Revisiting – Static or Dynamic Mythology

Back in February of 2016, I wrote a blog post discussing the idea that the Gods are alive and continually growing. Badly titled as “Static or Dynamic Mythology”, its not a common post to show up in yearly blog hits. However, a reader of the blog wrote me privately asking me to do go back and take another look through the post and update my feelings on it. From time to time, I get requests like this – a request to go back and look at what I wrote. So, I title these as “Revisiting” posts. Honestly, I don’t do these that often, but its an interesting point, particularly when considering that my own perspective on things is always growing and changing.

Looking into the way-back machine, I recall that this post was a continuation on a panel at Pantheacon earlier in the year. The panel was titled “Morphing the Myth” with S.P. Hendrick, Diana Paxson, and an Australian gentleman whose name I never did get. The focus of the panel was on the reintroduction of mythology through the more modern methodologies of books, comics, tv shows, and movies. There was a lot of focus on the reinterpretation of the myths by the writing and production teams that put these reinterpretations together. As is always the case for reinterpretations, there are changes that are made to the entire original story – most done for effect for an audience. Some of the changes include combining characters in the story into a single entity to allow for a more cohesive flow to the story, or the less popular adding a new character out of thin air. If you’re wanting an example of that, remember the addition of Tauriel to “The Hobbit” movies which were based on the novel of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Utilizing this addition to Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece, let’s apply the question at hand. Is this change to the story a good one? Or is it bad? That’s a double-edged sword. Having watched the movies several times, Tauriel is a good addition to the story in my mind. However, her addition does alter aspects of the story in a way that doesn’t stay true to the novel. People who have their first introduction to the Tolkien novels – and in some cases it will be their only brush with Tolkien’s works – will forever have the understanding that Tauriel is a primary character that Tolkien created. After all, while the movie is an adaptation, they will never know the difference until they pick up the book. The addition of Tauriel does alter the story of the original novel in a way that shoves the story in a different direction. In the far-flung future, there will be an understanding and perception that Tauriel and her story-arc, particularly with Legolas and Kili. In this instance, we have a movie bending the story-arc for a novel in a manner that changes the overall story. For better or for worse? Well, that depends on the individual you talk with. Purists will find the change to be abhorrent. Only a story line that remains true to the original novel will do. Others, such as I, will see the change in the storyline as bringing an element to the story’s arc that provides some integral aspects of cohesion to the story to help move aspects of the plot along. An example of this is where Tauriel argues with Legolas over why the Elves should be involved in pursuits outside of the woodland realm – that Elves are part of Middle-Earth and will eventually be drawn into the coming inevitable war. Again, depending on who you talk with, the perspective of its good or bad nature can be seen from either direction.

The same holds true for movies, tv shows, books, and comics featuring the Gods and Goddesses and even the Heroes of Mythology. To be able to capture an audience, the Gods and Heroes depicted are provided with personalities that sometimes feel like these might be antithetical to what can be derived from works of mythology. Personally, I’m not fond of the depiction of Loki in the movies. However, I understood why the director, producer, and screen writers went to the trouble of making this depiction. It helps drive the storyline, which helps drive the ticket sales. Getting people into the theater means creating story lines that resonate with people. Completely understandable. Is this a bad thing or a good thing when it comes to the actual mythology?

Well, I would posit a question in a slight pivot from this. Could the Gods be capable of the depictions that we see and read about? In some cases, the Gods are shown as growing – changing perspective from one point to another over the course of the story. Is this possible? Well, as controversial as what I am about to say may be – I do believe that is true and possible. The Gods can change. I am not saying that Loki will suddenly slip out of the perspective of a Trickster to suddenly take over the mantle of the God of Justice and Law from Tyr. What I am suggesting is that the Gods can change Their perspective on areas of understanding as it relates to human beings and this realm. Instead of seeing humans as mere playthings, a feeling of endearment which sees humans as something to treasure and protect could come about. That’s just an example though. My belief is that the Gods can change Their perspectives over time. In other words, I don’t see the Gods as being static and unchanging. As humans change, the Gods Themselves can change as well – without changing the primary aspects of who They are.

