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Mighty Myth Month: Trees.

No, this isn’t about the 1976 Rush song.

It’s about trees.

Ratatosk
Ratatosk

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is the tree that represents all levels of above, middle, and below for mankind:

In Norse mythology, the World Tree called Yggdrasill runs like a pole through this world and the realms above and below it. Yggdrasill is a great ash tree that connects all living things and all phases of existence.

Trees represent life, growth, and perhaps greatest of all: potential. Trees symbolize strength, honor, as well as other less-attractive human qualities such as jealousy, greed, and death:

Trees—or the fruit they bore—also came to be associated with wisdom, knowledge, or hidden secrets. This meaning may have come from the symbolic connection between trees and worlds above and below human experience. The tree is a symbol of wisdom in stories about the life of Buddha, who was said to have gained spiritual enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, a type of fig.

Two sacred trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—appear in the Near Eastern story of the Garden of Eden, told in the book of Genesis of the Bible. God ordered Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, not to eat the fruit of either tree. Disobeying, they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and became aware of guilt, shame, and sin. God cast them out of the garden before they could eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, which would have made them immortal. Thereafter, they and their descendants had to live in a world that included sin and death.

A traditional Micronesian myth from the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean is similar to the biblical account of the fall from Eden. In the beginning of the world was a garden where two trees grew, guarded by an original being called Na Kaa. Men lived under one tree and gathered its fruit, while women lived apart from the men under the other tree. One day when Na Kaa was away on a trip, the men and women mingled together under one of the trees. Upon his return, Na Kaa told them that they had chosen the Tree of Death, not the Tree of Life, and from that time all people would be mortal.

See this post: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Tr-Wa/Trees-in-Mythology.html#ixzz0ceDB4F5P

Odin's Ravens: Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)
Odin's Ravens: Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)

Oops. Kind of puts a whole new spin on “poison apple.”

Grumpy, apple-throwing talking tree from the Wizard of Oz
Grumpy, apple-throwing talking tree from the Wizard of Oz

Humans need trees, and yet our relationship with them has been somewhat strained, at best. Humans who try to help the environment are lambasted as “tree-huggers.” I wonder what would happen if they actually did talk, threw apples at us, or used their switches for a humanity-spanking. What if they could walk and wage war like the mighty trees in the Lord of the Rings? It’s all the trees’ fault. They just don’t grow fast enough for the speed of humans. We needs our houses NOW. We need our teak tea trolleys NOW. We need our toothpicks NOW. (Say the NOW in the voice of Veruca Salt.) Trees measure the planet by their own standards, not man’s, and those two cultures clash. Can trees have a culture? Well, personification aside, perhaps. They are such an important part of our survival and existence on this planet, that perhaps they deserve to be revered, perhaps even worshipped. We have not done a very good job of being their caretakers, but they have not faltered in their gifts to us.

 We climb trees. We live with trees. We use their breath for our breath, and they use ours. We should never use trees for harm, or for death. In the words of the late, great Shel Silverstein:

Once there was a tree….. and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…….very much. And the tree was happy.

 http://www.shelsilverstein.com/indexSite.html

Time to plant a seed.

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Mighty Myth Month: What’s in the box, Dora?

open_pandora_tn

http://mikerbaker.com/knack/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/pandora_tn2.jpg

Pandora’s “box” is a modern invention going back only as far as Erasmus. According to Hesiod, the evils of all men were shut up in a storage jar (pithos) buried in the ground. This is connected by some with the Athenian festival of pithoigia, – when the great vats (pithoi) of new wine were opened. Perhaps that’s really where all mankind’s troubles spring from! [from wine, not Pandora] She, as the first woman, created after man, is sometimes compared to Eve in Hebrew myth. Pandora was originally a title of the goddess Rhea (the name means all gifts) – but the story of Pandora and her jar (not box) was probably an anti-feminine invention of the poet Hesiod.

 Curiosity killed the cat, you know.

This is all about curiosity, or disobeying orders. It’s about how women cause trouble when they think for themselves, and keeping it all in a box, jar, back-pack, purse, pantry, or Rubbermaid storage container is where it should all stay.

