Posts Tagged ‘mythology’
Nestled in the midst of Sylvia Plath’s Sonnet: To Time, the line ‘So cry for the pagan girl left picking olives beside a sunblue sea…” has long remained with me. Occasionally on the coast it will pop into my head unbidden, or late at night driving through the ‘neon, plastic-windowed city’ the poem will rise up out of y swirling subconscious to remind me of its sadness and its beauty.
Sonnet: To Time (see below) is a melancholy tribute to the loss of the Old Ways. It is a mid-twentieth century pre-cursor to the swelling tide of magickal reaffirmation, Wiccan paths, and Neo-Paganism that was soon to sweep our world (literally, broomsticks and all!). Indeed, the late lamented Sylvia Plath was once briefly into the occult. Plath and husband-poet Ted Hughes temporarily joined some of the magickal groups in 1950s Britain, delving into the erudite mysteries of astrology and astral projection. Plath’s interests in the lost magicks of the world and the decay of ancient civilizations is evident throughout her poetry, even in her early years as a writer.
Collected as part of her Juvenilia, it was written long before Plath was an established poet and author. Its obscurity means that Sonnet: To Time is often overlooked in literary circles, but this does not mean it is not worthy of our magickal attention. It is a haunting reminder of the presence of magick in the world, how easily humankind overlooks it, and how quickly it might slip away. But ultimately, it cannot desert the world entirely. Traces of it will always linger in our memories and myths, no matter how mundane the world becomes.
Sonnet To Time
By Sylvia Plath
Today we move in jade and cease with garnet
Amid the ticking jeweled clocks that mark
Our years. Death comes in a casual steel car, yet
We vaunt our days in neon and scorn the dark.
But outside the diabolic steel of this
Most plastic-windowed city, I can hear
The lone wind raving in the gutter, his
Voice crying exclusion in my ear.
So cry for the pagan girl left picking olives
Beside a sunblue sea, and mourn the flagon
Raised to toast a thousand kings, for all gives
Sorrow; weep for the legendary dragon.
Time is a great machine of iron bars
That drains eternally the milk of stars.
Sonnet: To Time has long been a favorite piece of litchantment for me and I hope that you too have enjoyed it. Please post about other favorite magickal literary lovelies that have inspired you and that you would like to share!
Somebody happened to call me a “mythic creature” on Friday; and it has stuck with me all weekend.
In context, it was a rather mundane and flippant figure of speech. One of the engineers in the digital archaeology lab I’ve just started at was merely elaborating on how rare it was to have one of the researchers in the lab for the full creative process. As a user of the technology verses a creator of it, he was basically saying that it was a novel concept to have my input at this stage of development. Really, it was a compliment of sorts (I hope). But it was more his turn of phrase that caught my attention. And rapidly pulled me from my everyday work, into the magickal realm I share here with all of you at Sacred Mists. Down the rabbit hole, as it were.
My initial visualization of my possession of the label ‘mythic creature’ had much to do with the addition of faerie wings trying to fit round my desk chair and a unicorn’s horn sprouting from my forehead. Eventually, however, my meandering daydreams wandered away from the specific image of me as a mythic creature in the engineering lab; and more to do with just the idea of the mythic creature in the lab or office: Pegasus flying past the window, sprites floating in the water cooler, satyrs bounding off the elevator, and the like. The magick seeping through the mundane.
Really, however, if one has been paying close attention to the faerie tales of childhood and, indeed, of world mythology: that is exactly how these mythic creatures present themselves. Out of the corner of your eye, there is a little something extra that you can spot for an instant and then is gone. In faerie tales: it may be a meeting with an elderly woman in the woods who you politely shared your bread with (thus earning the power to spit up jewels) or the spider you carried outside instead of smashing (and who later helped you succeed at a seemingly futile task). In faerie tales, and indeed perhaps in real life, the true encounters with mythic creatures are not ones you really pay that much attention to as a special encounter of any kind. The effects of the meeting may be felt; blessings given or mischief enacted (depending on the type of mythic creature), and one is left pondering the encounter, identifying what one can about what you saw, and extemporizing the rest to make sense of it ~ often fitting it into the known order of things in order to make it fit into one’s view of the world. More often than not, one might not realize that they’ve had such an encounter because they were not aware of what they were looking for and even if they saw something had no subconscious archetype against which to compare it. The Platonic archetypes extolled by the likes of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung can often seem like vague generalizations, but they are worth knowing as reference points. It is, after all, easier to put together the jigsaw puzzle if one knows what the general picture is meant to be of. The meeting of the mythic with the mundane is where magick translates outside of anthropology and becomes a part of one’s life experience.
I admit, that when not working on a project for the Sacred Mists, I often forget to look around me and see the magick in the world: the beauty and power that vibrates through everything; the wonder that I know I experienced as a child looking out at the world and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that magickal things could happen. The seemingly innocuous phrase ‘mythic creature’ woke me up. It made me LOOK. It made me SEE. It made me aware and appreciative. For this past weekend, at least.
And while no, I have not spotted any landvaettir around my apartment, fey lurking in the shrubbery, or trolls under the freeway bridge: the part of me that steadfastly believes in the anthropological power of faerie tales maintains that they are there. They have just gotten very, very good at blending in. So much so, that when we see them or meet them, we probably don’t even realize what they really might be.
The power of seeing the mythic creature in the modern world can lead to marvelous things. Ever heard of a little place called Narnia? Narnia is a magickal realm full of myth and wonder that has provided children and adults alike with a refuge, despite its ultimately fictional nature. Its author C. S. Lewis reputedly first began creating the back-story for Narnia whilst riding on a train one snowy evening. Looking out at the town, a man carrying his shopping and an umbrella appeared to have the legs of a faun instead of those of a human. And thus Mr. Tumnus, the first Narnian was born. If you take nothing else away from C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece series the Chronicles of Narnia, take away the idea that great things come from using your imagination and seeing the magick in the mundane. From seeing the mythic creature in the modern world.
Have you had any recent encounters you’ve realized were less than mundane? Are your bumblebees secretly faeries or your pool overrun with lorelei? Or did you open the door for a stranger or give a lost tourist directions and feel inexplicably blessed the rest of the day? Mythic creatures come in all shapes and forms. Let us know about your recent run-ins!
And if you haven’t had any recent encounters with mythic creatures: go seek them out. Attempt an anthropological cum psychological experiment into your own awareness and find them in unlikely places. Find them at your office, in your home, or in the pages of a fairy tale you’ve long since given up~ those archetyes still speak to you, if you’re willing to listen, so give them another chance. And then report back here and share your experience with everyone else!
Image Credit: At the top is Mary Gow’s Fairy Tales.