"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in mythosphere (4)


Hestia: Home, Sweet Home (News from the Mythosphere, Part Three)

We’ve been at it for over a week. Trying to persuade the goddess of the hearth, Hestia, to tell her story to you in her own words. She simply refuses. The gentlest, most modest of all the Olympians, she never gets involved in disputes or wars. It’s so like her not to want the spotlight on her.

But that means that we’ll have to relay her story to you ourselves. She had a few things to say about Cronos (see Part One) and Pan (see Part Two). In her most tactful, fair-minded way she reminded us that there is a positive side to Cronos (or Saturn, as we call him out in our Solar System) and a dark side to Pan. 

Here’s what she said about Saturn: He’s not just the tyrant Holdfast. He’s also discipline, hard work, slogging along in spite of not being in the mood to work. He’s the necessity for boundaries, limitations, frugality. He is the balance to Zeus’s expansiveness, and he’s necessary to all of us in order to stay grounded. He is what that ancient Chinese book of wisdom, the I Ching, means by "Perseverance Furthers."

Then she told us the female side of the story of all those women that Pan ravished. She reminded us that when humans lived in caves, they had little protection against attack. Women, especially, were at the mercy of male lust.



Hestia stepped in at that point and introduced the art of building houses. A house, she said, served not just to protect humans from the elements, but also to protect them from dangerous animals and more malicious humans.

A home is a central element of security and peace, she said. As the goddess of the hearth (the central fire in every home and city hall), Hestia guaranteed protection to anyone who came to her for aid. Hospitality was sacred to her.


The sequence of stories in ancient Greek myth is revealing: first Cronus is defeated. Then, on Olympus, both Poseidon and Apollo seek to marry Hestia. But Hestia swears by Zeus’s head to remain a virgin forever. As a reward for keeping the peace on Olympus, Zeus allots to her the first victim of every sacrifice.

Later, at a rural feast with all the other gods and goddesses, everyone falls asleep after feasting. When Priapus, drunk, tries to ravish Hestia, an ass brays, and awakens her. Priapus runs away in fear.


Because the ass symbolizes lust, the story is a warning against the sacrilegious treatment of women who were under Hestia’s protection.

So, what do Cronus and Rhea, Pan and Hestia, have to do with what’s going on in the world right now, and in particular, the Occupy Movement?

If Cronus is tyrannical repression, and Rhea is Mother Earth, and Pan is riot, and Saturn is constriction, and Hestia is home, how do all these spirits interweave to explain our current zeitgeist?


The hint is in the stories themselves. The ancient image of the Great Goddess (all the subsequent goddesses were aspects of the Great Goddess) was a white aniconic image (i.e., not in animal or human form, rather suggestive, of gods), which may have represented a heap of burning charcoal coated in white ash, which was both the method of heating in ancient times and the center of gatherings of the family or clan.  

At Delphi, the charcoal heap outdoors was called the omphalos (navel of the earth) and inscribed with the name of Mother Earth. The charcoal heap was placed on a round, three-legged table painted red, white and black, and the Pythoness prophesied from the fumes of burning hemp, barley grain and laurel.  We know that Hestia is a later manifestation of Mother Earth by the fact that both have the sacred hearth, both for prophecy and the home fire, as central images. 

The Great Goddess had prophetic powers. So we turned to her to interpret today’s unfolding events. Here’s what she whispered to us: Just as we move every month through one zodiacal animal or human, so we move every decade through one of the circle of the constellations. In this decade, in 2011, we have moved out of the abundance and expansiveness of Zeus’s decade, Sagittarius, the ‘00s or aughts.



The stories of our current decade come from the myth of Capricorn, one of the four zodiac signs concerned with security. The contraction of the sign is mirrored by the economic hardships unfolding on the world stage. Tyranny, limitations, riots, constriction, the housing market crash, and the dangerous state that Mother Earth is in. In another, previous earth decade (the 1930s, Taurus), we experienced the hardship and tumult of the Great Depression. In the most recent earth decade, (the 1970s, Virgo), we experienced oil shortages and recession.



In the three earth decades, we are reminded of the limitations of physical life. In this decade, we’re being challenged to learn to live more simply, more frugally, and, in the face of unwise governments shredding social safety nets, to share available resources with one another.

