Friday, 19 December 2014

Mythology — part six: personal mythologies

Piegan Medicine Bags
While the movies and other fictional media can provide us with our need for mythology by allowing us to identify with the hero and find other parallels to our own life, we also have a habit in collecting what we call "souvenirs". These can be something to remind us of a vacation or any other special moment, place or person. We don't think of such things as sacred objects, but they are the sort of thing that the Plains Indian shaman would include in their medicine bags or bundles.

In primitive societies there is no "separation of Church and State" and all things have their connections to the sacred. The feelings we have about special things are no different from what the shaman saves for the medicine bundle, they are just given another name.

As we grow older, our lives gain a meaning that is personal to us. We can call that a personal mythology. There are stages to a life well-lived. Joseph Campbell says that as soon as the movie hero wins the battle and gets the girl, the credits roll. In mythology, however, the hero's role continues past the movie endings. He returns to his people to act as elder and mentor. We tend to forget about this stage of life and Hollywood rarely acknowledges what we forget. I am sure that you have encountered many people who have become stuck in their ways and try to relive, instead, previous times of victories and personal satisfaction. Perhaps you should ask such people what the young can learn from their experiences — try to move them along a little bit. Perhaps all they need is a medicine bundle.

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