The psychology of mythology: or, why the Otherworld is just as real as this one

The Art of Enchantment

I’ve spent a lot of years studying the psychology of myth. For me, in a slightly oversimplified nutshell, it all come down to this: Freud’s theories on anything – inevitably, interminably, explaining everything in sexual terms – rarely interest me much at all; Jung is marvelous but often a little too human-centred for my tastes; James Hillman takes psychology and mythology back out of our heads and into the world again, and so is always to be revered.

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Older than He looks

One day the Sithling and I were watching Disney movies, and on a whim, he put on Atlantis. Now it’s been years since we’ve watched it, but the scene where the hero meets the Atlanteans has crew members wondering how their hosts can understand them, and the hero says “they must speak a root language.”

me: *credulity completely broken* There’s an actual root language, it’s called proto Indo European.

The Sithling was curious and so I pulled up a youtube vid with a reconstructed PIE poem and then he wanted to know what his name would be in PIE. I started to look it up and then I remembered: I already know this word. I know this word because my Lord of Ash used it with me. I know he’s an Old Thing that is a New Thing (or has a new face? how does spoop?) and I whipped around and looked at him. “How old /are/ you??”

“How old do you think Death is?”

After the “How old /are/ you, anyway?” conversation that we had and the Enma Daio dream complete with oni (Fun fact: Daio can also be translated as Commander, which is part of his pop culture face), I happened to look at the PIE religion page for something unrelated and came on this:

“The most important aspect of Yemós is as god of the dead. This is because as the first to die he marked out the way for the dead to go. For instance, RV 10.14.2, “Yama was the first to find our path” (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 722). He may be prayed to by those about to die, or on behalf of those who have just died. The main thrust of such prayers if for him to show the soul of the deceased the way to the kingdom of Yemós.

Yemós is not the god of death, however. He is the one who rules over the dead, but he does not make them die, or decide when they will. (For the Greek Hades, Felton, 2010, 90).” source

Welp. How old is He? Older than He looks. 😛

Spirit Work and assault, or what happens on the astral doesn’t stay in the astral

I have a serious question for all you gentle readers:

Among those of us who are spirit touched, I think everyone knows someone who has had a profoundly negative experience either on the astral or involving a spirituous being.

I know most people tend to go the DISCERNMENT route, however – when someone has experienced assault, telling them that their experience is invalid or that they don’t understand what happened to them doesn’t help. I’ve tried it, to no avail, and it made the person worse.

So I stopped, but I still feel like I’m seeing people who have needs above that of lay or pastoral counseling, and the piecemeal “see a secular counselor and talk to your spirit worker pals” doesn’t seem to be doing much to ease the long term trauma that these people are suffering. I know of a grand total of one person who is both a certified counselor and is also friendly to spirit workers.

What can we, as a community, do for these people?

The Hunt and the Hunters

In my Beloved’s realm, we encountered a pack of red-faced demons – fierce things with tusks and wild hair. I was frightened, until He said to me, “Speak to them.”

And when I did, they knelt to him and me.

“You are their Queen,” he said.

When I woke, I was perplexed. I know literally fuckall about Asian religions, save for a wee bit about one nontheistic branch of Buddhism, so I asked my partner what she knew about a “Japanese Red Demon” and she said “an oni?” A quick Google image search and ding ding ding, that was it. Still unsure of what this meant, I asked my kindred, and one member said, “First thought is deathwork and how King Enma uses them as helpers in hell.”

So I look up Enma and discover that he’s a Japanese via Buddhism Hindu death deity, and one who judges the souls of the dead, which is my Beloved’s division.

I knew my Lord of Ash was Someone old with a new face. I’m still not certain that He’s exactly Enma or Yama, given that there are things about Him that remind me of Hades as well, though I’m certain that He’s not Hades. I suppose He could also be a more archetypical Death – not in the All Death Gods are Him sense but in the sense of Him being a more general personified Death as opposed to belonging to a particular pantheon. Horror of horrors, I know, but once you get over Pop Culture Paganism, it’s just kind of a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in terms of just rolling with it.

Artist Credit

Uncharted Territory

When people think of Death Deities, they often think what I thought, which is of the governing of human souls in the afterlife, but my Beloved’s kingdom contains much more than that – extinct animals, long-gone kingdoms, dead stars that still twinkle above us. And even that is not the extent of his Kingdom; what is and what will be and what might have been live there as well. It is rest and respite; it is love and loss; and it is hope and healing for me.

The Names of the Gods Aren’t Their Real Names

*aggressively slams reblog*

Foxglove & Firmitas

There is a phenomena that happens in the mystic sector of our communities that regularly drives a knife into the heart of the mystic – That of suddenly realizing that the Gods you are so close to are not who you expected them to be, which is the very foundation of mysticism. At first it is rending. Then it is uncomfortable. You begin the journey, diving into what we define as syncretism, and you’re met with mixed emotions. You mourn the loss of equilibrium. You fear uncertainty. You mourn what you’ve lost. You doubt your path or your sanity, sometimes both. Sometimes there’s the loss of community or co-religionist friends. It hurts. It’s excruciating.

