On Monday 3rd June, Leeds’ Community Engagement and Employability workshop enjoyed a visit from Dr. Fiona Mitchell. Fiona works as a teacher and researcher at Birmingham University’s Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology department and is an expert on creation and myths and monsters of the ancient world, including myths and monsters from Greece, Rome, Babylon, India, Persia and more.
These are the stories of how the world and how humans began, of golden ages, falls, chaos, and great battles between gods, titans and monsters. Also, as we learned, there’s lots of eggs, fruits and lizards in these stories.
Fiona shared a number of these with us from different parts of the world, and members explored and shared some of those we already knew about: the story of Adam and Eve, the rainbow serpent, Gilgamesh, the big bang.
We covered lots of ground during the day and (amongst many other things) thought and talked about:
- How things came into being and different ideas about time (including the idea of “cyclical time”). Ideas about the end of time (a piece of ancient Indian myth has it that the world will end when one of the gods wake up!).
- How mythology and cosmogony (stories of the birth of the world) can be used to learn about different cultures. What they can tell us. The idea that origin stories sometimes give us a view of how people thought things ought or were meant to be.
- The role that video games (like God of War and Assassins Creed) and movies play in transmitting and keeping alive this ancient mythology and history today
- The emotional life and needs of the gods: to what extent do these resemble our own? Some gods get angry when they don’t get enough sleep; the extent to which the gods of some traditions embody and represent things like anger and lust; the consequences of the emotions of the gods (e.g. Demeter’s sadness is the cause of winter; angry gods sometimes cause devastation
- The correct way of pronouncing the names of certain dinosaurs, most of whose names come from Greek
The day was brilliant overall, and we’re really grateful to Fiona for joining us for it. Everyone, including Fiona, took new knowledge from the day, and some members were keen to delve deeper into the subject. We’ll be doing a bit of this in future weeks, and hope to link up with Fiona again in the future.
Fiona’s Birmingham University profile page:
Check out the webpage Fiona made for us and some of the resources she put together for us here: