Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Mythology

Downloaded from the Mythos Institute Website on April 6, 1999
 
  1. Read myths with the eyes of wonder: the myths transparent to their  universal  meaning, their  meaning  transparent  to  its  mysterious source.
  2. Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.
  3. Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses of ancient mythology still live within you.
  4. Any myth worth its  salt exerts a powerful  magnetism. Notice the images and stories  that you are  drawn to and  repelled by. Investigate the field of associated images and stories
  5. Look for  patterns; don't  get lost in  the details.  What is needed  is  not more specialized  scholarship, but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections; break old patterns of parochial thought.
  6. Resacralize  the  secular: even  a  dollar  bill reveals the  imprint of Eternity.
  7. If God is everywhere,  then myths can be  generated anywhere, anytime, by  anything.  Don't  let  your  Romantic  aversion  to science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.
  8. Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a  vacuum; they are the connective tissue of  the social  body which  enjoys synergistic relations with dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of myth).
  9. Expand your horizons! Any mythology worth remembering will be global in scope.  The earth  is our  home and  humankind is  our family.
  10. Read  between  the  lines!  Literalism kills; Imagination  quickens.

My Myth

    There once was a wood cutter who lived alone in the woods.  One day he awoke to discover a hideously beautiful creature standing over him.  One half of the creature was very beautiful, the other half was very ugly.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
The creature said nothing.
The woodcutter, not knowing what else to do, got up and began his day.  The creature followed him around all day still refusing to answer any questions.  This went on for several days and the woodcutter's mind began to be distracted by the creature and what its purpose was.
    At times the woodcutter would only look at the beautiful half of the creature, but that was impossible.  He was always repulsed by the ugly side.  The more he was repulsed by the ugly side of the creature the more he wanted to destroy it and keep the beautiful side.
    So one day while chopping wood the woodcutter abruptly turned and split the creature cleanly in half.  The beautiful part of the creature looked at him once and then ran off into the woods.  The ugly part of the creature turned on the woodcutter and attacked.  The woodcutter fought to defend himself the only way he knew how, by chopping.  So he chopped and chopped at the creature, succeeding only in making smaller creatures that were just as ugly.  Finally, in despair, the woodcutter ran from the creatures and hid in the dark woods.
    Now in the woods lived a witch.  The woodcutter explain his problem an the witch told him to go home immediately and pour honey on the little creatures and whatever he did not to attack them again.  Perplexed, but not knowing what else to do he went home and began pouring honey on them.
    As soon as he began pouring the honey the creatures began turning on each other and began eating themselves, growing bigger all the while.  Soon there was only one creature left and it was still not very friendly.  So the woodcutter ran away again to the witch and asked what to do.  The witch promptly turned the woodcutter into a crow and gave him a basket of berries.  The witch instructed him to fly as high as he could until he could see the beautiful half of the creature.  Then he was to drop berries in front of the creature and lead it towards its missing half.
    The woodcutter did as he was told and soon the beautiful creature was standing next to the ugly creature.  The woodcutter landed on a tree and watch as the two seperate creatures came together in a flash of light.  When the woodcutter opened his eyes he saw a fat worm.  The woodcutter had been a crow for a long time and was now very hungry in a crow like way, so he ate it.  So doing he turned back into a woodcutter and went home a bit wiser.