Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Old Wanderers and Mythwalking

Truly the eagle, the hill-fox, and the ptarmigan are " the eldest children of the hill." The stag may climb thus high too at times, for outlook, or for the intoxication of desolation and of illimitable vastness; sometimes the hawks soar over the wilderness; even the mountain-hares sometimes reach and race desperately across these high arid wastes. But these all come as men in forlorn and lonely lands climb the grey uninhabitable mountains beyond them, seeking to know that which they cannot see beneath, seeking often for they know not what. They are not dwellers there. The stag, that mountain-lover, cannot inhabit waste rock; the red grouse would perish where the ptarmigan thrives and is content.

-Fiona Macleod

In my poem, "Song of the Old Wanderer", I intended to present an invocation of the timeless spirit in each man, woman, and child. The poem is not about a fictional character; it is about every human being, who lives and breathes at this very moment- and those who live in the "other" way, beyond the waters that separate the living from those we call "dead". The living and the dead exist in their own ways; the spirit remains evergreen, whether it knows living flesh at this moment, or the mysteries of the land of the dead. Perhaps the spirit wanders from flesh to flesh, or life to life in many places; no truth of the matter seems overly strange when compared to the others. At any rate, I know that the evergreen spirit lives always.

This is my belief, as it was the belief of others before me. I make no detailed apologies or explanations for this belief; why it should be, how it should be. It is just what a deep voice tells me, and what the heartblood of myth and folk-tale confirms. If I am wrong and the spirit turns to dust with the body, I will not be here to rue my mistake; if I am correct, and what peace and joy I feel in accord with my belief is an authentic path to fulfillment, then I will not have wasted my time.

Every spirit, from every time and place, is an "old wanderer"- wandering through many halls and estates of existence, and so timeless as to be called "old" from a mortal's perspective. However, the Gods themselves state that they are "without old age, without consummation of earth". So perspective is certainly the issue here, as with most things.

My song of the Old Wanderer draws upon the gracious and mighty poetry of the thrice-blessed Mabinogion, that sublime collection of British native legends and myths, layered with the colorful dross of centuries, and encoding so many subtle truths. In truth, any mythical body of lore could have been used; all myths encapsulate universal experiences and hidden truths, and no experience or truth can exist in the wholeness of things that our spirits have not entwined themselves with in the timeless way. In the fullness of things, every truth exists here and now; all quests are complete. Our access to this boundless wisdom is through the inner icon of the spirit, the tireless guide and lover to the soul that leads us on through days and nights of wondering and waiting.

I call the experience of reading myths and "placing oneself" inside them "mythwalking"- celebrating the spirit's eternal connection with those mysterious and beautiful themes in a conscious manner. To do this makes the mind fill with a noble light. Inspiration may follow on the wake of this light, leaving as it does trailing ripples in the medium of mystery. To recount the deeds of the spirit- and all spirits have accomplished so much- is to invoke the spirit, to bring something of the timeless closer to these mortal lives. I call it "mythwalking", but "mythseeing" or "mythbreathing" would be just as appropriate. The myth comes to permeate a person, when experienced from that inner first-person perspective.

Every myth is a personal experience waiting to happen, because in a sense, in a greater sense, it has already happened to you. What happened to the figures that we sense as the inhabitants of myth has happened to us- all their villainy is ours, and all their virtues and triumphs. There is nothing found in myth that is alien to us as human beings, for myths are the record of humanity in the most profound sense. Every myth is a book of invocations itself, a list of intimate encounters waiting to be remembered. Every myth is a sorcerous code of great potency. Every myth is a path into another time and place which (mysteriously) is never a time or place apart from where you happen to be: every point in time or space is touched and held fast.

Fiona talks about the eagle and the hill-fox as the "eldest children of the hill"- and she discusses the desperate search of the stag, the hawk, and the mountain hare as they prowl the vastness of the land- "seeking to know that which they cannot see beneath, seeking often for they know not what." These creatures are not alone; we humans are just like them, seeking the same thing as we wander day to day, looking for our own brand of happiness and insight. Often, we know not what drives us down our paths. Myths are sacred helpers to us in this search; I myself don't know how it works, but when one joins a mythwalk to the walk of everyday life, new roads and paths open. The dense hedge doesn't seem too impassible.

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