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Reply To: Defining Myth


Welcome to Conversations of a Higher Order (COHO), Andy! You may have noticed that these discussion forums don’t exactly move at the frenzied pace of social media; it sometimes takes days, weeks, months, or longer for a conversation to unfold – but there is an advantage to not feeling pressured to respond before the conversation scrolls off the screen and is lost in the ether, instead of having the leisure to allow one’s thoughts to simmer a bit and take shape before posting a reply.

Love the point you make about the limitations of defining myth, depending on one’s belief in a higher power.

No surprise that defining myth is a little like trying to staple your shadow to the wall; hence the impetus behind this thread of collecting as many definitions of myth as possible, both parallel and contradictory, in hopes of fleshing out our understanding. Of course, even definitions that seem at odds generally aren’t mutually exclusive: myth is more “both/and” rather than “either/or” . . . and being comfortable with paradox is an invaluable trait for any mythologist, amateur as well as professional.

By the way, your second post triggered a memory of maybe 15 or so years ago, when I was a featured guest at a three day event in Ojai that drew a number of people just starting out in myth, several of whom today are considered luminaries in the field. At the end of the long second day, a handful of us ended up in the organizer’s room sharing adult beverages and conversation on myth late into the night. At one point someone mentioned an obscure term – and suddenly most of us slipped out to our rooms (which were all nearby), and each returned carrying one or more reference works on etymology to continue the discussion – and right away I knew I had found my tribe! (I lean toward the expansive Chambers Dictionary of Word Etymology, but on the road I often travel with a beat-up paperback copy of John Ayto’s Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins)

I also appreciate the fungal episode you shared. Though it’s been a couple decades, I have indulged in dozens of mushroom experiences and LSD trips, along with the occasional doses of mescaline, peyote, and DMT. I have also recorded over a thousand dreams in a dozen or so dream journals the last three decades, and find an incredible resonance between the dream state and the psychedelic state, both of which tap into that archetypal strata which is the source of myth. That’s a subject worthy of of further discussion.

You might find interesting this thread, from the early days of this iteration of COHO in the Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, on the spiritual uses of psychedelics. It’s been quiet for a long time, but feel free to revive it by adding your thoughts and/or sharing your experiences on the topic (which will bump it up to the top of the queue), or starting a new one on this or a related topic.

Thanks for joining in, androoshka. Feel free to poke around and jump into any thread that draws your interest, including those that seem dormant. Often all it takes to re-start a conversation is a fresh perspective.