Note — Sep 25, 2022

Rewilding Mythology

Myths document the understanding of the world, as discovered by our predecessors. Whether real 10 000 year-old comets remembered through legends, interdependence represented in cave frescoes, or heroes and heroines representing anthropomorphized plants and animals tribes depended on. Sophie Strand advocates for a ‘composting’ of our myths, history, and knowledge, saying that we must rediscover what preceded us and include it in the ‘fermented soil’ we might grow solutions and evolve from. Worth a read to get to the last quote below with the proper framing.

I’m going to have to come up (suggestions welcome) with a word/category for this type of article. I love the portrayal of mythology, I agree with the inspiration it can play, but I’m … dubious? Sceptical? Unconvinced? of the way Strand connects both… strands (sorry). I don’t disagree or contradict, rather it’s something I’ve felt in a few other readings over the last year; is my scepticism warranted or am I missing something? Am I unknowingly too attached to the mental models I’ve been living with to accept what she is saying? “Colonialism” sometimes feels overused here, some other connections too esoteric, but is the author exaggerating? Or have I not delved deep enough, thought deep enough about the topic? This is how I’m sharing it here; lots of heady worthy ideas, but also some that are either too lyrical, go too far, or that I’m not grasping properly yet.

The Pit River Nation of northeastern California, also known as the Achumawi, have a cosmology that dates the universe at 10,000 billion years old, a mythic origin that far predates the material reductionist conclusion that the universe’s age is, indeed, close to that estimation. […]

Just as fungi taught plants how to root into the soil, so do myths teach us how to root into our ecological and social ecosystems. Mycorrhizal fungi map the relationships in a forest just as myths map the specific relationships of a community rooted in place. […]

We cannot simply decide that civilization and patriarchy are toxic and then reject them. Instead, we must take responsibility for our bad stories through the alchemical power of rot. On the compost heap, nothing is exiled. […]

While science and myth are often seen as opposed, I want to propose that the tools of science have provided us with a unique window into the lives of the beings whose myths might save us. Inspired by the work of philosopher Isabelle Stengers, I believe the most resilient thinking will occur in the overlap of disciplines, creating what Stenger’s calls an “ecology of practices.” We can return to the hybrid wisdom of the theriomorphs: symbiosis is the basis of life itself. Biological and mythic novelty arise from unruly compositions between species, between epistemologies, and between beliefs.