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The Meaning of Myth as a Guide for Life

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The Mythic Journey

The Meaning of Myth
as a Guide for Life

Liz Greene and
Juliet Sharman-Burke

 

This book is now out of print

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Myth is the original self-help psychology. For centuries, human beings have used myths, fairy tales and folklore to explain life's mysteries and make them bearable – from why the seasons change, through complex relationship issues, to the enigma of death. Jesus explained his teachings through parables, giving his followers difficult problems in an easy-to-understand form. Plato communicated abstruse philosophical concepts through simple myths and allegories. In ancient Hindu medicine, when someone with mental or emotional difficulties consulted a doctor, the physician prescribed a story on which to meditate, thus helping the patient to find his or her own solution to the problem. It is often our linear, causally bound, rational thinking that obscures the deeper meaning and resolution of life's dilemmas. Myths have the mysterious capacity to contain and communicate paradoxes, allowing us to see through, around and over the dilemma to the real heart of the matter.

The Mythic Journey - back cover

Over the following pages, we will explore significant myths, some well known and others less familiar, from Graeco-Roman, Hebrew, Egyptian, Hindu, Native American, Maori, Celtic and Norse, as well as other sources, which relate to the various stages of life and the important challenges all human beings encounter. Rather than following the familiar format of a 'mythological dictionary' which gives snippets of interpretation for each of a long list of ancient deities and heroes, we will follow, instead, the format of a human life, weaving the ancient tales around fundamental human experiences, beginning with family relationships and ending with death as the final mythic journey. Each part of the book can be read and reread independently of the others; but as a whole, the book takes the reader on a journey through the major rites of passage of a human life.

Each part focuses on a particular area of life and the characteristic conflicts and joys we all encounter. Specific myths are, in turn, used to illustrate particular issues, both positive and negative, relevant to that sphere of life. The story is told first, and then a psychological overview is given which helps us to understand the deeper meaning and application of the myth to our own lives.

The purpose of this book is to show you how mythic stories and imagery can bring relief from internal conflicts and help you to discover greater depth, richness and meaning in life. One of the great healing functions of myth is to show us that we are not alone with our feelings, fears, conflicts and aspirations. We learn from myth that sibling rivalry is as old as time; that Oedipus is alive and well and is not limited to the psychoanalytic couch; that the eternal triangle is indeed eternal and has been written about since human beings first learned to write; that beauty, talent, power and wealth bring their own forms of suffering; and that in the darkness of loneliness, failure and loss we have always discovered light and new hope.