"Myth" is one of those words that gets bad press from convoluted definitions. In our modern culture, we've redefined the word "myth" to mean "something foolish and/or untrue", or, sometimes, simply "it's a lie". Ancient cultures, such as the one(s) from which sprung the Tarot, knew better. The original meaning of a "myth" was "a sacred story delivered by word of mouth", simply because stories of the ancient heroes and gods were either a) ancient enough to have been derived from pre-literate cultures, or b) too sacred and arcane to be put down in writing, and only transmitted mouth-to-ear in sacred surroundings. Our meaning of "a falsehood" derives from the rationalist societies of the 1840s, and that meaning will not serve us here. Because for the Tarot, the very word "divination", describing how we use the cards, refers to the knowledge of the arcane, that transmitted by divinity or from divine or spiritual sources...and therefore, the "myths" of Tarot are thought of as arcane, sacred truths, relevant directly to the person who is receiving the "myth" in a given reading. So--how does that help us create our focus for this Blog Hop? Well...let's see about combining several sources of divination, and see what kind of a myth reveals itself to us, and what it might mean.
One of the sources of much myth is the "sacred science" of numbers. Certain numbers were thought from very early times to have arcane significance, and many times divination was created from interpreting sequences of numbers. Over time, certain specific numbers have been credited, in their very simplest forms, with divine or mystical resonance even when standing by themselves in circumstances having nothing to do with the arcanae. So--what would happen if we picked out those specific numbers, and created a myth therefrom? Let's find out.
The numbers that seem to leap to mind as "mythic", even in mundane circumstances, are seven, eleven, thirteen, nine, three, and twenty-one. Soooo....what kind of story links these numbers to one another, and to spirit, as defined in the context of the Tarot? The numbered cards of the Major Arcana might be a good place to start here. Here are the cards as they fall in the order we have named them, and here is the story that links them together:
What is the scene of our mythic journey? Well, for this particular Blog Hop, it seems appropriate to discuss the story of Mabon. He, the "Son of the Mother", was stolen away from between his mother and the Wall at the age of only three days. And his discovery by the knights of King Arthur in the "Seeking of Olwen" seems a pretty logical context for the mythic journey we are creating numerologically, particularly when we look at the numbers in the sequence given above. I listed the numbers by their degree of connection to "luck", or "Fate", and they came out in this order: 7, 11, 13, 9, 3, 21. What kind of a mythic journey, focused on the finding of Mabon, might we make of this series? Hmm...let's look.
The seventh card of the Major Arcana is the Chariot, which is a great place to begin our myth. The Charioteer represents the Seeker, or in this case, the Seekers, the knights of Arthur setting out on what they hope will be a long and productive journey. Let's go with the meaning of "journeying" and call that the setting of our myth. Mabon is the goal, and our "chariot" of seekers knows not where to look nor where to go, nor how to get there. Will the other numbers/cards reveal the truth of the myth?
The first stop on this mystical/mythical journey is the number 11, which can mean either of two things, both relevant. In some decks, 11 is the meaning of "Justice", and in others, it represents "Strength". Seems, somehow, important how these two ideals might intermingle. On this particular journey, Strength is certainly going to be a factor--none of the Seekers has any idea what the Journey will bring, how long or arduous it might be or what kinds of obstacles might be encountered. And Justice is at the heart of the journey--the successful fulfillment of the knights' wish to assist their companion Culhwch in winning his bride, Olwen, depends in part on the discovery and liberation of the child/youth Mabon, who was kidnapped at the age of three. So--both Strength and Justice are necessary components of the successful outcome of this journey.
