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Rocking New Year’s Eve,” with Professor Mark C.E. Peterson”

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    Mark C.E. Peterson, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and past President of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, is our guest this week in Conversations of a Higher Order to discuss “Rocking New Year’s Eve” (click on title to read), his latest entry in JCF’s MythBlast essay series.

    I’ll get the conversation started, but please feel free to jump in and engage Professor Peterson with your comments, questions, observations and insights, which is what will make this a true “conversation of a higher order.”

    Mark – Thanks for that delightful, slightly delirious (in the best possible sense) rumination on the mythological imagery of the Old Year exiting in the guise of Father Time. The merging of Chronos (the Time Lord?) with Cronus/Saturn (who swallows his offspring, as well as that stone in place of Zeus) creates a pun of mythic proportions, opening the door to further merriment (such as noting the way our culture encourages getting “stoned” at New Year’s Eve parties – which reminds me of years past when, at Grateful Dead New Year’s shows, everyone seemed to be smoking “the Chronic”).

    Nevertheless, I appreciate your suggestion that this mythic imagery depicts “how any new phase of our lives is related to what has passed.”

    I imagine most individuals can relate to an experience of the past subsuming their present. In my life I especially see this in alcoholics and drug addicts. One might be clean and sober for years, but still there are friends, acquaintances, and family members unwilling, or maybe just unable, to let go the image they’ve held onto for so long. Same for several I know who have experienced bouts of mental illness that are now controlled, or even cured – yet cannot escape the stigma of the past.

    I feel Cronus (Saturn) is a particularly appropriate image in such circumstances, for those tethered to their past are often mired in a saturnine depression, which can swallow their future.

    I love the remedy you prescribe:

    Like Zeus, the Child needs to be nurtured and set on the path of its adventure, its trek toward authenticity, in order to acquire the strength, insight, and experience necessary to confront a past that wants to devour it. Maybe the idea is that, in our own lives, we have to find that Inner Child and put it on the road to find itself.”

    But where does Zeus receive that nurturing – and where should we turn?

    Well, it started with his mother Rhea – an earth goddess (etymologically related to “ground, earth”), who swaddled the stone Cronus swallowed thinking it his child, and hid Zeus in a cave on Crete, where in some versions he is raised by Gaia herself (the primeval Earth goddess), and in others by various nymphs, or the Kouretes (nine armed and crested male dancers devoted to Rhea, whose drumming and rhythmic stamping of their feet accompanied the goddess during labor, concealing her cries from Cronus).

    Playing with this imagery, particularly the accent on the Earth goddess in her many forms, suggests to me the importance of keeping grounded when letting go the Old and embracing the New. The baby Zeus in that cave matures, like Baby New Year, from newborn to adult in a single year; meanwhile, the dancing and drumming of the Kouretes replicate the rhythms of life and nature, and time itself.

    Certainly, when dealing with change, proper grounding – which for me includes time spent in Nature, as well as attention to plumbing the depths of my own psyche (there’s that cave!) is essential in any time of transformation..

    Another thought: where Cronus castrated his father with a sickle, Zeus (after delivering the emetic that frees his siblings – followed by ten years of unpleasantness as the young Olympians war with Cronus and his fellow Titans, who are then imprisoned in Tarturus), ultimately frees his father and installs Cronus as king of The Isles of the Blessed, a pretty cushy retirement gig in the one place in the Otherworld that mirrors the Golden Age.

    I wonder if this might explain another experience common to so many: after successfully avoiding being swallowed by the Past, rather than stifle or ignore the past, we tend to infuse it with a golden haze – halcyon memories of days gone by. We don’t continue to fight the past, but elevate and honor it – after we come to terms with it.

    Is any of this making sense, or am I just rambling on with random associations?


    Thanks Stephen,

    As always, good to be back!

    I’m beginning to think that the worse the puns become, the more likely it is that we’re on the right track…. but let’s leave that to the Jungians out there. :^)

    I think your musing here makes a lot of sense… or is the beginning of it.  One of the most fascinating things to me about playing around with mythological symbol and discourse is the process of making it make sense to us… these are relational narratives so we have to figure out what they’re relating us *to*, whether they’re doing it adequately, and whether whatever it is they’re relating us *to* even exists.  There are plenty of narratives that are meaningful to people and, yet, aren’t attached to anything.  That’s the danger of all narratives — and why “myth” is so often used as a synonym for “lie.”

    My standard procedure over the years looks just like what you did here: stick to the details, assume for a minute that they ARE true, and then see where they go to determine whether we’re on to something or whether we’ve followed a false trail.  I especially liked your following young Zeus into the caves, hidden and nurtured by Mother Nature (here as Gaia) as preparation for confronting a dangerous and unresolved past.  In the most mundane, and weirdly powerful, sense there’s nothing like a good long walk in the woods (or the jungle of city concrete) to help put one’s past in perspective.  And yep, spending some time percolating (soaking? exploring? fermenting?) in the cave of the unconscious is a sure fire way to sublimate the demons still chasing us.  Maybe once you’ve done that you’re ready to make the past upchuck a future that doesn’t belong to it?