At the end of the blog post, I approached another point that is just as critical to this line of thought. The debate of written versus oral. As I noted, good storytelling comes in three forms: oral, written, and visual. However, the true nature of storytelling comes from the storyteller themselves. Many people know a particular tale that can be told around the fire, but if you let them all tell the tale individually and independent of one another (in other words, none of them hears any of the other storytellers before they tell their version at the fire), you end up with many versions that are different from one another. Some storytellers will embellish on a perspective with additional information. Some will omit aspects of the tale that they don’t wish to add, for whatever reason. Others will alter pieces in a manner that emphasizes the parts of the tale that they like over others. Yet, its all still the same tale. The tale grows, alters, and morphs with each telling. Such is the nature of storytelling.

Could we not also consider the myths and tales we tell around the fire of the Gods to be the same? Not set in stone – static displays that never change – but tales and retellings that grow and change, just as our culture does? Morphs into new retellings that have new backgrounds, new perspectives that mirror our more modern settings? Our more modern understanding of morals and behaviors? One of my favorite moments from the television show the Highlander has Methos trying to explain to Duncan McLeod why he slaughtered villages of people on the steppes of Russia, which eventually had him portrayed as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. When trying to justify his killing of the villagers, Methos points out that: “…the times were different. I was different. The whole bloody world was different.” Indeed. We look at our Gods, at Their mythologies, through the lenses of today’s society. Like it or not, we’re all carved through the morals and judgments of today. We look and listen to the stories that were produced in a time far different from our own. Stories that have been altered through the passage of time by the storytellers who kept such things alive – adding, subtracting, altering with the changing societal perspectives of the times. We tend to see the written word as a safe lock against that constant change. If its written, it can’t evolve, it can’t be changed. We have the “truth” as it should be. But are we locking the Gods into one shape, never allowing Them the capacity to change, evolve, and live? Does locking Them down into perspectives only mandated from the written word keep Them in that state – never to change? Never to provide Them with the ability to see the world around us differently? If They can’t change, and we can…who would really be the God? Just a thought… Me? I prefer to see my Gods as living, evolving, changing…for me, that’s what makes Them alive. And I truly believe that They are. That’s how I experience Them. Perhaps that’s how I should have titled this back in 2016 – “How I Experience the Gods”. Here in the dawn of 2022, it certainly makes more sense to me. Thanks to my evolving and growing perception of Them. 😊

–T /|\

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

A Direct Line to the Gods?

You are so blessed to have a direct line to the Gods…

Whenever I talk with people about my connection with Crow, Coyote, and/or Abnoba, I tend to hear this comment floating in. I am not fond of hearing this, but I also don’t really clear up the air on it either. So, instead of floating back to an older post and trying to bring a new spin – I figured this might be a good place to start for today. Yes, I do communicate with all three from time to time, but it is not a direct line of communication. Nor is it like a Bat-signal that gets flashed in the sky for me to see, and I go running for a location where I can quickly and quietly meditate. Nor can I just flip a switch, focus on Them and They pick up the other end to hear what I am asking for help on. This relationship has NEVER worked like that. And if it did, I would be scared shitless.

I am not some physical manifestation of a super-hero for the Gods I work with. While I can, and do, work as a physical extension of Their Will, I am not puppet whose strings get pulled. From my end, I can ask for assistance in understanding a perspective that I don’t understand. About ninety percent of the time, I get no answer whatsoever. The other ten percent of the time, my answer winds up being a nearly thousand-piece puzzle set that I have to piece together to decipher my answer. Rarely, have I found the Gods that I work with to be blunt and straight-forward. And with two Trickster Gods, it is definitely what I would have expected.

