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Ancient Myth Articles
THE GOLDEN AGE: VARIATIONS ON A THEME
[EDITOR'S NOTE: In response to questions from Mel and Amy about whether myth is exclusively celestial or both celestial and terrestrial, Dwardu Cardona and Dave Talbott posted these simultaneous and similar answers. They provide an insightful glimpse into the methodology of comparative mythology.]
DWARDU CARDONA RESPONDS: Speaking for myself, and myself only, myth refers to both celestial and terrestrial events. It's just that not much has yet been published re the terrestrial events as they pertain to the Saturn scenario - and that is at should be, because we must first delineate the celestial events before we can delve into the terrestrial ones.
AMY: And now we are hearing comments referring to the golden age as >something that happened here on earth.
CARDONA: But it did. After all, one cannot believe that the Saturnian events had no effects on Earth and its inhabitants.
AMY: A rigorous consistency would require that Eden, the Golden Age, the eternal spring, and the timeless time would refer to events in the sky, not on earth.
CARDONA: In my opinion, they refer to both.
AMY: Drawing any conclusions regarding terrestrial conditions would be unfounded.
CARDONA: Not necessarily. As but one example, think about this: The Deluge is said to have drowned Earth in its waters. "Earth," here, can be understood as the CELESTIAL earth. But what was there that was seen in the sky during this event that was interpreted as water. Why water? Fire (light mixed with darkness) would have been more appropriate had the event been strictly celestial. But if water DID descend on Earth during this particular event, then the celestial apparition could have been interpreted as a like-event.
True - the Garden said to have been "east of Eden" - a mistranslation, incidentally - WAS a celestial apparition. But what was there in this celestial apparition that lent itself to the interpretation that this object was a "garden," and that this "garden" contained all the trees and fruits, etcetera, required for mankind's bliss? Was it not conditions on Earth during this period that lent the celestial apparition its imagery?
The statement "as in heaven, so on Earth" has echoed down through the ages. I would like to rectify that to: "As on Earth, so in heaven." After all the celestial cow, the celestial bull, the witch's broom, etcetera, were "named" after terrestrial animals and objects and not vice versa. There would have been no celestial cow had there not been a terrestrial one. And so forth.
DAVE TALBOTT ALSO RESPONDS:
Here is my position in a nutshell: all of the players in archetypal myth are celestial; the theater itself is in the sky, not on our earth. Only in later storytelling are the archetypal figures brought down to earth, to occupy local regions as imagined "ancestors" of the nations telling the stories. To this principle I am aware of no exceptions.
Saturn's timeless epoch means the absence of any discernible cosmic cycles. The ancestral paradise watered by the four rivers is, in truth, the land of the gods, and this means nothing other than the WHEEL of the "sun" god Saturn, as strange as the idea may sound.
But you cannot separate the world of the observers from their unique mythical interpretations of cosmic events. For example: if observers perceived in Saturn's crescent a "bull of heaven", or a "great cow of heaven" that IS evidence that the myth-makers were familiar with the species!
So yes, a "rigorous consistency would require that Eden, the Golden Age, the eternal spring, and the timeless time refer to events in the sky," but I'd remove the phrase, "not on earth," since the earth is immediately implicated if there were no discernible cosmic cycles. What imagination PERCEIVED in extraordinary cosmic events was a function both of human psychology and the full range of natural experience before, during, and after the events.
Hence, there are two tiers of "terrestrial" experience that must be considered in any comprehensive explanation of myth. It is one thing to say that Saturn's rule began with a "timeless epoch." But the fact that races around the world regarded this as the ideal or standard, and strove relentlessly to re-capture that condition gives us more than a reconstruction of cosmic events. It tells us something about the mythmakers themselves.
Similarly, when the mythmakers say that Saturn's epoch was "neither hot nor cold," the implication is that human experience is contributing to the interpretation. In the same way, the accounts of heaven-shattering thunder, associated with the lightning of the gods, surely implies reverberating sounds on earth. And in all likelihood, the outpouring of cometary material associated with the "deluge" involved a descent of a horrendous cloud of ice on the Earth, helping to prompt the mythical interpretation. But the mythical figure who rides out the storm of the deluge is, beyond question, a celestial player in the original story.
Lastly, I commend Mel for his cautionary note on the comparative method, suggesting that human psychology might tend to "extract common distortions." In fact, there would be no patterns of myths were there no 'common distortions." It is through distortion that the language of myth arises. If Saturn's crescent is just an abstract form in the sky there is no myth. It is the distorting lens of human perception that enables imagination to see the crescent as the horns of a cosmic bull.
While certain pictographs may preserve literal images, myths generally do not. Hence, the methodology for reconstructing events from myth does not rely on literalism. Rather, it means finding the underlying form or event expressed by the distortion, and this process is aided by two key facts:
1) that certain abstract forms, having nothing to do with our sky today, are preserved in remarkably similar pictographs around the world, and
2) that widely divergent mythical themes, when traced to their roots, consistently converge on these underlying forms, providing the needed proof that the forms were there.
The key to reconstructing events is thus provided by logic and probability, not by a "literal" interpretation of myth. And the reconstruction rests most fundamentally on recurring patterns that would not/could not have arisen under our sky but would be EXPECTED under the hypothesized conditions.