    And now I’m remembering Satchel Paige’s famous aphorism: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”  That always seemed like good sense, on the one hand, and a terrible idea on the other.

    I also like that parallel between Chronus castrating his father, but Zeus only feeding him an emetic and then, after a stint in Tartarus, giving him the cushiest gig in the Greek afterlife.  That reminded me of Prince Five Weapons from Hero with 1000 Faces — who confronted the dangerous and lethal Sticky Haired Ogre, but then converted and gentled the ogre into a being worthy of receiving offerings.  That’s certainly one way to purge yourself of the animosities and resentments, left over from old wounds, that can poison our futures.  Hmmm.

    There is one detail still tugging at the back of my brain.  It might be nothing but: substituting a stone “swaddled” or wrapped to look like a baby?  This still bothers me.  Chronus was nobody’s fool, but apparently mistook a ROCK for one of his kids … while eating them?

    I guess he didn’t chew — which suggests that a failure to “ruminate” about your future sets you up for a future that bites back.

    Hmm.  See what I mean about the puns?  ;^D

    Maybe some of our friends and relations in COHO have some thoughts about these wrinkles in the story line!



    Love the comparison of Zeus assigning his father Cronus a role to Prince Five Weapons (an incarnation of the being who would become the Buddha) doing something similar with the Sticky Haired Ogre. Clearly these mythological figures have read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals.

    Great point as well about Cronus mistaking a stone for a newborn. I am often intrigued by the physics and logic of myths, which diverge from mundane reality much the same as was the logic of dream – but of course Zeus swallowed his children whole – otherwise, Zeus’ brothers and sisters may have been nothing but chewed and digested pulp when freed from Papa’s belly.

    But failing to notice one is swallowing a hard stone instead of a soft babe does seem difficult to fathom, at least here in the workaday world. Nevertheless, “inattention to detail” does seem a trait common to gods – that’s the phrase Campbell uses to characterize Osiris’ faux pas when he didn’t notice he was having sex with Nepthys instead of his sister-wife, Isis – but that’s another story)

    I am reminded of the Egyptian creation myths, where the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb conceive seven children, with Ra and Thoth (Sun and Moon) emerging first – but Ra, out of jealousy, does not allow his mother to give birth to their five siblings (Horus the Elder, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys), who then reside in their mother’s womb for thousands of years until Thoth wins their release. There certainly seems some resonance between the delayed birth of the gods of the Olympic pantheon mirroring those of the Egyptian; in a sense, Cronus’ belly serves as a second womb – gestation in the Father, as well as the Mother.

    Intriguing. I trust others in COHO will come play with us, tickling their own ideas and understandings out of your essay.


      Hello Mark and Stephen; what a great topic to contemplate, this thing we call time. I want to add a quick clip of Joseph’s from Bill Moyer’s: “The Power of Myth”; where they discuss the “circle”. And within this discussion a number of aspects are addressed; not only that of what the circle in its many forms symbolizes; but in many of them how time is addressed in relation to the way human’s experience it. The cycle of the seasons, the way humans use the clock or watch to tell time, the way we look at our life in its various aspects of life’s journey from birth to death, and our relationship to the far larger aspects of being inframed within a universe with its solar systems and galaxies all traveling through what we think of as time.

      I remember an experience as a little boy that transfixes me still into a state of wonder whenever I see a flock of geese flying in formation in its timeless migration of the seasons; and you realize for a moment you are participating in something timeless or eternal that’s been going on since man was first here. The animals that migrate from one place to the next and then back again in this endless dance through time, and you are there in that moment with them as if in some primordial interplay that gives you a sense of being connected to something much larger than you can comprehend. Yet here you are participating in that experience that informs you of a universe in which you are enclosed within a moment of time itself. You are born and then through the various stages of life you mature into old age; and then you die, and yet so many of the symbols you encounter throughout your life take on different meanings as you pass through them, each with its message that informs you who you are.

      There was a TV character in an early morning children’s show called Captain Kangaroo in the 1950’s called “grandfather clock”; and he was always falling asleep during a conversation because he was old. In the halls of many homes back in earlier historical time periods there were grandfather clocks that people once set their timepieces to, and always held a symbolic reference to age and time and how people’s lives would often interact within this symbolic framework of birth, death, a moment of crisis, or a stage of life. A train must run on time and watches were set by that timetable. We often think within this framework of what time it is; or are we so interwoven with the idea of time does it indeed sometimes rule our lives? Yet from birth to death our perspective changes about the questions we ask ourselves; in the early stages these questions often have to do with achievement; or we ask ourselves who we are? Yet as our life crosses its daytime meridian horizon from noon and starts it’s decent toward the night these questions begin to change from achievement of life’s goals, and we ask ourselves: “What is the meaning of my life?” as we make our way toward the dark gate.

