As I explore my Mythic Self, I find that I don’t like her very much.
While, on the one hand, this is a better thing to find out *before* I cross over to the other side, it does beg the question of if it is possible to change your Mythic Self, or if it is an eternal facet of your soul. If the former, the path forward is about shaping the Mythic Self. All things considered, it seems worth a shot.
At some point, her name will be revealed to me. For now, I am calling her Neanika, from the Greek word “Neanikos,” which means spirited/mischievous. Certainly, she is both of those things.
To Recap: What Is The Mythic Self?
In apotheosis narratives, the mortals to be deified often had two names, one corresponding to their mundane life, the other corresponding to the deity they would become. Herakles is the Mythic persona of the mortal once known as Alkides. Asklepios was also known as Paieon (arguably, the actual name of this deity, though he was venerated by his mortal name). Semele became Thyone when deified.
Mythic reality is the intersection of the higher, eternal reality, and the ephemeral human reality. It expresses, through myth symbols (which can include objects, actions, events and many other things which might make up a story), the eternal truths about the divine. The Mythic Persona is who a person will be to humanity, once they are made immortal.
Even if you are not pursuing deification, knowing who your Mythic Self is can help you understand your spiritual trajectory, your internal issues, your filter and your relationships with deities. Understanding these things can help you improve your relationship with deities, just as knowing your mundane tendencies tends to improve your relationships with other humans.
What I say about my Mythic Persona must be understood in that light. I do not see it as literally true, or as expressing an opinion about any entity other than myself. Rather, I see it as a symbolic expression of who I am on a deeper level. Put another way: I have slapped a GUI on the ineffable parts of my personality so that I can understand them better.
Nothing about Neanika is to be understood as literally true about me. She is the seeds of my divine self, only.
What I’ve Learned About My Mythic Self, And Why I Don’t Like Her
Neanika is a trickster, though not in the same way that Hermes is. Like all tricksters, she has the function of shaking things up to prevent stagnation. However, Hermes is a highly civilized trickster who nimbly balances his role as the god who tears up unjust decrees and tears down unnecessary laws with his undeniably central role to the Olympian establishment. Neanika, on the other hand, engages in no such balancing act. Her pranks, while they do have the higher aim of revealing deeper truths of reality, can sometimes be violent and malevolent in character, especially if the target of her mischief is an established authority whom she perceives as having misused power. She also steals and vandalizes things, when it suits her purpose.
In human form, her hair is golden, and tightly braided. She wears leather armor and sometimes a pair of cutlasses, though she is just as frequently seen with a pair of paintbrushes or a book and quill. She can take any animal form, though she commonly appears as panther, crow, raven, black mare, or squirrel. She possesses a key which can take many forms, but its purpose is to open doors in reality, enabling her to step from anywhere, to anywhere, at whim.
She represents immense mutability. As a shape-shifter and a spirit of both decomposition and generation (most commonly of plants), she’s the sort of character about whom very little is completely predictable. Her lesser impulses are as changeable as the wind, though they are unified by a grander, pedagogical impulse.
On the plus side, she is immensely gentle and protective toward human beings, even though she often gripes about their sense of entitlement. She might scold a human for having a bad perspective (if they were particularly greedy with power), but she would eviscerate a being three times her size (or die trying) if they mistreated a human. Any human.
Her perspective is grand and sweeping: all things end, and even deities are tiny in comparison to the immensity of the universe in its fullness. She speaks of the birth and death of stars, and the relative smallness of life’s brief flickering on Earth, as well as the vacuity of empire-building. I have seen her clamber up to what I can only call “The OverPlace” to look down on various realms and to see the flow of time.
Even in human form, she is feral and unkempt with a wild look in her eyes. She can tell, by scent, the character of a soul and smell their personality.
