The Stories that Bind Us

I think that I am so drawn to symbolic thought because, to me, it shows the interconnectedness of everything.    Much as I like to tell myself that I am an island and “I don’t need no one!” in reality, there is a god deal of comfort in knowing that we are all in this together.

One of my favorite movies, About a Boy, opens with a brilliant monologue by Hugh Grant about the virtues of “island living” as he calls it:   By the end, though, he realizes that we are more like an archipelago–still kind of islandy but actually connected under the water.

In educating myself about different philosophies and symbols, I have learned that the same stories are woven through all cultural fabrics.  For example, almost all cultures have a Flood Story, like Noah’s Ark.  There is also a fascinating version of the Arthurian legend that focuses on the Merlin but combines elements of the Genesis story.  In this version, Jesus is sent to earth to free the world from evil.  When the Adversary learns of this plan, he sends an Antichrist to earth to foil Jesus.  This Devil or Antichrist comes in the form of a dragon or serpent, and “takes” a young woman who had sought refuge in a sanctuary.  The resulting child is the Merlin, who has characteristics of both his earthly mother and his supernatural father–he is both human and magical.  It also illustrates how Initiates into the Mysteries (like Merlin) have considered themselves sons of both Nature (the human mother) and Wisdom (the serpent or dragon).  How cool is it when legends and stories combine and overlap like this?

I am in awe that we humans, no matter how far apart we are separated by time or space, come up with the same stories and symbols.  It’s Carl Jung’s collective unconscious.  And to me, it’s reassurance that we are all connected, even if it’s under the water.




Yggdrasill of Norse Mythology

The World Tree


Many cultures have a Tree of Life concept.  In Nordic mythology, the Yggdrasill is the World Tree which connects the nine worlds. 

The tree itself is believed to be an ash tree.  Ash symbolizes combining strength and wisdom during times of sacrifice (see Nature-Speak by Ted Andrews).  In fact, the Norse god Odin hanged himself from Yggdrasill so that he might achieve higher wisdom.

Below the Yggdrasill are three roots and three wells.  Running along the branches of the tree are four deer, representing the four winds.  At the time of Ragnarok (the end of the cosmos according to Nordic myths), the fire giant Surt will set fire to Yggdrasill.

I love how one story encompasses the four elements (earth, wind, fire, water), explains the connectedness of all things, and teaches about wisdom.  Now that’s an epic story.