In the beginning, though, not so much. Coyote was the first. When He started showing up in dreams and meditations, I got fairly freaked out. I was not used to my dreams or meditations talking back in a lucid, conversational tone. There was a lot of back and forth over what was needed and required of me in this relationship. A whole lot of trial and error in figuring out what was necessary, and what was just the extra sprinkles on top of the requirement. I still have trouble with Coyote over straight-forward requests. Crow was easier. However, both are Trickster Gods, and I was put through the ringer doing some really stupid things that I thought They wanted. It turned out, They wanted me to figure out that I could also say no.

Yeah. You can say no to a God. You can refuse to work with Them. But a word of warning, weigh that choice against Their desire to work with you. I have never been called by The Morrigan – and I hope I never, ever get called by Her. Aside from the fact that She literally scares the shit out of me (She is quite the fierce Goddess), I see no need or place for me within whatever army She is developing. At one point, I thought I was being approached by Her (The Morrigan is not a Valkyrie), but it turned out to be a handful of Valkyrie that were pushing me towards another perspective. As an aside, I have found that working with the Valkyrie is quite interesting as well, and far more suited to the training and career that the United States Air Force built me for, but that’s for another time….maybe. As I said, you can say no, just realize that there are consequences.

There are also consequences for saying yes, as well. if you are provided with an oath, go over it carefully before you say yes. Make sure you understand exactly what you are bargaining, because that is precisely what you are doing – setting a bargain. An oath or bargain taking lightly can place you somewhere that you might not want to be. When you are striking a bargain with the Gods, you are creating a contractual obligation between both of you. Make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are providing. Also, make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with what you are being provided in agreement.

You do not have to become a Priest or Priestess to the Gods you work with. At one time, I misunderstood Crow’s perspective and believed that I was to become a Priest of His. That misunderstanding led me down an incorrect Path. A lot of back and forth happened with a lot of confusion on my part before I realized what was being told to me: the First Nations Path was not mine to be walked. I work with Coyote and Crow, but I am not of the People. Certainly there is some crossover in my path and that Path, but their ceremonies are not mine. Priesthood was not where I was being directed. Nor was the Path of being a Shaman. My footsteps go elsewhere, into Druidry – and a different type of Priesthood. As I said before, my experience has been that direct communication with the Gods is quite difficult at times.

It stands to reason that this is the case. They are not Humans. And Humans are not Them. As John Beckett would say, “Their ways are not our ways.” What are the Gods? I am not completely sure how to classify Them other than not Humans. To me, They are the Gods. They don’t control us, and They don’t want to. They work with us in a Spiritual give-and-take. Sometimes, the scales of that give-and-take are not equally balanced. Again, we have choices that we can make. Accept and do or reject. Each has its own set of consequences.

Unfortunately, I cannot hear the Gods. They seem to have rejected me.

The Gods call who They call. I would caution you a bit about running joyously into Their service. Serving the Gods can be a difficult Path over razor-sharp rock with only your bare hands and feet to traverse it. Working with the Gods is not a comfortable position. And stepping into Priesthood with the Gods can be even more difficult, time-consuming, and possibly even beyond your imagination. The Gods are definitely not the depictions we see in the movies. I cannot dissuade a single soul against that perspective; pop-culture can be that powerful. But from my own experience, the Gods are way beyond the magic of Industrial Light & Magic and other VFX and animation studios.

For me, the Gods are real, distinct Beings. I know They exist. I work with a few of Them. I have been working with a few of Them for quite a few years. I can relate that my experience has been that service to the Gods can (and will) be difficult at times. I can also relate that They do not always communicate with me directly or indirectly. There are times that I have wondered if They had let me go. I do not have a direct line to the Gods. There is no emergency telephone between here and wherever They are. Others might actually have that connection, but in my experience it does not exist. But They definitely do.

–T /|\

Working with the Gods Does Not Always Have to be Epic in Scale and Scope

The past few days it has been really cold up here on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Cold enough that the pipes to my pool and hot tub froze up and burst. Its nothing major, and provides the opportunity to replace the old heating system that is currently in place. But it was an unexpected moment. And a little reminder of why two Trickster Gods have been such an influence on who I am today.