      Joseph mentions that man is the only creature that knows it’s going to die; yet within that framework there is an assimilation framework that attempts to connect the dots, so to speak, to make sense of our life’s journey and to realize; at least in some sense if we are lucky the overwhelming experience of a life we have been privileged to live and something that is left behind as a legacy. We don’t understand this mystery which we are enclosed in; but at least we have been given a glimpse of where we are going if we are lucky. Joseph called this the Marga Path; the path an animal follows back to its den. Perhaps the secret of time lies there waiting for our return to the womb from which we came.

      I hope this thing made some sense, and in some way complimented, as Stephen suggested in a playful way what you are suggesting. So nice to have you back Mark; and thank you Stephen for helping to set such a great topic which you always do so well.


      As an addendum I have added a short video of the world famous medieval 600-year-old clock in Prague that might be enjoyable to watch as an illustration of clocks, time, and other related symbols to village and mythic life.


      Hey Jamesn!

      Oh, I should’ve thought of Grandfather clock. :^)  I can hear those keys jingling.

      There’s something in here about that feeling of being aligned with the seasons — watching the geese gather here on Barton Pond every fall as they get ready to head south and, more, hearing them call out to each other and squabble all night long — but there’s also something here about the dislocations inherent in nature: the surprises when the seasons change suddenly, rivers flash flooding, volcanoes erupting.  The seasons aren’t always smooth transitions and can disrupt our lives if we don’t take these disruptions into account.  Maybe it’s the sickles, rather than the cycles, of time we need to keep an eye on.  ;^)

      Whew.  There’s another one!




      Thank you for all these posts which are thought provoking and cathartic for this New Year.  My initial impression of infant Zeus/Kronos relationship was the need to finish old business before being able to move on to the next. I’m not sure how it plays out symbolically–perhaps the danger in holding on to the past is represented by the rescue of Zeus from Kronos to the Nurturing grotto, and the need to finish projects/duties of the past (or honoring the past) as Zeus’ leaving the cave and releasing his siblings in the “cave” of Kronos’ belly?

      Again, thanks to all for adding depth to Old Man/Baby New Year pop reference.



      I’m experiencing major synchronicity in yours and James’ observations related to the link between the seasons and the mythic imagination –  and not just in the regularity of the seasonal cycle, but also, as you note, the disruption that often occurs during periods of transition.

      Currently I’m about a quarter of the way (125 pages – not counting the dozen or so pages of detailed, comprehensive contextual endnotes accompanying the text, so far) into The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber (the late professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics) and David Wengrow (professor of comparative anthropology at the Institute of Anthropology, University College of London).

      Book cover The Dawn of Everything   Excerpt

      Published this past November, this is the impressive, exhaustively researched work lauded by scholars that is upending traditional historical perspectives. (In many ways, it’s a pointed response to 2018’s bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Harari – a book that presents a compelling grand narrative that appeals to me, but, like all before it, one aligned with a Euro-centric worldview).

      I expected some sort of Marxian critique, which I generally find a little tiresome (Graeber, who died at age 59 in September, 2020 just three weeks after the book was completed, was a key intellectual figure in the Occupy Wall Street Movement), so I held that tension in the back of my brain the first several pages. The reality is far from there; instead, the authors draw on the latest groundbreaking (pun initially unintended) archaeological and anthropological finds, along with cultural and sociological research, to oppose an “indigenous critique,” outside the European canon, to the prevailing historical narrative – and darn if they don’t bring the receipts!

      In the section I’ve just read, Graeber and Wengrow (I think of them as “the Davids”) challenge the traditional view of the social evolution of our species following distinct stages: nomadic hunter-gatherers, then agriculturalists settled in villages, and then, early civilizations – a trajectory accompanied by the development of hierarchy and an exponential growth in inequality – always in one direction, eventually arriving where are today. (This is an aside, but I don’t completely subscribe to the idea that contemporary culture has no prevailing myth to which all members are party; a myth is not necessarily recognized as such by those who are living it, but simply as ‘what is” – and ours is the myth of progress).

      “The Davids” begin by asking questions about the monumental structures of Göbekli Tepe, which indicates “strictly coordinated activity on a really large scale.” The nomadic pre-agriculturalists who built it did not live there, but appear to have regularly gathered at this site for feasting and related ritual activities.

      Then they turn to Claude Lévi-Strauss, who in 1944 highlighted the Namboikwara – “part-time farmers, part-time foragers” – in northwest Brazil. Theirs was a hybrid society: during the rainy season, they gathered and lived in in sizable communities and practiced agriculture, but the rest of the year broke up into little bands of foragers – with two different sets of laws, traditions, and practices. The chiefs of these small nomadic groups exercised near autocratic powers during the dry season – but when the entire population was gathered together in the rainy farming season, that authoritarianism melted into a gestalt much more chill and relaxed, with the chief’s leadership grounded in influence, example, and consensus, rather than force.

