Premonition of a Déjà vu


The transformational process for a protagonist to undergo change from both external and internal forces that sends them in a new direction is a rewarding story as it unfolds when disclosed.  These stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end in this kind of approach with some defining resolution as it is divulged from the storyteller.  On the other hand, there are stories of a protagonist who will never see or understand how to form a new path despite the obstacles (whether these difficulties are internal or external) as the protagonist’s story unfolds.  This too is an interesting story in its own right however tragic it might be.

There are many stories to highlight the human condition.  Most of humanity’s affinity is with unresolved identities in personal obstacles; most humans do not meet a definite resolution in many of their conflicts within their lifespans.  But misery does love company.

The “unexamined life is not worth living”… (Socrates), or “The mass of men lead a life of quiet desperation”… (H.D. Thoreau), are examples of the preeminent failures of our kind to overcome interference and/or conquer our interference that is more often expressed in literature than the former example of a hero’s journey such as Joseph Campbell discusses.


Image result for pictures of socrates

The unexamined life is not worth living (Ancient Greek: ὁ … ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ) is a famous dictum apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death, as described in Plato’s Apology (38a5-6).

 

Henry David Thoreau

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.  From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.  A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.  But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays


Joseph Campbell
featured in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) by Joseph Campbell

The hero’s journey

– personal completion of cycle

Departure
The Call to Adventure

The hero begins in a situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.

Campbell: “…(the call of adventure is to) a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, super human deeds, and impossible delight.  The hero can go forth of his own volition to carry out the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father’s city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon.  The adventure may begin as a mere blunder… or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man.  Examples might be multiplied, ad infinitum, from every corner of the world.”
Refusal of the Call

Often when the call is given, the future hero first refuses to heed it.  This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.

Campbell: “Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or ‘culture,’ the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.  His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire or renown.  Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur.  All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.” [2]
Supernatural Aid

Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his guide and magical helper appears or becomes known.  More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid him later in his quest.

Campbell: “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.  What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny.  The fantasy is a reassurance—promise that the peace of Paradise, which was known first within the mother womb, is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past (is omega as well as alpha); that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings, protective power is always and ever-present within or just behind the unfamiliar features of the world.  One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear.  Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side.  Mother Nature herself supports the mighty task.  And in so far as the hero’s act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process.” [3]
Crossing the First Threshold

This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.

Campbell: “With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the ‘threshold guardian’ at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in four directions — also up and down — standing for the limits of the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon.  Beyond them is darkness, the unknown and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the members of the tribe.  The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to stay within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored.  The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.” [4]
Belly of the Whale

The belly of the whale represents the last separation from the hero’s known world and self.  By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.  When First entering the stage the hero may meet a minor danger or set back.

Campbell: “The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale.  The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would seem to have died.  This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation.  Instead of passing out, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes in, to be born again. The disappearance corresponds to the passing of a worshipper into a temple—where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal.  The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are the same.  That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles: dragons, lions, devil-slayers with drawn swords, resentful dwarfs, winged bulls.  The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis.  Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise.  Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act.” [5]
Initiation
The Road of Trials

The road of trials is a series of tests that the person must undergo to begin the transformation.  Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.

Campbell: “Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials.  This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure.  It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals.  The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region.  Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage.  The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination.  Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed — again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land.” [6]
The Meeting with the Goddess
Campbell: “The ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World.  This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart.  The meeting with the goddess (who is incarnate in every woman) is the last test of the talent of the hero to win the boon of love (charity: amor fati), which is life itself enjoyed as the encasements of eternity.  And when the adventurer, in this context, is not a youth but a maid, she is the one who, by her qualities, her beauty, or her yearning, is fit to become the consort of an immortal.  Then the heavenly husband descends to her and conducts her to his bed—whether she will or not.  And if she has shunned him, the scales fall from her eyes; if she has sought him, her wish finds its peace.” [7]
Woman as Temptress

In this step, the hero faces those temptations, often of a physical or pleasurable nature, that may lead him or her to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.

Campbell: “The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom correspond to what life really is.  Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell.  Rather, we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all the flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else.  But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul.  The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond (the woman), surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond.” [8]
Atonement with the Father

In this step the person must face and be initiated by whatever holds the greatest power in his or her life.  In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power.  This is the center point of the journey.  All the previous steps have moved into this place, all that follow will move out from it.  Although this step is most often symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power.

