Statutory warning: Slightly self indulgent post ahead.
When I was about eight or nine, my parents got me the Children's Britannica encyclopaedia. I had already started my love affair with books and one of my favourite haunts at that point was the school library ( I was abroad at that time - so enormous school, grounds, libraries and the works) - sitting on the bean bag in the kids section and getting lost in some Enid Blyton or the other.
The encyclopaedia was quite intimidating early on - twenty glossy, crimson, hardbound books embossed with gold lettering and thus, were relegated to the highest shelf in the library where I could look at them but could avoid reading them. Then for some reason I decided I wanted to do a (self-motivated) project on France I clambered up on to the showcase using the lower shelves as foot holds and took out "P" to search for Paris and instead I found the other Paris (of Troy) thus starting off the other great love affair of my life- that of all things mythological.
Something about the whole Trojan War fired my imagination – a whole world full of gods and goddesses – colourful, flamboyant, manipulative, and magical – completely unlike the rather passive awareness of the Christianity which I had been exposed to at that time (did not have too much awareness to the Hindu pantheon beyond my mother's evening diya ritual).
And I devoured every single (extremely sanitized) article in sight in the encyclopaedia – the cross references, flipping through each page trying to find something I had missed. Looking at Roman mythology but slightly contemptuously (after all, it was but a copy of the Greeks, but with different names). I had favourites – Athena, Odysseus, and Artemis – and the ones I didn’t like – Aphrodite, Pan.
And eventually moving on to Egyptian (Isis and Osiris), Norse (Freya, Thor and others), Indian and my eternal obsession with Celtic and Arthurian legends – especially of the Avalon and the Lady of the lake. (Incidentally, my first choice for a blog name WAS Avalon – which was also my chat alter ego for many years. Unfortunately it was not available). The idea of a mystical, mythical island hidden to most, the tales of Morgan le Faye and the complicated relationship with her half brother Arthur, Nimue and Merlin - has just captivated me for so many years – much more than the legends of the knights.
What I find most fascinating about these is the fact that while they are so geographically distant – there are such recurring themes amongst all of them. The Gods of elements (which I suppose one could argue was inevitable – since the elements were what people were exposed to) but then you take the Gods like Pan, Loki and maybe a Narad - the mischief mongering theme? The ambivalent relationship between the king of Gods and his siblings and father? Athena and Saraswati- both goddesses of wisdom in a sense, would have an appropriately equal importance in their respective pantheons I think. The constant death-rebirth theme (Osiris, Persephone – and most interestingly the Jesus as well).
Maybe consciously or unconsciously all follow the Jungian archetypes – the hero’s journey, the patriarch, the maiden, the earth mother within the main and sub texts as well.
I suspect this mythological hangover from my childhood has also led to the curiosity about theology in young adulthood – whether it’s Hinduism or Christianity (never got any decent books on Islam though) and even medieval history. It’s a strange paradox therefore that I got terrible grades in more contemporary history which we had to study.
Some random trivia to end this post - most of the days of the week are named after these mythological Gods. Saturday, Sunday, Monday are easy but what about Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday?
P.S. Disclaimer: I have NOT researched this article. It has been written from whatever minuscule knowledge I have garnered over the years – and I have forgotten much more than I remember. This is not an academic treatise but rather, online musing about a topic which has enthralled me for many years. Any inaccuracies please excuse!
P.P.S. I might continue this post with Hindu mythology - some of the sub texts, symbology and rituals are very, VERY interesting.