      Thanks to an abundance of recent archaeological discoveries, along with cultural studies, this “double morphology,” a pattern of seasonal variation – large gatherings in one place part of the year dissolving into small bands on the move the other part of the year – appears all over, from Durrington Walls at Stonehenge on one end of the time continuum, to Aboriginal Australians, the Cheyenne and Lakota on the Plains of North America, the Kwakiutl in the Pacific Northwest, Innuit in Alaska, the Nuer in the Sudan.

      These hybrid societies are difficult to place on the traditional continuum: nomad part of the year but settled the other part, loosely anarchistic but at other times strictly hierarchical with the rigid structures of a nation-state, in some settings patriarchal and authoritarian, in others more matrifocal and diffuse. In many instances (whether those gathering at Durrington Walls and Stonehenge, or the Plains tribes), they had actually abandoned cereal agriculture, turning back to foraging as their staple source of food. And there is often a contrast between the values and forms that dominate these two wings of the year.

      And, or course, in tandem with that are seasonal festivals – which on the one hand align us with the rhythms of nature, but also present the opportunity for “people to imagine that other arrangements are feasible, even for a society as a whole, since it was always possible to fantasize about carnival bursting its seams and becoming the new reality,” which in turn really can upend society (the authors note several revolutionary movements and peasants’ revolts associated with seasonal festivals, like riotous May Day festivals). And, indeed, they do note that “seasonality is still with us,” such as in the midwinter holiday season of the Christian world.

      I’m not sure where the authors are going from here, but they do have my attention. I’m reserving reconciling this new perspective and the information that supports it with Campbell’s worldview for after I complete the book and have time to chew and digest what’s been presented. In many ways they are challenging major planks of Campbell’s perspective, particularly the stages he presents in the Historical Atlas of World Mythology (where history follows major stages, from hunter-gatherers, to early planting peoples with the advent of agriculture, then hieratic city-states, and so on – and the mythologies and culture of these various peoples in harmony with the particular stage of their period).

      And on the other hand, so much is in harmony with Campbell’s thought, which has much in common with the “indigenous critique” (not to mention my own decades-long experience with seasonal counter-culture gatherings, such as the Rainbow Family).

      Though at best we seem to pay lip service to the idea of Father Time and the Newborn Year, the absence of powerful serious ceremonies does not mean the energies associated with seasonal changes don’t still surge through the blood in our veins every bit as much as the sap in the trees. The mythic image of the seasonal cycle isn’t just in our heads – it’s a story we’re still living, whether we are conscious of it, or not.

      Just throwing the spaghetti (or Göbekli?) against the wall, seeing what sticks.

      Food for thought.


        Let me second Johnsroost’s appreciation and add a couple of thoughts as possible compliments. One; I have nowhere near Stephen’s archeological background but let me offer a short clip from the JCF YouTube vault as support. Also, Joseph states on one occasion that although he agreed with many of the people he referenced over the years, one of his interests was that of “diffusion” concerning how many cultural similarities amazingly showed up in other cultures on different parts of the globe.

        Now we could say that the migrations of many cultures over eons could be responsible for some of these similarities, such as crossing from east to west across the Bering Straits into Alaska and the Northern Hemisphere and spread southward. And we have the indigenous native peoples to consider; but without much in the way of actual records like the Europeans who came later except artifacts. But depending on how far back we look we have to ask where they originated from. And if we look even further southward to Central and South America, we must ask the same questions. The Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations originated somewhere; but where? And although Anthropology is not my background either I think this begs the question in relation to this topic; “what were Joseph’s thoughts considering that he had this huge storehouse of knowledge he drew from?”

        I remember reading when he gave Spengler’s “Decline of the West” to his friend John Steinbeck; and Steinbeck was stunned by this work and said it took him awhile to recover from what he read. And Joseph also mentioned this book had a huge impact on his world view as he contemplated the future of mankind looking ahead. So, I’m going to stop here and let others who are more qualified than I am share their thoughts on any of this; but I think this particular clip may hopefully add something to the conversation.

        (Btw, Stephen that was an awesome entry you just shared.)


        There are so many interesting insights here. I want to wander on all these paths!
        But first on Chronos/Kronos and the Old and New Years…

        It seems like many people had trepidation entering this new year.

        This reminded and reminds me to be humbly thankful for the small blessings I have, especially knowing that everyone is experiencing everything from different places. And it’s certainly not easy!

        For example now just with the winter storms it’s different for my friends in the big cities. And snow pushed up against cars on the sidewalk. And I know what it’s like for them in smaller apartments.

        But for my part I have felt very thankful to have a space of nature. Not that storms don’t happen and also take preparation.

        But when it comes to the bigger storms, the ones which conjure Kronos in the mind. For me the rhythms and beauty of nature have helped balance all the circling thoughts in my mind.

        Or even cleared the clinging cobwebs of uncertainty and worry…well sometimes. Grin.

        Even being out in the cold on a snowy day felt good. Or gathering wood when cold winter winds are determined to blow back the hood of my winter coat.

        Of course the mind will come back to do its circling eventually hee hee.

