“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one” – The Doctor.
What stories do we tell ourselve and each other? The stories of the 24/7 news cycle, of endless political bickering, war and greed? The stories of capitalism and consumption, of endless growth and more and more stuff? The stories of Christian fundamentalism, of sin and guilt and punishment and fear? The stories of atheistic materialism, of mere matter without spirit or awareness?
Or do we look to other stories? From the modern myths of Star Wars and superheroes, of Time Lords and wizards, to the ancient myths of gods and goddesses, knights and dragons, Druids and seers, myth and story has always been the way humans express their humanity, and the way that humanity is reflected and nourished.
The word “myth” has some unfortunate implications today, and has come to mean simply “false”. If a story is a myth, then it may as well be a lie. This is of course a misunderstanding, despite conspiracy theorists and their continual denouncement of everything from evolution to the moon landings to the shape of the Earth as a “myth” (or perhaps, as Fake News). But the word has a deeper and older meaning:
Myth and story are the central feature of human culture. There are no cultures at any time in history or any part of the world without their stories. We are as much pan narrans, the storytelling ape, as we are homo sapiens, the wise man.
The myths of ancient cultures from the Celts and Norse to Greeks and Romans are not historically accurate accounts of things that happened; what they are are stories about the human experience and our relationships with each other, with the immensities of nature and with Spirit.
The 4th century Roman writer Sallustius said that myths “never happened but always are”. Myth is a sacred narrative that creates and expresses human relationship to the other-than-human world, the world of the wild, of gods and heroes, great forces and ancient creatures.
When we as Druids enter into the mythological landscape in meditation, ritual, magic or simply by reading, we weave that relationship, that meaning into our own lives. It becomes part of us and shapes our experience of the world.
So read the myths, as many as you can, from as many different religions, cultures, places and times as you can. Explore the modern myths in novels, film and television and ask what these stories are telling: how are they relevant to your human experience right now?
Myths should never be static, preserved in one “pure” form to be studied like museum exhibits. Myths are alive and should be questioned, reworked, evolved and grown as we evolve and grow. Their voices may be thousands of years old, but they are not dead.
One Druid Triad says that a Druid should hear the voice of the past, attend to the present, and look to the future. Myth and story can help us do this.
[Prompt from Alison Leigh Lilly’s 30 Days of Druidry]
(Some of this post is derived from my essay “Myth and Meaning: A Non-Literal Pagan View Of Deity” in “Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans”, edited by John Halstead, 2012)