Home: On the world stage, isn’t all this rioting for democratic rights and justice really a fight for the right to work and protect the security of families and homes?



Home: In the U.S., doesn’t it make divine sense that the Occupy movement is now turning towards occupying foreclosed houses? As Ryan Acuff of Take Back the Land in Rochester, N.Y. says, they are taking direct action to make housing a human right by matching people-less homes to homeless people.

Home: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow offers this fine eight-minute video comparing the Occupy Foreclosed Homes movement to similar events in the ‘30s: 

As a man interviewed in a Take Back the Land in Rochester video says, “Today I’m going to be warm. Today I’m going to be fed.”  



Home: Don’t we all deserve homes?

Home: Isn’t it time we cared for Mother Earth?



Let’s go back about 150 years to the English art critic and social thinker, John Ruskin, who coined the word “illth,” in contrast to our word, “wealth.” Ruskin envisions wealth in its largest sense, of abundance and well-being in every part of human life and the life of our culture and planet Earth. Illth, then, is the reverse of wealth, its absence, ill-being. Illth means various devastations and trouble in all directions.



And we are in a world-wide cultural and planetary state of illth.

Finally, let’s go back to the seventh or sixth century B.C. to Ancient Greece, and listen to how a Homeric poet envisioned wealth, in this Homeric Hymn to the Earth Mother: 

TO EARTH THE MOTHER OF ALL: I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings.  She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.  Through you, O queen, men are blessed in their children and blessed in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give means of life to mortal men and to take it away.  Happy is the man whom you delight to honour!  He has all things abundantly: his fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures are covered with cattle, and his house is filled with good things. Such men rule orderly in their cities of fair women: great riches and wealth follow them: their sons exult with ever-fresh delight, and their daughters in flower-laden bands play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the field.  Thus is it with those whom you honour O holy goddess, bountiful spirit....Hail, Mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven; freely bestow upon me for this my song substance that cheers the heart!


Occupy Paris



Pan Speaks: (News From the Mythosphere, Part Two)










And here's The Waterboys song, The Return of Pan (with thanks to Steve De Jarnatt for the multimedia reference). 



News from the Mythosphere, Part One: Mother Earth and Father Crow: A Myth for this Decade


What on earth is going on? 

The news on earth is demonstrations all over the world. Occupy Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Occupy Tunisia. Occupy Libya. Occupy Syria. Occupy Yemen. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Berkeley. Occupy Oakland. Occupy Los Angeles. Occupy Davis. Occupy Seattle. Occupy Portland. Occupy Chicago. Occupy Denver. Occupy Boston. Occupy Washington D.C. Occupy Atlanta. Occupy Vancouver. Occupy London. Occupy Berlin. Occupy Madrid. Occupy Rome. Occupy Athens. Occupy Mexico City. Occupy Bogota. Occupy Tokyo. Occupy Sydney. Occupy Wellington. Occupy Cape Town. Occupy Paris.


What is moving so many people from so many countries into the streets?

Panic and fear. Poverty. No jobs. Economic inequality. Rage at tyrannical government.

The U.S. is no different, but there it also involves the collapse of the housing market. Loss of homes. Rapacious banks, corporations and Wall Street. Unresponsive, ineffectual government gridlock. The rage of the 99% at the mega-wealthy who refuse fair taxation, while social services—education, health care, and every form of social security—are gutted.



Whenever there is a great shift in the zeitgeist, a paradigm change, there is chaos and confusion about what it all means. Where do you turn for a long-range perspective? We turn to myth. Especially Greek myth. The world’s myths contain all the stories that have ever happened, and will happen, over and over again.

A good friend who loves Greece as much as we do told us of a conversation she had with Henry Miller. The two of them agreed that the air is intelligent in Greece.

Whatever the reason, some of the greatest stories of the mythosphere, a word coined by our mythographer friend Alexander Eliot, come from ancient Greece.

 Here are a few that come to mind lately:

The story of Rhea and Cronus.

The story of Pan.

The story of Hestia, goddess of the hearth.



In three consecutive Paris Play posts this week, we’ll tell you three stories, with our take on how we think they’re connected to what’s happening right now in the world.

First, the story of Rhea and Cronus. According to the poet and writer on myth, Robert Graves, Rhea’s name probably means “earth.” Which suggests that she is that ancient goddess, Mother Earth, also known as Gaia.

