This weekend gone – thank you Bank Holiday weekend for the jet lag – I was at the Occulture festival in Hoxton, London. This was a bit more occult orientated rather than 'pagany' but nevertheless it was excellent. I saw a couple of the talks (one by Peter Grey who wrote 'The Red Goddess' and another by Dr Dave Evans on frauds in the magical community etc) and generally pottered about the small but interesting occult bazaar. This looks to be a growing event and one to keep an eye on for the future. It is more in the vein of the Ludlow Esoteric Conference (next weekend) in that it is a bit more grown up and a lot less dressed up.
One of the stalls there was for Midian Books. One of the owners of the company was a very nice lady who was damn fine at photography and as such was selling limited editions of some of her work. It mainly focussed on god forms and one of them stood out a mile – it is the one used on the front page of the website; a goat headed man with too many extremities. Admittedly the one on their site is a fuzzy version and doesn't really do it justice, however, I bought one for myself. Not so long ago I was moaning and bleating about how little work there is out there that can be turned to the use of representing deity. Here I am now saying I found some! There is a saying about a pupil being ready and a teacher dropping by, it now appears that the same is true of god-imagery.
This picture encapsulates to me the Horned God – pick a tradition, pick a name – sexual, at total ease with himself and his surroundings, naked and a blend of man and animal. The thin frame might appear weak but it is immensely powerful - muscle isn't everything and not the defining character of masculinity. It is the pose that grabs it for me; the relaxed and almost cocky air of someone in his own neck of the literal woods and totally at ease with the world. I REALLY love this picture.
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I have had a few things whirling about in my head – albeit lazily and without much gusto, more like lolling about in my head – and the one that has struck me most, primarily whilst on the bus home from work, is about myths.
Modern pagans hold myths to be of huge importance. To the point of keeping them static to preserve them – something which it is quite likely would be rather odd to our ancestors who lived in a world of changing and growing myths. One only has to look at how myths develop to see that our current attitude is very modern indeed. This has both a positive and negative side to it – though from the negative there is a ray of sunshine.
I think myths are glue. They are the stuff that binds a people to the landscape – it tells them the hows, whys and when of how they or their forbears came to live in the land, it binds them to the animals who share their landscape and it binds them to the gods. The myths carry the tales of the gods and their interaction with the people. The myths therefore hold it all together, as a people change and their needs change then myths change too. I love spending time with the older members of my family – they will often tell tales of the people from whom I have descended ,or with whom I share ancestors, and the things that have happened. Some amusing, some absurd and some heartbreaking. These stories not only give me a place within my family but tell me about the places of those other relatives whom I never met. These stories tell me of the place of my family in the landscape they lived and how they interacted with it. These are my family myths – changing just as any other story does with time and recollection.
The ancient myths are immensely useful for modern pagans as a way of trying to bind themselves to those gods again, to the landscape again and to their ancestors of way back. Because they have this new function there is a tendency to preserve them – like butterflies on cork board – for fear of losing something important, unsticking that glue as it were. I do think this kind of preservation is worthwhile and to an extent it is necessary.
So, what do we do about new glue? New myths? I am beginning to think that we should start writing and telling new myths.
More later when it isn't late and time for bed.