I'm an Egyptologist by trade (well, a student of Egyptology anyway) and my main focus is Ancient Egyptian religion and mythology. The whole thing fascinates me; how a person can see something so mundane and ordinary and fabricate the most elaborate reason for it coming into being. For example, the ancient Egyptians saw that dung beetles push balls of dung all day long, then lay their eggs in the ball, which hatch and new life is made. They took this idea and created the sun god Khepri; a scarab that pushed the sundisc through the sky in the morning, bringing life with it as it pushes the sun.
Most scholars attribute such things merely as part of a belief system and nothing more, but they're missing a crucial point. These ideas, whether religious or not, are seen to be the beginnings of fantasy. The best way of seeing this is to look at the work of Tolkien. Middle Earth was heavily based on places in Great Britain, and he amalgamated mythology from all over the world. His work is pure fantasy, but in doing so he created a mythology.
Am I reading too much into this, or does anyone else see the connections between these little bits of fantasy that history gives to us? The same can be said for superstition and folklore (another historical passion of mine). Whenever I write, I try to base the religion and mythology of the story on something tangible (usually the Celts).
One other thing that I find pretty fascinating: isn't is strange that almost every culture, even those separated by vast distance and time, cultures that have never made contact with eachother, all have some form of mythical belief in dragons. Weird, huh?