Campbell: “Atonement consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id).  But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult.  One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy.  Therewith, the center of belief is transferred outside of the bedeviling god’s tight scaly ring, and the dreadful ogres dissolve.  It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father’s ego-shattering initiation.  For if it is impossible to trust the terrifying father-face, then one’s faith must be centered elsewhere (Spider Woman, Blessed Mother); and with that reliance for support, one endures the crisis—only to find, in the end, that the father and mother reflect each other, and are in essence the same.  The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being.  The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned.” [9]
Apotheosis

This is the point of realization in which a greater understanding is achieved. Armed with this new knowledge and perception, the hero is resolved and ready for the more difficult part of the adventure

Campbell: “Those who know, not only that the Everlasting lies in them, but that what they, and all things, really are is the Everlasting, dwell in the groves of the wish fulfilling trees, drink the brew of immortality, and listen everywhere to the unheard music of eternal concord.” [10]
The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest.  It is what the person went on the journey to get.  All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.

Campbell: “The gods and goddesses then are to be understood as embodiments and custodians of the elixir of Imperishable Being but not themselves the Ultimate in its primary state.  What the hero seeks through his intercourse with them is not finally themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance.  This miraculous energy-substance and this alone is the Imperishable; the names and forms of the deities who everywhere embody, dispense, and represent it come and go.  This is the miraculous energy of the thunderbolts of Zeus, Yahweh, and the Supreme Buddha, the fertility of the rain of Viracocha, the virtue announced by the bell rung in the Mass at the consecration, and the light of the ultimate illumination of the saint and sage. Its guardians dare release it only to the duly proven.” [11]
Return
Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to give the boon onto his fellow-man.

Campbell: “When the hero-quest has been accomplished, through penetration to the source, or through the grace of some male or female, human or animal, personification, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy.  The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet or the ten thousand worlds.  But the responsibility has been often refused.  Even Gautama Buddha, after his triumph, doubted whether the message of realization could be communicated, and saints are reported to have died while in the supernal ecstasy.  Numerous indeed are the heroes fabled to have taken up residence forever in the blessed isle of the unaging Goddess of Immortal Being.” [12]
The Magic Flight

Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding.  It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.

Campbell: “If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the last stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron.  On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero’s wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becomes a lively, often comical, pursuit.  This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion.” [13]
Rescue from Without

Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience.

Campbell: “The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by help from without.  That is to say, the world may have to come and get him.  For the bliss of the deep abode is not lightly abandoned in favor of the self-scattering of the wakened state.  ‘Who having cast off the world,’ we read, ‘would desire to return again?  He would be only there.’ And yet, in so far as one is alive, life will call.  Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking at the door. If the hero. . . is unwilling, the disturber suffers an ugly shock; but on the other hand, if the summoned one is only delayed—sealed in by the beatitude of the state of perfect being (which resembles death)—an apparent rescue is effected, and the adventurer returns.”[14]
The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.

Campbell: “The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world.  Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life-affirmative threshold.  The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life.  Why re-enter such a world?  Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss?  As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes.  The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock dwelling, close the door, and make it fast.  But if some spiritual obstetrician has drawn the shimenawa across the retreat, then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided” The hero returns to the world of common day and must accept it as real.[15]
Master of Two Worlds

This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Gautama Buddha.  For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual.  The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.

Campbell: “Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the causal deep and back—not contaminating the principles of the one with those of the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other—is the talent of the master.  The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another.  It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest.  The person, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment.  His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity.”[14]
Freedom to Live

Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live.  This is sometimes called living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

Campbell: “The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is.  “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  He does not mistake clear changelessness in time for the permanence of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment (or of the ‘other thing’), as destroying the permanent with its change.  ‘Nothing retains its own form; but Nature, the greater re-newer, ever makes up forms from forms.  Be sure there’s nothing perishes in the whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form.’  Thus the next moment is permitted to come to pass.” [17]

The martyr’s story

– incomplete trans-formative cycle of an individual that transmutes and gives meaning to others

The common-ordinary protagonist

Non-completion and most of our kind falls under this category with no resolution discovered

The extraordinary protagonist

Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances or special cases of people with extraordinary peculiarities that become intertwined with fortuitous circumstances

The conflicts are internal and external

Spirit / Will  ( {internal} obstinate, ignorance, {external} control by fear, interpersonal interference)  The spirit is essentially the embodiment of existential factors that depersonalizes us over extended periods of time with negative effects such as co-dependent relationships.
Mind  ( the psychological factors such as ego, personality, intelligence, coping skills, drives and habits comprising of motivators that direct our behaviors)

There are so many examples of interesting stories that make up the human condition that can teach us about our humanity.  Many of us are simply detached and do not pay attention as we drift through our living days on this planet in all its tumultuous underpinnings.  I contend that most people, do not investigate what can make a better life for us and our fellow citizens on nothing more than a political level and that this purpose is hidden in the subterfuge of faulty logic and misguided erroneous human motivational factors.

