One of the definitions of mythology is “a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered.” I think we each have our own personal mythologies. They both arise naturally from the circumstances of our lives and they are fostered – maybe not deliberately, but fostered nonetheless – by each of us, depending on what we need to remember and how we need to remember it.
In the traditional sense, of course, from angels to zombies, mythical creatures abound in folklore around the world. But just as a particular culture’s myths explain a society to itself, our personal myths explain ourselves to ourselves. We tell stories that make sense of who we are and the time we’ve spent on earth, stories we populate with beings that wax mythic in our minds. Each of us has our own creation story, our own explanations for how the world works, our own hero’s journey and our own idiosyncratic pantheon of mythical creatures. Accordingly, just as Medusa and the Phoenix are mythical creatures, so are Nancy Drew and the Cheerleader I wanted to be in seventh grade and the Fuzzy Black Dog I found in Back of the Yards (who, by the way, I named Phoenix). These entities are “mythical” because they’re larger-than-life characters that populate the stories we tell and retell about ourselves, and “creatures” because in the telling they become either more-than or not-quite human. We keep coming back to them. Whether persecutors or protectors, they become important in our understanding of why things are the way they are, in our understanding of ourselves.
The full title of this book I’m writing is The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. In it, I introduce some of my own mythical creatures, describe the circumstances that brought each of them to life and tell what part they played in my story after that.
I hope that my own “set of stories, traditions and beliefs” will resonate with readers, each with their own collection of myths and pantheon of mythical creatures.
What are yours?