MythBlast | The Hearth of Community

In the birth of a new year and in the darkness, and for a lot of us in North America right now, serious cold of winter, I am struck by how people have for thousands of years turned to the warmth of hearth and community as they sought faith that spring would return. We seek connection with one another – to find the proverbial ties that bind us (a proverb that emerges from the earliest Pre-Indo European roots of the word connect, meaning to tie) – as we turn our faces to the firelight. It is our solace, and I think often our inspiration, and strength, and joy as humans wandering, and sometimes stumbling, through our lives.

This sense of connection has been one of the gifts in my life as I’ve followed the beckoning of mythology, finding community who enthusiastically share stories and ideas. And as I think about this, I realize that this sense of weaving together, of tying people and ideas and places and stories together, was a core motivation for Joseph Campbell throughout his life and work. It is arguably his greatest genius.In 1983, Campbell spoke with New York Times Book Review Editor D. J. R. Bruckner, discussing the arc of a long career seeking and unfolding that weave, in a conversation rather appropriately entitled “Joseph Campbell: 70 Years of Making Connections.”

In one thought that captures a sense of how Campbell saw the interlacing of people, place, and ideas, about a moment early in his professional life, he says:

 I was five years without a job. I went out to California looking for one and settled down in Carmel, where I met John Steinbeck, who was also broke. That was an important moment for me, especially getting to know his collaborator, Ed Ricketts, who’s the doctor in his novels. Ricketts was an intertidal biologist and I had been interested in biology from my school days. Talking with Ricketts, I realized that between mythology and biology there is a very close association. I think of mythology as a function of biology; it’s a production of the human imagination, which is moved by the energies of the organs of the body operating against each other. These are the same in human beings all over the world and this is the basis for the archetypology of myth.
For the last several years, I’ve had the rather remarkable privilege of working with the Joseph Campbell Foundation as a member of its board. It is an organization that lives and breathes that sense of connection; describing itself as “A Network of Information. A Community of Individuals.” JCF’s website has served as a metaphorical hearth for thousands of people around the world.
In these beginning moments of a new year, I am particularly excited to see how a next generation of this sense of communitas is unfolding. JCF has many exciting new ventures planned for 2018 to strengthen connection.
The first one is an invitation. For a number of years, JCF has been collecting and sharing resources on mythology in a database on We would like to invite you to join us there, and share your thoughts on the best places to explore mythology – in writing, the arts, education, and more.
Won’t you join us? You will add a log to the fire and make the hearth blaze far more warmly.
Click to suggest a resource for Myth Resources – A Database of All Things Mythological.
on] Click here!

All the best,

Leigh Melander, Ph.D.

About Leigh

Leigh has an eclectic background in the arts and organizational development, working with inviduals and organizations in the US and internationally for over 20 years. She has a doctorate in cultural mythology and psychology and wrote her dissertation on frivolity as an entry into the world of imagination. Her writings on mythology and imagination can be seen in a variety of publications, and she has appeared on the History Channel, as a mythology expert. She also hosts a radio who on an NPR community affiliate: Myth America, an exploration into how myth shapes our sense of identity. Leigh and her husband opened Spillian, an historic lodge and retreat center celebrating imagination in the Catskills, and works with clients on creative projects. She is honored to have previously served as the Vice President of the Joseph Campbell Foundation Board of Directors.

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