Out of the immense varieties of self discovery, a very small amount of people will ever gain any kind of visionary wisdom that won’t be in vain.  When in search for the “best possible life”, and learning about this knowledge could benefit the associations in their company, few if any would recognize the values of such an attempt.  These seekers of betterment are more likely to explore this activity by perusing the book shelves in the local Barnes and Noble “self-help” bookseller inventory.

“Word of mouth”, and an internet search for such ideas is also very likely to turn a few heads, and only by serendipity if it comes to pass indeed.  The idea of manifestation comes to mind when a topic such as this comes to the fore.  For me, I have chosen the meta-topics of searching through available literature, and the discovery of humans connecting to others in the process.  The stories we have been exposed to has a process; a process that connects us to one another for the simple reason for similar mindsets wanting something more than what usually leaves us defensively.  The quest for a better understanding than what is usually an acceptable anecdotal path to the many journey’s of discovery pursued in a life is tested once again when we broaden this scope.

The Irony in The Myth of Sisyphus


When your outlook is dim

We tend to notice what in life is grim

We relate to the world

Thinking that the fix is in

Our energy diverted

A diminished reality

We see only the negative

How can this be?

I tire of this habit

Beholden to this claim

I tire of this feeling

That subjects me to shame – Who’s to blame?

The physics of emotion

In all antiquity

Questioned by the mystics

The essence of energy

Suffering can be averted

If the mind employed is free

Free from attachment

Siddhartha Gautama is key

If we manifest our destiny

The impoverished minds will plea

God please save us

They shout at the devil – reactionary philosophy

If we manifest our destiny

The wise men say

We change our reality

Orient to the positive

Attract to the good in this way

Whatever befalls us

10% is what we make it

As for the rest of our experience

90% is how we take it

The myth of Sisyphus

Camus counters with disdain

The obsession absurd

Is it an irony of perception?

An irony all the same!


DCG

The Thunder god


Thor

The God of Thunder, Thor (Donar), (from which we get Thursday), was almost as important as Odin, for he not only controlled the thunderbolt, but he was also the god of war.  He was a rather rude, simple god, always ready to face danger and fight off the evil race of giants.  He was thought of as being in charge of the peasants who fell in battle, while Odin was in charge of the nobles.  Once when he came to a wide inlet which he could not cross, he accosted the ferryman, promising him some oatmeal, porridge, and herrings which he had in his sack if the ferryman would take him across.  The man was actually Odin in disguise, and he jeered at the humble fare thus offered him.  Thor tried to recount all the famous victories he had won against the giants, but Odin would come back with greater victories, totally unimpressed.  So he had to walk the long way around, for Odin wouldn’t take a barefooted, penniless vagabond.  He couldn’t use his magic hammer, Mjölnir, against the chief of the gods.  This hammer was the thunderbolt, and its magic property was that it would always fly back to his hand after he had thrown it, and that it would never miss its mark.  He also possessed a miraculous belt that doubled his strength when he put it on, and a pair of iron gloves that he wore when he threw his hammer.

One morning Thor woke up and discovered that his hammer was missing.  He immediately summoned the mischievous god, Loki, to see if he knew anything about the theft.  “It must have been taken by a giant,” he said, “but I will find it for you, never fear.”  So saying, he put on a magic robe made of feathers and flew to the land of the giants.  There he learned that the giant, Thrym, had hidden it eight fathoms below the earth, and the only way he would surrender it was if he were given the hand of the goddess of Love and Beauty, Freyja, in marriage.  Since there was no way out of this predicament, Loki consented to tell the gods.  They were horrified, but Loki had a plan.  He suggested that Thor dress up to look like Freyja, and put on her gold necklace.  After hesitating at first, Thor finally agreed, and the two set off for the land of the giants.

