Happy new year everyone! I hope all my readers (however few of you there may be) had a great new year’s eve and are now enjoying new year’s day!
What is the role of mythology in our brand of spirituality? Does it play a role, and if so, how big of a role does mythology have? Most everyone is introduced to the various gods and pantheons through story. How does this affect the way in which we work with the divinities? Does it affect the way we work with them? I won’t pretend to have answers. There may be no definitive answers. Like many things in paganism, the answers are probably highly individual. But the questions made me curious to think on the subject some.
In mythology, each deity is identified with certain characteristics, some of which are unique only to that deity and some of which are shared. The stories relate each god’s personality and the actions they would take when placed or involved in certain situations. What do these stories mean to us? Are they only stories? Or do these stories, which have lasted thousands of years and which the ancients used to “define” their gods, actually express the energy of the gods and the deities we work with? Athena, for example, in the mythos is considered a wise goddess, virginal, brave, intelligent, and courageous, while at times petty and jealous like any human being. Do the myths in which she is involved and which detail those qualities actually express the energy which is that goddess?
Are myths nothing more than guides to what those gods are like? The role of mythology in pagan belief must vary, but its role could be a kind of guide to what the gods are like, or the role could be a definition of those energies, or the role could really be nothing at all. The third option, however, does not explain anything, nor does it explain why people are introduced to their particular gods by way of these very myths. So then what is the role that mythology plays? I can only conclude that the myths are guides to what the energy of the gods is supposed to be for each individual deity, and these stories tell us what the gods are supposed to be like and how we could expect them to react to us. I find it very difficult to believe that these amazing stories, passed down for countless generations and then written down for even more people to read, and given an importance not granted to most other literary works, actually mean nothing in terms of the spirituality of pagans who work with the gods and divine energy. Even non-pagans have their myths: the Bible is the Christian mythos, the Torah the Jewish, etc. If these stories were not supposed to have meaning, were not supposed to convey something about the gods, then why bother going to all the trouble of repeating and then writing them over and over?
There are also archetypes within mythology, and the notion that every civilization shares certain foundational myths, such as the flood myth, the resurrection myth, etc. Joseph Campbell did a great deal of fantastic work on the subjects, which is also related to Carl Jung’s psychological notion of the archetype. It’s worth reading Campbell’s various works on mythology and archetypes. See his foundation’s site for more information.