Culture hero  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Greek hero cult

A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group (cultural, ethnic, racial, religious, etc.) who changes the world through invention or discovery. A typical culture hero might be credited as the discoverer of fire, or agriculture, songs, tradition and religion, and is usually the most important legendary figure of a people, sometimes as the founder of its ruling dynasty. The hero is sometimes said to be still living, but is often instead a star, constellation, animal or purely spiritual in nature.

In many cultures, particularly Native American, the mythical figure of the trickster and the culture hero are combined. To illustrate, Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give it to humans. He is more of a culture hero than a trickster. In many Native American mythologies and beliefs, the coyote spirit stole fire from the gods (or stars or sun) and is more of a trickster than a culture hero. Natives from the Southeastern United States typically saw a rabbit trickster/culture hero. The Western African trickster spider Ananse is also widely disseminated.

In some cultures, there are dualistic myths, featuring two culture heroes arranging the world in a complementary manner. Dualistic cosmologies are present in all inhabited continents and show great diversity: they may feature culture heroes, but also demiurges (exemplifying dualistic creation myths in the latter case), or other beings; the two heroes may compete or collaborate; they may be conceived as neutral or contrasted as good versus evil; be of the same importance or distinguished as powerful versus weak; be brothers (even twins) or be not relatives at all.

The term is sometimes used to describe great authors or artists in a metaphorical sense (i.e. Mzwakhe Mbuli, a South African poet.


Partial list

Abenaki mythology

Australian Aboriginal mythology

Abrahamic mythology (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)

Armenian mythology

Ashanti mythology

Aztec mythology

Banks Islander mythology

Celtic mythology (Irish, Welsh)

Chinese mythology

Egyptian mythology

English mythology

Etruscan mythology

Finnish mythology

Greek mythology

Indian mythology

Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Mythology

Inuit mythology

Lakota mythology

Māori mythology

Maya mythology

Mesopotamian mythology

Ohlone mythology

Navaho mythology

Norse mythology

Ojibwe mythology

Persian mythology

Polynesian mythology

Roman mythology

Serbian mythology

Slavic mythology

Solomon Islander mythology

Mythology of the United States

Ute mythology

Weenhayek mythology

Zuni mythology

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Culture hero" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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