display | more...

In mythology, especially the oldest ones we have records of, the pantheon of gods often seems absurd. In ancient Egypt, for example, there are so many gods that keeping track would be a full time job. What I believe the original authors and crafters of these mythologies was doing was finding a way to convey stories with deeper meanings, moral lessons, and to provide inspiration to those who may be struggling or lost. A god or goddess can be called upon for strength, resilience, or wisdom. In a full blown pantheon, with a deity or hero for every situation, what was originally being imparted was the idea of calling upon the power of what is basically the personification of a concept. When you do that, you find inspiration, but the trick is that you must truly have faith in the symbol for it to work. This leads into murky ground, the literalization of mythology (which is where it evolves into religion), and so you must find, as the Buddha says, the middle road.

Those deities and larger than life figures, which carry over into Catholicism in the form of saints, are not that different from characters in a book or movie that leaves you with something other than a feeling that you were moderately entertained. You may have gained greater understanding of the nature of another person's obstacles and struggles in life. You might identify with a character in the story and in doing so become the character in an immersive way. People tune into the same television programs week after week because they want to see what their imaginary friends are up to, even if they will swear up and down this is not what they are doing. Those characters have some meaning to them. Maybe they are heroic characters that make the individual feel empowered through identification, or maybe they see a character as someone to aspire to be more like. "She is always so courageous in the face of danger. I wish I could be like that." Television shows have over the years pounded home moral tales with startling obviousness, often worthy of an audible groan, which is why the best mythologies are often hard to pierce the shell of. You are supposed to really think about it, not have the answers served to you on a platter.

These are archetypes these gods. Each is meant to represent the ultimate version of courage, wisdom, compassion, and so forth. There might even be one for making a fine meal or building a house.

Personal archetypes are derived from actual people in your narrative. The people you've met in your life who have made the strongest impression or had the greatest influence on you, on your development as a character in this life's narrative, become archetypes. Maybe there is a reason you are particularly vulnerable. Early in your life there was a compassionate protector who looked after you and helped you in various ways while also helping you accept your limitations. This person becomes a personal archetype. We'll call her Vivian the Protector. Now, Vivian has moved on and that was a very long time ago. What you find yourself doing, usually subconsciously, is to look for another Vivian because what Vivian the Protector brought into your life's narrative was positive and life changing. There are others from your past who also represent something that you call on in times of need, just as you literally would call someone who you knew you could count on in a situation, you do it metaphorically through use of the archetype.

The structure of my own personal mythology has Queens, which are the equivalent of a pantheon of goddesses. They are what I call on at certain times. Queen Tammy the Acolyte, the most obvious example, is a reminder of two things: That I cannot give up because "then what would the rest of us do?" and what it means to let down someone who cared about you and was there for you. She could be considered the goddess of regret, that is her realm. This is not all she is, but this is her archetype. It works by reminding me not to wait too longer to step into a situation or act, to treat people dismissively just because I have a lot going on, and in doing that it helps me to avoid repeating the same mistake. The process is usually subconscious, but I make it conscious. It doesn't always start out conscious, but eventually I become aware of it again. When I left my last job due to my disability, I worked with a woman who had my back and supported me through a rough last year of working. When I left, I knew that to say goodbye and to close the book on her would have been a mistake. She has since become my best friend. This is how acting on the archetype works, and the deeper meaning in the stories of mythology and religion.

This is the archetype as a reminder, and many stories work in this way. We are reminded by a story of what happens to the person who "bites off more than they can chew" or goes into a dangerous place unprepared. The tale is colorful and makes a strong impression and so it comes to mind in various situations. "This is like that story..."  When grandpa tells you a tale of his youth, taking liberties with the narrative to make himself larger than life, it does the same thing provided grandpa knows how to tell a tale and isn't just shouting at you and demanding you bring him another whiskey.

It can also help you reframe a situation. Some things must happen in the narrative that are less than pleasant or positive. Beyond the simple needing to get knocked down so you can get up again, every narrative needs its adversity or it is just dancing in the flowers puking out rainbows all day. Judas may seem a villain, but the entire crucifixion narrative falls apart without him. In my own personal mythology, the Judas Queen got that name because we were in a situation in which we needed to betray each other in order to survive a major crisis situation that was unfolding. The narrative of my surviving what is known as the Excommunication War in my mythology falls apart without her part in it. Because of my realization of this, I did not dismiss her out of spite or anger. She became a Queen because of the importance of her role in the narrative and we remain friends to this day.

This is the major functionality of the Queens in my personal mythology, on the unconscious level. On the conscious level, they exist as actual people who represent certain strong character traits and who played very key roles in my life's narrative. The difference between Queens and Sisters, who are true friends who have supported me along the way, is that Queens alter the narrative whereas Sisters help maintain it. And yes, my personal mythology is dominated by female persons. This is not directly linked to romantic feelings or sexual attraction. It is just that men have never made any sense to me. I can't figure out what makes them tick. They are mysterious. Perhaps in another life.

In mythology, the personification of a concept or message or value gives it a point of reference outside of an idea floating around like a smell in the air. A collection of values and strengths is collected in one point of reference than one can identify with. The broader gods and heroes of mythology were designed to appeal to the largest group of people within the culture in which the stories were being told. Personal archetypes, like personal mythology, caters it specifically to you and through this they can gain more meaning and more power. 

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.