Archive for the ‘myth’ Tag

Telling Good Stories   Leave a comment

John Beckett’s most recent post talks about the myth and importance of telling good stories, the stories that shape our lives, which is what myths do. Neither conveniently true nor false, myths work archetypally. Rather than “telling the truth”, as if there’s just one, or just mine, they provide maps by which we make sense of things. Frodo “never carried a Ring to Mount Doom”, and Harry “never defeated Voldemort”. But that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say to us. Enter a mythic world, and things change. “Myths never happened”, says Sallustius, “and always are”. Open the book to page one, or click to play the video, and the story starts again.

Cabin banners at East Coast Gathering. Photo courtesy John Beckett.

Though part of John’s post examines what he calls the “unnaturalness” of the myth of the patriarchy, every myth serves a purpose. Otherwise we wouldn’t keep it alive in our consciousness. The stories we tell are choices we make, after all. Yes, we inherit myths, along with much else. Every generation chooses what it will keep alive as part of the legacy it has received. And like maps and relationships and all mortal things that pass through our hands and hearts, myths can go wrong as well as right.

If we listen to our Bards, who are after all among our storytellers, we can attend to good counsel — here’s an instance from REO Speedwagon:

So if you’re tired of the
Same old story
Turn some pages
I’ll be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes

I knew it had to happen
Felt the tables turnin’
Got me through my darkest hour …

If you’ve been paying attention, of course, you might have started wondering who “turned the pages” the last time, and what it was that lead us into our present stories and situations. What was the previous story, and why did we give it up? John offers some suggestions in his post. Certainly we seem to live in a time when sharply-contrasting myths move us in different directions.

The challenge of myths is that other people’s stories look like “just stories they tell themselves”, while our myths are of course the “truth of the cosmos”. How can “they” even think that, “we” wonder. So potent is our own story (until one day when it isn’t any more), that we cannot see it as story.

John’s perspective on possible directions we might take involves an intriguing strategy. “Facts”, he notes, “can’t beat myths – people deny inconvenient facts, truth be damned. Rational explanations can’t beat myths – people jump to ad hominem, straw man, or other logical fallacies, or they just tune it out. If you want to beat a bad myth you have to tell a better story”.

Always another story. Christian and Nadia preparing for ritual.

Think of stories that catch your imagination. Many of us have experienced this with a favorite song, movie or book. You don’t want them to end. While you’re under their spell, you live in their world. Like falling in love, we live transformed, at least as long as the first glow lasts. With luck and spirit willing, that first glow transmutes into something more substantial and lasting — we may well live out our entire lives with that story. By itself that is neither a good or bad thing. But “by their fruits you shall know them” persists as still-excellent counsel: what comes of our story? Does it make our lives better, richer? Are we stronger and more adaptable with it as part of our map of consciousness?

We all know people whose personal myth or inner story helps or hinders them. We can change the stories we tell ourselves — in fact, an “interesting” life usually presents us with circumstances which compel us to change stories. Like a hermit crab, we grow too large for the shell which has sheltered us and been our home. Sometimes we can’t identify growth for what it is. Everything else goes wrong, and we fail to recognize the lack of fit between us and a story that housed us and kept us safe. We may well “roll with the changes” — but in a bruising way.

Changing one story — when we have a whole set of them — usually ends up deepening our appreciation for stories. We shift to another story, because it better reflects what we need at the moment. We learn to keep a number of stories in play — spices in our kitchen, arrows in our quiver — because that’s what the Wise have shown us will help us not merely survive, but thrive.

Great Circle, Four Quarters Sanctuary.

But changing the sole story we know can feel like our world is ending. Because in some sense it is. We won’t ever “be the same” afterwards. Whether or not that might be a good thing usually doesn’t occur to us. Another story might help us roll with “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” as Hamlet calls them. Another story might help us be of use to others, too, when their stories change, when they need wise counsel from us, or just our patient listening.

Healthy spiritual practice keeps us supple and curious and ready to laugh. It helps equips us with a range of stories that aid us in rolling with the changes. Changes? They’re guaranteed. How we roll with them is a matter for negotiation. Let’s start that conversation.

Find the right tree, I wrote in my last post. Do that much, and I’ve haven’t completed the journey. No — that’s just one place where a new story can begin.

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Posted 27 September 2020 by adruidway in Druidry, myth, Sallustius, spiritual practice

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Keys to Druidry in Story

Those inclined to criticize contemporary Druidry have made much about how the specific practices and beliefs of ancient Druids are forever lost to us simply because they left no written records, and because the references to Druids in the works of classical Greek and Roman authors are mostly based on secondhand accounts and sometimes markedly biased. Without such historical continuity, they claim, it is impossible to be a “real” Druid today, and thus all contemporary Druidry is a kind of whistling in the wind, at best a version of dress-up for adults.  But what such writers and speakers often forget is the surviving body of legend, myth, teaching and wisdom in Celtic literature.  Here is Druidry in compact and literary form, meant to be preserved as story, a link-up with the perennial wisdom that never dies.

To pick just one example, the stories from the Mabinogion, the Welsh collection of myth, legend and teaching have wonderful relevance and serve as a storehouse of much Druid teaching. Sustained meditation on these stories will reveal much of use and value to the aspirant after a Druidry that is authentic simply because it is grounded in knowledge and practice.  As a pragmatist more than a reconstructionist, I’m much more interested in what works than in what may be historically accurate.  The former leads one to inner discoveries.  The latter is engaging as a worthwhile scholarly endeavor first, and only as a possible source of spiritual insight second.  And that is as it should be.  History is not spirituality, though it can inform it.  But even if we can accurately deduce from an always incomplete archaeological record what a Bronze Age Druid may have done, it’s still not automatically fit and appropriate for a contemporary 21st century person to adopt.  That’s a decision we must make apart from the reconstruction, which cannot guide us by itself.  Stories, however, though formed in a particular culture, often reach toward universals far better than physical objects and actions.

The story of Taliesin (this link is to a public domain text — more modern and well annotated versions are available) in the Mabinogion moves us into a world of myth and initiation.  In the tale, the boy Gwion passes through ordeals and transformations, becoming at length the poet and sage Taliesin, whose name means “shining brow” — one who has a “fire in the head” and is alive with wisdom and poetic inspiration.  As with figures from other traditions whose heads are encircled with halos, or shining with an otherworldly brightness, Taliesin belongs to the company of the “twice-born,” who have fulfilled their humanity by making the most of it.  In my next post, I’ll talk about the first key in the story — persistence.

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First image is a triskele or triskelion, a pan-European symbol associated with the Celts.

Second image is of Taliesin from Caitlin and John Matthews’ Arthurian Tarot.

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Updated 9 September 2013

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