Does Myth Have Meaning?

Oedipus Explains the Riddle of the Sphinx In the pagan religion we have no ruling sacred text that guides us. There is no official book that outlines the rules and regulations of our faith. Arguably it can be said that this is one of our strengths. Instead of debating over the endless different interpretations of a single verse, we are free to go with the flow and simply believe. But where do we turn when we need some sort of basis? Where do we go to learn about our gods? More often than not, the answer is myth, but how much can be gained from mythology?

Traditionally myths were preserved through oral traditions. Details fluctuated depending on the teller, although the spirit of the story was hopefully kept in tact. When the stories were finally written down, it was usually by a person such as a monk or historian that was disconnected from the culture that they were helping to preserve. Many myths come across as little more than plot outlines for a storyteller to reference. Surely the exciting details and vivid descriptions were revealed during the actual telling through spontaneous fireside creativity. So what we are left with these days is likely only the shell of a story.

Learning about the actions of a god or goddess through myth isn't difficult, but gaining insight into their personality can often only be accomplished through interpretations of those events. Thankfully with Manannan there are stories that demonstrate his sense of humor as well as his great magical abilities, but are there stories where his warm fatherly nature shines through? Or what of his rather notorious romantic reputation?

I find myths to be an interesting and entertaining point of reference, but I feel that true understanding of a deity can only be accomplished through a personal relationship. After all, the characters in these stories long ago have since evolved along with mankind. Perhaps it is up to us to rediscover who our gods are, and to create new stories of their exploits so that others may discover them as well.

Copyright © 2002 by Jay Bell / Temple of Manannan Mac Lir