Thrym was so thrilled with the thought of his bride that he ordered the wedding banquet to be prepared at once.  He was a bit surprised to see the bride wolf down a whole ox, eight large salmon, plus innumerable side dishes, as well as three barrels of mead.  But Loki explained away his doubts by saying that the girl had been so nervous as the thought of her wedding she hadn’t been able to eat anything for days.  This made Thrym all the more eager to get on with the ceremony and he leaned over in trying to kiss the “bride.”  But when he saw the ruddy complexion and the eyes which flashed lightning, he backed away in dismay.  Again Loki reassured him.  She had been so upset she hadn’t slept for eight nights.  The giant was so eager by now to consummate the marriage that he sent for the buried hammer, Mjölnir, and placed it on the bride’s knees, according to ancient custom.  Laughing to himself triumphantly, Thor’s hand closed over his precious hammer.  In a twinkling he downed all the giants and then joyously returned to the ranks of the Aesir with Loki.

loki8cs

The two gods had another even more exciting adventure together – the one time when Thor thought a giant had vanquished him.  He and Loki, accompanied by two peasants, were walking all day in giant country, and by evening were thoroughly exhausted.  In the forest they came upon a rather odd-looking house, with a front door as wide as the whole house, but it seemed serviceable and empty, and its shape did not seem important to them.  They made themselves at home and fell asleep.  At midnight, however, there was a terrible earthquake.  The floor itched and tossed and the travelers woke up with a start and rushed out.  All night they stayed awake in a nearby hut, keeping watch, but nothing else happened.

At daybreak, Thor looked and came upon a sleeping giant.  Now he understood the reason for all the noise of the night before.  He was furious, and just about to wake the huge creature up with a well-aimed blow of his hammer, when the giant leaped to his feet.  “I am Skrymir.”  he said, “and you are Thor.  Where have you put my glove?”  Taken aback at first, Thor suddenly realized that the house he and his friends had spent the night in was not a house at all, but the giant’s glove, and the shed they had moved to after the “earthquake” was the thumb of the glove!  The giant said he would like to go with them, so all five went off together.  In the evening Skrymir pretended he was completely worn out and fell asleep before supper.  But when Loki and Thor attempted to untie their sack containing the store of provisions which the giant had  carried during the day as a sign of friendliness, they found the knots were too tight to be undone at all.  Right away, Thor knew who to blame for this turn of events, and he tried to wake up Skrymir.  It was hopeless.  In vain he pounded on the giant’s skull with the full force of his hammer.  The sleepy Skrymir only half woke up complaining about bird droppings or acorns falling on his forehead.  The four had to go to bed supper-less.  In the morning Thor tried again, and this time the giant woke up, pretending to wipe off a leaf from his brow.  He told the group he had to be on his way; they weren’t far from Utgard where they going anyhow.  Then he disappeared.

When they reached Utgard toward midday, Thor went straight to the palace and demanded to be admitted.  The giant king, Utgardaloki, said no one was permitted to enter until he had first proved himself by some famous deed.  Loki immediately volunteered to prove his prowess.  The giant king sent him one of the other giant, Logi, as an opponent in a great eating contest.  They were served huge portions of meat on plates as big as vats.  In less time than it takes to tell, Loki had devoured everything but the bones.  His opponent, however, had eaten meat, bones, and the plate as well.

The peasant Thjalfi offered himself next.  He claimed to be the swiftest runner in the world, but when the giant Hugi race against him, Thjalfi was left far behind, though he ran faster than lightning itself.  When it came to Thor’s turn, he was convinced that he at least would be victorious in his contest.  No one could drink as much or fast as he!  Utagardaloki sent for the huge drinking horn which the giants were accustomed to empty in two draughts, at the most.  Thor seized it and gulped down first one, then two, then three draughts, but he hadn’t changed the level in the horn at all.  Bitterly disappointed and unbelieving, he attempted to prove at least how strong he was by picking up from the ground a certain cat.  It didn’t budge, except for one paw which he managed to lift about an inch off the ground.  Then he tried to wrestle with the old woman, Elli, but she forced one of his knees to the ground.  Thor was completely humiliated, and was about to turn away in disgrace, when the king stopped him.  “Don’t go,” he exclaimed.  “You are the strongest person in the whole world.  It was I who met you in the forest in disguise.  And it was only because I covered my head with mountains that you did not kill me with the blows of your hammer.  Loki was unable to beat Logi because he was fire itself.  As for Hugi, he was thought, and no one can outrun thought.  You couldn’t empty the drinking horn because the other end was plunged in the inexhaustible sea.  But you did manage to set the tide in motion.  The immovable cat was the serpent of Midgard whose coils surround the earth.  It was bad enough that you moved his paw, for you started a terrible earthquake.  And don’t let the fact that you couldn’t beat an old woman upset you.  She was Old Age, and no one will ever conquer her.  “Furious that he had been made a fool of, Thor started to hurl his hammer at the giant.  But Utgardaloki had disappeared, and with him the castle.  There was nothing in sight but the grass which grew on the deserted plain.

