I have a strictly functional definition of myth: “Myth is the oral imprinting press of preliterate peoples.” This definition is problematic, for it uses a literate metaphor for an oral category. Being that I am a literate person, and the people reading this are all literate people, perhaps this is the best we can do. At least this definition will have to do for now.
Myth is the product of the demands of oral cognition. When a literate mind wants to look up an idea, it goes to a book or encyclopedia. An oral mind has no such thing, and therefore uses its immediate environment as its mnemonic lexicon. Further, all important information that must be passed down to the next generation has to be encoded in a memorable format, linked to the environment, and layered in an oral information medium whereby important things can be remembered.
What are the important things that need to be remembered in an oral society? History, technologies (planting, hunting, calendar making, pottery making, etc.) social constructs and socio-biological roles, religious considerations, and ideas of ultimate meaning are the things all societies pass down. If our definition of myth is correct, then myth should contain aspects of each of these things. Below is a chart that shows these relationships:
While the psychological school insists that myth is the autonomous production of the psyche, generally as fantasy or dream images from the unconscious or collective unconscious, this definition asserts that myth is a natural product of consciousness which seeks to organize its ontological cosmos in rational yet memorable ways. Myth is created in the manner of its heavy characters and episodes mostly for mnemonic purposes.
This definition does not exclude, however, the notion of the numinous or the power of individuation within the construct of myth. Oral lexicons wed to the environment will eventually address the cycles that the environment manifests, and especially the mysteries of birth, life, and death. Myth is filled with high philosophy, if one is willing to see it for what it is, and give credit to ancient minds for considering the most probing questions of human consciousness, which also happen to be the most ubiquitous questions of life.