When we read about ancient civilizations, we hear about folk tales and stories, fairy tales and fables, myths and magic. We may think of these as being fanciful and unreal — fun to read but not really relevant to us and our times of science and scholarship.
Yet, every culture has a mythology, a cosmology relating the skies to the Earth, and stories that mystify us with their beauty and creativity. The Mayan culture was no exception. They seem like fantasy — and yet they feel compelling. Could there be something more to them than meets the eye?
The Truth Behind Myths and Stories
When scholars look at the stories in each culture, they find two things: the history of the culture and advice on how to live. Often these stories tell the tale of a real hero (such as the Greek Odysseus or Jason) who actually lived and played a role in important historical events. But at least some of these stories also tell a different tale on a deeper level — that of the movement of the planets, the wobble of the Earth on her axis, and the nature of the archetypes (living symbols) that are important to the culture in which they are found.
From Inanna to Rapunzel: Stories Reveal the Mythic World
For instance, the story of Inanna from the Sumerian texts (from current-day Iraq) tells of the planet Venus and how this planet’s cycle works. It tells of Inanna descending into the Underworld to rescue her sister from the Lord of the Underworld, then burning up in its depths but emerging on the other side of this dark realm through her courage and strength, renewed and reborn. This is the story of how Venus, as an evening star, descends into the light of the Sun (during her retrograde period) until she is “burned up” in the Sun, emerging on the other side as a morning star, appearing reddened (as if from her struggle) and reborn.
The Northern European fairy tale of Rapunzel is about the interactions of Venus (Rapunzel), Mars (the Prince), and the Moon (Frau Gothel, the ‘wicked step-mother’). Many of the stories tell about the patterns seen in the stars (the constellations) and how they represent important energies (archetypes) that we act out in our lives. In fact, whether it’s a planet or a Zodiac sign, a star or a constellation, there are plenty of archetypes to choose from!
We can think of them as characters in an internal play. It’s as if they take on roles in our head, have a conversation with each other, and live out a story. What’s amazing is that we tell the story through our lives! This is the magic of astrology, and its mystery draws us to it. Understanding how we live out these stories is the key to unlocking the magic and beauty inside us to find love and happiness.
Enter The Mythic World!
This is the Mythic World, our inner landscape where these gods, goddesses, heroines and heros, walk. Every culture has stories that take us into the Mythic World, and the Maya were no exception to this. One of the qualities offered to us by cultures that are closer to sky and Earth (than our Western culture) is an deeper connection to the Mythic World. Science and logic are indispensable gifts from Western culture, but if they are taken as a the only perspective, we can become cut off from the wonder of the heavens at night, and the cycle of the year as its light grows and diminishes.
The Maya walked the Mythic World, and as they observed the planets against the backdrop of the stars, they saw cycles of human behavior and activity unfold. These are depicted by the stories found in the Popol Vuh (‘book of the community, or ‘counsel book’), a record of the stories told around campfires over centuries. Kukulcan (or Q’uq’umatz) is the Feathered Serpent, a figure in the Maya’s Mythic World, perhaps a comet or the planet Venus.
The Mythic Clock
Part of the Mythic World is the Mythic Clock. This is the clock of the planetary cycles, which we know play a big role in our lives, no matter what culture we are in. When Venus burns up in the Sun during her retrograde (which came to us this year in the first week of June, the Transit of Venus), we may feel the burn ourselves, a feeling of intensity as we discover the truth about something that was previously hidden.
By tapping into the Mythic Clock, we reconnect with a process that is already happening and thus learn to manage it to get what we want out of life. We learn to navigate the inner landscape, befriend the heroes and goddesses we find within, and discover how to live in harmony and peace. They give us a sense of why we’re here and going through life’s challenges.
We can reconnect with the Mythic Clock through astrology and the stories of any culture. Whatever stories and culture attracts you will have meaning for you. In 2012, the stories of the Maya and their great Long-Count Calendar have captured our imagination. Let’s use them to become aware of the deeper processes of change and give us a vision of what we want to create. When we tap the Mythic World — learn the ways of the Mythic Clock — we can indeed bring our dreams into reality. This is the world the Maya bring to us, as well as every other culture the world over.