Although there are several different Greek Creation Myths that come down to us from literary sources–and probably many more that never survived the transition from oral to literature–scholars like Kerenyi usually divide them into two or three main versions; later versions, coming from mystery cults, philosophers, and other writers, themselves had to presumably draw upon these literary sources for inspiration, probably filling them in with whatever oral tales survived and were still in circulation around campfires, hearth fires, and other intimate gatherings.
When I try to imagine what it would have been like to try and describe first things, I myself feel the anxiety of mystery. This cannot be an empirical process; it requires going deep in to myself, to imagine that which came before those things of sense perceptions. It gets dangerously close to the mind’s attempt at ascribing meaning and purpose to existence. Poets, who themselves would invoke the Gods for inspiration, could superficially get around this difficulty by simply trusting what came to them when they allowed themselves to imagine the things that came before the eyes of man. But, I surmise, the mystery of creation was always there, in back of their attempts to describe it. Mystery, as some author has pointed out, is that which not only is not known, but which cannot be known–a mystery is beyond conscious knowing.
Nevertheless it seems to me that in working with Gods and other entities the Black Magoi eventually runs across the issue of putting all of these entities into a proper relationship with him or herself. The quest for meaning and purpose, the existential quest, is always there. Luckily, our post-modern sensibilities do allow for a kind of childish play when it comes to this; perhaps its the chaos magician within me, but, in lieu of a definitive mythology, I am much more interested in how something works for me. I am interested in whether the mythology is functional, in that it allows me to explain my current intuitive understandings of myself, my purpose, and my personal ethical restraints (or absence thereof). This kind of mythology is tentative. It gets expressed in ritual, and, as far as we know, we are actually creating/participating in it by offering the mind symbols to structure reality during the duration of the ritual. This, as least, is my own tentative understanding of myth and ritual.
Simultaneously, though, there is a kind of satisfaction in knowing that your mythology more or less falls in line with a living Tradition which spans thousands of years, even if it takes many artistic liberties. Luckily, the Greeks had some pretty interesting Creation Myths to draw upon. In my own workings with my Daemon, and now with Zeus, I’ve come away from each ritual promising myself to get down to brass tacks and actually write up a little mythology for myself, based upon the myths already existing and yet displaying my world view. If the Self indeed is the Universe in microcosmic form, than these myths are really tentative maps of the Self, explaining, however incompletely, how consciousness arose, the Gods, and the Black Magician’s place in all of this.
Scholars of ritual disagree as to what came first: was it the myths that gave rise to the rituals, or the rituals which were then explained in terms of myths? Either way, Eliade points out that many rituals are enacting myths, and creating a sacred space beyond time, so that the practitioner is not only recreating what had once been but is participating in a timeless activity which is always happening; creation is always happening, the Cosmos being destroyed and reborn in every instant.
With that in mind, I propose an exercise:
- familiarize yourself with the Creation Myths of the Greeks. Kerenyi’s The Gods of the Greeks is probably a great choice, since he draws upon the major sources, but tells them as he imagines an actual Greek speaking to a child or pupil would possibly have done. Donald Richardson’s Zeus and His Children is also a great choice. Reading directly from Hesiod never hurt anyone, and since its short, you can do so in a single sitting; also, its pretty much a must read for a Hellenic Polytheist.
- going into ritual–assuming you have a framework already for this; if not, check out some basic books on Hellenic Polytheism, like Labrys’ Household Worship–ask the Gods to help you in understanding the First Things, knowing that any such understanding can only be metaphor addressed to your current intellectual maturity level. The basic formula I use is: purification, invocation, prayer, offerings, libations, and closing (thanking the spirit, final petitions).
- get into a comfortable position; laying down is not off the table here. And in fact, if you think it’ll help, try taking something like cannabis or some psychoactive mushrooms to open up your mind to intuition. At the very least, put yourself into a hypnogogic trance. This is easy to do; if you’ve never done one before, just try getting into a relaxed position, closing your eyes, and, using your mind’s eye, just imagine the room your in. Honestly, I usually just imagine my ceiling fan (turned off), because its right above my bed and easy to visualize. You want to hold the vision for as long as you can, and eventually–a few minutes, usually–you’ll fall in the trance, which is essentially the theta brainwave state you’re in when half asleep.
- using the myths you already know, imagine the First Things. You can just visualize your favorite story(s), or let your imagination put together one of your own.
- if you’ve successively done this–and I’d only go as far as the creation of the Titans for this–I recommend immediately writing it down in as much detail as possible. Than, meditate upon this. Make corrections where necessary, but more or less try to trust in what you’ve written, and think about the meaning.
That’s it. I’ve tried this several times, and what I usually find is that I’m refining my own personal myth each time. Somewhere in my next few blogs I’ll record my own personal myth. If you have one of your own, or even just want to discuss your favorite already existing myth, feel free to comment!