Symbolism in Myths

symbolism in myths

Myths are jam-packed with symbolic levels that once acknowledged, can have a tremendous impact on human consciousness.  Myths are also designed to have a multi-layered effect upon the observer.

One myth is like a miniature world.  A world in which there are seemingly infinite avenues of wisdom imparted.  Each avenue within a story points in a philosophical direction.  Moving within a myth, we are offered symbolic cues – signposts, roadmaps, landmarks – all of these are waiting for our awareness to discover.

And once uncovered, these symbolic breadcrumbs can catalyze our understanding.  Why? Because myths are also a training ground for the psyche.  What we, as “civilized” humans may not be able to act out in society – we can certainly get a taste for in myth.  The trick is to submerge within the myth and intimately relate to the characters, setting and direction.

Consider the deities in myth.   Gods and goddesses in myth are symbolic archetypes.  Deities are “in your face” – typically grossly overdramatized.  Honestly, is Zeus a subtle dude?  I think not.  There is reason for this.  Gods and goddesses are technicolor stunners designed to accentuate the personal sagas each and every human encounters in life.

These high-voltage personalities magnetize the reader.  They pull at our consciousness and coax an enlarged perspective of life, behavior and action.  Egos in myth get blown up (maybe even out of proportion), so we can get a magnified view of a personality.  This magnification prompts natural identification to our own personality traits.

symbolism in myths
Psyche and Cupid

Even if we can’t align our understanding with the mentality of a god or goddess, we might encounter paradigm shifting through their attributes.  Each deity has their own set of symbols.  Zeus has got lighting rods.  Diana, her bow and arrow.  Hypnos has his poppies.  Astarte, the lion.  Epona, rides the horse.  On and on, we see sacred emblems associated with all the mentionable immortals.  Our consciousness can benefit from a romp through these attributes.

Learning the connection between a god and their symbol can galvanize keen wisdom.  Adopting a specialized symbol in your meditations can be revolutionary too.  Give it a try.  Sometimes our connections with the so-called “inanimate” can be more profound than anything else.

Lastly, and most overlooked is scenery in myth.  Epic environments can yield major epiphanies in understanding.  From Mount Olympus to the River Styx – Valhalla to the Yggdrasill – landscapes and landmarks in myth can be real earth-shakers for our awareness.  As you are moving through a myth, consider yourself a tourist and take in the local scenery.

Recognize the elemental properties within each scenic feature (fire, earth, air, water) and contemplate these implications.  Ask yourself how these features can broaden your views.  Like, why does Cernunnos hang out in the forest?  What makes volcanoes prime real estate for Pele?  Take these questions a step further and ask what these landscapes represent to you.  Your responses may surprise you.

To be sure, the realm of myth is endless in its ability to serve up a feast of perspectives to our hungry spiritual senses.  In the end, it’s what we do with myths that reaps the highest reward.  How we interpret them – how we pick them apart – how we translate their meanings as they apply in our own lives…this is what can potentially feed our souls.

I hope this article on variable symbolism in myths encourages you to take a fresh look at the ancient stories of all cultures.  Moreover, I hope this innovative approach to myths unlocks your own sacred knowing.

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