Now, in the words of my mom, wait a red-hot minute. I’m a little tired of the ‘blame-game.’ Life is always a balance between:

  • Following the rules or…
  • Taking a risk
  • Following your heart or…
  • Thinking it through
  • Seeing what’s behind Door #3 or…
  • Taking the prize that’s offered.

The brand-new, first woman on earth is given a box/jar, depending on which snooty professor’s of mythology version you want to believe. (I am always suspicious when anyone has the “definitive” translation of anything that’s over five minutes past–you can’t trust all communication; things get lost in translation.) Cut the girl a break! It was a GIFT! Her name means ALL GIFTS, for goodness sakes! What was she supposed to do? Return to sender? C’mon. So now we can conveniently blame ALL OF MANKIND’S TROUBLES ON GIRL’S DECISION TO OPEN A BOX?!?! Yeah. Well, I’m going to grab my keys, lipstick, and I’m outta here.

There’s always hope.

You go, girl.
You go, girl.

(Don’t get me started on the apple thing. A piece of fruit shouldn’t take down all of humanity. It was a team decision.)

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Mighty Myth Month: Girl in the Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood

We all have to venture out into the world from time to time. For most of us, that’s everyday. We’re moving, walking driving, going, running, catching, all going to or coming from some PLACE. Unless we’re suffering from agoraphobia, we go outside. However, most of us don’t walk through dark woods to get there. Most of us are in a car or a bus. We usually don’t have baskets of goodies. And we’re not visiting sick grandmas.

But most of us want to get where we’re going alive.

And the world is still a dangerous place.

This cautionary tale of a small girl, sent off to run an important errand by her mom, involves, at the surface level, a wolf, a basket, a grandma and the omnipresent red riding cape/hood. (I hope she has a good dry cleaner, because dang, she NEVER takes that thing off. Must be getting pretty ripe by now. Stinky. Maybe that’s how that wolf snuck up on her. She didn’t smell wet dog fur. Sorry. Got off track.)

Anyway, this small girl, known by nothing else than “Little Red Riding Hood,” (not Becky, not Suzie, not Chloe) but LRRH, wanders slowly through the woods, and gives up too much information to a wolf. I should say Wolf. Because the animal represents the Bad Guy. Personifies “stranger danger! stranger danger!” Woof! All he wants, he says, are the goodies in the basket. A metaphor for something else? Perhaps. Red holds fast. She doesn’t give him any treats from the picnic basket she carries to her maternal ancestor’s home.

But Red is not too bright. The Wolf, getting to the final destination before Red, sneaks in the house, eats grandma, but WANTS MORE. He is insatiable! He cross-dresses, disguises, and morphs into a terrible impersonation of grandma. Red questions…but Wolf has a handy answer for everything. Finally, it is he who can’t take it anymore when asked about his teeth. His razor-sharp teeth, wanting nothing else than to chomp.

Some stories have a friendly woodsman saving the day, and getting grandma out of the wolf’s tummy. Other versions have grandma hiding in the closet during the drama. Regardless, the Wolf is vanquished. Red and Grandma are okay. Goodies are served. All is well.

But…

don’t talk to strangers…

don’t give out too much information…(the Wolf is in the Internet now)…

and keep your hood safe.

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Mighty Myth Month: All you need is Love. And a clamshell. And some cherubs. And a stylist.

Goddess of Love: Aphrodite
Goddess of Love: Aphrodite

Aphrodite (Greek) or Venus (Roman) is the goddess of love. But…not the personification of ‘motherly’ love, or the “I ‘heart’ (fill in the blank) love” but lovey-love. K-I-S-S-I-N-G SITTING IN A TREE kind of love. Aphrodite (aff-fro-dye-tee) is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. She is made from sea foam and lip gloss. She embodies beauty, romantic love, and the epitome of femininity.

Well, she IS all that and a bag of chips, girlfriend. If she was characterized by a modern representation, not just any vapid female celebrity with a toy-sized dog in her purse would suffice. Those would just be wannabes. The real Venuses are very powerful in their allure, appeal, and knee-buckling abilities on mortal men.

