I began writing this post while sitting on an Amtrak train just south of Seattle, and we've been stopped in the same place for about four, as the local organized crime syndicate, calling themselves the "police" have shut down the track in front of us for some reason. Yippee! Definitely some wonderful lessons in patience these last couple days, and I think I've been handling it pretty well. Since I was stuck, not feeling sleepy, and I foolishly left the book I'm currently reading behind, I decided why not go ahead and write another post :-P
The idea that I've been playing with for quite a long time is that the power of having heroes & deities that we look up to and aspire to be like lies in them basically being a visualization tool of some aspect that we wish to embody. So often, we find ourselves in situations where we need to summon up more courage, patience, compassion, or other trait that we are not feeling enough of in ourselves.
“Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth Century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the world, are within us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other. That is what myth is. Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, in metaphorical images, of the energies of the organs of the body in conflict with each other. This organ wants this, that organ wants that. The brain is one of the organs.”
There are many different ways to look at the idea of a personal mythology/pantheon, but for me, and for the sake of this article, it is all about identifying the characters and archetypes that you identify with, especially those you aspire to, and keeping them available to call upon as inspiration. In the world, you often see this played out by Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Catholics, and many others who often keep tokens/images of deities, heroes, saints, ancestors, and their spiritual teachers with them or on their altars.
Obviously the use of a human instead of a nonphysical entity gives a wider range of being, which can be useful as it's easier to identify with someone who is multifaceted, imperfect, and in this physical realm than it is a nonphysical being without human imperfections. One of the beautiful things about this day & age is that we have instant, easy access to all human knowledge, and thus we can pick from our heroes from any of the spiritual teachings, from the realm of comic books, from the many fantasy worlds created for RPGs & book series, real people alive in the world now & historically, and so much more, along with creating our own.
“We're in a free-fall into future. We don't know where we're going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you're going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It's a very interesting shift of perspective and that's all it is... joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”
I think one of the key elements to remember through this process is that as you change, so can your pantheon, and that there is no wrong answer. The most important facet to make this work in the sense that I'm putting it forth is to have some connection to the folks you choose, and for each to embody some aspect that you wish to carry more of yourself, or that you find yourself calling on. Of course, that model could be completely wrong for you two, so do what thou will.
My pantheon... so far
So, while this idea has been swirling for a long time, and I have certainly had many characters that I connected with in various ways, the act of consciously & intentionally creating my own pantheon has been coming up more as I've prepared to land in my own space once again, and have been visualizing what my room (and specifically my altar) will look like.
It has been an interesting shift to step back and look at this from a new angle, especially as most of the characters that I would have put onto it for the first 25 years of my life definitely don't fit there anymore. I definitely feel like this pantheon is going to be shifting & expanding greatly over the next few months as I have more space for myself than I have in 3 years, and I plan spend most of my time in reflection & contemplation of my healing, lessons, and changes during that time.
I started off writing a list of characters physical, fictional, and mythological that I would consider my own pantheon, then realized that the vast majority of those that came to mind fit into that "no longer a match" category, so I'm going to have to really reflect on this a bit and circle back around. Funny enough, most of the ones that do feel like a good fit still are actually just people that I know here in the real world who each embody some facet I'm really focusing on calling in more and more of.
Embodying the Hero
Something I really want to focus on here is not to see these people/characters as something outside of yourself or some ideal that can't be reached, but as archetypes, as focused images of some part of you if brought to its fullest manifestation. Don't look at the figure who represents absolute compassion & forgiveness and knock yourself for judging & holding grudges... when you find yourself holding a grudge, call up the image of that archetype of forgiveness and remember that you contain that same level, though it may take practice to embody it fully.
We are each of us infinite potential wrapped up in physical form; and one of my main goals in life is to help remind people of that, give them tools to help tap into that potential and turn it towards their passions, and to be an example of what striving to be the best version of yourself looks like. Every day I try to speak a little more compassionately, to judge myself a little bit less (which automatically leads to judging others less), to be transparent with my flaws & intentions, to show myself and those around me love & gratitude, and to generally have a good time doing it! I believe that this life is a role-playing game, and in any good RPG if you're not bettering yourself and having fun, you're doing something wrong.
"When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness."
My forearm tattoos
I have 4 tattoos all together, 1 on each shoulder and 1 on each forearm. The ones on my shoulders I got when I was 18 & probably around 20/21, and they definitely hearken back to some pretty outdated versions of myself. The ones on my forearms, however, I got just before I started on my spiritual path, and this January, and both have quite a bit more meaning to them (some of which I didn't even realize until long after the ink was in my skin).
