The Importance of Modern Myth In “Ancient” Religion

A funny thing happened on my way to the website…

I have been lucky. I ‘grew up’ in a large Pagan community. I’ve always had people to talk to, and new ideas presented to me, throughout my years in the Craft.

Some of these ideas may seem odd in first light, but as you think about them, they start to make more and more sense.

“Live long, and prosper.”

I doubt there is a person reading this, who does not at least know this phrase comes from Star Trek. In the series, it is a greeting used by the Vulcans. It was originally thought up for an episode on the original series called Amok Time, where Spock returns home to Vulcan, in order to mate.

While it wasn’t common knowledge to the average viewer at the time, Gene Roddenberry knew that Spock’s family was an ancient and venerable lineage. He wanted to show that importance in the greeting that Spock received, when he got home.

I could go on about Spock’s family, and other trivia about the show, but the important thing, is the greeting that was thought up.

Vulcans, being the taciturn race they are, never waste time with excess verbiage, when they can use more expressive words. In this case, those four words say so much.

Live long, and prosper.

These words wish you a long, full life, with everything you could ever wish for. Do well in your personal life, and your business ventures. Enjoy what life brings you, and do so for a very long time. You are wished well in all that you do, and that you live long enough to enjoy all that might entail. Don’t just survive, but live!

How many of us would like to have someone wish us this? And remember, this isn’t just an off-hand greeting, it is said with meaning.

I’ve just spent an entire paragraph saying what is summed up so well in just four words. Why is this important? I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a parable from the Bible, and I can’t think of a single one.

Even if I could, how relevant would it be to life today? I’m not saying that the Bible is irrelevant, just that ways of expressing thoughts and ideas from two or more millennia ago probably don’t make a lot of sense in today’s society.

A spiritual Path must makes sense to the person on it, if it is to have any value.

Gerald Gardener never meant for what he taught to be the one and only way of expressing what Witchcraft is. If he had, he’d have written a book, and called it the Witches Bible. Instead, he told his students to write their own books, and to put into them the things they thought were important.

Gardener gave a basic outline of what a Book of Shadows should contain, but the details of exactly what should be put into it, he left up to the individual student.

“May the force be with you.”

Joseph Campbell talked about the importance of Myth in our lives. Even more, he said that each generation has its own myths that explain important ideas and concepts.

When George Lucas came up with the idea of Star Wars, he talked to Joseph Campbell, about how to make the story come alive for his audience.

Anyone who has read Campbell, or done any study of ancient cultures will immediately recognize the first Star Wars movie as the Hero’s Journey.

Here is a prime example of taking an ancient idea, and telling it in a way that makes sense to modern society. Even if you are not into science fiction, you can’t deny the impact that Star Wars has had on society.

People need myths. Myths allow us to express complex ideas abstract concepts in understandable ways. It took Lucas six full movies, to explain just what “May the force be with you”, really means.

This has allowed anyone to understand in six words, that you wish them the benefit of doing the right things for the right reasons.

I’ve used these two examples for a couple of reasons. First, both are immediately recognizable. Almost everyone has heard them. The second reason I’ve used them here, is that they are both phrases that I’ve used in ritual.

The Fellowship of The Warrior Mage used both at the end of rituals, to express comradeship, and the bond of working as a group.

Most people I’ve talked to, sort of recoil at the idea of using either of these phrases in ritual, when they first hear it. Their thought is that we somehow cheapened our spirituality by borrowing from commercially successful science fiction.

Then I would explain how “May you never thirst...” was used by Robert A. Heinlein, in his book, Stranger In A Strange Land. It was part of the Water Ritual done by the Martians.

A good myth is a good myth, no matter the source, and we use science fiction in ritual every time we have cakes and ale.

Most other Spiritual Paths you can think of are dead. I say that because they get their core beliefs from a book that was written centuries ago, for a time long ago, that is no longer relevant in today’s life.

Do we really worry about someone going around poisoning wells? That’s what the oft-quoted phrase “Suffer not a Witch to live” was originally about.

If you go back just one version of the Bible, to anything before the King James Edition, it actually says, “Suffer not a poisoner to live.”

It was written for a nomadic, desert dwelling society, where the poisoning of a single well or water source could mean the death of everyone.

When was the last time you had to carry water from a well, to your home, worry about the purity of your tap water?

For a spiritual Path to be relevant, it must live and grow with time. Right now, live long and prosper is relevant. It has meaning to me. Will it still have meaning for anyone a century from now?

If it does, it might still be used, but more likely, our children will have come up with myths and ways of expressing those myths that we can’t even comprehend.

