On Hinduism Stackexchange, we have a most popular tag. Since the word can have two different meanings i.e somewhat ambiguous nature, users often raise discussion on meta to rename or remove the tag. You can see the first question that discuss the issue with the tag at here.

Quoting the introductory part of the answer:

Here's the thing: the word "myth" has two uses in English:

  1. A pejorative usage, referring to "a widely held but false belief or idea"

  2. A non-pejorative usage, "a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events."

The word "mythology", however, only has one meaning and that's a meaning that's related to the non-pejorative usage of the word myth.

So when we tag a question about a Hindu story as mythology, we're not saying that the story is false or fictional. We're simply saying that the question concerns one of the "stories that are part of Hindu religious beliefs", as the tag description I wrote says.

Though it's clear from the description or the excerpt of the tag, however user often find the word immediately convey the meaning "myth" and hence often try to avoid or rename it. You can find similar discussion here and here.

Recently we've an ongoing discussion on meta: New Community Consensus on use of Mythology Tag in which we're discussing to either completely remove or rename the tag or keeping it as it is.

Looking at it's ambiguous nature or looking at higher chances of getting wrong meaning by visitors, I feel it should be avoided like GNU suggests to avoid some confusing words. So, I'm thinking for a better alternative (in a single or two word) which can indicate something like sacred scriptural historical ancient stories

Note that the word choice "Legend" would not work since it indicates "a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated." in which unauthenticated part again create problem similar to the indication of myth in mythology.

  • As I've just joined the site, I'm not familiar with tags being used here, so consider to edit accordingly. Thanks – Pandya Nov 29 '17 at 16:31
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    My guess is that all synonyms of "myth" or "mythology" are going to create equally big or bigger problems. Mythology is really the word you want. If you are looking to emphasize the sacredness in order to avoid misunderstanding, maybe use an adjective. Consider tags along the lines of sacred-mythology. – MetaEd Nov 29 '17 at 16:48
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    You can consider sacred narrative. – ermanen Nov 29 '17 at 17:12
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    I think the word mythology is your best bet, precisely because it strikes a balance between the camp that holds these stories are historical and factual and those who hold them to be instructive but apocryphal. Any words which does have this "ambiguity" (really, neutrality) is going to put off one of these camps or the other, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. – Dan Bron Nov 29 '17 at 17:26
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    "1997: Folklorists define a myth as "a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form"." - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_mythology – Jordan.J.D Nov 29 '17 at 22:45

canon - among its other meanings the following seems most appropriate:

a list of writings, esp sacred writings, officially recognized as genuine

although there are other meanings with religious connotations which may also be appropriate. Though originally applied to Christianity, I can see no reason why they should not apply to any other religion.

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    "lore" is another alternative. – Max Williams Nov 29 '17 at 17:17
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    @MaxWilliams that probably deserves to be an answer. It's a pretty good suggestion! – terdon Nov 29 '17 at 17:43
  • Another way to express in-universe canon is to call it mythology. The way I see canon is that it's something that's malarkey outside of its realm of context. So, sorry but -1, as it does not appease the OP's wishes as I see them. Then again, I upvoted scripture, which all mean the same crap to me, so nevermind. – Mazura Nov 29 '17 at 22:58
  • @Mazura Canon can be more than just "malarkey outside of its realm of context": take the Pali Canon as an example. Canon means "law" in many religious contexts (also for Catholics, for example). – errantlinguist Nov 29 '17 at 23:24

In Christianity, "Christian mythology" is sometimes (but rarely) used as a neutral description of the stories of the Bible. Most often, it is reserved for use by skeptical academics.

On the other hand, "Biblical history" is also occasionally used for Bible stories; although, that is misleading because it is usually reserved as the default term for the historical context in which the Bible was written.

These two definitions push people to use the more neutral-sounding phrase "Bible stories" (as I did above) or simply "scripture". With this in mind, I would recommend either "sacred stories", "sacred writings", "scripture", or something like "Hindu stories".

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    Wiki calls it scripture, +1 – Mazura Nov 29 '17 at 22:32
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    Regarding Christianity and the use of the term "true myth" - christianity.stackexchange.com/a/6715/4022 – Nacht Nov 30 '17 at 0:32
  • For the purposes of resolving the matter, this is the best answer @pandya – moonstar Nov 30 '17 at 21:05

I am Indian and familiar with the Indian understanding of words like mythology, scripture and folk-tales. While "mythology" is a scholarly term with a specific meaning correctly applied here, your problem is that the connotation of 'myth' is unwelcome for believers. However you cannot get the same meaning with either scripture or folk-tale, because in terms of sources, mythology is composed of both scriptures (sacred texts) and folk-tales (legends):

mythology = scriptures + folk tales.

Since your main problem is with the 'myth' part, and because theasurus.com lists 'tradition' as a synonym of mythology, I think a good replacement tag would be divine-tradition.

This term is actually used in religious contexts as in the following examples:

https://www.google.co.in/search?q=%22divine+tradition

It has a specific meaning in Christianity but that would not create confusion on Hinduism.SE, where it need only mean "tradition of the divine", which is another way of saying mythology without the 'myth' -- moreover by using 'divine' with 'tradition' you can distinguish mythological elements concerned with gods and other divinities from traditional 'earthly' cultural practices dealing with worship and devotion, which come under "religious tradition."

Example sentence:

In Hindu mythology, many demons are portrayed as cursed beings awaiting salvation.

In the Hindu divine tradition, many demons are portrayed as cursed beings awaiting salvation.

Please do discuss this suggestion with your community members on your SE meta.

"lore" may be what you're looking for. It means traditional wisdom, without the negative connotations of "myth".

Metaed’s comment is right. ‘mythology’ is the right word. The Greek word ‘mythos’ refers to stories, originally handed down orally, and then later written down in works like Homer’s ‘Iliad’ or the ‘Mahabarattha’. At the time, they were widely believed and doubters were few. Mythos came in ancient times to refer to the narrative literature, without commitment to their truth or otherwise. You could say that the objectors should just get used to it.

But many would take deep offence at finding the old or new testament classified as ‘mythology’. So the objectors have a fair point also.

One possible compromise might be ‘mythic tradition’, The pejorative adjective related to the pejorative usage of ‘myth’ is ‘mythical’. ‘Mythic’ is strictly about the genre.

One of the alternatives I can think of is: folk-tales

The tag can have hyphen, so we can have that.

Another could be: sacred-tales since you are concerned about Ramayana and Mahabharata kind of scriptures.

I ran across the word "historicity" in this Wikipedia article: Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy). I had to look it up. It means historical actuality. There does not seem to be an adjectival form for lacking historicity.

  • Are you equating the OP's a traditional story ... typically involving supernatural beings or events with lacking historical actuality? – Davo Nov 30 '17 at 19:24
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    Following @Davo, this doesn't seem relevant, but I think that the term is ‘ahistorical’. (The Wikipedia article linked on your word from the article that you cited is very short and doesn't use my word, but it does quote Herbert Marcuse using ‘historical’ to mean the opposite.) – Toby Bartels Mar 23 at 19:42

protected by tchrist Dec 1 '17 at 15:47

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