5/30/2006

Myth of the Day (maybe of the week)...

song du jour: Sante Yalla, Cheikh Lo

mood: feisty

I have at least 3 posts started that follow up Sex, 'Enlightenment,' and a Whole Lot of Pain, but there I was just now at my bench, pondering the last fab conversation with friends at Starbucks after the most recent Atlanta Integral Salon meeting, when I was struck by inspiration. Since I was 9, I've had a complete love and fascination with mythology. Like Camile Paglia's idea that world religion should be the basis of curriculum for primary education, I believe that only by learning the tales of other cultures, can we include and transcend the myths of our own.

At first, like tales of King Arthur or Harry Potter, they are magical, then as a child evolves, they become aware of power, and as they move into the stage of right and wrong, good and evil, they become about hope and empowerment. If a child is exposed to a wide variety of them, the similar threads become so obvious that the commonality of the very stories that individual cultures may cling to as literal history, can, paradoxically, become the window into the world of rationality, for they contain not our history or our tickets to redemption, but the story of what it is to be human (or god, animal, fairy, or some combination thereof), and to feel. Jung and Campbell were right; myths contain the archetypes common to us all, and besides, they are just damned cool.

So in gratitude of a Montessori plus type school that taught Norse Mythology to would be 4th graders, the Ramayana the next year, and the tales of Sir Percival the final year, I have decided to start a myth of the day or week, or whenever I get time to blog and feel like it post. Usually, I plan to post a link, maybe a comment, occasionally my take on the myth of the moment. Today's selection is my favorite Greek myth, Atalanta and the Golden Apples

Atalanta was smart, fast, and single. No, not that kind of fast. She was a speed demon on the track. No one could out run her, and few could outsmart her. Her father, being a typical patriarchal ancient Greek guy, decided it was past time for her to marry, but Atalanta wasn't having any lazy brained, bossy dude as a forced mate. Some myths say she was grieving the death of her lover as well. Since her father would give her little choice, she struck a bargain. She would marry the man, who could outrun her, knowing full well she was safe. Arrogant guy after arrogant guy stood confidently at the starting line, only to come puffing up behind at the finish line, followed shortly by his execution. Hey, it's Greek mythology. People never just loose the race, the fight, or the war. They lay their very lives on the line for any game or challenge.

Then came along came Hippomenes. Hippomenes, being smarter than your average bear, realized that he couldn't possibly outrun Atalanta on sheer testosterone and adrenaline alone, so with the help of Aphrodite, he came up with a plan. The goddess of love provided him with 3 golden apples, which were so mesmerizing, Atalanta had to stop and pick each one up to look at it. Her pauses bought Hippomenes just enough time to beat her, and she was so surprised that anyone had duped her, she developed quite an instant crush on the guy.

Unfortunately, Greek myths wouldn't be Greek myths without tragic endings. Either because Hippomenes failed to give adequate thanks to Aphrodite or because he and Atalanta couldn't keep their paws off each other in the temple of Zeus, the pair were turned into lions. While that might sound quite cool and symbolic to us, supposedly the Greeks believed that lions could only mate with leopards and not each other, leaving Hippomenes and Atalanta frustrated for eternity. If one takes things, however, at a higher stage of consciousness than the mere conventional good versus bad level, that is, looking beyond a goddess or god, who didn't take kindly to bad manners or possibly bad taste, one might say they made the sphinx leap from wise human to brave lion. (Bad, V for mixing your mythologies!)

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Hi Victoria.

Have you read "Wicked" yet? I'm reading it with my book club right now and am completely loving it. It reminds me of the Harry Potter books in that it's of another world/mindset entirely, but this one is more adult. If you haven't read it yet, give it a try!