This is a tricky one for me. While I do love mythologies and legends and hero stories, I (and I am sure that I’m not the only Pagan to feel this way) am suspicious of anything that claims to be a sacred text. Many followers of ‘Religions of the Book’ have a bad rap for doing some pretty horrid things and using the ‘word of god’ as an excuse to justify their actions. It isn’t the religion’s fault, of course, though it does tend to suggest to me that religions of the book were probably meant for the academic class of the day, rather than being pushed at the one true way for all.
I tend to resonate more with stories and histories that are passed down orally from generation to generation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the written word, and I am sure that historians would be a lot happier if the Celtic/Gaelic/Saxon/Pictish peoples (as well as many others) wrote their tales down, but I think I can understand why they didn’t. From what I understand of ancient druidry, a highly trained memory was a prized skill. To be able to remember all of the stories and histories is part of what made you fit to be a druid in the first place. But more than that, there is magic in the telling of a story.
There is magic in a shared song. In a spoken promise. One common witchy truth that I has stuck with me for years is the idea that words have power. In faery stories we see how knowledge of a being’s true name will give the protagonist power over it (Rumpelstiltskin, anyone?). There are even some stories that claim that in the beginning of the world, words were powerful enough to create and change reality. I can think of a few myths that speak to a world song that resonates with the very fabric of the universe itself.
Morpheus Ravenna wrote an article a few years back about new year’s resolutions, honesty, commitment, and strength.
“A geis is an obligation which is laid on a person, to which they must adhere. The heroic stories teach us that the keeping of a geis grants power;[…] To break a geis engenders loss of power and protection, weakness, downfall. […] The hidden truth here is that, conversely, a geis intact renders one more than human, for it is a magickal bond with the Otherworld, and while it is kept, it wraps one in a mantle of Otherworldly power. […] In a way, any commitment or resolution we make is a form of geis.”
Stories, and songs, and spells, promises, myths, truth — all of it whispers of the sacred to me. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I believe the purpose of mythology is to share sacred truths. That is why it doesn’t matter if one religion’s mythos contradicts another, or even contradicts itself. It’s not meant to be taken literally. It is meant to provide a bridge to the Mysteries — a way to peek behind the veil.
A lot of my study this year, beyond rereading my old books, will be into the mysteries of sacred sound, chanting, singing, and how our voices can be used to create change in the world. Perhaps also I will chase down or transcribe some of the folk and faery tales swimming around in my head for my BOS.
That is my very mystic/animist take on mythologies and sacred texts. While the lessons of the past are vitally important, it is also important to remember that we practise living traditions, and like the folk tales that change a little bit with each telling, so too should our practises and outlooks. That which does not change stagnates.
Next week we are talking about patron deities. It may be a short one. But, before I sign off, I think I said last week that I would link a favourite myth of mine. I still love the one I posted for the first round of Witchy Wednesdays, the story of Airmed.