Myths can’t be translated as they did in their ancient soil. We can only find our own meaning in our own time.

What's the meaning of this quote?

Quote Meaning: This quote reminds us that myths and stories from the past cannot simply be transplanted into our contemporary context without losing some of their original significance. Instead, we must seek to find meaning and relevance in these myths by interpreting them through the lens of our own experiences and cultural climate. By doing so, we can engage with these stories on a deeper level, allowing them to resonate with our own unique perspectives and challenges. This quote encourages us to embrace the fluidity of storytelling and its ability to evolve across time and space, as we find new ways to connect with the wisdom of the past.

Who said the quote?

The quote "Myths can't be translated as they did in their ancient soil. We can only find our own meaning in our own time." was said by Margaret Atwood (Bio / Quotes). Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author and poet who is known for her works of speculative fiction, including "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Oryx and Crake.

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What's the quote's message?

The quote suggests that myths, tales from antiquity that were deeply rooted in the contexts and cultures in which they were created, cannot be precisely replicated or fully understood in the modern world. Like a plant that flourishes in its native soil but struggles to adapt elsewhere, a myth loses some of its substance and vibrancy when removed from its original setting. The cultural nuances, societal norms, and specific details that made sense in the past can seem alien to us today.

However, the quote also highlights an essential human capability - our ability to derive personal significance and insights, even from stories and traditions that may not align with our current cultural or temporal context. The key lies in the interpretation. Just as each era has its own challenges and triumphs, each individual also has their own unique experiences and perspectives.

Therefore, when we encounter myths, rather than trying to understand them solely within their original context, we can seek to find relevance and meaning that resonate with our own time and personal experiences. We can adapt these ancient stories, interpreting and reinventing them to address contemporary issues, or to illuminate personal truths.

In essence, while the precise translation of myths may elude us, they can still serve as a source of wisdom, inspiration, and understanding. The challenge and the opportunity is to seek out and interpret their meanings in a way that's relevant to our present moment, circumstances, and personal journey.

Is there a historical example that illustrates the message of the quote?

One historical example illustrating this concept can be seen in the reinterpretation of Greek mythology during the Renaissance period in Europe.

During antiquity, the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses, such as Zeus, Athena, and Aphrodite, were integral to the society's religious beliefs and practices. Myths involving these figures provided explanations for natural phenomena, human behavior, and rituals. They were understood and interpreted within the context of their time, and the societal and moral codes of ancient Greece.

However, during the Renaissance, a period characterized by a resurgence of interest in the classical cultures of Greece and Rome, these myths were reinterpreted and given new significance. Rather than literal beings to be worshipped, the figures from Greek mythology were often seen as symbols or allegories that could be used to explore humanistic themes.

For instance, the Renaissance artist Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus" depicts the mythological figure of Venus (or Aphrodite in Greek mythology) in a way that emphasizes beauty, love, and the power of the feminine. This interpretation, with its focus on humanistic and aesthetic qualities, was in line with the cultural and societal values of the Renaissance, but differs significantly from the religious and ritualistic interpretations of the same figure in ancient Greece.

In this way, the Greek myths were "translated" into a new cultural soil, and found new meaning in the Renaissance period that differed from their original context. This illustrates the point of the quote: we find our own meaning in myths, shaped by our own time and context.

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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