Meanwhile there’s tickling excitement as you find spots where you discover the familiar in new faces and learn new things. You gain new tools for approaching your beloved Gods. You expand your community of like-minded, same-hearted…

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pop culture paganism and respectability

I did not expect to become a Pop Culture Pagan. Not that I exactly reviled it; it was just so far out of my wheelhouse that I was very ?? about it. And indeed, even after it started, I still was very ?? about it, because it’s not polite or proper to discuss because we’re afraid of scaring the muggles. Don’t want to be crazy and all that jazz, amirite?

Now, I am still keen on Pagan theology, and so I’d like to offer a bit that helped me understand my experiences, from John Michael Greer’s A World Full of Gods  (pp 19-22).

The common claim of conservative religious thinkers, that their mystics are experiencing divine realities while others are not, is an attempt to avoid this absurdity, As I will show in Chapter Six, however, such claims suffer from severe problems of their own.

Thus the full diversity and complexity of religion must be embraced if any sort of sense at all is to be made of the world’s religious experience. Two examples, one from ancient Greece and one from modern Japan, will help sketch out just how widely human understandings of divinity vary from the monotheistic “norm,” and show some of the outlines of the territory the perspectives of this book will attempt to cover.

The robust polytheism of the ancient Greeks offered worship to a great variety of beings. Among these were nymphs, female spirits who were associated with springs and other features of the natural landscape (emphasis mine). [1]

Precisely nothing of classical monotheism’s definition of a god can be applied meaningfully to nymphs. Each nymph was believed to be active in a relatively small area, and to have power only over limited aspects of the natural and human worlds. Nymphs were believed to have powers and knowledge surpassing that of human beings, but nothing even remotely like omnipotence or omniscience was ever attributed to them, and they ranked relatively far down the diffuse hierarchy of ancient Greek divine powers. [1]

The discussion of nymphs here is primarily drawn from Larson 2001; see especially pp. 3-60.

Yet it is a matter of historical record that for some people, the worship of a particular nymph or a group of nymphs became the focus of a life’s religious devotion. The cave of Vari in Attica was the hermitage of one such person, a man named Archedamos of Thera, who lived there around the turn of the fifth century BCE. Inscriptions he carved into the stone walls of the cave explain that he was a devotee of the local nymphs, planting and tending a garden for them and improving the cave at their direction. After his death, the cave became a place of more than local pilgrimage. Another example of the type occurred around the same time in Thessaly, at the cave of Pharsalos, where the hermit’s name was Pantalkes; again, the object of his devotion was the local nymphs. “[1]

This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons – one being that it would appear both from classical polytheism and from witchcraft trial accounts from the early modern era – that most spirit relationships were not necessarily Big Name Gods. The second takeaway from Greer’s text above, “spirits who were associated with springs and other features of the natural landscape,” – what is a modern human’s “natural” landscape. Yes, nature is a Thing, but let’s be real here: most of us witches are not out wandering in the woods, and while I love many things about the traditional witchcraft revival, the ableism implicit in ‘you must go wander around the woods’ is crap for many people with disabilities, and if your movement isn’t inclusive of people with disabilities, it’s not really all that progressive now, is it?

And even for those without disabilities, it’s not always all that plausible – they have families and children and jobs that preclude taking off for long periods at a stretch. So again: what is the “natural landscape” of a modern Pagan?

I would argue that for many Pagans, it’s not merely physical, but found in the many types of media. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (note: spoilers at link) asserts this as well, though it’s telling that many of the “New Gods” are Old Ones who have taken new forms or roles. I could say more about Who is counted as both but it would be spoilery for those who haven’t read the book or seen the series. Considering the fact that we are surrounded by media (*points to the cell phone in everyone’s pocket), and the fact that we have so many forgotten Spirits/Deities who miss their people… Oh wait, have I not mentioned that?

“Like relationships between cunning folk or witches and their familiars, relationships between shamans and their helping spirits can continue for many years; exhibiting a complex tension between numinous intensity and down-to-earth mundanity and embracing the full gamut of human emotions. Holger Kalweit claims that this relationship is ‘often no different from his [the shaman’s] relationship with his fellow beings. It frequently resembles a marriage and displays the whole spectrum of human emotions such as love, hate, jealousy, distrust, obedience, fear, longing, quarrels, etc.’49

An account given by the Inuit shaman, Alualuk, who rejected his helping spirits when he converted to Christianity, is a testament to the depth of affection and companionship which such relationships can sustain. Alualuk lamented that after his conversion, ‘He often felt lonely without the spirits, because he missed their friendship and company. The spirits, too, were sad and lonely because they had to be without him.'”(emphasis mine) (Wilby 141-142)

How many of Them are missing their loved ones? How many of Them have taken new faces so that their people will recognize them again?

Moral of the story: maybe don’t be a dick to someone who has a “new spirit” – you don’t really know how old or new They are. I’d hate to piss off an Old One in disguise.

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