Lares, penates and ancestors

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sladeb
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Post by sladeb » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

In reading a book titled "The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung" (Edited by Meredtih Sabini, North Atlantic Books, 2002) I came across the following:

Jung is referring to the tower at Bollingen (this was a "castle" built by Jung himself with the assistance of two stonemasons - an interesting story in itself because Jung felt that the physical demands of the building balanced the mental demands of his lifes work) and makes the following observation:

"There is nothing to disturb the dead, neither electric light no telephone. Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house."

In a letter dated 29 June 1934, Jung refers to the construction of Bollingen. He notes:

"The historical form had to be to be there in order to give the ancestral souls an abode pleasing to them. I can tell you that the doyen of that corps chuckled when he found himself again in the accustomed frugal rooms, smelling of smoke and grits, and occasionally of wine and smoked bacon. As you know, in olden times the ancestral sould lived in pots in the kitchen. lares and penates are important psychological personages who should not be frightened away by too much modernity."

Note: lares and penates were domestic gods, the lares looked after the entire household whilst the penates looked after the head of the household and his immediate family. Lares were location specific, therefore if a family moved the lares did not go with them.

What fascinated me about this is that Jung felt a fundamental connection to his ancestors, to the point where he made a space for them in his household. I was also fascinated by the fact that he seemed to have felt an obligation to answer the questions left by his ancestors.

Generally when we have spoken about myths it has been in terms of the meaning for myth today, in our own lives. This is one way to consider the role of myth. But what would we get if we read the myth as a question posed to us by our ancestors? If we use the myths to connect us to our ancestors, and then ponder them in the light of questions which they have left us to answer. What then do we get from the myth? And does the myth become more meaningful in the process? And most importantly, as we answer the questions, does the raising of new questions evolve the myth even further?

This concept of the thread of the family and of feeling the weight of expectation of ones ancestors seems to me to be one of the major losses of the post-modern world. I am interested in the views of other forum contributors on the relationship they feel to their ancestors. In taoist and confucian philosophy there is a regular looking back to ones ancestors and as a consequence there is a feeling of linkage to their past. I remember as a child hearing the stories of my ancestors, told by my grandparents. I am interested to hear how others keep these stories alive. ( I guess in many ways these constitue family myths). Are your ancestors a "living" entity in your day to day life?
The one thing I have learned about the quest journey is that as soon as you draw to the close of one quest - another calls and the journey begins once more.
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nandu
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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Sladeb,

As an Indian, I cannot be not connected with my ancestors! We are a country which lives partly in the past.

My father is a Kshatriya, of the ruling warrior caste: even though in Kerala we are matrilineal, I feel that I belong to the caste of my father. Mythically, all the Kshatriya are supposed to have been descended either from the moon or the sun. My father is from the Sun dynasty, the dynasty of Lord Rama.

So every day when I look up at my ancient ancestor lording it over the lesser entities in the heavens, I feel a blast of family pride coursing through my veins.

Nandu.
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Dionysus
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Post by Dionysus » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

In a letter dated 29 June 1934, Jung refers to the construction of Bollingen. He notes:

. . . As you know, in olden times the ancestral sould lived in pots in the kitchen. lares and penates are important psychological personages who should not be frightened away by too much modernity."
Note: lares and penates were domestic gods, the lares looked after the entire household whilst the penates looked after the head of the household and his immediate family. Lares were location specific, therefore if a family moved the lares did not go with them.
Wow, this is really fascinating. Thanks for the post.
Generally when we have spoken about myths it has been in terms of the meaning for myth today, in our own lives. This is one way to consider the role of myth. But what would we get if we read the myth as a question posed to us by our ancestors? If we use the myths to connect us to our ancestors, and then ponder them in the light of questions which they have left us to answer. What then do we get from the myth? And does the myth become more meaningful in the process?
I don't see how it could not. Thew myth then takes on character and becomes what we would term "living". N'est ce pas?

The stories my grandparents told me were truly engaging. My grandmother sat on Buffalo Bill's knee and died the night of the forst moon landing. She was aware of that event and passed through the 'datk gate' with that in her head. She was a suffragette and a painter in Greenwich Village in the 1910's and married my grandfather, who had camped in the Sierra Nevadas on horseback as a boy and later worked in gold mining and was in charge of the laying of the first transatlantic phone cable from Etten Germany to NYC on the German side of the Atlantic. My mother is into geneology and i get much more than I really want to hear but this post has rekindled my interest. Thanks!

Dionysus

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