Posts Tagged ‘Mythology’

Ominous - Nicholas Roerich, 1901

Ominous – Nicholas Roerich, 1901

I think prophecy is an important part of writing, at least as important as technique or form. I think there are magical processes going on in writing. Like this raven thing. I’d been writing using the raven myth, and when I went up to Sitka in Alaska, the ravens disappeared. It was very unusual. Then the day before I left they all returned and flew around the totems. It was a strange experience.

Ishmael Reed, in an interview with Jon Ewing for The Daily Californian, 1977
(from Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, 1978)

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[mild, vague spoilers]

If Superhero Movies are our new mythology, Birdman makes our new mythology feel like crumbly newsprint and warped videotape. Not that Birdman will or should render Superhero Movies obsolete or anything. I still like, and still expect to enjoy, Superhero Movies. But Birdman reaches certain levels of truth, buried deep in the middle of an inescapable labyrinth, that might make it impossible for me to see our new mythology Superhero Movies the same from now on (at least until a movie comes along that can out-Birdman Birdman).

Things like “universal themes” and “timeless stories” are great, but I know now that I need more blood, more  super-realism.  Larger Than Life with more Life. If Superhero Movies are Led Zeppelin, Birdman is punk rock.

Darren Aronofsky dabbled in this kind of mythology with The Wrestler and Black Swan (before he got all Biblical with Noah). But where those two films hurtle towards death, Alejandro González Iñárritu & his co-writers wallop Aronofsky’s artistic defeatism with an optimism that’s more transcendent than anything I’ve experienced with a Superman story. Icarus need not be a tragic figure. There’s a Birdman in all of us.

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Kneeling breast feeding mother - Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

Kneeling breast feeding mother – Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

When the breast withers away to a vanishing point, other oral and maternal values are also drying up and atrophying; when the breast spouts forth again, these values are also returning.

By no accident, the most admired poem among American intellectuals in the 1920s was T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; although actually dealing with his adopted country, England, his symbols spoke very eloquently to American sensibilities also. The withdrawal of the breast is suggested in Eliot’s images of wandering in the desert, of thirst, of the failed crops in the land rules by an impotent king, of sterility in general. The most famous of Eliot’s images– e.g., “lilacs out of dead land,” “The Hanged Man,” “the Unreal City,” “the corpse you planted last year in your garden,” “rock and no water and the sandy road”– all revolve around the theme of life struggling to survive without nourishment. The final section, in the mountains (breast symbols, according to Freud), brings the promise of rain and renewal. If all poets seek to summon the mother goddess in her guise as Muse, Eliot in a very real sense is calling for her to appear as wet nurse.

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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This is the song that popped in my head when I heard Pete Seeger died:

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Be careful out there: The Devil’s everywhere, according to Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages:

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Let The Right One In explains why vampires only come where they’re invited:

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The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942

The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942

Here he was, Yoreitone, my chief, sitting and telling me a story and looking at me with his one eye as he looked upon his family, his body full of gentleness, a finger now and then resting on my knee, and when he had finished the tale and sat there simply within the aura of its meaning, with no movement of any kind, it was as if he had opened his arms to welcome a child to his breast, and I cannot help but wonder who this man is, with his wrinkled face and eye that speaks to all of past and future, and I cannot help but wonder where within him lay the murder of that family that sent Wassen to the mission. Once, in childhood, an old man with a skull cap covering a bald patch, and a long grey beard with curls at its ends, used to sit at a kitchen table in the back of my father’s grocery store, teaching in Hebrew the Five Books of Moses. With each of my mistakes he cracked a thumb and finger on my head, and I left those books forever with no feeling for God, but only full of stories that talked of vengeance, hate, and war. Yoreitone, within my hearing, had not yet talked of death or war, but always he told of hunting trips for monkeys and birds, and other creatures that lived and stalked within the forest, tales of spirits that inhabited deer to feed the jaguar and therefore could not be tracked to kill, and tales that wandered in time and space and seemed to me no legend or symbol but did no more than tell of walks to new rivers and trees. Later, I asked Yoreitone what he thought of the white upon the mountains far in the distance, the mountains that could only be seen on the clearest of days, the mountains that reached up to twenty thousand feet and more. “Flowers,” he said. “They are white flowers.’

from Tobias Schneebaum’s Keep The River On Your Right

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