The traditional stories of a people, often orally transmitted. They usually tell of unbelievable things in a deliberate manner, so that a 'myth' can mean both 'an untrue story', and 'a story containing religious truth'. The subject-matter of myths is either the gods and their relations with human or other beings, or complex explanations of physical phenomena. Until recently mythology meant Greek mythology, which is distinct in its concentration on stories of heroes and heroines, and its avoidance of the bizarre episodes in contemporary Near Eastern myths.
Greek mythology was largely derived from Homer; it referred to a specific historical period (before the Trojan War); and it was, to a certain extent, rationalized and beautified by later writers. The use of this mythology in Elizabethan and Romantic poets indicates a wish to break out of narrowly Christian patterns of behaviour.
Some writers (such as Blake, Tolkien, and Yeats) have created mythical systems of their own by synthesizing disparate materials. Recent scholarship has been either folklorist or structuralist, finding unexpected parallels in myths from widely different sources, and showing their function in determining social behaviour.