The Power and Pitfalls of Mythologies

Photo by Ulchaban

Photo by Ulchaban

Mythologies – recognized and not recognized – are powerful forces in all societies. They help tell us who we think we are and our place in the world, and how to relate to those within and outside our official circles. They inspire acts of heroism and terrorism, conquest and resistance to conquest. They give people hope and reason to live, ways to navigate our world, and a relationship with the Divine (or an image thereof). They are also used in the subjugation of conquered peoples to erase unwanted ideas or troublesome competing mythologies and languages.

Celts had mythologies that celebrated a direct connection with the land and the ruler’s responsibility toward that land. If the ruler was unfit, the land suffered.

The power of mythology is not limited to history or religious expression. Countries carry their own (often white-washed) mythologies, and their leaders use mythologies (via propaganda) to present a desirable image of themselves. We see negative mythologies created about the character and identity of others. Often we see an illusory image created by the opponents purporting to know the motivation and some secret agenda of the other. As a psychologist, it is painfully obvious that how much we are asked to make judgments on is based on little more than rumor, innuendo, accusation and a contrived image. Truth is an unwelcome guest at this table.

06-14-07-staugustine-281Of course, mythologies are not always consistent and will provide contradictory models for us. But those contradictions, I submit, simply show the complexity of human nature and the human condition.

Speaking of the human condition, our memories are often the mythology we use to explain who we are and how we came to be this way. We have constructed a mythological identity for ourselves, attributing influence to others, to ideas, to lessons, successes and failures.

The test of any mythology – religious, personal or secular – is whether it helps us navigate our world and allows us to draw inspiration from it. If not, it is just a social belief system; for genuine mythologies are alive, and enliven those who can embody them!

For Keltrians, do our myths live in us, inspire us, educate us? Do they help us relate to one another, to the Spirits of Nature, to the Ancestors, to the Divine? How personal is our relationship with any of the divine figures of our pantheon?

I invite us all to examine how we might – each in our individual way – engage with and celebrate our myths. We can re-read the stories, see where they come alive in us, how they speak to us and give us a glimpse into the source of wisdom and inspiration. We can celebrate our holidays and rites, and honor the characters that live in the mythologies and, perhaps, discover them already alive inside of us.

Karl is the ArchDruid Emeritus and current President of the Henge of Keltria.

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About Karl Schotterbeck

Archdruid Karl Schlotterbeck, MA, CAS, is a longtime student of the Druid way (including the Druid grade of OBOD), a shaman, drummer, and licensed psychologist. He was elected Archdruid in July of 2009. He is the author of Living Your Past Lives: The Psychology of Past-Life Regression (iUniverse 2002 revision), The Karma In Your Relationships (iUniverse 2003), and Lion of Satan, Lion of God (co-author), and other manuscripts in progress. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, children and assorted animals.

One thought on “The Power and Pitfalls of Mythologies

  1. I support a living and shared mythology for any people or culture. Using the Ogham to index these mythologies among the tales and traditions of Celtic people is one of the roots of using the Ogham. It serves as an connection to themes within Celtic mythology and memory. It does this by supporting the language, forming a matrix of connections between language and matter. and it is very useful as a tool in divination.

    The test of any divination tool is how well it can be used to model a life situation and simulates how it reacts against or within past, present and future. Long before computers were ever invented, humans had minds that served them to preserve, calculate, and create reality. The Ogham are the filing and retrieval system for memories that are preserved in folklore and mythology. They can also be used in divination to create scenario upon scenario that predicts or uncovers new knowledge that only be obtained through esoteric means.

    Tarot is a Medieval invention to do the same.things by picturing archetypes from western society though it is modeled outside of Celtic society. The images on its cards allow one to game with destiny. One can construct and assign people paces and values to the cards and watch how they play out in the soap operas that result. For me, it is much better to see these images through Briatharogam, Dúile and remember tale. They allow our mythology to become a tool for comparing our present and future with the ways that gods and ancestors faced them in the past.

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