When I heard people say that they were “working with the Gods”, I always fell into a pattern of thinking that they were doing something similar to Hercules – achieving stuff for the Gods that was just some massive undertaking. But in working with the trio of Gods that work within my life, I have found that this is not always the case. Sometimes, the tasks are a bit more internal – and in reflection, typically even more epic in size and scope within an individual’s life – rather than epic in the measure of our entire Pagan community or scopes even larger than that. And sometimes, the individual scope is enough to effect change elsewhere.

Ten years ago, I would be cursing and angry about what happened with the burst pipes for the pool. I would be proclaiming my bad luck, and how Life is being unfair to me. In short, I would be pitching a Titanic hissy fit. My disposition throughout my earlier life has always been one of being knocked off balance by events that happened along the way. When shit happened, I hit major meltdowns of epic proportions.

But two Trickster Gods intervened in all of this six years ago. My life was turned upside down in every imaginable way. I quit my job after working the worst employer I have ever had. I found myself caught up in one of the biggest downturns in economic history within the United States. I was unemployed for ninety-eight weeks. One week shy of the maximum amount that could be pulled during unemployment. I was hired in as an adjunct professor at the college I am currently working for. A position that I felt uniquely unqualified for at that time. And through all of that, every step of the way, there was a voice in the back of my mind.

Keep calm. It is only a stretch of rocks in the road. You will get past all of this, and find yourself among the trees again. I promise.

That was Coyote, whom I had just started finding in my meditations. I was learning the lesson of seeing the bigger picture. Opening up to the perspective of seeing wider and further than just me, I soon realized that while I was unemployed, and that full-time work, along with the medical benefits that I needed for working with my diabetes, was a difficult stretch of road – it could be far worse. I saw that on the news constantly. People losing their homes because they had lost their jobs. Unable to provide for their families. People leaving the keys on the kitchen counters as they abandoned their homes. Their pets left behind in those same homes because they could no longer afford to feed the furry members of their family. Yes, my road was difficult. But it could definitely have been worse.

I was learning another lesson as well – that of transformation. My time working as a desktop support technician were over. My skillset was similar to that of a high school student entering the workforce. There was no way a forty-something man was going to be able to compete in that industry with workers who would do the same thing at a cheaper price. I had two Masters degrees and a Bachelor degree. My time working in hardware was over, and I needed to realize that. It took a while. Hardware was what I knew. Hardware was how I made a living. But slowly I was nudged into the classroom, where I taught basic hardware concepts. I was able to show students how data on them was utilized by their own government. How data flowed between government entities – and how it did not in other cases.

And through those two lessons – amid the howls and laughter that Coyote had throughout all of it, I learned to control my emotions a lot more, and figure out how humility would work for me. Not only was I transforming my skillsets and moving into other areas of Information Technology, I was growing as an individual in ways that I desperately needed.And I was growing towards being what I needed to be: a Priest.

I have resisted that title for so long, that I still feel odd in accepting that aspect of my Path. Its only been fairly recent that I have turned towards that and decided that I would define what the term “Priest” meant to me – rather than accepting some definition that mainstream society attached to it. I am not going to hear confession. I am not going to transform anything into the body of anything else – no matter what the ritual. And honestly, I am not likely to lead any ritual anywhere except in my own backyard. And even then, only when I am the only one there. For me, Priest is something a little different, which I have talked about before.

For me, one of the tasks given to me by my trio of Gods was to grow. Coyote required me to grow up, and learn to be more in control of myself. Crow showed me how to find the silver lining in situations. Yes, the pipes froze and burst. That’s a bad thing. But it certainly provides the opportunity to replace the aging heater as well as repair the pipes. Fliodhas is showing me to find beauty in all aspects of Life. To look at the beauty of things beyond the external appearances. To look deeper at the relationships, how things interconnect, and where the intersection of all of that has a deeper meaning than can initially be realized.