        So Mark you ask about the “stone” we might give Kronos. And I was thinking about that this morning.
        Chronos/Kronos inspire Fear. And in the case of the innocent image of the old man in the rocking chair with the scythe, perhaps it could represent the fear that takes one by surprise…hidden in that at first unassuming image.

        Since Kronos eats his children and there are other metaphors in this essay of “being eaten alive” or not wanting “to be eaten alive” by the old year, it reminds me of another sentence “being eaten alive by fear.”
        So I wonder if it is fear of the Old Year which conjures trepidation about the new one?
        That “Kronos” will swallow this year as well? (And as you suggest Mark fear of Chronos as the time aspect also fits neatly into this metaphor.)

        Could the fear, which Kronos inspires  be what “eats alive?”
        There is certainly very real and understandable cause today to bring fear.


        Being aware of “Kronos” and not blind is wise. The guy in the rocking chair is still holding a very sharp dangerous implement after all!

        But when fear becomes “all consuming”   it can become almost paralyzing and then the ability to acknowledge the fear calmly even when one is afraid, or to face it or transmute it or integrate it? Or to keep focus, keep peace or calm even in trying situations  (in spite of the fear, while still acknowledging it)  Becomes or feels almost impossible because one is frozen. Or “eaten alive.” The fear is in control or “Kronos” is.

        But I’m not sure the fear is something to be destroyed. If transmuted into awareness would it keep us on our toes and open-eyed? Be ready for any eventuality including that old guy jumping out of his chair?

        But maybe it’s the “paralyzing” consuming fear, which is the problem?
        It does not help us (it eats us alive.)

        And could it be metaphorically said that old Kronos gives us this “eating alive fear,” since that seems to be his specialty?

        And then there is the “stone” traded for Zeus. What if the stone could represent “fear?”

        All those metaphors of fear a “sinking feeling?”

        Something “weighting” down?

        Sounds stony to me.

        So maybe the stone is the paralyzing fear, which Kronos gives us and which eats us alive like him?

        And returning the stone to Kronos is a way of both acknowledging the fear but choosing not to be eaten alive by it?

        Return to sender. No thanks you can keep it Mr. K.

        Though fear might also make some feel the opposite of weighted down more scattered and nervous drifting aimlessly and afraid. Without an anchor.

        So maybe then the “stone” also has a different effect of fear? Or maybe it’s simply just a stone! Heh heh.

        As for baby Zeus could he represent an open-eyed New Year not tethered to “paralyzing Kronos fear?” But since he carries lightning bolts just a reminder to keep our eyes open and be aware?

        Of course I could be off my rocker on all this. 😂 Sorry horrible joke!

        In the meantime since Stephen mentioned a rainbow group, at the risk of sounding a 2nd generation Beatles person…I decided to not walk into this New Year blind or without an invisible cloak or coat of love. Yes there is the purple metaphor but for now for me it works as well as trying to lean into the light just a little. Or sunshine when it’s there. Peace to All. 🙏









        Stephen, I think somebody else sent me a link to that book as well The Dawn of Everything. Sounds absolutely fascinating! And of course one would love to imagine how Joseph Campbell might respond to that book!
        I’m kind of fascinated by the distances people traveled then too from that perspective.
        It paints whole new pictures of the past in our minds.
        Of course can’t help yet another reference to Robert Mirabal but in the number “Painted Caves” he asks: “Who were these ancestors painting the same images all over the world?”

        Keeping in mind he was a traveler…spent time in Russia, (where he was known as “gypsy man,” in Japan (worked with two Japanese Boka? dancers and Australia (and plays a digeridoo in performance)

        Of course when I heard that, immediately thought of Joe Campbell.
        I love synchronicities even as I celebrate beautiful differences in the world.

        Think my imagination has always been called by those stories of the Polynesian Wayfinders the old canoes, rumors of the Welsh Prince Madoc in the Americas…and many other tales and histories. There is a historical fiction writer Anna Lee Waldo who studied the Madoc legend and incorporated it into her books.

        And there was even once an article about two men who washed ashore in a boat in England (long before “discovery” of Americas) The description or the account of that in the article conjured a similar image to the Miq’ Maq Natives of North America, who had similar small boats? Wish I could remember more of it.

        Then, there are times I hear East Indian music and of all things it reminds me of the tones of Irish or Gaelic songs or vice versa!

        Of course most of this is in the imaginal realm.

        But as far as verifiable stories, I still cannot get over the Homo Florensis people nicknamed “hobbits” of course.
        Unless the evidence has changed again, it seems the anthropologists decided those 3 foot? tall skeletons were not diseased but perfectly formed…

        That’s mind blowing.

        There was another author Parke Godwin, who wrote fictional but legend-inspired books about the British Isles.

        In one story, she writes of a small race of tan skinned people (peaceful nature oriented) but the taller people are superstitious of these people. So the author comes up with the idea that the tan or brown skinned people are allergic to iron and thus in her story she hints about the myth of fairies not liking iron. So the tall folk bar their doors with iron.

