“Now these things never happened, but always are.”
—Sallustius, “On the Gods and the World”
Myths are stories. They are stories that never happened, but are, in some sense, always happening. They are symbolically true, but not literally true. If we think of theology as an attempt to understand divinity with the left brain, we can think of mythology as an attempt to understand divinity with the right brain.
There is no single sacred text for Neo-Pagans and no text is considered absolutely authoritative. Neo-Pagans draw from many sources, both ancient and modern, to construct their myths. These texts are illustrative, rather than definitive, for Neo-Pagans.
The Neo-Pagan Mythos is an amalgam of myths and stories drawn from many different sources, ancient and modern. It describes the passion of dying and reviving deities and heroes, usually including:
- The journey of a hero, which involves a separation from the world, a penetration of the chthonic source of power, and a life-enhancing return or rebirth
- The interaction of a tri-form Goddess of nature and sovereignty who is wed to a duo-form phallic Consort or sacred king with light and dark aspects
- The perennial struggle of the gods of light and darkness, who sow the seeds of their own rebirth, and are ritually sacrificed to or by the Goddess, in a cyclical pattern that renews the powers of life
The Neo-Pagan Mythos is derived primarily from the “Poetic Theme” of Robert Graves’ White Goddess (1948), as well as the Dying and Reviving God metamyth of James Frazer’s Golden Bough and the monomythic Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with A Thousand Faces (1949).
The Neo-Pagan Mythos highlights those aspects of the deities that relate to sex and death, which have been excluded from or demonized in the monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, and invests these traditionally negative qualities with positive meaning, including the valorization of:
- The Divine Feminine, especially her dark aspect, which gives death in order to generate new life, and
- The wild or bestial phallic/horned god of sexual license and liberation.
The Neo-Pagan Mythos is usually structured by eight annual events that correspond with annual solar events and seasonal changes (the “Wheel of the Year”), as well as psycho-spiritual cycles of ascent and decline, growth and stagnation. The principal chapters in the Neo-Pagan Mythos include:
- The rebirth of the Sun God at the winter solstice
- The union of the Goddess and her Consort in the spring
- The battle of the Oak King (summer) and the Holly King (winter) for the love of the Goddess
- The sacrifice of the God of the Harvest in the autumn
- The descent of the Goddess into the underworld to learn the mastery of death
The Neo-Pagan Mythos teaches us that everything changes, that everything moves in a cycle, and that there is balance in the cycle.