Graves thinks Cronus’s name means “crow” or “crown,” rather than “time."

Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths is our major source, but this is a modern retelling.

Mother Earth and Father Crow: A Myth for this Decade


Mother Earth was enraged. Every time she gave birth, her husband, Cronus, would eat the child. Each year he’d swallowed one of them: first Hestia, then Demeter, then Hera, then Hades, and lastly, Poseidon.

They were not the healthiest family. She should never have married her brother, she knew that now, eons later. Their father, Uranus, had filled Cronus’s head with paranoia, convincing him that one of his children would knock him off his throne. But why have children, for gods’ sake, if you’re not going to share power and resources with them?

This time it would be different. This time she’d trick Father Crow. She would hide the baby from him. When her latest offspring, Zeus, was born in the middle of the night, she took him to a mountain, bathed him in a river, and hid him in a cave on Crete.

There he was raised by two sisters, Adrasteia and Io (known as the Honey girls), and the Goat-nymph, Amaltheia. Baby Zeus was fed honey, and goat’s milk from Amaltheia, and so was his foster-brother, Pan.



Zeus’s golden cradle was hung on a tree, so that Cronus couldn’t find it in heaven, on earth or in the sea. Rhea sent her sons, the Curetes, to stand around the baby Zeus, and drown out the sound of his crying by banging their spears against their shields and shouting. This was good noise, “white noise,” to protect the innocent from a callous oppressor.  According to Graves, Curetes meant “devotees of Ker, or Car,” one of the names of the Triple-Goddess.

Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to Cronus to swallow.



In yet another cave, Zeus was raised among shepherds in Ida. Everyone needs a safe place on earth to occupy, and even a cave is safer than being eaten by your own father.

As Zeus grew up, The Titaness, Metis, advised him to go see his mother, Rhea, and ask to be given the role of Cronus’s cup-bearer. More trickery was needed.

So Rhea gladly helped her son by giving him an emetic drink, which Metis had told him to mix with Cronus’s honey drink.

Cronus drank it up and vomited out the stone, as well as all of Zeus’s older brothers and sisters. They were so grateful, they asked Zeus to lead them in battle against the Titans, all those calcified Holdfasts who don’t share the wealth.



This war lasted ten years. Finally Mother Earth prophesied that Zeus would win if he combined forces with Cronus’s prisoners in Tartarus. 

Zeus went to their female jailer, Campe, killed her, grabbed her keys and set free the Cyclopes and the Hundred-handed Ones, whom he strengthened with divine food and drink. This was really a movement of the people, of the disenfranchised, the 99%. The Many against the One.



The Cyclopes in turn gave three gifts to Zeus and his two brothers, Hades and Poseidon: the thunderbolt to Zeus, the helmet of darkness to Hades, the trident to Poseidon.

Hades, now invisible, snuck in and stole Cronus’s weapons. While Poseidon threatened him with his trident, Zeus zapped Cronus with his thunderbolt. Stealth, trickery and force were needed to overthrow Father Crow.

The three Hundred-handed Ones threw rocks at the Titans, and Goat-Pan gave a sudden shout which made them flee. Rocks and shouts, a riot.

The gods ran after Cronus and banished him and all the Titans except Atlas. Where? Accounts differ—perhaps to a British island in the far west, or perhaps to Tartarus. Anyway they were kicked out of power, and guarded now by the Hundred-handed Ones, whom they had once jailed.


Atlas was given the punishment of carrying the sky on his shoulders. It seems harsh, but perhaps it’s the cost of leading the forces of tyranny, which, worse than harsh, are lethal.

Zeus set the stone which Cronus had swallowed down at Delphi, the sacred place of measure. One of the phrases carved into the temple was: μηδέν άγαν (mēdén ágan = "nothing in excess").

The constellation of the Serpent and the Bears is said to be Zeus (who shape-shifted into a serpent when Cronus discovered he’d been tricked with a stone) and his nurses became the bears.

To thank the three nurturing nymphs, Zeus put the goat-nymph Amaltheia’s image in the stars—Capricorn!—and gave one of her horns to the two Honey sisters, which became the Cornucopia, the horn of plenty, which is always filled with whatever its owner wishes to eat or drink.



