What Is Mythworking?

It is to be found everywhere; but if you do not find it in your own house, you will find it nowhere. It is a living substance that can be discovered only in places inhabited by man. It is the only substance from which the Philosopher’s Stone can be prepared, and without that substance no genuine silver or gold can be made […] It is before everybody’s eyes; no one can live without it; everybody uses it; the poor usually possess more of it than the rich; the ignorant esteem it highly, but the learned ones often throw it away. The children play with it in the street, and yet it is invisible. It can be perceived by the sense of feeling, but it cannot be seen with the material eye.

Mythworking is a major facet of my practice. It is a practice for building personal and community power, and for giving personal and community divinities an outlet for self-expression. It’s one part sacred drama, one part revelation, and one part self-examination. It is a mystical practice, and over the years, it has been very fruitful for me. In short, mythworking is any ritual or spiritual act which focuses on narratives to dig into, break out of, or transform the stories we tell. These could be sacred stories about the divine, or it could be narratives that sound like, “I always have the worst luck.”

Mythworking is important because stories aren’t just dead words. Mythology is a living substance that can be transformed and harnessed to potent effect. Narratives are a tool for understanding. They frame our experiences. They shape the way we perceive and change the way energies manifest around us. By recognizing and taking command of our narratives, we also take command of our perceptions, our experiences, and luck.

I began mythworking years ago because I was looking for an answer to a problem. Mythology, as it stands, reflects the values of ancient peoples. We have, thankfully, grown beyond that. We need not erase the old myths, or re-write them. It’s important to remember who the gods were. It’s equally important to be honest about what’s ancient and what’s not. But we also need myths fort the modern day. I believe, anyway, that they can’t be written — they must be lived. Mythworking is a way of bringing living myths into being.

Later, I learned that mythworking could be used to help people with emotional, spiritual, and psychological healing. I also realized that it was being used, unconsciously, and in a negative way, by mystics against other mystics, or even entire communities. Learning how these things worked helped me to keep myself safe.

Just as important as those facets of mythworking which involve the gods or communities are those which have only to do with one’s own life. Becoming aware of, and gaining mastery over, and carefully re-writing the stories we live and tell ourselves about our own lives, or that we tell other people about the gods, is eye-opening.

Techniques For Mythworking

Black Bubble – In cooperation with your powers, setting aside a space which is you and only you, devoid of any external spiritual influences. Every narrative contains characters. Knowing who you are in the context of your own mythology, hearing your own voice so that you know what isn’t you, and ultimately setting yourself on the path to self-mastery and self-knowledge are all things which this practice facilitates. This practice, done regularly, really helps with telling what is gnosis and what is your imagination. 

Meta-Mythical Meditation – Documenting your stories, as you tell them to yourself, and reviewing the evidence you have that these stories are true. Also, taking the time to trace your beliefs to their source. You may be surprised at how unfounded some of them are, and how many of them were put into your head by someone else. It can be terrifying. But facing that terror transforms you, giving you the power to decide which myths you live in, and which ones you don’t. This practice protects you from people who try to twist your concerns, experiences, and uncertainties into a narrative of angry deities or dangerous spirits who can only be dealt with by doing exactly what the human in question tells you to do. 

Meta-mythical communion – This is fundamentally both an invocation and journeywork practice. Deities are more than the characters of the same name which appear in their mythology. Some of them are remarkably open to stepping outside the myths and mythical patterns to negotiate with your about how they will manifest for you. They may also have surprising things to say about the way that they hope their mythology will evolve, and what new myths they’d like to inhabit. This practice is pre-requisite for creating new myths. If a deity is manifesting in a way that is unhelpful to you or to your community, this practice can help you re-negotiate the mythic templates that drive those interactions, facilitating more harmonious interactions. 

Personal Myth-Alchemy – As you begin to work with narratives, and see the way in which deities incarnate into them, as well as how humans become entwined with them, you start to see story and narrative almost as an etheric substance that can be manipulated. You can then pull mythologies out of yourself, re-forging them into other mythologies, in a way which transforms how mystical energies interact with you. It can be a powerful way to not just let go of toxic beliefs, but to harvest them to empower magical tools, craft protections and to permanently grant you specific metaphysical abilities (until you reforge those stories into something else). This practice can help you transcend negative self-talk, persistent patterns of “bad luck” or other ruts you are stuck in. 

Communal Myth-Alchemy – Communities have their own narratives about magic and divinity. Some of these are wonderful, and others… well, not so much. Through mythworking, it’s possible to recognize and transform unhealthy community narratives into ones that serve the goals of your community and its deities. These practices help you define and re-define, as a community, what the benefits and consequences of practice might be, what roles divinities have within the community, and what “symptoms” a person experiences as a result of initiation. It can also allow a community to take stock of patterns of human behavior which may no longer be serving the community. 

Rites of Legend – Rites of Legend are, fundamentally, an application of trance mediumship and assorted other trance states. The thesis behind this practice is that new myths are better lived than written. Those who are the characters in the new myth show up on the stage, play out their drama, and depart, leaving space for those not in an altered state to make meaning out of the experience. This practice is helpful in resolving community trauma, explaining parts of reality that the community finds problematic, and can sometimes reveal powerful new magic. Under some circumstances, this practice can be used as a way to transform a situation, almost like a very large spell involving many different divinities. 

Story Elevation – Sometimes we simply have stories that the gods tell us. We share them, and perhaps they resonate with others. By elevating a story and its characters, you can acknowledge that story’s sacredness to the community, and invite its powers to dwell within it.

Myth Embodiment – Lastly, a group of people can act out extant myths as a jumping-off point for exegesis, or a way to more deeply engage with the experiences of deities.

 

2 Comments

  1. Yay, synchronicity. I’m writing a story called “The Crocodile God,” about the nearly-forgotten Tagalog sea god Haik. I’m writing it because I couldn’t find any of Haik’s stories or rituals, so I made a new story to fill the void in my soul. And like most of my urban-fantasy, it’s pretty damn political–the Haik of the story is an undocumented immigrant because HE IS LITERALLY UNDOCUMENTED IN REAL LIFE, THANKS TO SPAIN.

    I get the feeling that Haik isn’t telling me much of his old myths PRECISELY because I’m so caught up in a Moana-type “rediscover my ancestors’ culture” journey–but unlike the quasi-Polynesian culture of Moana, the Filipino cultures haven’t fared nearly as well thanks to how badly colonization has wrecked the islands’ psyche. (Especially the Tagalog tribe of my ancestors.) I mean, I’m already depressed to all hell and decolonization hurts enough, so I don’t need to get saddled with a longing for the “mythic Philippines” any more than I already am.

    Basically, “Haik wants me to be happy, being one of my ancestral deities -> But decolonization makes me unhappy -> Oh hey, she likes writing! HERE WRITE SOME STUFF FOR ME.”

    Interestingly enough, the story itself is prose (I’m posting the chapters of the first draft online) but I also entered it into a writing contest which happens to have a film deal AND publication as part of the grand prize–a very interesting twist to that last part about “myth embodiment.”

    And yes, Haik is basically demanding a role in a play that I’m writing as well.

    It’s so nice to have words for “this stuff the gods tell me to do.”

    1. Yeah. Here is me, looking at Hermes, asking “Why do you want me to write this super basic post about things I do? Who will find that interesting?”

      And I do, mostly because puppy dog eyes.

      And then you write this comment. And I’m like. “Why are you literally always right? It’s not fair!”

      Yes. Having words to describe what we do, and knowing that we aren’t alone in doing it. It’s important.

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