Certainly, there is a lot going in the world all around us. A contentious Presidential election. Seemingly endless terror attacks on our over-arching society. Many, many people using political tides as excuses for behavior that is completely unacceptable. I am reminded that each time these moments occur, we – as a collective society – need to stand up against that. But in doing so, we need to make sure that we don’t let our emotions go overboard and boil over – that we don’t become something we never meant to be in the first place. Certainly, such issues need to be responded to, but we also need to remember having restraint in those moments as well. That’s what makes us different than those people. For me, Coyote, Crow, and Fliodhas have provided enough insight for me to recognize this need within myself.

 

Static or Dynamic Mythology

As Pagans, we are all keenly aware of Mythology, and how it ties into our beliefs. To some degree, Christians are aware of the same thing from their spiritual and religious perspective, but they tend to see their mythology as alive and living. Which certainly brings up the question of why Pagans should not see their own Mythologies as also being alive and living? In a manner of speaking, I find it rather hypocritical of Christians to believe that their legends and mythology are alive and living through the continued existence of a part or all of their Triad aspect of Divinity (God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit), and deny the perspective that the aspects of Mythology for Pagans are merely superstition and “explanations” for “naturally occurring phenomenon” for peoples who could not comprehend or understand the divinity of their belief system. In fact, I would place that on a level of arrogance similar to that of another Christian mandate, where the Earth and its natural resources are merely placed here for human beings to use until the rapture. That argument about the dominion of man over the Earth through the mandate of God is an argument for another time and blog post.

The Gods and Goddesses are Alive

My friend, John Beckett, has posted several times on his blog: ‘I am a polytheist’. So am I. Like John, I believe that the Gods and Goddesses are alive, and among us. It only takes an open heart, an open mind, some patience, and hard work (nothing occurs without consequence) to find Them, communicate with Them, and learn from Them. Yes, these are the Gods of the Myths and Legends that we have read about, told Their tales and legends around our camp-fires, and (as some of us have experienced) found Their claim on us. I cannot – and will not – provide you tangible proof of the existence of the Gods and Goddesses. If you are going to believe and experience the Gods and Goddesses, you will need to do the work yourself. That is – from what I am told – part of Unverified Personal Gnosis. I’m not an individual that holds to the terminology of academic religious studies, so terminology such as that – along with the overall definition – are fairly foreign to me. I know what I believe. I know what I experience. And I know what I believe, and what I experience will be far different and very close to that of others – all depending on ourselves as individuals. But I do believe in the Gods and Goddesses. I do have experience in dealing with some of Them. And my experiences are truly my own.

The Myths and Legends are Alive

While at Pantheacon, I had a difficult time trying to choose between some of the panels that were available. There was one panel that immediately reached to the heights of a “must attend” status:  “Morphing the Myth” with S.P. Hendrick. There were two other presenters within the panel, a gentleman from Australia whose name I did not get, and author Diana Paxson. The panel was described thusly in the Pantheacon Guide:

Mythology is an integral part of our belief systems. Over the years, however, these ancient tales have been transformed and added to in order to make them more palatable to modern audiences. Many Pagans of today had their first experiences with Paganism in their reading of “The Mists of Avalon” or watching the British “Robin of Sherwood”. How has the modern reinterpretation of mythology changed the Pagan community, and is it a change for the good?

The panel was extremely well done, and flourished on an academic level. In fact, one of the audience members had written a dissertation on this very topic. I had the fortune of being able to talk with her for a short bit after the panel.

But the panel certainly drives up some food for thought. The movies, books, and potentially even the songs that we listen to are changing the myths as we have known them to be. Certain characters are combined, some are split into two other characters, and even more are merely omitted for one reason or another. Storylines are combined, twisted, changed, or even created out of whole cloth. Does any of this change the myths and legends into stories that no longer have meaning to us? As younger generations are introduced to these “restructured” myths and legends, which then form a potential gateway into Paganism – do these changes nullify the experiences that they have with the Gods and Goddesses? Or let’s say that the acting job by a certain actor or actress brings a character that has always been viewed as a secondary part of the myth forward to a more prominent role in the minds of the viewing audience. And that changed status of the God or Goddess in that portrayal resonates with the audience members. That particular God or Goddess suddenly is set forward as being more important than the Gods or Goddesses portrayed in the myth or legend. Does that nullify the manner in which the God and/or Goddesses that were previously portrayed as being more prominent in the tellings/re-tellings of the myths?