        This is all fiction of course, but there was a recent anthropological article about ancient remains found in England perhaps even some of the earliest tribes (or Briton?) people to be there.  The scientists determined they were dark skinned and blue-eyed and more on the short side (not as short as homo florensis.)  That is dark skin as similar pigment  to African, African American, Australian Aboriginal!

        Of course also occurs there are some beautiful dark-skinned people from India as well.

        But regardless of all that wow! Once again what a horizon to imagine!

        Really takes one to the mythic metaphor of what one thought they knew they did not know.

        Scientists have also begun to discover that Viking groups were much more diverse than originally thought. Not all blond. Of course one could argue the Vikings were just in the business of um assimilation. 😉

        Would love to see Joe Campbell delve into all of this!

        Okay enough on that. But awesome ponder Stephen!

        p.s. hope my “stony” response to Mark does not appear flippant, especially considering there are people in the world dealing with grief and pain (know a little bit about that myself.)

        Since Chronos (time) was also in the conversation, sometimes it takes time to sort all these things out. And what works for me now might not be what helps another person. Just want to be considerate. 🙏 (and aware of my words.)

        And Terrific thread so thank you Stephen and Mark.


        Hey sunbug,

        Rollicking good stuff all of that.  And now you have me wondering about fear… going back to Kronos, I’m remembering that it’s Kronos who’s afraid, afraid of the child destined to overthrow him — which is why he eats ’em up… except for Zeus — and he ate a stone instead of his child?

        You could make a mistake like that pretty easily if you were swallowing hard and fast without chewing… fearful of letting the new have even a moment of life.

        So maybe we’re not just talking about the New overthrowing the Old but about the attempt of the Old to prevent the New.

        Hm.  I do that all the time. :^)

        Oh, wait a sec!  Kronos had reasons to be fearful of those lightning bolts  (although Zeus doesn’t get those until later when Hephaestus hammers them out for him)  BUT back to Sticky Haired Ogre!

        Sticky Hair decides to NOT eat Prince Five Weapons after the young, not-quite-yet-Buddha tells the Ogre that he carries a 6th weapon — a thunderbolt — in his tummy.

        Boom.  Okay, too many coincidences. :^)

        Oh, and I did what I usually do first –> went back and checked on the etymology of “petra” (stone).  “Unknown origin but related to rocky ridges.”  Whew.  Wow… um….

        Grin.  Everyone sitting down?

        My favorite online Etymological dictionary ( notes that the term petra is often

        “Used of certain bones, especially of parts of the temporal bone.”

        Oh good grief.

        Okay, I’m over my head now.  Somebody jump in on this!


        Hey There, Sunbug,

        Considering Mark’s reply to your comment, seems he doesn’t have a problem with your “stony” response. Indeed, our playfulness does highlight an essential point about engaging symbols; while there is no objective, undeniable, standard meaning to any given symbol, aural and visual associations to the imagery offers a multilayered approach. That’s why symbol and dream dictionaries can be a hindrance if we assume an entry is the one exact meaning of a symbolic image, and a useful tool if we take that entry as a starting point – a tool, if you will, to jog one’s own imagination.

        As for my mention of Rainbow Gatherings, the Rainbow Family of Living Light is a counterculture gathering, precursor to Burning Man, that has appeared in a different national forest every summer  for half a century now (I think of it as sort of an acoustic Burning Man, with more of a low tech hippie vibe), where money does not work and everything is “in all ways free.” It’s not easy to get to – definitely off the beaten track, with hard core camping skills a plus. Several national gatherings I’ve attended have drawn between 10,000 to 20,000 people (some nationals have occasionally occasionally reached as high as 30,000) to remote alpine settings, where dozens of volunteer kitchens, cafes, and tea houses feed everyone relatively sumptuous meals. Alcohol is discouraged, though psychedelics (cannabis and various “teacher plants,” from shrooms to peyote and such, along with LSD), are welcome.

        The gathering is a mansion of myth and ritual, with a yoga meadow, sweat lodges, Hindu fire ceremonies, storytelling circles, vision quests, drum and dance circles, massage centers, multiple elaborate structures and stages built from fallen logs, elaborate bath and shower set-ups, and such. There is a central meadow where everyone gathers on the Fourth of July, but the entire encampment is spread out over several square miles, resembling a cross between the Shire and Rivendell (from Tolkien), a “mountain man” rendezvous, and a Native American jamboree.

        The food is surprisingly incredible. Everyone brings their own cup, plate or bowl, and utensils. It’s not unusual to wake in the morning, wander around the trail’s bend, and find a camp serving gourmet coffee – then continue down the trail and enjoy mango pancakes at another kitchen, refresh oneself during the day and evening wanderings with herbal tea and/or snacks at all sorts of venues, maybe eat a multi-course dinner at Main Meadow late in the day, and visit Loving Ovens around midnight to enjoy exotic pizzas cooked in huge dome ovens built from mud.

