This week marks our transition from March to April. Liminality seems pervasive in our world as of late, but in that uncertainty, that "antistructure," as anthropologist Victor Turner calls it, so may we also recognize our nascent virtual "communitas." March, having received its name from Roman Mars, traditionally ushered in the new year and was the first month of the old Roman calendar. April, thus, was 2nd and sacred to Venus. According to Ovid:
Some there are who grudge thee the honour of the month, and would snatch it from thee, Venus. For they say that April was named from the ‘open’ (apertum) season, because spring then ‘opens’ (aperit) all things, and the sharp frost-bound cold departs, and earth unlocks her teeming soil, though kindly Venus claims the month and lays her hand on it. She indeed sways, and well deserves to sway, the world entire; she owns a kingdom second to that of no god; she gives laws to heaven and earth and to her native sea, and by her inspiration she keeps every species in being. She created all the gods—'twere long to number them. (Fasti 4.85-95, trans. Frazer)But the Romans this month also had room for another major Goddess. So too Magna Mater (Anatolian Cybele), Mother of the Gods, was said to have been celebrated, her cult received by Rome in 205 BCE. Paean—Apollo in his healing aspect—spoke of Her arrival thus: “Fetch the Mother of the Gods; she is to be found on Mount Ida” (Ovid, Fasti 4.262-264). The Megalesia was held from April 4 – 12th to honor Magna Mater. Also this week, witness the Venus-Pleiades conjunction April 3rd . Live online observation at The Virtual Telescope Project. The Pleiades were clearly on the mind of Ovid this month as well: “The Pleiads will commence to lighten the burden that rests on their father's shoulders ; seven are they usually called, but six they usually are” (Fasti 4.169-170).
So I came back to New York in 1929 and Booommm! . . . I wanted to write, I wanted to be an anthropologist – I didn’t know what! A new world was around. So I said, “To hell with it, Columbia!” I’m writing short stories. I discover American literature, Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, the whole bunch. Hemingway just knocks me over, those early things of his – In Our Time, Men Without Women, The Sun Also Rises. Like every callow young author, I wanted to write like him; meanwhile Joyce was interesting. Five years, no job! . . . Writing stories nobody would buy.
For the Athenians, April was a month sacred to Apollo. To honor the Olympian, they established the Delphinia, a festival, according to Plutarch (Life of Theseus 18.1), that Theseus was said to have participated in “on the sixth day of the month Munychion [April/May in Athenian Calendar].” Modern Hellenic practitioners continue to observe the day. This week, thus, begins our Apollonian meditations for the remaining month of April as a Month of Healing, collectively and individually. Like many divinities in Ancient Greek religion, Apollo accrued countless epithets, one of which was “Paean,” dating as early as Mycenaean sources ca. 1450s BCE. The title designated him as Patron Deity of Healing. We also know from an account in Book 1 of Homer’s Iliad, that Apollo was wont to send epidemics as when he released a pestilence upon the Achaean soldiers for slighting one of his priests. This peculiar duplicity reflected in the young Olympian suggests both apotropaic ritual and early instance of homeopathy. With the growing impact of social distancing, isolation and quarantining, perhaps it is not unlikely that these conditions bring to our mythic sensibility Apollo, the one who works from afar—but also reminds us of our mortality. His oracular that resounded at Delphi often sent believers into solitary self-reflection in search of inner healing and knowledge when faced with wider societal concerns. While many of us are homebound in these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, we invite you to ruminate the Delphic aphorisms for their abiding wisdom. Here are the three most famous, inscribed at the Temple at Delphi: γνῶθι σαυτὸν Know yourself μηδὲν ἄγαν Nothing in excess ἐγγύα πάρα δ'ἄτη Certainty brings ruin To our dear health-care workers and medical experts around the world: you are the true agents of our healing and light of wisdom. We send our sincerest blessings for your safety during these trying times.
Read the fantastic, mythic stories of a great mythic storyteller!
The journey of the hero … I consider the pivotal myth that unites the spiritual adventure of ancient heroes with the modern search for meaning. As always, the hero must venture forth from the world of common-sense consciousness into a realm of supernatural wonder. There he encounters fabulous forces – demons and angels, dragons and helping spirits. After a fierce battle he wins a decisive victory over the powers of darkness. Then he returns from his mysterious adventure with the gift of knowledge or of fire, which he bestows on his fellow man.
PAGAN Holiday, May Day, 5/1 – This week we transition out of April with the ushering in of May Day, a popular, public festival celebrating Spring across Europe and North America. May Day has roots stretching back to centuries-old pre-Christian beliefs in such historical customs as Roman Floralia, Germanic Walpurgisnacht, and Gaelic Beltane. The date remains one of the few widely enjoyed holidays across contemporary paganism, native-faith Europe, and secular festivities alike in the Western world.
Our outward-oriented consciousness, addressed to the demands of the day, may lose touch with these inward forces; and the myths, states Jung, when correctly read, are the means to bring us back in touch. They are telling us in picture language of powers of the psyche to be recognized and integrated in our lives, powers that have been common to the human spirit forever, and which represent that wisdom of the species by which man has weathered the millenniums.