The Teutonic-Scandinavian myths, comprise stories that are very difficult to sort out because they were reworked by Christian authors during the periods of the intense converting campaigns – from 500 to 1000 A.D.  North German, South German, Danish, Norse, and Icelandic legends have different names for the same gods, plus considerable discrepancies in their roles, their importance, and their functions.  Most of the stories come from an anonymous collection of poems known as the Elder Edda, and a prose version known as the Younger Edda.  The date of composition of these works has been very difficult to ascertain, as is the case with almost every true folk epic, but generally the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries are held to be the time at which these tales were recorded.  Many of them date from at least the ninth century.  One of the significant differences between the Scandinavian legends and the Greek, as anyone will notice immediately, is the tremendously important role magic plays, and the delight in cruelty and meanness, personified in Loki.  There seems to be little joy or hope either in Asgard or on earth.  The hero always tries to prove his valor or his goodness, but can only do this by dying.  In death he triumphed.  Such a courting of death is totally foreign to the Greek soul, which believed in life – that the world was a marvelous creation.  No Norse poet could have written as Sophocles did in his play Antigone: “many are the wonders in the world, but nothing is more wondrous than man.”  For the Teutonic – Anglo-Saxon tradition, wonders and portents were the province of the demons.  Magic was the real power.

In Led Zeppelin’s epic tune Immigrant Song, one of the lyrics is “Valhalla I am coming.” It refers to Norse Mythology.  Valhalla is a hall in Asgard where the souls of fallen warriors are taken by the “Valkyries,” which are spirits of war who carry up heroes who have been slain.  Only heroes are taken to Valhalla, where they will wait for their certain doom.

Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

Ah, ah,
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!

On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.

Ah, ah,
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
How soft your fields so green, can whisper tales of gore,
Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your overlords.

On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.

So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.

 

The Twilight of the Gods

From the very beginning of their life in Asgard, the gods had known they would have to die.  As long as they could, they tried to put off the terrible event by preventing the giants and dwarfs from getting too strong, and tying to maintain justice and honesty.  But one among their number could never be trusted; that of Loki.  And his love of trickery spread to others the gods aware that he was responsible for the death of their beloved Balder, the last deed in a series that had been growing more and more evil.  He finally had to be punished and was clapped in irons.  But this made him the eternal enemy of the gods, and when he broke his chains he joined the ranks of their irreconcilable opponents, the giants and demons.

One day the watchman, Heimdall, saw that the wolf, Fenrir, had broken the unbreakable chain, and was sailing toward Asgard on a boat whose helmsman was Loki.  This boat was approaching from the North.  From the West another ship was coming, manned by the giant Hrym and a phantom crew.  The giant Surt appeared from the South with other giants, and the fire they started began to burn away the innards of the earth.  The heat reached the vault of the heavens and it cracked in two.  The gods and the giants were at last face to face, as prophesied from the beginning of time.

By agreement, they fixed the battlefield, a square measuring one thousand leagues on a side, in front of Valhalla.  Its name was Vigrid; here the terrible butchery took place.  Odin was the first to perish in the titanic battle.  He attacked the wolf, Fenrir, and was swallowed hole.  His son, Vidar, avenged him by piercing the beast through the gullet to its very heart.  Thor went after the hideous beast he had long ago tried to kill – the great serpent of Midgard – which crawled toward the thunder-god, spewing out such powerful poison that sea and earth and air alike were polluted.  Thor crushed the skull of the monster with his magic hammer, but he had breathed in so much poisoned air that he staggered away, and after nine steps, fell dead.  Loki and Heimdall had always been enemies, so in the battle each sought out the other.  But in killing Heimdall, Loki himself was killed.  The mischievous god who had turned good into evil was finally dead.  Only one god was left alive, one-handed Tyr.  He ranged the battlefield looking for the wolf Fenrir who had taken his right hand.  He was too late, for Odin’s son had already killed him.  But upon hearing a terrible growling behind him, he turned around to face the dog of the underworld, Garm.  Tyr plunged his sword deep into the ferocious beast’s heart, but in so doing, he was mauled to death.

