Magic in Mythology

“[Stories] are symbiotic with us. They are the thing that we have used since the dawn of humanity to become more than just one person.“ 
– Neil Gaiman, How Stories Last

I had an interesting conversation last night with one of my clients about translation. He was reading The Poetic Edda—a collection of stories from Norse mythology—and was thinking about the version he was reading and what was lost in its translation from the original text. Having just listened to Neil Gaiman’s fantastic talk about how stories are alive and how the stories that endure outcompete similar stories by changing over time, what immediately came to my mind was how these Norse stories were already translations, passed along through generations of storytellers before they were ever written down. Over generations, the events of stories become distilled, losing less interesting details, and focusing in on what really matters to the audience. 

Without making too big of a leap, I think we can see Tarot in a similar way. What is it about this particular tool that connects so deeply with us? Why has the structure of the 78-card deck inspired practitioners for more than 500 years? 

There is something powerful in the places and characters and events that populate the cards. They offer us a unique way of looking at the world and a perspective that can give us strength when we need it. This magic has resonated with us for generations.

The link to Neil Gaiman’s talk on Soundcloud as well as an excellent overview of the talk can be found at Brainpickings:

I’ll conclude with another quote from his talk. It’s all too common for us to discount the impact that we have on the world. Sometimes we need a little perspective to see just how much we can (and do) influence the lives of those around us: 

“We [writers] decry too easily what we do, as being kind of trivial — the creation of stories as being a trivial thing. But the magic of escapist fiction … is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armor, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better… It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better-armed than when you left.”