It had taken ten years of battle, but at last the people had food and drink and plenty, which is usually the case when kingdoms have wise rulers who distribute wealth instead of hogging it. Stone soup had been transformed into a nourishing feast.

Mother Earth was well pleased. Her children could flourish, and so, at last, could she.  





A Eulogy for Jane Winslow Eliot (9/27/26 — 7/31/2011)


Time and space do not exist.

I heard these words as I washed the breakfast dishes this morning.

I was thinking of Jane Eliot.

It had been just over 40 days since she died.

I wanted to try in meditation to accompany her through the bardos.

But I couldn’t.

Maybe it’s that I do not experience death the way that Tibetan Buddhists do.

Or maybe to some extent I do, but I don’t have the inner stillness to stay on that journey for long.

Or maybe my sense is that Jane had already moved through a panoramic review of her life while she was alive.

I remember her deep honesty in her memoir, “Around the World by Mistake.”




It’s extraordinarily difficult to say who someone is, to approach describing their identity.

What is her effect on you? Is it lightening? Darkening?

Does he give you energy? Take it away?

Maybe we know others mainly through their effect on us, inspiring or disheartening.

Richard and I came back to Paris from the joyful celebration of our friends’ Loire Valley wedding, and heard from a mutual friend that Jane Eliot had died.

It often seems to happen this way. A great upsurging of joy, then sadness, sorrow breaking through.

I left out what happened at our wedding in Crete. Alex and Jane had encouraged our notion of being married there, because Ancient Crete was one of the last partnership cultures. 



During our wedding dinner, one of my relatives said to our friends that she wished their oldest daughter had been there. Both parents were storm-tossed with sorrow at her sudden death in her early 20s. Steve wept at the table. Rain ran into the nearest bathroom. Some of us followed her. Some of us comforted him.

And one of my family said, softly, “Oh, I wish they hadn’t ruined the celebration this way.” But no, I thought, and said, There are always these parallel channels of grief and joy. The day is richer for their tears.

And Jane Eliot? Her death was different. Her life was long and rich, fulfilled.

I’m circling and circling my memories of her.

Whatever you brought to her, she greeted it, surrounded it, examined it, enlarged it or lovingly tossed it away, laughed or seriously addressed it.




I’m circling and circling memories of her:

In the very first week of blossoming love between Richard and me, when we discovered that we lived only four blocks from each other in Venice, California, he invited me to a neighborhood block party at the home of his friends, Jane and Alex Eliot.

There was an odd symmetry to where they lived in relationship to Richard’s place. He and they each lived in a house on the same block of Paloma Avenue, each one house away from the end of the block.

The block party was the first social event, besides the poetry readings where we’d met, to which we’d gone as a couple. Jane and Alex, a generation older than we, instantly became the couple with whom we were closest.



What did we talk about at this party? Not the neighborhood. We talked about our love for myth. Alex had written a number of books on myth. We talked about the mythosphere, a term Alex coined for the place where myths live, where the stories of the soul dwell.

In those first days of our new life together, Richard and I discovered much about one another through the mutual passions we shared with Jane and Alex: mythology, especially Greek myth, Greece and the Greek islands, Venice Beach, poetry, art, a marriage of kindred souls that included lively spiritual and intellectual dialogue, writing, room for solitude for writing, as well as for romance, a contempt for mean-spiritedness.



We laughed at the same things, especially dumb, pompous human behavior and dismissed the same things as a waste of time.

We saw each other at our home for dinner and parties, and at theirs for the same. Jane’s specialty was a smorgasbord of meze.

We met at Figtree’s Café on the beach for breakfast, or the Rose Café for lunch or Lula’s for Mexican dinner.

During the three years that we and three friends ran a weekly poetry reading series at the Rose Café, I don’t think Jane and Alex ever missed a single reading.

When I think of Jane, I hear her laughing—a merry boisterous laugh which delighted in generosity, surprise and beauty, and had a touch of scorn for human idiocy. 

Jealousy? She understood that she was unique and so is everyone else.

Jockeying for power? She and Alex had been at the pinnacle of power in New York City and gladly given it up for creative freedom and time.



Greed? What does anyone need beyond food, shelter and time for love and creativity? And adventure!

Snobbery? She didn’t see people in hierarchical terms at all, much like my father. If you are really aware of each person’s uniqueness, how can you put anyone above you or below you?

