The Oxford Companion to World Mythology

The Oxford Companion to World Mythology

By David Leeming
New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Hardback, 469 pages.

If you are looking for the one best reference book on mythology for a personal, lodge, school, or public library, The Oxford Companion is it. Informed by good scholarship and a judicious approach, this volume is not merely a dictionary of mythic names, but also a thumbnail introduction to the entire discipline of mythology. Within it , you will find accounts of individual figures from out of myth (e.g., Wotan, Persephone, Kali ), as well as articles on the mythology of geographical areas and spiritual traditions (e.g., Africa n mythology, Islamic mythology), major mythological themes (e.g., Afterlife, Creation), and eminent mythologists (e.g., C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and others).

Narratives from the Judeo-Christian tradition , (e.g., Adam and Eve, the Ascension of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles ) are called "myths" and presented in the same way, and with the same fullness, as those of other religions. Leeming patiently explains that this is not to disparage them or any other myth, for what may be history to a person of one faith may be myth to those of another creed, and in a work like this all must be on an equal footing. For many users, the copious inclusion of western religious material will only enhance the value of the work.

As a good encyclopedia should, this volume simply gives basic information- a lot of it-in an authoritative voice without getting into academic arguments. Some scholars may quibble about a few particular points, but for the average reader this book will be state of the art, and should be so received. The volume includes an appendix containing family trees and cross-cultural equivalences for selected pantheons, as well as a bibliography and an index.


May/June 2006