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Master of Wiccan Studies

 

MASTER OF WICCAN STUDIES COURSE

MASTER OF WICCAN STUDIES: (4 credits) >>>  Click to Order

This is a sample of the Master of Wiccan Studies program.

Wiccan Basic Training

Mythology

Lesson #13

ULC Seminary Program

www.ulcseminary.org

brought to you by Daven and Lord Skywalker

Hello. 

     Welcome to Lesson thirteen of the Master of Wiccan Studies Program.  This is the study of Paganism in general and the study of Wicca more specifically. Each week, you will receive an email in your mailbox discussing different aspects of Wicca and of life in general.  

In this segment, we will look at some basics of Mythology, Gods and Goddesses.

Mostly, what one needs to understand when looking into mythology to any extent is, that all mythology, from Christianity and the Bible, to Islamic and the Koran to the Druids and the Tain Bo and the Mabinogion, is that these are stories. That's all. They are representations of a lesson to be learned, or a character to be explained, qualities to be pontificated on and so forth. 

This is a point that is in considerable debate amongst many people.  There are those out there who are strict fundamentalists and believe that every word written in a holy text is absolutely true down the very smallest details….regardless of the frequent, glaring inconsistencies.  I feel that it’s much more beneficial to look at what the stories are trying to convey, rather than focus on the acts themselves.  As with most things, by looking at what the story or situation represents or is trying to teach, you will find many more answers

 

          Our current mythology, in contemporary Western society, can be seen in the fables of Aesop, the books of our times, and also the movies that are popular. Epic stories about people that may or may not have existed, are held up as models of behavior and honor.

An example of this: In one set of Irish myths, CuCulainn is a young boy and he kills a dog on a dare. It turns out it is the dog of a smith who raised this dog from a pup to guard him and his assets. Now without the dog, he has no protection. So CuCulainn (and the spelling differs) voluntarily takes on the job of guarding this man. The smith's name is Culann and that is why CuCulainn is called what he is (his name means, literally, "hound of Culann").

However, it is not the name that is being praised in this story, but his willingness to take responsibility for his actions. (Sound familiar--Lesson one?). Instead of saying, “oh well, I guess you are outta luck" as most in our society would, CuCulainn says "Okay, I killed your means of protecting yourself, and I need to make up for that. I will guard you instead. And my father will provide another guard, and I will pay for it."

Now, he didn't have to do this. In fact, since he was the son of "royalty" and the smith in question was beholden to his father, he could have passed it off, and by the societal laws in the time this story was supposed to have happened, he could have gotten away with it.

But he had enough honor at 6 - 9 years old to see that he harmed someone and that he had to take responsibility for it. It's this honor that is being praised in this story, rather than the event itself.

Given that perspective, many of the other stories common in mythology can be seen in a different light, and certain archetypes come out when one starts reading and studying these myths.

Okay, here is my disclaimer: I have never read Joseph Campbell, however I did see his PBS series on his books. I agree with his conclusions and his theories presented that every culture, if they have the ability to communicate (note, communicate, not talk) will make a mythology symbolic for them for to transmit their ideals and archetypes to others.

Herein, I present some of the archetypes that I have seen recurring, not necessarily what a student of mythology would see in the same light.  As with everything in this course, look at it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. You may become interested enough to want to do some research into mythology and look more at what I present here as a starting point of your own researches.

And in here I will be saying "God" a lot. Please bear in mind that this means "God or Goddess" in my lexicon. It's easier to write God or Gods than to type God or Goddess and Gods and Goddesses over and over....

 

I will also be drawing heavily on the Mabinogion for this segment. Celts are what we are looking at in Tara, and Welsh mythology seems to have more immediate impact on the lessons presented here. I am somewhat familiar with Irish myths, but not comfortable enough to quote them out of memory. However, all that I present here is applicable to any mythology out there. And I consider the Christian Bible and the original Hebrew writings to be mythology. If this offends, I apologize, but I still see them as myths.