Unkindness? A sure sign of unkindness towards oneself.



I called her Athena. She was a Libra, and shared that sign’s affinity for the goddess of peace, earthy intelligence, inventiveness and fierce strength. Nike!

Wherever you walked with Jane, she exclaimed over the beauty of her natural surroundings—birds, trees, the sea.



Well into her 70s, she’d walk down Paloma several blocks for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, which is colder on winter mornings than you can imagine. (Or so I hear.)

What Richard and I loved best to do with Jane and Alex was to sit at Figtree’s or the Rose Café (whose names, naturally, come from nature) and talk. Really talk. Talk that ranged all over the world—the earth and her creatures, humans they had known—Dali and Gala, Frida and Diego, for starters, or their noisy neighbors—and spirits of the mythosphere.

To Jane, the invisibles were as real as birds, as people. You felt relieved in their company to escape the tiny cage of rational materialism.



With Jane—and Alex—I could talk about the mythical vision I’d spent years discovering. When Richard and I shaped our combined mythical knowledge into a workshop at the C. G. Jung Institute, Jane and Alex were in our first class of students. (Oh, the irony, "teaching" these two masters of the mythosphere.)

Alex and Jane had lived all over the world, been top journalists in NYC. She had worked at CBS for Edward R. Murrow and at Time magazine; he had been Art Editor for Time, until his pension and a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to retire early and take his family to Greece. For four years they’d lived in Greece with their two young children, writing, home schooling the children, and exploring sacred sites.

There was only one respect in which they seemed to be bound by the conventions of their generation. Alex continued to write and publish books on art and myth, and now was working obsessively on a poetic memoir.



Yet she, when we first met them, was not as disciplined a writer as he.

She had published a book on children’s education, Let’s Talk, Let’s Play and written a highly original cookbook, Beyond Measure; A Cookbook for People Who Think They Can’t Cook, and published other books and journalistic articles in such magazines as The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Horticulture, Travel & Leisure.

But the assumptions of her generation mostly held: the woman would care for the home, children and relationships, while he worked.

Yet you could hear in the leaps of imagination, the sensory precision of Jane’s conversation that there was a longer story she needed to write.

And then she suddenly did it: created a studio for herself on the top floor of their duplex (so that was why she never managed to find the right tenant), and wrote, edited and published her memoir, Around the World by Mistake.

The title delighted us, containing all her qualities of humor, adventurous spirit, trust in serendipity, and largeness of experience. And the story itself unfolded in sparkling, sensuous prose, a vivid sense of weather and the sea, absolute clarity about others’ character, and the most brilliant example imaginable of how to inspire children.



The memoir tells the tale of how, in the summer of 1963, the couple, with their two young children, signed on for a trip around the world. The Yugoslavian freighter was scheduled to deliver goods from Yugoslavia to Osaka and back, a trip of seven months with sixteen passengers. But this is no ordinary trip. They discover that they are in extraordinary danger. But I won’t spoil the story, when you can order it and read it yourself. That’s Jane on the cover with a seagull on her head.

And then, Jane listened with great sympathy and understanding to my account about the last few years of my father’s life, his deepening dementia. She understood my longing to stay connected to his soul, beneath the dismantling of his rational mind.



And she rejoiced with us that my father was able to die at home, most certainly aware of his family’s love.

Jane’s mind, which was so alive, original, and warm—began to fade a few years after my father’s death in 2006.

By then, we had moved to Playa del Rey. In the sad way that driving distances separate people in Los Angeles, we saw Jane and Alex less often. They didn’t like to drive at night. One of us didn’t like to drive at all.

We’d bring dinner to Jane and Alex’s or meet at the Rose Café. Her mind wandered in conversation, but Alex, and we, assured her that it didn’t matter, she was still Jane.

And when we walked back to their house on Paloma, always, always, she pointed at birds, trees, the sea, with love and glee.

She was my wise woman. Magnificent Jane.

After the first sorrow, after the tearful call to Alex, a strange thing happened: I haven’t mourned Jane at all. It’s as if she hasn’t died. She is present, alive, vivid, much as my father continues to be.

Honestly, I don’t think we know a single thing about death. All I know is that Jane is still here, and oh, how we loved her. How we keep on loving her.