I’ve been carving a staff for Gary Cook for his upcoming opening night for the documentary on faery folk in New Zealand, ‘Voices from the Forest’. (See www.faeryrealms.com for news of this.) The task has been challenging, as not only is there the labyrinth of aesthetics to negotiate, and materials etc, but also the labyrinth of values, mythology and symbols. I have been learning a bit about the Norse runes,
and the mythology behind them. Odin was an heroic seeker of the runes, impaling himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights in order to get the runes. It struck me after reading the Women’s encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets that indeed he didn’t invent them, but ‘won’ them (by imitating the travail of women in childbirth, traditionally 9 days being the time of a mother’s seclusion, the article tells us). So, wheels within wheels… Did he supplant the goddess, wrongly? Or does every artist have to sacrifice ‘himself to himself’ as Odin says of himself on the Tree? In order to win for himself the runes of true art? Or should we emulate Bragi, who became the greatest bard of all by letting Idunn his wife carve the runes on his tongue?
So, we can’t blindly trust any hero to tell us what to do, no matter if they are the ‘All-father’ Odin himself. We must bring our moral compass as well as an open mind, to all our encounters with gods and goddesses, no less than with ‘ordinary’ mortals. We are in a labyrinth – it is called Life on Earth. That’s an exciting adventure, the stuff of page-turning epics. We need that compass, though.
I think this is what makes a good Story: it has the twists and turns and blind alleys of a labyrinth, but also the author is showing the heroes and heroines using their moral compasses, trying to steer a straight course morally while dealing with the chaos of the unfolding multi-dimensional labyrinth of life.
I was up to here this morning in my (re)reading of Lord of the Rings. Gandalf at the last debate says:
“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
So, we have it from the greatest wizard of all Middle Earth: the defense of the True West is a matter of weeding the fields set before us. And we need that moral compass, to tell what may be weed and what be wheat – or some other good plant!