All the Gods were dead.  A great flood rose up from the seas as the earth began to loose its shape.  The starts fell from the sky, and soon the whole earth had sunk beneath the ocean.  The end had come.  In the great cycle of legends preserved in the anonymous poems known as the Eddas there is an eventual rebirth of the world and new gods.  But they are uninteresting, dull creatures compared to the golden shining gods, the Aesir, who had lived in Asgard.

 

The Phoenix


 

φοῖνιξ

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Bennu HumaGaruda
Phoenix

It’s interesting to note that ancient cultures must have had similar experiences when devising this myth from what I presume out of their own desires and thus assign the sentiment with mythological cadence that is still prevalent in cultures today.  Consider our use of the comic book, and the characters in these stories.  Part entertainment, part wonderment, with the only difference that we now can monetize these ideas and sell them for money.  We are only following a tradition that has been going on for a millennia and probably longer.  Challenging the human condition by testing the boundaries of our abilities often played out in the Olympic fields of Greece, as well as an understanding of the limitations of the human being. We are mortal, and we have always known that.

The verbal traditions of story-telling may be lost to many of us today simply because those traditions died out many, many generations ago.  Prior to the written languages, we spoke and told stories to others to pass on knowledge, culture, and tradition.  The only remaining evidence we have of what they have thought are only in ancient texts, and thus written accounts of these mythologies are all we have left since nothing else exits.

To bring about a change in a person, to develop a kind of philosophy that can motivate someone to rise up out of the ashes from a former existence is a powerful talisman that many would like to employ to reach a new beginning and start again from a foiled past.  One must think of what is possible.  One must align with a rejuvenated sense of themselves to enact and embark on a new path that allows them to achieve planned goals.  The desire to reinvent themselves leaving behind them the dead weight which had possibly bogged them down and hindered their personal growth from a shadowy past is a very strong motivator if it led to the creation of an anthropomorphic myth.  In these times I’m sure that it was probably a matter of life or death, when facing some challenging goal against another tribe, country, or nation.  One can only wonder the kind of ethic that operated during ancient times when the myth’s were conceived and told.

Questing to overcome obstacles and reexamining our strategy can bring about newer ideas on how we can master these impediments.  When the paradoxical question of an unstoppable force meets an immovable object comes to mind in our accounts of life, we are either left to consider that they would surrender to one another, or that it was the cause of our unsuccessfully mastering our former failed plans.  The human mind always considers the boundaries and sometimes it does not.  The paradox arises because it rests on two premises—that there exist such things as irresistible forces and immovable objects—which cannot both be true at once.  If there exists an irresistible force, it follows logically that there cannot be any such thing as an immovable object, and vice versa.  Thus even the ancients were playing language games back in the day.  The thought of exposing oneself revealing their vulnerabilities has persisted in these timeless tales of myth and defines us since we create these extensions of human thought that reach out to us even in this day.  Instead of Zeus, the topic instead may be replaced by the fictions of Marvel comics or movies.

One can argue that the myths and legends were believed and thought to be true by the ancients, whereas, we today know that they are just simple stories for entertainment, but I suggest that this is irrelevant and thus believing in them does not refute the nature of them despite their truthfulness.  The fact that they are conceived in the first place is all that matters, since we as mortal beings define what it is to be human, or god, or superhero.  It does not matter whether we create myth to explain our universe in a language that we can understand prior to a scientific knowledge, but the fact that we still continue to create an explanation given whatever understanding we do have that can make sense out of it continues to define us as human.  Do we not project explanations such as ghosts, spirits, and demons to this day?

However these interpretations affect us, the use of mirth and woe are common in such tales, and we are surely linked by this expressive human idiosyncrasy.  With few exceptions, I don’t believe that a second passes without someone of our kind who does not ponder their relationship to themselves and to the human condition that binds our experience in this world.  This is the quintessential human undertaking that faces us all.  How we choose to deal with it, is up to us.

Egyptian

Bennu –or Heron
Phoenix
in hieroglyphs
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The earliest representation of the phoenix is found in the ancient Egyptian Bennu bird, the name relating to the verb “weben,” meaning “to rise brilliantly,” or “to shine.” Some researchers believe that a now extinct large heron was a possible real life inspiration for the Bennu. However, since the Bennu, like all the other versions of the phoenix, is primarily a symbolic icon, the many mythical sources of the Bennu in ancient Egyptian culture reveal more about the civilization than the existence of a real bird.

