Friday, 10 April 2009


The below is a little bit of an essay i'm working on. Although i take issue slightly with Sean Kane here, make no mistake-i have huge admiration for his book 'Wisdom of the Mythtellers'.

much revivalist mythology is really psychology, cutting across cultural differences with the mistaken assumption that there is a universal world of myth that is true to all peoples past and present because it is true to eternal powers in the human psyche. This mix of anthropology, literature and psychology-in combination with the huge information gap about actual mythtelling-raises a greater question than it can answer. (9) Sean Kane 14-15

I part company with Kane here too-he would be hard pushed to find a tribal group without an anthropology or psychology (even though the terminology and aspiration would be different), and there is something eden-esqe in the statement. As for it raising great questions, that seems to keep us well clear of dogma. The redeeming thread is this implicate warning against human centeredness and his aversion to new age simplistic hi –jacking of paradoxical story.
What dismays is this sense of trying to catch that original mystical ember in denial of the steady flowing ebullience of mythic thought-it is not frozen and it certainly is not pure.
Kane quite rightly fears the attempted domesticating of mythic symbols through the lazy appropriation of the New Age movement or the arid deconstruction of an inept therapy.

Friedrich Holderlin warns us about this back in 1798;

I’m sick of you hypocrites babbling about gods!
Rationality is what you have, you don’t believe
In Helios, nor the sea being, nor the thunder being;
And the earth is a corpse so why thank her?
As for you gods, be calm! You are decorations in their poems…..

(10) Friedrich Holderlin, News of The Universe, edit. Bly, Sierra Club books 1980, p39

We could imagine depth psychology as a meadow place between the village and the forest-it is a ground of mediation between the numinous and the personal. It allows villagers to admit to a little foliage living in their chest hair without completely submitting to the lunacy of the pathless path. At its best it works as a container for certain inexhaustible (archetypal) energies to abide in but not devour a human being:you hold the tail of the Wolf Mother but are not naïve to believe you are her entirely. Jung saw the psycho pomp in the analysts role; a little of the priest (village) and of the prophet (forest).

As a writer I am keen not to dismiss this, and as a teacher of rites-of-passage I have witnessed psychology ground and stabilise the huge openings that initiation can offer. Archetypal forces are not particularly friendly-depth psychology can ritually temper the inwardness of the Hermit, the fiery ambition of the Queen, the terror squawk of Raven. It offers relationship rather than possession.

We interpret for the same reason as that for which fairy tales and myths were told; because it has a vivifying effect and gives a satisfactory reaction and brings one into peace with one’s unconscious instinctive substratum,just as the telling of fairy tales always did…..the best we can do is to circumscribe it on the basis of our own psychological experience and from comparative studies, bringing up into light, as it were, the whole net of associations in which the archetypal figures are enmeshed.

(11) Marie-Louise Von Franz, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, Shambala Books, 1970, p’s 1-4

In the ever decomposing and re-assembling myth world, the relationship to psychology is neither an aberration or a completion, merely a stage. It is hugely useful and widely open to miss-use. It has transformed millions of peoples relationship to story. A danger is the complete personalising of the myth, of interiorising it so completely you have it in a stranglehold. They are betwixt and between, dusk echoes-they don’t belong entirely to day or to night.

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