*“As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don't bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humor saves you.” *
Right arm: The Green Lantern
I got this tattoo somewhere between 6 & 7 years ago (I really don't track time all that much), and it was definitely my favorite of the 3 I had, largely because it's in color (all the rest are B&W) it is somewhere that I can always see it myself. The image is simply the emblem of the Green Lantern, with a clock-face inside, set to 4:20. When I got the tattoo, my main thoughts were wanting to have something cannabis related and not wanting to be super overt about it because I was still working traditional "jobs" at the time, and I had always LOVED the GL. The first comic series I ever really dove into was the Green Lantern, and I read ALL of them from the 80s up to something like 2004/2005.
Much of the meaning behind this tattoo didn't actually become clear to me until a couple years after I got it, when my understanding of the universe and my worldview began to really expand. First, my relationship with cannabis greatly expanded about a year after I got the tattoo, as I really began to understand what a powerful medicine it is, and saw in hindsight how many times my relationship had literally saved my life. I can't count the number of times I was on the edge of committing suicide and ended up just getting stoned with somebody instead.
The Green Lantern (I'll use "GL" moving forward) itself is even more profound, and it blew me away when I made the realization. For those of you who aren't familiar, the GL is not one hero, but a galaxy-spanning, ever-changing group of heroes. The GLs are peacekeepers of the galaxy, empowered by the Guardians of the Universe (little blue guys older than this galaxy) with rings that give them the power to create in the physical anything that they can imagine, with it's power/permanence being based on the user's willpower. The rings are also semi-conscious themselves, with the ability to pick find a new user who is worthy when there is need, and to train those new users. If a GL tries to use the ring's power to kill another, the ring will leave them and find a new user. The rings also have a limited energy source (measured differently in different series), and must be recharged by the GL holding their ring to the "battery" and reciting the GL's oath:
No evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!
When I got this tattoo, I had not yet been introduced to the idea of manifestation. You can imagine my excitement when I had the moment of clarity and realized that the power of the GLs is instant manifestation, something I'm pretty dang good at myself :-)
“We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
Left arm: The Sri Yantra / StarTribe Alliance logo
This is my most recent tattoo, which I got just this January from my friend @artoftheanimal. The basic design is the Sri Yantra, a millenia-old symbol from India. I've found a variety of meanings, though they are all certainly closely related. According to this site, the meaning of the image is:
The Sri Yantra is a configuration of nine interlocking triangles, surrounded by two circles of lotus petals with the whole encased within a gated frame, called the "earth citadel". The nine interlocking triangles centered around the bindu (the central point of the yantra) are drawn by the superimposition of five downward pointing triangles, representing Shakti ; the female principle and four upright triangles, representing Shiva ; the male principle. The nine interlocking triangles form forty three small triangles each housing a presiding deity associated with particular aspects of existence.
The image was also used by my friend @alaisclay for the logo of the StarTribe Alliance, a project dedicated to creating the global village, activating the super-hero in each of us, and helping usher in the paradigm shift. The logo image is pretty wickedly detailed, so Franki & I decided to go simple with it, both for her sake and to keep it truer to the original Yantra.
So, basically on my right arm I have the super-hero I most align with in many ways, and many of the traits of which I bring into this world, and on my left arm I have my super-hero community :-)
Conclusion, further reading
This is definitely one of those topics that I've played with all my life, with varying levels of intentionality behind it. Certainly the protagonists of the books, comics, games, and movies that I spend SO much time in during my childhood greatly helped shape the man that I am today. I honestly haven't practiced too much of the calling on hero/deity figures, and I've never had a "teacher" in the sense that many folks experience it, but it is something I am calling in more of for this next chapter of my life.
“Society has provided [children] no rituals by which they become members of the tribe, of the community. All children need to be twice born, to learn to function rationally in the present world, leaving childhood behind.”
- The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
- The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
- Personal Mythology: Using Ritual, Dreams, and Imagination to Discover Your Inner Story by David Feinstein & Stanley Krippner
- Self-inflicted Mythology: The Power of Creating Our Own Myths
- How to Create Your Own Personal Mythology
- What is a Spiritual Warrior
- Being Your Own Hero
- The act of creating your own magical entities… or gods.
- How to Create an Inspirational Home Altar
- Social Representations of Hero and Everyday Hero: A Network Study from Representative Samples
- Lay perspectives on the social and psychological functions of heroes