.

Larsen, a psychotherapist, discusses the mythic themes that appear in shamanistic cultures, tracing the origins of shamanism from neolithic times to the present.

Nillson, Martin P. The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology.
University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1932, 1972.

This classic work collects the Sather Lectures delivered by Nillson at Berkeley in 1930-1931. Nillson studied the geographical aspects of Greek myths and noted that many places in Grrek myths were important Bronze-Age sites. To Nillson this indicated that later Greek myths reflected, even in classical times, the Mycenaean age. This idea was quite startling when Nillson originally propounded it, but it is now accepted by almost all scholars as a matter of course since the decipherment in 1952 of the bronze-age Linear "B" incriptions at Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, and Thebes proved to be Greek.

Santilliana, Giorgio de and H. von Dechend. Hamlet's Mill.
Macmillan, London, 1969.

Santilliana and von Dechend collate myths from all over the world to show the universality of certain themes which most likely had an astronomical basis, primarily in the procession of the equinoxes. An particularly ubiquitous theme is that of the disruption of the cosmic axis and the destruction of the great cosmic mill which turns about this axis. Santilliana and von Dechend note that many of the myths discussed catastrophic occurrences, but they ascribe an allegorical meaning to these.

Vitaliano, Dorothy B. Legends of the Earth.
Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1973.

Wolkstein, Diane and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna.
Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1983.

Wolkstein and Kramer have retranslated, ordered, and combined the fragmented tales comprising the cycle of Inanna, Sumerian Queen of Heaven. Kramer provides an excellent summary of Sumerian history, culture, and literature. The book also contains a good supply of photographs of Inanna-related art, with detailed annotations by Elizabeth Williams-Forte.

Note: This bibliography bears a copyright.

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Last modified by pib on March 20, 1999.