 

 

Okay, as you can see from this, there is quite a bit of diversity in there. Normally, when speaking on Archetypes, you don't focus on individuals and their area of responsibility, but rather on a "type" of God. Thus, there is a God of Death, but not a God of the Elves or the Fairy, since one is an archetype and the other is an area of responsibility.

Each of these can be found in any mythology out there. And there are probably more that I am not thinking of. Here's where Joseph Campbell comes in really handy. He does a better job of describing these archetypes than I do, and he gives the whole list. These are just the ones that are most typical from my experience.

You will see cults of one type or another springing up in different cultures at different times. Even today. Its not that they worship the God that is represented so much as that they are worshiping the idea the God represents. So a Cult of Kali may call upon the Goddess of Death and Destruction in their ceremonies and rites, but it’s the idea of Death and annihilation that they are worshiping.

A great many cultures had their deities taken from them by this resemblance. A missionary would come into the area and look at the deities in the area, compare them to their own mythology that he believed, draw inaccurate and sometimes ludicrous conclusions. He would begin talking to the locals, convincing them that his pantheon (a group of deities belonging to one culture) was the same as theirs, and then convince them to start praying to the new names.

For example: Here's a nice new Christian missionary. He knows Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, God the Father, and so forth. He wanders into Wales and starts hearing about Pwyll, Rhiannon, Arawyn, Bran and Bronwyn, Manauan and so forth. He compares what he knows about HIS pantheon to what he can learn about the local pantheon, compares things around and decides that

·        God the Father = Bran,

·        Rhiannon = Mary,

·        Pwyll = Joseph,

·        Pryderi = Jesus,

·        Wise men = The Druids,

·        Arawyn = Lucifer.

 

From that, he says "Hey, my God is just like your Bran. It wouldn't be too bad if you came and participated in my ritual, and call Him God instead of Bran. I'll even invoke Bran too." He does that and follows through for a while, but gradually Bran gets dropped from the list of those invoked. And now its too late to change it, and Celtic Christianity is born......

Over simplified, but you get the idea.

This is also why the same deities keep popping up in multiple cultures. Not only is there drift from the root belief system, which fragments, but there is also ‘culture conquering’ by other groups, who steal a deity lock, stock and barrel, then change their name.

 

By cross-referencing things like the Tain Bo, the Mabinogion, the Brehon Laws, and other common sources, I would probably be correct in my assumption. In fact, this is how we got a majority of our information on previous cultures. Archeologists and anthropologists worked together to construct how the culture lived day to day, but its through intensive investigation of the stories that we find out what qualities that were valued.

Some common themes appear when one begins to study mythology, and I will only hit the highlights here. There are as many different themes to myths as there are Gods and Goddesses in the myths. I still recommend Joseph Campbell to those who are interested in an in depth study of mythology.

 

 
   

Archetype

 

 

Thumbnail description

 

 

Example

 

 

Man-God

 

 

This is a character or figure who is for all  intents and purposes, as powerful as the Gods, but is mortal.

 

 

Math, son of Mathonwy.

 

 

Trickster              God who teaches through jokes and practical jokes            Lessons learned are usually those that teachhumility.

 

 

Loki and  Coyote

 

 

 

 

 

Elemental

 

 

This is a God or Goddess of the Land/Sea/Sky or some other element. This includes the elementals. 

 

 

 Mananuan of the Wave

 

 

Sympathetic  to Man      

 

 

This is the God who "takes care" of either his creation or another God's creation   

 

 

Prometheus or  Gwydron 

 

 

Life/Death

 

 

  A God who takes care of the natural cycles of The Grey of life and death, usually nurturing the newly dead back to life again in another incarnation.

 

 

Arawyn/Man

 

 

Seasons

 

 

God that rules over one time of the year, and is responsible for what happens in that time.

 

 

 LlewLlaw, Gyffres, Goronwy, Pevi.

 

 

Fertility                

 

 

 God or Goddess who  is responsible for the fertility of the crops, earth, or herds.  Usually Female.

 

 

Rhiannon and Herme

 

 

Judgment

 

 

Typically this is a deity who has the job of passing sentence of newly dead souls as to their "worth".