As long as Witchcraft welcomes those new thoughts and ideas, it will live and grow, and it will always be relevant.

All through this site, I have said that you must take what works for you, and use it. If it doesn’t work, modify it, and make it your own. If it is just completely wrong for you, file it away. Someday you may find a use for it.

The important thing is for you to find what works for you. In the Beginning Witchcraft section, I give specific thoughts and ways to do things. They work for me. While you were learning the basics, it was good to have guidance and structure to work within.

Now that you have the knowledge needed to perform ritual, it’s time to spread your wings and try new things.

As a kid, there was nothing worse than being forced to listen to the same old sermons year after year. A lot of us have fallen into the same trap, recycling Esbat rituals from last year, and the year before.

Even if it’s not the same ritual, it usually tells the same old story, because that’s the way it’s always been done. It’s time to stop telling the same stories year after year, and start reimagining them. As your imagination takes flight, so does your magick!

Everyone has key words and phrases that speak to them. You hear Witches talk about how things speak to them all the time. It’s critical that a Witch use what makes sense to them.

I know that you have something that expresses a thought or concept ideally for you. I have no way of knowing what it is, but everyone has several of these in their life. Use them in ritual. Claim them in your spirituality, the same way you claim them in your mundane life.

Don’t be afraid of what anyone might think or say, should you tell them. If it makes sense to you, and you want to, use it. You don’t ever have to tell anyone else, if you practice solitaire. If you work with others, and it’s a good concept, others will understand.

Our culture is full of myth, all you have to do is look for the things that inspire you, and you’ll have ideas that you can and should incorporate into your ritual.

Think for yourself!

Those who let a book tell them what to do are not thinking for themselves. You have your own book to write. Put into it what you will. Use modern myth within your rituals to express ideas.

I’m sure there are many times while writing a ritual, where you’ve thought of some well known phrase that perfectly says what you want to, but you may have thought that everyone would think you were weird, if you used it.

Use it! It doesn’t matter what you may decide to use, as long as it expresses an idea, especially if it expresses the idea better than you could.

I will never forget how I felt the first time I read the Rede. “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.

I was stunned.

Here were eight words that expressed everything I had been thinking, but could never have voiced in such an eloquent way in a hundred years.

If a line from a play, or movie, or TV show, says something just so perfectly that it moves you, use it. I’m in no way advocating that all or most of your rituals should be stolen from TV and movies, nor am I saying that any phrase from any movie or TV show will work.

What I’m saying is not to be afraid of mixing modernity into your rituals. After all, living things must grow, and adding new thoughts and ideas is how Witchcraft grows.

I once put out to a forum, the idea of modern myth in ritual, using the examples above, and I found it interesting that there were those who thought that Star Wars couldn’t be considered myth because it wasn’t old enough.

At what age does a story become a myth? Does it matter? Can A Midsummer Night’s Dream be considered a myth? It’s certainly based on one. Is it old enough to be called a myth, and if so is it a modern myth, or is it too old to be modern?

Myth tells a cultural truth.

Myth tells a story about the culture it is relevant to. In the case of Star Wars, that cultural truth is that man is greater than the machines he builds, no matter how much of the man has been replaced by machine.

More to the point, it shows our belief that evil can not only be overcome, but that even the most evil of people can redeem themselves, if they choose to.

Everything is a choice. We make choices every day. The choices you make, no matter how small they may seem, have large consequences on your life.

This is a truth, and it is masterfully shown in the six Star Wars movies. Therefore Star Wars was a myth the moment it was written. Age has no impact in what is myth and what is not.

By using these modern myths, we talk to each other within ritual, in terms we all understand. What’s more, the words “May the Force be with you” also tend to bring images to mind, and therefore it talks to our subconscious too.

Since we’ve already discovered that the subconscious is where magick happens, doesn’t it make sense that myth is the perfect way to express a concept in ritual?

A Witch isn’t worried about what others think. A Witch considers what is best for them. While some may cringe or make off-hand comments about the choice of modern myth in a ritual, what is important is that those attending the ritual understand the concepts expressed by the myth.

As long as that happens, the purpose is properly served. Don’t worry about what others might think. Think for yourself.

If we don’t add to our rituals with things such as modern myth, our rituals become old and irrelevant. When that happens, there is no magick, and our Craft dies.

Witchcraft was always meant to be a living spiritual Path. Unlike the religions that require a book, Witchcraft has no rules that it must follow. Anything can be done in ritual, just ask a Discordian.

As Joseph Campbell would say, Follow your bliss...



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