From my own personal perspective (which is worth far less than a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop), I believe that these re-tellings and changing of the myths and legends lends to the idea that even these stories are alive. As our societal times change, sometimes these myths and legends change as well, so their narratives and lessons can fit into aspects of our communal society as well. But I do know people who would scream “blasphemy” in the face of such things. Just as a singular example, I was a complete naysayer when the character of Tauriel was added into the story of The Hobbit through the recent films. For me, this piece of fictional work is a seminal part of my childhood, and to change it was downright cruel to the mind of my fourteen year old self. To my forty-year-mumble-mumble self, it was taken the story beyond the pale. Until I saw the movies. When I saw the soft touches that the character added to the story, how her vision of the world around her was far different from that of the other Elves, how her understanding of beauty led her to recognize that within one dwarf – my mind changed. The Hobbit as I read it as a fourteen year old remains a revered part of my childhood, and that will never change. The movie adaptation, though it differs from the book, has become something I enjoy, and from every watching, I see aspects of modern society reflected in its scenes. In understanding this in myself, I can also see how myth can live and change over time.

Written Versus Oral Debate

Good storytelling comes in three forms, in my opinion. Orally, Written, and Visually. Visually typically comes in the form of movies, tv series, and plays – though there’s certainly some argument as to how it can also be applied to the Oral aspect. For this particular essay, I will leave the concept of Visual storytelling at this point of the threshold. That provides the perspectives of written and oral. Written storytelling is a true joy to behold. My bookshelves are filled with novel after novel that relays an excellent storyline, character development, and plot twists. Each book holds a dear spot in my heart – from the tales of the Boy Who Lives to the stories behind the characters that fill the Star Wars universe and many, many more. The stories never change, because the written words are there – unchanging from each visit that I make when I take the book off the shelf, and open its pages for a visit. Oral storytelling, on the other hand, can easily change. Each storyteller memorizes parts of the story to tell, sometimes omits parts that don’t rise easily to memory, and places emphasis on certain passages, moments or dialogue to fit the audience that sits within earshot. For me, its here that Myth and Legend can most easily live, breathe, and change with the societal times. Each storyteller may have an affinity for a certain character or a certain scene, and places the embellishment or emphasis to their own preferences. In the written aspect, the words are placed on the page – we read them, and our own understanding of the related imagery is given life within our minds. Within the oral aspect, we are led along the Path of imagery through the manner in which the story is told. Small details are left to our imagination, but we are essentially guided along to the larger details by the storyteller.

Static or Dynamic?

Walking on Wild Horse Island in MontanaAre the Gods and Goddesses alive and real? Can we alter the Myths and Legends without altering the reasoning behind the tales? Or are we creating new mythologies when we make the changes, and allow the tales to bent to match the changing societies that we live in today? I would posit that They are real, and that They do change over time. We alter the Myths and Legends to meet our own perspectives in a changing society. And sometimes, changing those Myths changes the narrative. But I really do believe that the Gods and Goddesses can change as well. If they are alive, they are growing, learning, changing. But not as radically as some may point out. After all, the Morrigan is not going to be a peace-loving Hippy as time moves along and our modern society changes. The Morrigan may become more impatient as modern society moves away from the values She prizes and champions, and She may become war-like in her dealings with certain humans. I do believe that the Gods and Goddesses change over time, just as Their stories, myths and legends can be altered slightly to better reach the audiences of today. In the end, I am not so sure that we are creating new Mythologies, as much as we are bringing the narrative of the Myths and Legends into a better focus for a far different audience. After all, if Christians can believe that their God is real, changing, and alive – I see no reason at all to believe the exact same thing of the Gods and Goddesses contained within Paganism – or any other belief system for that matter.