My Minoan grove recently took on a promising new student, which, on paper, is awesome. He’s passionate, sincere and eager to learn, all of which rocks, but there’s a catch: He knows fuck-all about Greek mythology. This is a bit of a handicap when attempting to work within a Pre-Classical Reconstructionist framework.
And y’know, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to say “Pre-Classical Reconstructionist framework,” I sure would have a nickel. But I digress.
Myths are ultimately stories used to teach. They’re almost always allegories for events of historical significance or explanations of natural phenomena, and while they may not be 100% accurate play-by-plays of the enterprises of the Gods themselves, they do give insight into the Gods’ personalities and spheres of influence. As far as religious reconstruction goes, a good grasp of a given culture’s recorded myths is a requisite, so once I realized New Guy wasn’t up on his Greek myths, I went running off to pick up a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, which, I figured, would give him a good foundation in the subject. After all, it’s a classic, and it covers the basic Who’s Who, as well as all the Who Did What to Whose What and Why.
Alas, I forgot that Mythology is not the liveliest of manuscripts: Upon cracking the book open, his apartment immediately filled with dust and the odor of vintage clothing. He did wrestle through a couple of chapters, but then broke down and confessed that a) the book just wasn’t grabbing him, and b) he really wasn’t much of a reader. And this is the part where I quit breathing for a bit.
While our agrarian European forbearers were most likely illiterate, contemporary Witches are, as a demographic, combat bibliophiles. In fact, the trick is usually getting new students to stop reading long enough to deprogram them:
“So, what books on Witchcraft have you read?”
“Everything Silver RavenWolf has ever written, and a translation of the Sumerian Book of the Dead that my friend Ash and I found in the cellar of an isolated cabin.”
From an optimistic perspective, New Guy is a blank slate — we’re not going to have to beat any biases or misinformation out of his head, which will save us a lot of time and effort. At the same time, and while the traditional method of transmitting knowledge is orally, and in a perfect world New Guy would come over and sit at my feet for hours on end as I told the tales and sang the songs of Our People… we both have day jobs. Plus, if he’s going to end up an initiate, he’s going to have to demonstrate a measure of independent thought and action — which means doing research on his own, which means reading. Which he doesn’t like to do. And which I can’t do for him.
I can, however, make the reading material more entertaining. Setting Ms. Hamilton aside, I regrouped and broke out the big guns:
As a side note, I called a local bookstore while trying to track down one of these texts and had the following conversation:
Me: “Hi, I was wondering if you could check to see if you have a particular book in stock.”
Bookstore Dude: “Sure. What’s the title?”
Me: “Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes.”
Bookstore Dude: “Yeah, that sounds like Zeus.”
Unfortunately, he did not have the book. But you know what he does have? My heart.