A functional approach to Egyptian myth and mythemes


The article re-examines the definition of the Egyptian mythical tradition as notably different from that of other cultures. In particular, the supposed late development of Egyptian (narrative) myths, which has traditionally been inferred from the variability in both content and form of mythical fragments/ mythemes in different contexts, is re-evaluated. It is argued that the form a myth or mytheme takes is dependent on the function of the context in which it is used, with the (structural) relationships between actors (or actors and objects) taking precedence over their identity, which is variable. This apparent flexibility should be regarded as a positive, rather than a limiting feature of myths, since it allows them to be adapted to a variety of contexts and purposes. 


Publication Type

Journal Name

Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

Volume Number


Issue Number

1, pp. 28-59