One version of the myth says that the Bennu bird burst forth from the heart of Osiris. In the more prevalent myths, the Bennu created itself from a fire that was burned on a holy tree in one of the sacred precincts of the temple of Ra.  The Bennu was supposed to have rested on a sacred pillar that was known as the benben-stone. At the end of its life-cycle, the phoenix would build itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignited; both nest and bird burned fiercely and would be reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arose.  The new phoenix embalmed the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposited it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (“the city of the sun” in Greek).

The Bennu was pictured as a grey, purple, blue, or white heron with a long beak and a two-feathered crest.  Occasionally it was depicted as a yellow wagtail, or as an eagle with feathers of red and gold.  In rare instances the Bennu was pictured as a man with the head of a heron, wearing a white or blue mummy dress under a transparent long coat. Because of its connection to Egyptian religion, the Bennu was considered the “soul” of the god Atum, Ra, or Osiris, and was sometimes called “He Who Came Into Being by Himself,” “Ascending One,” and “Lord of Jubilees.”  These names and the connection with Ra, the sun god, reflected not just the ancient Egyptian belief in a spiritual continuation of life after physical death, but also reflected the natural process of the Nile River‘s rising and falling, which the Egyptians depended upon for survival. The Bennu also became closely connected to the Egyptian calendar, and the Egyptians kept intricate time measuring devices in the Bennu Temple.

Persian

The Huma, also known as the “bird of paradise,” is a Persian mythological bird, similar to the Egyptian phoenix. It consumes itself in fire every few hundred years, only to rise anew from the ashes.  The Huma is considered to be a compassionate bird and its touch is said to bring great fortune.

The Huma bird joins both the male and female natures together in one body, each sharing a wing and a leg.  It avoids killing for food, rather preferring to feed on carrion. The Persians teach that great blessings come to that person on whom the Huma’s shadow falls.[1]

According to Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Kahn,

The word huma in the Persian language stands for a fabulous bird.  There is a belief that if the huma bird sits for a moment on someone’s head it is a sign that he will become a king.  Its true meaning is that when a person’s thoughts evolve so that they break all limitation, he then becomes a king.  It is the limitation of language that it can only describe the Most High as something like a king.[2]

Greek

The Greeks adapted the word bennu and identified it with their own word phoenixφοινιξ’, meaning the color purple-red or crimson.  They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle.  According to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived in Arabia next to a well.  At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Apollo stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song.

Detail from mosaic Semis de roses et phénix Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Oriental

The phoenix (known as Garuda in Sanskrit) is the mystical fire bird which is considered as the chariot of the Hindu god Vishnu. Its reference can be found in the Hindu epic Ramayana.

In Tibet, the phoenix is also called Garuda, which means “the bird of life” and is depicted as a conglomerate of the typical brightly colored bird, eagle, and human.[3]

In China, the phoenix is called Feng-huang and symbolizes completeness, incorporating the basic elements of music, colors, nature, as well as the joining of yin and yang.  It is a symbol of peace, and represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, and fidelity.  The Feng-huang, unlike the phoenix which dies and is reborn, is truly immortal although it only appears in times of peace and prosperity.[4]

Judaism and Christianity

In Judaism, the phoenix is known as Milcham or Chol (or Hol): The story of the phoenix begins in the Garden of Eden when Eve fell, tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. According to the Midrash Rabbah, upset by her situation and jealous of creatures still innocent, Eve tempted all the other creatures of the garden to do the same. Only the Chol (phoenix) resisted. As a reward, the phoenix was given eternal life, living in peace for a thousand years and then being reborn from an egg to continue to live in peace again, repeating the cycle eternally (Gen. Rabbah 19:5). Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, better known as Rashi, commented that death has no power over the phoenix, “because it did not taste the fruit from the tree of knowledge.”[5]

The phoenix also appears in the Book of Job: “I shall multiply my days as the Chol, the phoenix” (Job 29:18), again indicating long life if not immortality. This reference, however, is controversial since chol has been translated as phoenix, sand, and palm tree in different versions.[6]

The phoenix became a symbol of Christianity in early literature, either from the ancient Hebrew legend or from the incorporation of Greek and Roman culture, or from a combination of both. In any case, the ideology of the phoenix fit perfectly with the story of Christ. The phoenix’s resurrection from death as new and pure can be viewed as a metaphor for Christ’s resurrection, central to Christian belief. The phoenix is referenced by the early Christian Apostolic Father Clement in The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. Most of the Christian-based phoenix symbolism appears within works of literature, especially in Medieval and Renaissance Christian literature that combined classical and regional myth and folklore with more mainstream doctrine.

