Kaleidoscope Gathering 2013: Heroes
Austin Lawrence, February 2013
The theme for this year’s Kaleidoscope Gathering is “Heroes.” Heroines and Heros stride forth from the stories, legends and myths of our peoples. Their bold character expresses the virtues to strive for in our lives’ journeys, their hubris and tragedy teaches us and deepens our understanding of the human condition. The words of their stories inflames our spiritualties. Each of us is on our own heroe’s journey in this life, where the lore of the Pagan past can become the roadmap for our Pagan present.
The heroe is symbolical of that divine creative and redemptive image which is hidden within us all, only waiting to be known and rendered into life (31).
The heroe of myth is usually a human. One who transforms and is transformed; one whose story encapsulates and encodes the struggles of the natural condition of humankind. As humans who descend into supernatural other-worlds or deal with the forces of the gods, mythic heroes exist as a link between the divinities and humanity.
The effect of the successful heroe is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world (32).
There are many steps and stages to the heroe’s journey, just as there are many steps and stages in our own lives. We depart down new paths, we are initiated into new understandings, and we return to integrate our experiential knowledge and intuited wisdom back into our beings. This Kaleidoscope Gathering is a time to reflect on the heroe and have the heroe reflected in us.
Every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come to late. The whole sense of the ubiquitous myth of the heroe’s passage is that it shall serve as a general pattern for men and women, wherever they may stand along the scale. The individual has only to discover their own position with reference to this general human formula, and let it then assist them past their restricting walls. Who and where are ones’ trolls? Those are the reflections of the unsolved enigmas of ones’ own humanity. What are ones’ ideals? Those are the symptoms of one’s grasp on life (101).
Since the Renaissance, the Western Tradition has had a particular fondness for the heroic stories of the Ancient Greeks. This year we are lucky to have members of Hellenic Spirit leading the main ritual. The ritual will include paean, offerings, songs and words of devotion to heroic figures from Ancient Greek myth and tradition.
We hope that people will re-read the ancient myths and legends – of the like of Theseus, Perseus, Hercules and Persephone; of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Ulysses and Circe – to better connect with the tradition of the main ritual and to the heroic theme of the gathering. We also hope that people will be moved to costume themselves in the clothing of Ancient Greece (and Rome). The clothing is comfortable and excellent for the summer heat.
If you have never been to an Hellenic ritual, have no anxieties, as there will be instructions. This tradition is like many of the other reconstructionist Indo-European faiths, such as Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and Baltic variants of Paganism, which may be more familiar to some readers. Rituals often focus on giving gifts of offerings and providing libations to the figures being honoured. Images from myths and legends are often drawn with the paint of phrase, poem and song. Following the lead of the ritual leaders will guide participants in the course of the ceremony, as will an intentional respect and reverence for the sanctity of the occasion.
Workshops at the gathering are all put on by volunteers; where our motto is “everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to share.” Let the theme this year guide prospective presenters in the development of their workshop ideas (even though any Pagan topic is good, really). Here are a few ideas:
Myth involving heroes and heroines
Who is your favourite heroe? Can you re-tell a myth about a hero or heroine? Can you identify how such a myth was important in your own spiritual development and can you lead a group in discussing the myth?
Personal stories of travels to sacred and legendary sites
Have you visited a legendary location or heroic grave? For instance, did you tour the Arthurian Grail legend sites around Glastonbury or visit the traditional grave sites of Ancient Greek heroes or see a pictograph featuring Nanabozho in Bon Echo Park or camp where Big Joe Mufferaw stood near Mattawa? Tell people about your travels, show your pictures, share your understanding of the lore of those places.
Techniques of divination
Heroes are often called to action to enact a fated outcome for the good of humanity, no matter the cost or doom to themselves. The stories of their actions uncover and enact deep mysteries of the Divine. To know the progress of a heroe’s life is to know the embodiment of divine laws. Many Pagan traditions have means of divination whereby we can access wisdom and knowledge to guide us each on our own heroe’s journeys through this life. Do you know a method of divination that you could teach or share? How is the method of divination that you have studied connect to the ideal of the heroic?
Importance of quests in our everyday lives
What is the meaning of life? Heroes sometimes think they know what it is supposed to be when they set out on their quest. Most only understand what they truly sought or actually discovered at the end of their journey, when the quest is over. In each of our lives we have hopes to dream us to greater glory, experience the storm-tossed seas of emotion, spin from friendly face to hostile situations, all along our own life’s path. Like the heroes of myth and legend we set goals and overcome adversity to achieve them. What is the importance of mythic archetypes or heroic virtues in our everyday lives? What can our heroes do to help us achieve our goals or to heal ourselves in times of pain?
