Myths of Sky and Underworld

Ref: C2228532

In myths we tell stories of times long past, of places we cannot visit, or places we cannot return from. This course explores two types of these fundamental tales: myths of the sky (the world above, of sun, stars, and planets), and myths of the underworld (the world below, or the world beyond). Such stories are told all around the world, and we will read and discuss a selection of fascinating, strange, and wonderful myths. Tales include the enchanting story of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess; the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e; and stories behind the constellations. Then we will compare a variety of underworld journeys: including the descent of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar; Orpheus' quest to retrieve Eurydice from Hades; Aeneas’ voyage over the river Styx; Dante’s descent into the Inferno. What do different cultures think about the afterlife? Does our fate depend on our behaviour in life, or do we all end up in the same place?

Course aim

Humans have always sought meaning in the sky, and every culture has underworld stories. We will explore and compare wonderful global myths of the celestial realm and the netherworld: their purpose, and what they tell us about early religious belief.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers
  • This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in myths from around the world.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify common themes in famous myths from different cultures
  • Explain the importance of sun and stars to ancient cultures
  • Recount the tales of mythical underworld journeys
  • Develop skills in expressing your opinions based on the evidence in the texts.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Classes will typically consist of introduction of the topic by the tutor; close reading; class discussion; small group work. Extracts from the essential texts will be provided.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Myths of Sky and Underworld


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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