 

 

The Wild Hunt

 

 

Deity of Celestial bodies

 

 

 Typically this is a God/Goddess of the Sun/Moon or similar celestial bodies. 

 

 

Lugh & Arianhod

 

 

 

 

THEME ONE: THE CONQUERING HERO

 

This is one of the more common types of archetypes for mythology. Basically, the hero of the story goes through many different trials and tribulations to fulfill his mission or to regain himself. Usually there is a definite reward at the end of the quest, and usually side benefits that the Hero has not contemplated.

One example of this from Welsh Mythology is the story of Pwyll. Here is a king of Dyfed who is beloved by his people. He gets a wild hair one day and decides to go hunting, against the advice of his counselors. During the hunt, he meets Arawn of Annwvyn. Oops. For a "crime" that the king committed against Arawn, he agrees to take the place of Arawn in his kingdom and fight an opponent that Arawn can't beat. Pwyll agrees and goes to Annwvyn where he will be acclaimed as the king, and have access to everything that Arawn has, including his Queen. Not a bad looking lady.

Pwyll is single and needs a Queen. He falls for Arawn's Queen, but that night refuses to act upon his impulses and make love to her. This is despite the pleas of the Queen. And it took enormous self-control to do so.

The new day dawns, and it is time for the armies of Annwvyn and the armies of the West to engage in battle. Havgtan is the king of the Armies from the west, and a very dangerous man. He has two great powers; the first is that his strength grows as the day moves to midday, and wanes from there, and the second is his ability to be cured instantly of any blow, no matter how severe, if he is struck a second time. Arawn warned Pwyll of this, and advised him to hit Havgan once, and to leave him.

In the version I read, there was an epic battle in which Pwyll is badly hurt by the combat. He finally strikes a mortal blow to Havgan. Havgan concedes defeat and begs the king to put him out of his misery. Three times Havtgan begs to be put to death by another blow, but Pwyll remembers Arawn's injunction, and refuses. This also took intestinal fortitude to do so, for he was called a coward, dishonorable, cruel and so forth. But he did not and Havgan's troops removed him from the field. The armies of Annwvyn go home and celebrate, and Pwyll slips away.

The next morning, he meets up with Arawn in the same spot he started from, and because of his honor regarding Arawn's wife, Arawn gives Pwyll the unprecedented gift of becoming his Chancellor in Arawn as well as picking how and when he will die. The World is saved, and everyone is happy.

The best example I can think of from current Western culture is Star Wars and Luke Skywalker. In there, Luke saves the day, as well as gaining the confidence of the Rebellion and Han Solo. This is a classic myth, and has been reviewed as such for a long time. But the base story is the same. This is the kind of thing that we look for when studying mythology.

For some more information, I recommend reading the original version of Pwyll's story in the Mabinogion. There is an excellent translation by Lady Charlotte Guest. THE STORY OF PWYLL. This is the actual version that appears in the classic mythology, but for a really good version that I highly recommend, try THE PRINCE OF ANNWVYN by Evangeline Walton. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but you can still find copies around. Consider trying ebay. This is the best series that deals with the Mabinogion that I have seen, although you will want to keep a copy of the Lady Charlotte translation close.

In this type of story, so common to the American and Western mythology, we find a hero who is ready to sacrifice everything, including himself, to save someone. This person can be anyone, including themselves, but most commonly it is someone close to the hero in question. Usually it is a close relative, such as a father, brother, wife or so on. I could sit here and rattle off about thirty or forty examples, but I think only a few need to be brought to your attention to illustrate my point

The Return of the Jedi (Hero redeeming his father,) Pippin (hero redeeming his son) and so on. You get the point at this juncture. Don't be fooled into thinking that stories like Braveheart is this kind of tale, it’s not. Braveheart is the Grand Epic, rather than the Redeeming Hero. The New Testament is a good example of a Grand Epic, so too is something like Die Hard (all of them) or the Lethal Weapon series. The scale is different in a Grand Epic, than in a Redeeming Hero. The first deals with entire societies or cultures or worlds, and the Redeeming Hero is more personal, he is someone we can identify with, rather than Patton.