        The focus of the gathering is on healing – for oneself, for all peoples (whether two or four footed, winged, warm-blooded, cold blooded, lung breathing or gill breathing, etc.) and for the planet. I have met aboriginal Australians, Hindu gurus, Christian missionaries, Goddess acolytes, and a slew of environmental activists at various gatherings.

        Anyone can speak at council in the main Meadow, which is less cumbersome in the beginning, when there are only a few hundred individuals on site, most focused on building the encampment, but a touch more awkward once thousands have gathered – especially since Rainbow is governed by a consensus of those “on the Land.” If 4,999 people in council agree we need to create a fire road along a ridge to allow emergency access, but I am concerned the proposed route will damage a stand of endangered wildflowers, I can withhold consensus – and we then either continue to talk for hours until I am convinced, or we come up with some alternative. (Sounds cumbersome, and it is – but actually, it’s not that difficult for a group mind to coalesce in such a setting, as there is no power to fight over, no “president” of Rainbow, no treasury – every individual is considered sovereign, and feeding and caring for children, nursing mothers, and those who are or might become sick are primary concerns.)

        Though there are people on site between six weeks to two months, the highlight of the gathering (and maximum population) occurs on July 4th. Silence is maintained in all camps until high noon on July 4th; in the half hour or so before noon most of the encampment, thousands and thousands of colorfully clad counterculture types, gather to pray for peace and healing, holding hands in a circle that rings Main Meadow (it can take one half-an-hour or more just to walk around that circle of people if so inclined).

        Just before noon everyone starts chanting “Om” (aka “Aum”); being out in nature on a mountaintop holding hands and feeling the vibration of the swell of the chant from 20,000 voices is almost indescribable. At noon, the children whose families have camped in Kiddie Village (which has playground equipment and swing sets constructed from fallen logs) parade in elaborate costumes from their camp (which is usually one of the closest to Main Meadow) on through the outer  circle to the Peace Pole at the center of the meadow, usually while singing.

        That marks the end of the silence and the central ceremony; everyone then moves closer to the Peace Pole and the party begins, with multiple elaborate drum circles (often with flutes, horns, didgeridoos, washboards, melodicas, and such), beautiful colorful yet scantily clad individuals of all genders swirling and dancing to the rhythms, and thousands seated in circles with friends on the grassy meadow feasting on watermelon and other treats while passing bowls, bongs, and blunts around (not to mention a fair share peaking on psychedelics). The celebration continues into the wee hours of the morning, visiting multiple outlying villages with different specialities (from baking gourmet cookies, to acoustic performances, improv theater, storytelling around campfires, etc.). Rainbow is both mysterious and surprisingly beautiful at night.

        Of course, that many people do have an impact on the land, and Rainbow is an illegal gathering where no one signs a permit. There is a permanent National Incident Command Team operated by the Interior Department that monitors the national gathering, though courts have so far supported the right to peaceably assemble; the government team is composed of Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) with the Forest Service and BLM, along with natural resource specialists more focused on care of the forest; how much the gathering is harassed in any given year seems a function of the ever shifting balance of power between the LEOs and the resource management side (many of the resource specialists are much more in tune with the principles guiding Rainbow, whereas many on the law enforcement side think of any unpermitted event as a criminal enterprise – but even in the absence of a permit, there is an operating agreement all parties accept regarding resource management).

        So hundreds of Rainbows stay on site after the bulk of the participants have left, visiting every campsite and fire pit (only community fires are allowed, no individual campfires) to make sure all structures have been removed, every stone returned to roughly where it came, all shitters completely filled in, and every sign of human habitation disappeared. Trails and other areas where the ground has been compacted and pounded by foot traffic are broken up and re-seeded (initially with Kentucky bluegrass, which prevents erosion but is short-lived – then the following spring volunteers return to seed the area with native grasses and vegetation). Usually – as long as the feds allow the Rainbow restoration teams to do their work (in the early days those doing the clean-up have been harassed, arrested and driven off) – the site is fully restored to within a year to 18 months, with no evidence tens of thousands had been in residence for an extended period.

        Locals in the nearest towns are concerned when they hear the Gathering is in their area – the assumption seems the Hell’s Angels are arriving en masse – but locals are invited to attend, and those who do return to their communities with positive impressions that tend to mellow the initial resistance (the huge financial boon to surrounding communities, where individual food and camping supplies are purchased by many on their way into the event, certainly helps change minds as well).

        There is of course a lot more to it – but the seasonal rhythm (along with the emphasis on ritual and storytelling) is what prompted my passing mention in this thread.


        I can definitely see what drew you to Rainbow Stephen!
        It reminds me in a way of Woodstock (though I wasn’t born yet and in the late sixties my Mom was busy teaching astronomy at Fernbank.)

        Rainbow sounds quite adventurous and wonderful!
        I am familiar with other burning man festivals indirectly…some buddies in a touring Celtic band used to perform at various eclectic locales in addition to the usual Celtic/Renaissance/Highland fests and Restaurant/Bars. Think they lit the straw man once in another venue. I wasn’t there…just heard about it and they posted photos. Don’t remember which state. Maybe Ohio?