Perhaps what I like least about her is the way she responds to those who attempt to impose authority on her. Rather than ignoring them, or bucking them, the response is something more like, “Ah, you think that because you have power than you are entitled to make me do whatever you like?” Whereupon she proceeds to snare them in freshly sprouted thorny vines, or grab them by the throat and force them to the ground, demanding submission. “Is it fair that I should do so to you?” She will ask, smiling with gleaming fangs and flashing yellow eyes. “If you think it unfair, I recommend you not do likewise to others.”
While I do not like what I see, it explains a lot. My mundane persona suffers immensely from social anxiety. I think, on some level, what really frightens me is the idea that I might behave toward my friends the way that Neanika behaves toward the other mythic figures in my meditations. On some deep level, I am, metaphysically, a jerk. The awareness of this fuels and exacerbates my tendency to have panic attacks.
Likewise, it explains, very clearly, what it is I need to learn from Hermes: to use persuasion, not force, to balance mutability with maintaining good will. He has things in his wheelhouse that Neanika simply doesn’t, and possesses a social grace which I wish she would acquire. Thankfully, while she is not the friendliest of creatures, she respects Hermes tremendously. Like the Bacchic Zeus with Thyone, I believe that Hermes is trying to model for me a better way to be a trickster. Or, at least, how not to be an asshole.
Lastly, the consumate rage at the powerful oppressing the weak was close enough to values held by Ariadne that this aspect of my Mythic Persona got tangled in her divine influx, somewhat coloring the way I was perceiving her. Knowing this, I will be able to filter that out, and understand that goddess a bit better. Realizations like this are actually one of the more important reasons to do this kind of work.
Finding The Patterns: Reducing The Mythic Self To Epithets
It would be easy to say, “These things!” and simply accept that this is who I am without delving any further. Yet, as stated, each of these qualities of my Mythic Persona is actually a symbol for some higher principle. If I can figure out what those principles are, I may be able to figure out a different way to express them.
The first thing I want to do is to break down the general descriptions into a collection of descriptors, or titles and epithets, which make the themes a little clearer. Then, as with a deity, look at what patterns form to see what these facets are pointing to.
- Wild One
- Feral One
- Of Gleaming Fangs
- Of Brilliant Swords
- Mangey One
- Of Keen Nose
- Of Growing Things
- Leader of Trees
- Of thorny vines
- Of Rot
- Of Destruction
- Protector of Humans
- Of All Places
I can group these into about four cohesive aspects:
- A Freedom/Lawlessness Aspect: Rebellious, Lawless, Wild, Feral, Unyeilding, Whiskey-loving
- A Justice Aspect: Vigilante, Protector of Humans, Of Keen Nose, Of Brilliant Swords
- A Natural Cycles Aspect: Wild, Feral, Of Trees, Of Thorny Vines, Of Growth, Of Rot, Mangey, Fanged
- A Mutability Aspect: Key-bearing, Of All Places, Many-shaped, Thief, Vandal
So, even having simply cleaned up a mess of description into some cohesive aspects, I feel a bit better about Neanika. I realize that many of the times that she has been brutal toward an authority figure, it is largely because she felt a profound sense of injustice in their actions, and needed, with what she considered to be due force, to educate them about what they were doing wrong.
The aspect she’s missing, which she really needs to acquire from the tutelage of Hermes, is being Persuasive. It’s ok for her to occasionally resort to violence, when all other means of putting an end to injustices have been exhausted, so long as she has verbal persuasion as a part of her toolkit. Therefore, it would behoove me to do the following:
- To focus on spending time with the Persuasion-related aspects of Hermes, and slowly increase my ability to connect to him through these aspects.
- To work on connecting the descriptors (or epithets, if you will) to the higher principles which my Mythic Persona stands for.
- To make a concerted effort, during my Mythic Self meditations, to practice being Persuasive and diplomatic during those encounters where I might otherwise employ theft, violence, domination or intimidation.
To connect my own personal descriptors to my higher principles, I’m going to craft a ritual which opens a number of double-pentagrams inward toward me as an additional step in setting space for my meditations on my Mythic Self. More on that to come.