A hard one this week. We lost a great one, Emma Coats - Bandit Queen of the Oxford Spires, expansive poet and great presence at the Westcountry School of Myth and Story these last few years. Invoking some story around a blustery Dartmoor fire it was always a boost to see her keen eyes through the smoke, taking it all in and carrying it back to the hermitage in her soul. Not a death any of us would have predicted at the school, and doubly shocking for that.
So, 'Coatsy', we will craft a thick rope of story, poems, ritual, tears and laughter for you when we meet on the moors in a fortnight, your fellow vagabond monks and students of the sacred. May it wrap itself three times round the moon and pull you lovingly into all the deep peace this universe can offer. We'll see you by the fireside madam - a doffed hat and a spilling of the old drop. Tears falling here at the house.
Visit http://emmacoats.wordpress.com/ to read the woman's words.
The Dream of the Gods
Dragging myself along by bootstraps I am also throwing in a new chunk of essay (Coatsy had a quicksilver mind for myth) - it lacks charm and weight, but has some good thoughts from Hillman and Eliade about myth showing up in difficulty and pathology....
...... Mircea Eliade also claims a ‘mythology of modern elites’ that harks back to some of the very earliest impulses towards myths function:
'we may note the redeeming function of “difficulty”, especially as found in the
works of modern art…it is because such works represent closed worlds,hermetic universes that cannot be entered except by overcoming immense difficulties, like the initiatory ordeals of the archaic and traditional societies'.
(Eliade 1963 :188)
So to Eliade we locate ancient urges reconfiguring; that abstraction and complexity in art represent a labyrinthnal challenge-the artist enters a ritualised container-the studio-for much the same motivation that the young tribeswoman enters the desert for fasting and vision, to be set apart from her peers, to amplify inner revelations, to suffer, study and grow.
For James Hillman (Hillman 1989 : 150), the old gods have fled into our pathologies and reveal their character through symptoms - Saturn handling depression, impotence and emotional distance while Aphrodite revels in the endless erotic undertow of much of our advertising, for example. The myths remain, their hints of the transcendental dimmed, but shifting effortlessly into whatever psychological triggers hold society in general captive. A god stands behind the trigger.
But Hillman typically reviles the idea that somehow mythic figures are nothing but mental constructs; “when we think mythologically about pathologizing, we could say, as some have, that the “world of the gods” is anthropomorphic, an imitative projection of ours…but one could start the other end, the mundus imaginalis, of the archetypes (or gods) and say that our “secular world” is at the same time mythical, an imitative projection of theirs, including their pathologies.” From this position, the ‘Otherworld’ of folklore could be this very one we live on.
We are the dream of the Gods.
The aggression of our ambitions, the wild affairs that rupture a steady life,the cradling of a young child, all could be caught in the dream tendrils of some luminous diety; working through their ‘issues’ as they slumber, our myth world framing their lunar wanderings. The Irish always claim the Otherworld is as interested in us as we are in them (Meade 2009), maybe we offer a hall of mirrors to each other.