Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mythology and New Ideas

*For my posts, I will draw from a Tarot or Oracle deck*

Today’s draw is from the Oracle of the Dragonfae deck by Lucy Cavendish and the card is: Lady of the New Buds.

This card is about planting seeds and the nurturing and tenderness that we need to give a new idea, project, relationship or literally, a garden.
It would be easy to talk about the nurturing of a new idea, or writing project, but I’m going to go in a different direction.
Another aspect of this card is the concept that change is positive and that by holding on tight to the person you believe you must be, you are running the risk of denying your own life force.
This thought brings me to a topic that I thought about a lot yesterday: cultural myths and legends.

I grew up on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona and have a high respect for the Native Americans spiritual beliefs and mythology.
Yesterday, a friend came across a beautiful Youtube video of a Navajo Early Morning Blessing. I watched and loved it.
But, on the sidebar in Youtube were other videos and many of them were about the Navajo Skinwalkers.
I always chuckle when I see those videos.
I grew up with that myth, except, as a child, we didn’t cal them skinwalkers, we called it the “Wolfman”.
I never gave it a second though until I was an adult and actually looked into the stories of the Navajo Skinwalker. And of course, as it is now, I came across a myriad of ideas about what it really is.

In looking at the Youtube videos, some use the shape-shifting werewolves of many of our paranormal fiction today as to what the Skinwalker is. Some used images of the Navajo’s winter deities.
Other images were from the photography of Edward S. Curtis who captured the costumes and ceremonies of the native people of the southwest.

But, back to what I knew as a child-why were we calling it the wolfman?
Many times as a kid, I’d hop in the back of the neighbors pick-up truck because a skinwalker was spotted and we were going to go hunt it down!
I knew it to be a person with the skin of an animal over them in order to take on and become the power of that animal. The stories told to us about them were scary.
As an adult, I read stories of them as all powerful beasts that attacked in the night on the reservation. They were connected to witchcraft.

But, as with any myth-what is the truth?
Do myths evolve and change according to the evolution of a culture?
Did the stories change because of the introduction of Christianity?
Were stories made up in order to throw off the nosey and interfering white man?
Did the decline of tradition and the passing of the tribal storytellers make the stories change?

These questions made me think of the paranormal genre in general. As a reader/writer in this genre, do you want the stories to be based on real folklore and mythology, or do you like to see out of the box thinking on the subject at hand?
We’ve seen a lot of that with the Vampire mythology.
Many times I’ve thought about writing stories based on what I experienced growing up on a reservation, but I stop each time because I don’t want to write (even fictitiously) about something from my child’s perspective, when it might be altering facts or misconstruing a culture’s belief system.

Yet, in the urban fantasy I’m working on now, I’m taking liberties with an old Appalachian group of people that really doesn’t exist now. (or do they?)

I’ve always believed that our stories are what create our beliefs.
What are the current stories about vampires doing to change our beliefs in what they are and represent today?
Do we evolve as a society because of how the mythology changes?

Back to The Lady of the New Buds- we, as paranormal writer/readers are making a stamp on the mythology of the world with the new ideas and out of the box storytelling we create.

That’s pretty powerful stuff.


Tabitha Blake said...

I think you are right. As writers we mold what the readers perceive as lore. Like vampires for example. They started off as nasty snarling beast and now we have wrote them as romantic and sexy lovers. Most would have thought no way but the twining of words is a very powerful thing. We have taken something repulsive and made it attractive.

I also wanted to tell you something it is really weird you would mention skin walkers because I have a book on the back burner right now that is about skin walkers. It is about the Navajo indians and their believes in the skin walker. But like you said you have to be careful when writing about a culture you are not familiar with. It takes a lot of research. The Native American culture is fascinating. Great blog!

Brenda said...

Wow, great post. Very informative.

Sheri Fredricks said...

Cultural folklore contains so many incredible stories! Please blog on another folklore from the reservation again some time. I'd love to read about it.