An example of this in Welsh Myth (again) would be the story of Manawyddan. Here is a guy who loves his brother, Brian the Blessed. He goes to war with his brother to rescue his sister from the Irish king and Brian winds up killed. Miracles happen, all the Irish on the island are killed in an explosion and poisoned fumes, seven heroes escape, Manawyddan is one of them, along with Pryderi.

Remember Pryderi? Pwyll's son. Son of Rhiannon of the Birds. Well, they all get back to England, and Pryden convinces Manawyddan to marry his widowed mother. Manawyddan falls in love with her and they get married. They all wind up home and one night, the entire populace of the country disappears. Only Pryderi, Manawyddan, Rhiannon and Pryderi's wife Kicva were left. They stayed there months, and went crazy. They left and went to find people.

They found people and wanted to look like peasants, since Pryderi was king of Dyfed, and they didn't want it known the king was here. So they took on various trades to support themselves; once as a saddle-maker, once as a shield-maker and once as cobblers. Each time, while their goods were not the best, they used Druidic Magick and craft tricks to make them beautiful and sold them well. The local craftsmen didn't make any money, and plotted to kill them. Each time, our heroes were warned and they escaped.

Now, sick of people, they made their way back to Dyfed. And first Pryderi and then Rhiannon fell under a spell, which removed them from the "living". So only Manawyddan and Kicva are left in the whole of Dyfed. Time passes, they despair, and eventually plant crops. They grow and are razed by something during the night. So, on the night before the last crop is destroyed, Manawyddan stays up to see.

What he sees is an army of mice coming, taking everything edible from the field.  He can't save it. But he catches a pregnant mouse before she gets away. So he decides to hang the thief (the mouse for those of you not paying attention). He sets up a gallows and starts to do so when several travelers come by and offer to take the mouse from him, even offering to purchase the mouse. One of the travelers is the High Druid of Britain, and Manawyddan refuses.

Finally, the mouse's husband, an enchanter, appears and begs for his wife's release along with their child. Manawyddan gets back the people of Dyfed, a promise of non-retribution, a pledge of no ill will, and Rhiannon and Pryderi. The Enchanter goes his way and everything is normal again.

Okay, from this, we see that one man is responsible for saving all of Dyfed. Grand Epoch? No, he's redeeming himself from the war. If you read the myth in depth, you can see the soul-sickness in him, which he sheds in his love of Rhiannon. Only to loose her to misadventure, so he still goes into despondency. So he goes to great lengths to save himself, shed everything not necessary in his "new" incarnation, and succeeds. To give a bit of perspective, Manawyddan was trained by the Druids, and would have been a Druid had he not been the Kings brother. So to refuse his superior is unthinkable. And in triumphing over himself, he also triumphs over the external problems and saves everyone.

Here is the reference, and once again they are the actual text and the embellishment by an author. The book is called: The Song of Rhiannon: The Third Branch of the Mabinogion by Evangeline Walton.

Take a look at the story of A Christmas Carol.  Scrooge is, well, a scrooge and through his experiences in the story, he redeems himself and becomes the generous hero of both the town and to his employee and his employee’s family specifically.

There are many other kinds of myths like this, such as Creation, Natural world explanation, Natural feature explanation, teaching, historical, Traid emulation, and so on. Start looking around for the stories of your local area, the myths and the tales, and I bet you find all kinds of correlations to mythology.

In this type of story, so common to the American and Western mythology, we find a hero who is ready to sacrifice everything, including himself, to save someone. This person can be anyone, including themselves, but most commonly it is someone close to the hero in question. Usually it is a close relative, such as a father, brother, wife or so on. I could sit here and rattle off about thirty or forty examples, but I think only a few need to be brought to your attention to illustrate my point.

