"Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for the mental explanation or description."
^Miw^L ithin the framework of the Wiccan religion there are many sacred, texts. Some of these texts come from ancient sources and others are modern writings. Their purpose is to express the essential nature of the religion and its relation to human life. Most religions rely on the power of myth to impart spiritual wisdom.
Sacred myth provides us with a means of explaining our innermost thoughts and convictions. Through tales about long forgotten gods and heroes, the concepts of creation, love, and survival are brought to life. A good example is The Myth of Esus and Tarvos (reprinted here from my book Reclaiming the Power, Llewellyn Publications, 1992), wherein the cycles of life are explained through the concept of nature and seasonal change.
Long ago when the world was young, a marvelous and wonderful thing happened. In the early spring, near the well of Coventina, a beautiful bull calf was born. At first glance you could see that it was not an ordinary bull. His coat was golden red and his form was perfect. His eyes were clear and bright and intelligent.
The bull was no sooner up and about, running and playing, when out of the sky descended three stately cranes. They danced about him in a circle, delighted with his beauty and energy. The bull was happy too. He liked his new friends who could sing and dance and fly. He was respectful of them too and bowed his head, for he knew they had come from the Great Sky Father.
As spring wore on into early summer, the bull grew exceedingly fast and was soon fully grown. Never was there a bull like this one. His fame spread far and wide. Animals, men, and gods came to look upon his great beauty. The cranes were his constant companions, and because of this, the bull became known as Tarvos Trigaranus (bull with three cranes).
Their days were those of endless enjoyment. The world was bright and beautiful and full of flowers. For in the ancient times the world had never known the winter.
Now, there was a hunter God named Esus (lord-master). He roamed through fields and forests looking for an animal worthy of his passion, but he found none to be of satisfaction. Early one beautiful morning, he happened upon the meadow where Tarvos and the three cranes were sleeping. One glance at the bull and Esus new his search had ended. He drew his blade and came upon the sleeping bull, but the cranes saw the danger and gave out the cry of alarm.
The bull rose to do battle with Esus and his horns were formidable weapons. The god Esus and the divine bull Tarvos clashed in combat. They fought all day and all night but neither could seem to beat the other. The contest continued in this manner for days.
Then, on the night of the dark of the moon, the bull began to fail in strength. And there, under the great Oak tree, Esus struck Tarvos, the divine bull, a deadly blow. His blood poured out upon the roots of the tree and its leaves turned golden-red at that very instant for pure shame and grief.
The cranes made a great crying sound. One of them flew forward and in a small dish caught up some of the bull's blood. Then the cranes departed, flying south.
A gloom descended upon the world. The flowers wilted and the trees dropped their leaves. The great sun withdrew its warmth. The world grew dark and cold and snow fell for the first time.
All man and beast prayed to the Great Earth Mother to bring back the warmth, or all would soon perish. She heard, and took pity on all of nature, and soon the light began to return.
The three cranes came flying back from the south, and one still had the dish. It flew to the great oak tree where Tarvos, the divine bull, had been slain. The crane then poured the blood upon the ground and suddenly out of the dust sprang a bull-calf, reborn from the Great Earth Mother.
All nature rejoiced. The warmth of the sun returned. Grass and flowers sprang up. The leaves budded out on the trees. Thus spring came again to the world.
In fr'rae, the hunter god Esus heard of the bull's rebirth and sought to find him. This was the beginning of the cycle that even to this day persists. Esus, the hunter god, ever overcomes the divine bull, but our Great Mother Earth ever causes him to be reborn.
And so it is with all of nature, the spring brings forth life, the summer makes it strong, the fall causes it to weaken, and the winter brings its death. We cannot control it or change it, but we can learn to understand and work with it.
The following myth, The Descent of the Goddess, also known as The Myth of the Goddess, was passed down to Gerald Gardner in secret. (Inspired by Arcadia, Gospel of The Witches, first published in 1890 by Charles G. Leland, the Myth of the Goddess is believed to be a modern adaptation of the Ancient Greek myth, and Homeric Hymn, Demeter and Persephone.) Gardner believed it to be one of the more significant teachings within Witchcraft. It expresses the popular religious concept of relinquishment—the surrendering of the self for enlightenment. As the Goddess descends into the underworld, she must shed her physical garments, symbols of her physical identity. In return she is instructed in the mysteries of birth, life, death, and return.
In ancient times, our Lord, the Horned One, was (as he still is) the Controller, the Comforter. But men knew him as the dread Lord of the Shadows, lonely, stern, and just. But Our Lady the Goddess would solve all mysteries, even the mystery of death, so she journeyed to the underworld. Here the Guardian of the Portals challenged her:
"Strip off thy garments, lay aside thy jeivels; for naught may est thou bring with thee into this our land."
So she laid down her garments and her jewels, and was bound, as all living things must be who seek to enter the realms of Death, the Mighty One. Such was her beauty that Death himself knelt, and laid his sword and crown at her feet, and kissed her feet, saying:
"Blessed be thy feet that have brought thee in these ways. Abide with me; but let me place my cold hands upon your heart." And she replied: "I love thee not. Why dost thou cause all things that I love, and take delight in, to fade and die?" "Lady," replied Death, "it is age and fate, against which I am helpless. Age causes all things to wither, but men die at the end of time, I give them rest and peace and strength, so that they may return. But you, you are lovely. Return not, abide with me."
But she answered: "I love thee not." Then said Death: "If you will not receive my hand upon your heart, you must kneel to Death's scourge." "It is fate; better so," she said, and kneeled. And Death scourged her tenderly. And she cried: "I know the pangs of love." And Death raised her, and said, "Blessed be." And he gave her the five-fold salute, saying: "Thus only may you attain to joy and knowledge." And he taught her all his mysteries, and gave her the necklace that is the circle of rebirth. And she taught him her mystery of the sacred cup, which is the cauldron of rebirth.
They loved and were one, for there be three great mysteries in the life of man, and magick controls them all. To fulfill love, you must return again at the same time and at the same place as the loved ones, and you must meet, and know, and remember, and love them again.
But to be reborn, you must die, and be made ready for a new body. And to die, you must be born; and without love you may not be born.
And our Goddess is ever to love and bestow mirth arid happiness, as she guards and cherishes all her children in life. In death she teaches the way to her communion, and even in this world she teaches the mystery of the Magick
Circle, which is placed between the world of men and the realm of the gods.
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