In Greek mythology, a phoenix (Greek: φοῖνιξ  phoinix) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.  The phoenix is a sign of rebirth, The image of the mythological bird rising from the ashes is understood the world over as being a symbol of resurrection.

Meanings known

  • Life
  • Time
  • Magic
  • Purity
  • Clarity
  • Rebirth
  • Renewal
  • Longevity
  • Creativity
  • Protection
  • Immortality
  • Resurrection
  • Reemergence
  • Transformation

According to the Greek historian Herodotus (b: 484 BC), the phoenix was a mythical bird from Ethiopia. It was spectacularly large, beautiful and adorned with mind-blowing plumage. The historian also reported that the phoenix made a nest cypress branches. Rather preparing to lay eggs, the phoenix was preparing to die. While sitting in the nest, the bird created a great deal of heat, and set itself on fire from its own heat with the cypress serving as kindling. After three days, the phoenix emerged from its own ashes – reborn and released from the sentence of death, able to live on forever.

Herodotus may have borrowed some of his impressions about the meaning of the phoenix from the Greek poet, Hesiod, (b: 700 BC) who proclaims the phoenix as a brilliant bird who could outlive nine generations of ravens. That’s about 90,000 years in Hesiod-time.

In Rome, the phoenix was a symbol of the perpetual continuation of the Roman Empire, and the bird was featured on Roman coins as a reminder of the indomitable strength of the Empire. That didn’t pan out too well – the Empire didn’t last forever, but the legend of the phoenix certainly did.

Because of its ability to die and come back to life, the meaning of the phoenix has a foundation of resurrection. To wit, the phoenix was a symbol of Christ in the Middle Ages – specifically, His resurrection – having died on the cross and returned from death in three days, just as the legend of the phoenix.

In Egypt, the meaning of the phoenix is connected with the sun and the Nile. Their version of the phoenix was a Bennu, which was part heron, and part falcon. The Bennu was said to control the cycle of the sun each day. It flew with the sun in its beak, plucking it from its sleeping place at dawn, and putting it to rest at sunset. In this way, the Bennu is symbolic of the daily death and birth of the sun. This symbolic connection is far-reaching, it implies the Bennu affected life and death for the Egyptians, as there would be no food crops without the Bennu establishing the rising and setting of the sun. The Egyptian phoenix continues its life-giving role with the Nile. The Egyptians felt the Bennu was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile. This flooding was relied upon to sustain agriculture in this region. In short, the Egyptian meaning of the phoenix deals primarily with themes of life and death associated with provision.

In addition to the Nile, the art of alchemy also runs through the land of Egypt. Ancient alchemists employed the Egyptian Bennu in their alchemical rituals concerning life, death and renewal. In alchemical texts, the phoenix is connected with powerful correspondences. Here are a few…

Phoenix Correspondences in Alchemy

  • Direction: South
    Southern symbolism (and hence phoenix symbolism in alchemy) deals with purity, renewal, strength, health and the present moment in time.
  • Element: Fire
    Fire in alchemy is a symbol of transformation, purification, life, creation/creativity, consumption.
  • Celestial: Sun
    Much like fire, the sun’s connection to the phoenix in alchemical practice is akin to the cycle of time and cycles of life. It’s also symbolic of clarity, illumination, immortality and expression.
  • Season: Summer
    The summer season in alchemy is the same for almost every other cultural wisdom. It equates to growth, rejuvenation of the earth, continuation of life, and the symbolic celebration of the strength of the sun after being weakened though winter.
  • Chemical: Sulfur
    Alchemy is a practice that incorporates physical, mental, mythical. Red sulfur and phoenix energy would be simultaneously invoked in ceremonies intended to influence the universal principal of life. The element of sulfur in alchemy is synonymous with the animus (the soul), and is a powerful chemical representative of existence.

In Chinese wisdom, the phoenix is commonly seen in twos, male and female.  But it’s not as simple as gender identification.  Two phoenixes together represent yin and yang.  Now we’re talking about symbolic themes of balance, duality and polarity.  The female meaning of the phoenix deals with yin energy.  Yin phoenix is passive, intuitive, moon, winter.  Conversely the yang (male) phoenix is iconic of assertion, action, sun, summer.  These are just a few of a long list of yin-yang meanings.  As a whole, a dynamic phoenix duo is an emblem of divine, immortal partnership.  In fact, a display (illustration, embroidery, etc) of two phoenixes were commonly extended as a wedding gift.  It was said to be an auspicious gift, insuring a happily-ever-after lived marriage.