The Return of the Jedi (Hero redeeming his father,) Pippin (hero redeeming his son) and so on. You get the point at this juncture. Don't be fooled into thinking that stories like Braveheart is this kind of tale, its not. Braveheart is the Grand Epic, rather than the Redeeming Hero. The New Testament is a good example of a Grand Epic, so too is something like Die Hard (all of them) or the Lethal Weapon series. The scale is different in a Grand Epic, and a Redeeming Hero. The first deals with entire societies or cultures or worlds, and the Redeeming Hero is more personal, he is someone we can identify with, rather than Patton.

An example of this in Welsh Myth (again) would be the story of Manawyddan. Here is a guy who loves his brother, Brian the Blessed. He goes to war with his brother to rescue his sister from the Irish king and Brian winds up killed. Miracles happen, all the Irish on the island are killed in an explosion and poisoned fumes, seven heroes escape, Manawyddan is one of them, along with Pryderi.

 

Remember Pryderi? Pwyll's son. Son of Rhiannon of the Birds. Well, they all get back to England, and Pryden convinces Manawyddan to marry his widowed mother. Manawyddan falls in love with her and does so. They all wind up home and one night, the entire populace of the country disappears. Only Pryderi, Manawyddan, Rhiannon and Pryderi's wife Kicva were left. They stayed there months, and went crazy. They left and went to find people.

They found people and wanted to look like peasants, since Pryderi was king of Dyfed, and they didn't want it known the king was here. So they took on various trades to support themselves. Once saddle-makers, once shield-makers and once cobblers. Each time, while their goods were not the best, they used Druidic Magick and craft tricks to make them beautiful. The local craftsmen didn't make any money, and plotted to kill them. Each time, they were warned and escaped.

Now, sick of people, they made their way back to Dyfed. And first Pryderi and then Rhiannon fell under a spell, which removed them from the "living". So only Manawyddan and Kicva are left in the whole of Dyfed. Time passes, they despair, and eventually plant crops. They grow and are razed by something during the night. So, on the night before the last crop is destroyed, Manawyddan stays up to see.

          What he sees is an army of mice coming, and taking everything edible from the field, and he can't save it. But he catches a pregnant mouse before she got away. So he decides to hang a thief (the mouse for those of you not paying attention).  He sets up a gallows and starts to do so when several travelers come by and offer to take the mouse from him, and even offer to purchase the mouse. One of the travelers is the High Druid of Britain, and Manawyddan refuses.

          Finally, the mouse's husband, an enchanter, appears and begs for his wife's release along with their child. Manawyddan gets back the people of Dyfed, a promise of non-retribution, a pledge of no ill will, and Rhiannon and Pryderi. The Enchanter goes his way and everything is normal again

 

          Okay, from this, we see that one man is responsible for saving all of Dyfed. Grand Epoch? No, he's redeeming himself from the war. If you read the myth in depth, you can see the soul-sickness in him, which he sheds in his love of Rhiannon. Only to loose her to misadventure, so he still goes into despondency. So he goes to great lengths to save himself, shed everything not necessary in his "new" incarnation, and succeeds. To give a bit of perspective, Manawyddan was trained by the Druids, and would have been a Druid had he not been the Kings brother. So to refuse his superior is unthinkable. And in triumphing over himself, he also triumphs over the external problems and saves everyone.

          Here is the reference, and once again they are the actual text and the embellishment by an author. The book is called: The Song of Rhiannon: The Third Branch of the Mabinogion by Evangeline Walton.

          There are many other kinds of myths like this, such as Creation, Natural world explanation, Natural feature explanation, teaching, historical, Triad emulation, and so on. Start looking around for the stories of your local area, the myths and the tales, and I bet you find all kinds of correlations to mythology.

          Okay. End of this section. Here’s your ASSIGNMENT. I want each of you to pick a myth, from Classical Greek, Celtic or Modern Western culture and to analyze it as though you were listening to a myth of another culture for the first time. Look for Hero or God figures from the last lesson, and try to fit it into a story archetype. That’s it for now.

                                                           

I think that’s about it for this lesson.

May above bless all of you and keep you 'till we meet again.

 

 

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