In mythology, she is married to Hephaistos, the lame blacksmith of the gods, but it’s a marriage of convenience, not of love. She cheats on her lumpy little husband constantly with the likes of Ares, she starts the Trojan War, and is a mean mother-in-law. She is one who of the original evil “mother” figures, apples and all.

Once upon a time, around 1250 BC, toward the end of the Bronze Age in Greece, three goddesses were having an argument (said the Greeks). The goddesses Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera were arguing about which one of them was the most beautiful. They agreed to choose a human man and let him decide. More or less at random, the goddesses picked Paris, the youngest son of King Priam of Troy, to be their judge.

Each of the goddesses offered Paris a bribe to get him to vote for her. Athena offered him wisdom. Hera offered him power. But Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, and Paris voted for her.

What would one expect if a young man is given those items for choices? Of course he’s going to think with his heart, and not his brain! Paris, that punk, didn’t want power or smarts–he wants the girl! Duh! Aphrodite is no slouch–she knew exactly what she was doing.

And if starting the Trojan War wasn’t bad enough, she is really not a very nice person. A young girl named Psyche (psyche means ‘soul’) is so beautiful, so enchanting, the people in her father’s kingdom stop paying homage to Aphrodite/Venus, and start worshipping her. Venus is so angry, she sends her son, Eros (Cupid) to hurt her. Well, he falls in love with Psyche. Mumsy is most displeased. Curses, threats, and a lot of damage happens before the dysfunctional family is repaired. However, this tale gave us the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White,” and other tales of love with the motif of ‘mistaken identity’ or ‘proof of trust and faith.’ Oh, and there might be a worm in that apple.

Psyche! Just sneeking a peek...

From these deities we get the words: aphrodisiac (love potions), erotic, and cupidity, and others.

More information: http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Aphrodite.html

http://www.loggia.com/myth/aphrodite.html

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Mighty Myth Month: Round table pizza.

Arthur_Sword_and_Stone

Oh, if only it were that easy.

To know our true identities, our destinies, or our life’s purpose by simply pulling out a sword from a stone.

Any way you slice it, you can’t deny that the Arthurian legends are resoundingly entrenched in Western culture, predominately to the British Empire, which at one point, the sun never set on. (But personally, I think they’re better off not worrying about if the sun is or is not sitting on them, it frees them up to continue to model to the U.S. Parliamentary debating tactics, polish up Stonehenge, and make movies like Son of Rambow.)

Understand that there are those who have spent their lives on studying the tales/legend of King Arthur, and you only need to step in the shallow end of the Internet surf to find out what you need to know for sufficient background knowledge, and “catch” the allusions made in literature, movies, and Spongebob.

http://www.kingarthursknights.com/

http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/kids/arthur_life.html

http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/medieval/history/earlymiddle/arthur.htm

I would use up all my blog gigabytes if I wrote a full post on Artie and the Gang; suffice it to say this legend HAS IT ALL! It’s like a great country/western song: loyal friends, cheatin’ wives, and a quest for the Big Gulp in a ’70s Charger. Literally, the 70s. Not the 1970s. Not the 1670s. Most likely, the 570s. And did I say Big Gulp?  I meant cup. No, chalice. Holy Grail, let’s go on a Crusade!

King Arthur’s grand apotheosis (yeah, that’s right, I used one of your vocabulary words!) comes from his final battle with his greatest enemy, Mordred. Even Mordred’s name connotes some serious evil, jealousy, and bad manners. Not very cricket of him, what what!? Arthur mortally wounds Mordred, but also receives a fatal blow; after getting rid of the evidence with the help of his homie Bedivere, Arthur is laid to rest on the Isle of Avalon.

Bedivere waves bye-bye to Excalibur
Bedivere waves bye-bye to Excalibur

So, once you’ve succeeded in filling your noggin with sufficient background knowledge on the “real myth,” (wouldn’t that be an oxymoron?) then you may want to move on to these books and a movies:

Song of the Sparrowby Lisa Ann Sandell (G-PG)

Mists of Avalonby Marion Zimmer Bradley (PG13)

Monty Python’s Holy Grail (movie) (PG-13)

It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.

Carry on.

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