Stories of myths and legends involving heroes
From the statues in the town square to a grandfather’s war stories, from a cuneiform tablet to a bedtime folk-tale, stories of heros and heroines inspire and teach us. In fact, the stories of heroes model the human condition, to teach us how to belong, behave, or not; to live according to the laws of Nature or according to our own script, or both. The human condition is described by stories, those stories have heroes. What legends and myths from the Pagan past (or Pagan present) inspire you? Can you re-tell some of these stories for others? Do you want to discuss what they mean in the context of a particular religious tradition or for you personally?
Costuming like Heroic societies
There is one thing that is very noticeable about heroes depicted in art. They did know how to cut a fine figure! One way some modern Pagans live the experience of the ancient myths and legends is by costuming like the ancients. Can you teach people how to dress like an Ancient Roman or Greek; pin a chiton or drape a toga? Do you know what the heroes of Celtic, Norse or Finnish legends might have worn; to a hurley match, to slay a dragon, to sing the sea to sleep?
Gods, Goddesses, and spirits who help heroes on their journeys
There are many supernatural forces in myths and legends of heroes. The goddesses and gods and spirits and monsters encountered by the heroe lead them onwards in developing an understanding of the reason for being, of their capacity and ability to reach a full potential. They might be a parent or a lover of the heroe, they might be one who sets them to a task or tries to impede them from accomplishing it. What are these gods and goddesses in relation to the heroe? What do theses actions mean for how their religious traditions views the deity? What do we learn about the our own relationship with the Divine by meditating on heroe myths? As people at the gathering we can express the thoughts and emotions associated with this topic through ritual, music, art, study and discussion.
Expositions on virtue and living the good life
A critical element of the success or failure of many heroes is the degree to which they embody (or turn their back on) the virtues that express the spiritual wisdom of their culture or the ethical principles that produce the good life in their society. What are the virtues that our stories of heroes embody? What do these heroic values means when we consider how to best live our own lives?
Music on the theme of destiny and life’s journey
Can you strum a lyre, bow a jouhikko, or rattle a sistrum? Music has accompanied the bard from time immemorial in the telling of stories, of ensuring the audience was spellbound by the stories of life and loss, gain and glory, denial and death. What role has music played in telling stories and ensuring mythic insights were understood and transmitted to the people? More prosaically, can you sing or chant songs of heroe’s, can you strum a guitar or bang a drum in time with an artistic vision of legendary heroe’s? Well, why not share?
Significance of drama and storytelling in Pagan cultures
In the past lore of heroes was transmitted by the spoken word, in stories and dramatic performances. From the masked actors on at a Greek amphitheater, to the Iroquois clan-mother in the longhouse, to guised guild members in a Medieval Mystery Play, to the Druidic orator in an ancient grove, to a grannie speaking about the Old Country, to the poems of an Nordic skald, to an occult teacher spinning a yarn in the back room of a pub across from the British Museum, the sites and sounds, context and content, of heroic stories vary. What does a certain set and setting do for the image and power of a legend or myth? Can we reproduce this type of situation in the present day? If you can attempt to recreate such a performance and share it with your fellow gathering attendees, that could be quite the heroic achievement indeed.
Spirituality in the Heroic Age
Many of the ancient Pagan cultures of Europe have been called ‘heroic ages,’ from Homeric Ancient Greece, to Augustine Ancient Rome, to the pre-historic Finnish ‘Land of Heroes,’ to the Germanic Age of Migrations; as well as those of other societies and time periods, from the First Nations traditions to settler folk-tales. We look back to these times, when our lore was formed, as being the quintessential time of heroes. But, what type of society did they live in? How did they interact with the gods and goddesses and spirits known at the time? How did thy conceptualize, display and apply the idea of the heroic? How was it different from what we do today and how much do we want to reconstruct of these ancient ways?
Psychology of heroism
Science is showing that thinking like a hero and acting like a hero, can make you more altruistic and make the world a better place. What other tidbits of information like that are there out there. Can you collect them and talk about their implications?
Society and Heroes
Does it bother you that the ideal of heroism – in myths, values, images – can be so sexist, so andro-centric, so hetero-normative, so cis-normative? In what ways can we subvert and overcome these biases in our society, in our stories, in our spiritualties?
What do you think the cult of celebrity, so called ‘hero worship,’ has to do with being a real hero? To what degree are pretty, athletically skillful, famous or rich people considered to be heroes? Could you lead a discussion on why this is the case? Where are the similarities between today and the ancient Pagan world?
If you are new to Paganism or mythology or the concept that the image of the heroic is a spiritual concept, try reading a collection of mythology or folk-tales from any pantheon or time period that interests you. Then come back to this list again and see if any fire is light in your head that might flame into an concept to carry with you to the gathering.
To learn more about the Kaleidoscope Gathering you can visit the Facebook group or event for the gathering. Please note that we are please to start receiving workshop submissions in May on the Kaleidoscope Gathering web page for programming.
Source for Paraphrased Quotations
Campbell, Joseph. (2008) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library. Originally published in 1949.