        Does Rainbow include fire dancers?

        I did not know about fire dancers until fairly recently. Saw some photos. Think they have batons lit with fire? Or even some implement they swirl and arc fire around like a ribbon. I might guess the Permit People would get their knickers in knot!!

        And it’s funny when you mention meeting Aboriginal people or shamans…I can’t help but think of Rainbow! Rainbow Serpent! There seems to be a lot of Rainbow archetype there!
        I have a friend who used to live in Australia and she would send me the neatest things…a carved wooden snake, an inlayed pearl bracelet…and books filled with Aboriginal legends and stories. A lot were children’s books. But I loved them.
        The Aboriginal people inspire me so much. Even in spite of all the displacement which happened and the lost generations…there were still tribes at the edges? In the same areas… and the anthropologists who found old bones can trace the presence of these same tribes for 50,000 years! That absolutely blows my mind! And I can only  imagine what all their  ancestors must have faced and experienced! Spirit will find a way!
        So I’m a little carried away…but maybe it’s thinking about Rainbow. Love the idea of the peace prayers and prayers for the earth.

        And yeah, as much as I love my wood stove fires don’t blame them for only having community fires!

        As far as gatherings for me…beyond the Celtic ones…The NY/NJ Metro Fest for Beatles Fans had a feeling of gathering of different individuals all coming together to celebrate Beatles music…even including Re-inactors and Dale Earnhardt fans…which surprised me…

        Of course Beatlefest was nothing on the scale of the Rainbow fest nor was it held outside… but people came from different countries…cultures

        I know I’ve seen several East Indian people there. And one year a young Beatle band from Czechoslovakia won the Battle of the Bands. Mom bought a couple of paintings from an artist vendor from the Nederlands…and there was a fellow with Native American heritage there one year as well.
        Now they have a make shift “ashram” rooms where not only talks on TM are given but one can also join Yoga classes  with Beatles music in the Background. Or join in other types of meditation. It’s neat. Though I’ve also enjoyed Beatlefest on Zoom. And participated by decorating my living room and dancing around to the music of Liverpool,  the house band.
        Now that I think about it Stephen, when you mentioned planting the flowers to help with keeping the soil healthy…I think maybe I saw a special about Rainbow on CBS Sunday morning. The way you describe it sounds soo familiar!
        I think they interviewed a man, who was talking about the flowers…and there were tie-die clothes or flags hanging on a forest path…and they talked about probably the LEOs as well  I bet…and the varying opinions about gathering. I hadn’t thought of that in a long time!
        Do know the man interviewed talked about it being a peaceful gathering.
        That is beautiful to think of so many different people coming together peacefully, while celebrating differences as well as things in common!
        It sounds like you had a chance to meet individuals one on one as well as participate in group events. A lovely balance! What memories for you!
        Oh yeah the other gatherings I’ve attended are VW ones…they can also be colorful with plenty of tie-dye:-)

        The way you describe the meeting or Rainbow Moot, (sorry couldn’t resist since you mentioned Tolkien) also makes me think of the Quaker meetings. Unless I’m mistaken thought there was no direct head in those meetings either?  Granted the Quakers probably weren’t wearing tie-dye…lighting straw men, welcoming those who nod to Goddesses…or praying and chanting in those numbers.

        I can imagine that is eerie! Just as you describe it!  All those voices raised together in chant! Hard not to imagine a tingle of electricity in the air!

        I have a different story about Chanting involves Monks… and it was kind of an eerie happening too but not sure the right JCF category for it. Time? Spirit? History? It happened at the Cloisters in NY and I’ve never forgotten it. It just one of those things perhaps to leave to the mystery!

        Really enjoy the idea of wandering through the festival. That’s one of my fave way of experiencing gatherings.

        Oh and how can I forget the Cherokee Kituwah! Except it is more a gathering of Natives selling their crafts along with some story telling.
        The Zuni’s who came to Asheville…it was cute…they must have driven, but it was night by the time they arrived in NC. They told me, they thought the trees were mountains! Well it’s definitely a change of scenery from Mesas and Quaking Aspens… and Scant Cottonwoods and escarpments!

        Your experience with Rainbow sounds like “quite the adventure!”

        And the Story telling! Brilliant! Fits right in with Myth/Adventure/Experience!
        I am sure many stories unfolded while you were there!

        Thank you so much for sharing this Stephen!



        Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for this week’s jaunt.

        See you next TIME. ;^)




        Thank You, Mark! Though we only ask MythBlast essayists to spend the week with us, you always give more, despite all the other demands on your time. Of course, JCF’s hope is that the conversation continues on, beyond the MythBlast authors’ participation (some threads have continued to unfold over the course of many months, sometimes morphing in unexpected directions and taking on a life of their own – and then a couple have been revived as much as a year later).

        I’m already looking forward to next “TIME”

        Until then, thanks for coming to play with us in COHO!

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