The next card in our numerical series is 13, which just might be the scariest card in the entire deck--Death. Of course, no one wants to think of Death as a component of any tale we are either telling or living--but perhaps that attitude, in and of itself, is the reason why the Death card and the number thirteen are important to our myth. "Death" is a word with more than one interpretation in the Tarot, since it is the overall term for the ending of any kind of a cycle so something new may begin. And in the search for Mabon, it was clear that the Seekers feared, and had to contend with, the idea of Death, since there were myriad assassinations, acts of treachery, and deadly guardians placed on their path by Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, the father of Olwen, who earnestly desired them to fail in their task. In this case, "death" has to be applied not only to the defeat of the various obstacles the Seekers encounter on their journey, but to the end of the long-mourned absence of Mabon himself, which successfully ends the quest. In other words, the "Death" of the many obstacles and interferences in the quest is the "Birth" of Mabon as a warrior, priest, and king. And mythically speaking, so is each and every death a new birth, of something. Even the number 13, when added as one does in numerology, produces the number 4, which represents Foundation. So--kill the obstacles and interferences, and the path is made clear to lay the foundations of one's new endeavor. That kind of death, the kind that produces life, that we can live with.
And next? Next we see the number 9, the Hermit. How on earth does a company of knights on a journey of passion and power need to interact with a Hermit? Well--let's take a look at what that card really represents. The Hermit is the inner, Silent Self, the place people go within to find rest, peace, time for thought, new ideas--wait a minute here. In this tale, Mabon himself, the Hidden Prince, may represent the Hermit--stolen away, concealed in a place which is never fully revealed even at the end of the tale, and able, somehow, after all those years of concealment, to have taught to himself the arts of warcraft, seership, and rulership--yes, indeed, the hermit makes sense here. The card represents the holt of safety and silence which made it possible for there to be a successful outcome in the journey. As the Tarot goes, it is almost always necessary for the querent to spend some time in the company of the Hermit--the silent source, shadow, the Self.
And next, we see the number three. This one hardly needs any explanation...the Empress, Modron, the Great Mother, seen in the deck as being eternally pregnant with possibility, and the source of the Great Son, Mabon ap Modron, Son of the Mother, is certainly part of the mythic journey. After finding the Son, the knights would be able to give relief and joy and honor to the Mother, without whom the journey could not have been undertaken in the first place.
And the final card? Twenty-one, the Universe--the beginning and the end, the source and the result, all things coalesced into the final pattern of completion and achievement. Somehow this isn't even slightly surprising in the context of sacred myth, for we are taught to understand that every sacred journey, the Fool's Journey as illustrated by the Tarot, will end, somehow, in a vision of completeness and achievement provided the insights of the preceding cards are adopted and practiced.
Mabon is found, Culhwch and Olwyn are wed, the knights' journey is successful, and the goal is achieved. And maybe the word "myth" might have a new meaning, one representing the arcane journey of the soul, driven by Strength, Justice, acceptance of the Death and rebirth of circumstance and situation, the Hermit's contemplation, the honoring of the Source of all life, and the achievement of Universal Truth. Not a bad paradigm for life, is it? And maybe Mabon might be your "time of balance", at the Equinox, when light and dark, beginning and ending, the Sun, Moon, and Earth are all in balance for a moment, and everything, from that point of equilibrium, has the opportunity to begin anew.
And your own journey may continue with the work of Tierney Sadler. or perhaps you'll journey backwards to the realm of Margo Benson, but in either case, enjoy the ride! And should you lose your way, there's a Master List to get you back on course. Happy Hopping! And Mabon Blessings on your Journey, wherever it may take you!
Thank you, Aisling. I love where your post took us. I learned today.ReplyDelete
So interesting, what a great post, thank you Aisling.ReplyDelete
Wow, I loved your post! I will have to reread it a few more times! :)ReplyDelete
Cool! I do so love a spot of Tarot Maths! :DReplyDelete
Fascinating - thank you!ReplyDelete
Wow! So interesting. I'm going to re-read your post again :)ReplyDelete
Delicious! I love the way you discussed myth itself, as well as the way you used numbers and tarot!ReplyDelete
Great numerological thread for the Mabon myth, Aisling. Fine, indeed!ReplyDelete