Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is the Place of Lore in Life?

The lore --- here meaning the mythology --- is one part of a much larger set of learnings, and this larger set properly should receive the name lore.

The mythology is tremendously useful, and ought be studied and pondered with close attention. It holds important lessons, and gives valuable guidelines, to which one can return again and again.

But there is more to life, and more to spirituality, than mythology. This should be obvious. We learn from sources all around us. This approach is in fact inherent in paganism, which openly celebrates the intelligences inherent in the world, and thus, by implication, our ability to learn from all things. We learn from peers, from grandparents, from musicians, from craftsmen, from the ground beneath us and the plants that grow about us, and the animals that creep and crawl within our back yards, and it is this breadth that is the proper pagan orientation.

The mythology provides metaphoric stories that make the imagination come alive to the holistic powers at work in the world, through lively narrative that also encodes important lessons about human life. Indeed, it can even act as a compass in confusing or dissipate times ; and while a compass is a very useful tool, and one that can even save an explorer's life, it is no substitute for the exploration itself.

When you speak the word "lore", it should include the mythology, but also everything you've learned from immersion in life, everything you've learned from parents and friends and mentors, and from contact with the larger, nonhuman world of life, as well as the more ecstatic domain of dreams, trance, and vision, all in proper perspective. And the mythology approached properly ought spark dares and dreams that lead to new and more enlivening experiences. The stories were written for farmers and adventurers, and assumed such a life of activity and connection with the concrete texture of life and the larger world, but helped to establish reference points for these adventures in exploration, and labours to awaken fertility.

The advantage of including stories that emerge from a place closer to heathen times is that they encode the ancestral values of a people who had allowed the essence and worldview of paganism to seep into their blood, and live in their bones. They were not perfect, and had both their own set of problems, which every generation and every age does, as well as their struggles against degeneration, which they symbolized through powerful figures like the Fenris Wolf and the World Viper. Nevertheless, their proximity to the archaic mindstate means the stories they passed down have value as checks and balances on much-progressed degeneration which we have come to take for granted. On the other hand, in the course of our history, we have solved problems that plagued them, so the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints balance and put each other in check. Having perspectives from a time very different than our own can be an invaluable resource, when combined with all the wider learnings available all around us if we will only listen.

The stories represent tales that generations of people closer to the land felt reflected the essential qualities of those holy powers they honored in groves and sometimes temples. Sometime in the ancient days, good poets spun yarns about the Gods that could very well be true ; which is to say they were believable because they accurately captured their essence in narrative, and to that extent, were true. They provide a metaphorically-thick and richly allusive baseline to which individual experiences may be compared and weighed, again and again, and have proven their mettle through such repeated weighings over countless centuries and likely millennia of time. They thus hold weight of generations against the experiences of a single individual, but the weight of the world, and the holy powers within it, is even greater. All things good in their proper place.

Our primary orientation is to the world, the multiverse that includes physical and biological reality, and the realms of dream ; but within this larger orientation, narrative charged with symbolic, poetic power provides a powerful compass, whose usefulness ought not be underestimated.


Blogger Maytheweed said...

Excellent post - much food for thought! I'm still pretty new to Heathenry and where personal experience fits into things is still something I'm juggling.

12:57 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Welcome, Maytheweed! I'd say personal experience in general is very important. When it comes to personal experience and the mythology, I'd say that personal experience provides one with a very colorful slide, one might say a "slice", while the mythology itself is thick, compressed slices of generations and generations time. Thus, a single "slice", however colorful, certainly cannot replace the compressed experiences of generations, but it may by all means give one a personal lens from which to greater appreciate the mythology, and the Gods.

2:56 AM  

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