Recovering Buried Mythologies

Some of the sage advice that my most exquisite energy healer offered when I visited her in the midst of my 10 day long battle with depleted energy and sinking spirits was quite simple:

Just relax. No stress. No contemplating. No conscious creating. Just watch the equivalent of Oprah and seek out as many comedies as possible. You need to laugh.

peneloperococo_hcI tried really hard to comply. I watched a lovely fairy tale of a movie, Penelope, that was full of eye candy and clever enough allegory. I began reading a book called Rococo and am loving my time with an interior decorator from New Jersey who’s transforming his childhood church. Each reminded me of aspects of my own story, but neither demanded that I deconstruct my reactions or analyze their greater significance.

But I couldn’t turn off my brain completely. I was drawn under the spell of a novel that was far from funny and couldn’t be construed as light. It drew me into the shadows of my past. Not necessarily into black, frightening corners, but more to the mesmerizing shapes that fill the walls of a firelit room.

For all that I wrote a college entrance essay in which I declared my ambition to be a “professional Irish person” (oh, it was cheesy, but it got me in!) and have a couple of degrees in the literature from that little country, I have sort of lost track of that passion. I ignored much of the rest of the world’s wisdom as I immersed myself in the hills and the fog of a small corner of the world. To make up for lost time, I since dedicated myself to a whole globe of knowledge and have largely forgotten about Ireland.

confessionsbigMostly, I picked up Confessions of a Pagan Nun because I felt I owed it to my seventeen year-old self to read a book about a druid who comes to live in an early Christian community dedicated to tending the flame of Goddess/Saint Brigid. A “translation” of a (fictional) newly discovered 6th century manuscript? I cringed at how painful it might be to observe a modern novelist mix English and Irish, Christians and Druids. The part of me that longs to love fantasy but knows my literary snob is much too outspoken figured that Kate Horsley’s book would be a brief experiment that would send me back to the bookshelves as soon as I had the strength to get off the couch. (By the way, oh those lovers of fantasy, I welcome a comments section full of well-written recommendations from that genre!)

It was beautifully crafted and compelling and reminded me that though it may be a time to “put away childish things,” there is also a lot of wisdom to be found and a great many new discoveries to be made if I look back at passions from half a lifetime ago.

Myths are something that inform our lives in everything from collective memory to vernacular expression and metaphor. We are generally unaware that myth lurks at the edges, coloring societies and individuals. A past, back to the age of “once upon a time” or as recent as Kennedy’s Camelot, always haunts and enlivens us.

A delicious bit from Kate Horsley’s Confessions of a Pagan Nun that most appeals to my look back upon the stuff of my own founding mythologies:

I began to accept the limitations of my life and the alteration of my aspirations, an acceptance that younger women consider weakness and surrender. But I found the limitations I accepted, as youth and its dreams fell away, composed a narrow and secret passage leading to an expanse of space and liberation I have not realized existed. I began to prefer peaceful surrender to noble battle, for in peace is and internal freedom one never has in war, though sometimes warring is essential for external freedom.

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3 thoughts on “Recovering Buried Mythologies

  1. Blisschick February 24, 2009 / 2:12 pm

    First, I adored Penelope! Mostly, I just wanted all of her clothes! 🙂

    Fantasy lit. That one is hard for me, too. Though I have certainly partaken. I think, often, it is just poorly done, halfway there magical realism.

    Have you read White Apples by Jonathan Carroll? Oh my!

    Or anything by Jennifer Egan, but especially The Keep?

    And, of course, I cannot push The Gargoyle ENOUGH! by first time, 40 year old novelist (and Canadian) Andrew Davidson.

    Happy reading!

  2. Mish February 25, 2009 / 9:02 am

    There’s plenty of fantasy out there where the stories (almost) make one forget about the writing. For well-written, IMHO: Marion Zimmer Bradley- the Mists of Avalon; Peter Beagle- the Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place; CS Lewis- Til We Have Faces; Neil Gaiman- American Gods; Charles de Lint- Memory & Dream. And because laughter is good for the soul, I suggest Robert Asprin’s Myth Book series and Rachel Green‘s Ungodly Child, of which I only have 5 chapters of chuckles left.

    Slainte!

    • girlwhocriedepiphany February 26, 2009 / 11:41 am

      Thanks so much for the recommendations, Bliss and Mish. I am updating my very long GoodReads “to read” right now. Two I have read from your lists: The Keep and Mists of Avalon. The former was intriguing and the latter changed my life when I was 15!

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