Thursday, April 4, 2019

Gods of Spring

Gods love good stories and the ancients told the best ones. Three thousand years ago, give or take a week, those fabulists knew how to spin a yarn. How did it all begin? Why doesn’t it rain? When will it stop? Our tribe is better than your tribe, isn’t it? What happens after we die? Behold the flowers that bloom in the spring!

Homer and the Hebrews, separately, took a collection of tall tales, songs, imaginings, and assorted folk lore from peasants, sages, pranksters and hallucinogenic gurus….anything to allow the group to cohere and answer the overwhelming questions.

The pivotal moment in human history was when stories were recorded rather than just told. The alphabet took the oral tradition and set it in down for evermore. The Greeks let theirs devolve into myth. The Jews held theirs as sacred and Christians concocted a sequel complete with cheek-turning, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Athenians of the day took on the story of Persephone who returns from the underworld just about now on the calendar for a six to nine month sabbatical. She was the offspring of Demeter and Zeus. You’d have thought with parents like that she wouldn’t have been snatched by Hades, brother of Zeus, but she was apparently very snatchable. So it is that spring flowers bloom right on time and therein lies the seeds of eternal life.  

With the Jews the season is celebrated horizontally rather than vertically. The tribe trekked ahead of the pursuing Egyptians across the desert to their freedom from enslavement ... only to enslave the Canaanites when they got to the Promised Land. More important is the summit meeting along the way with Moses and Yahweh in the room where it happens. Admittedly, most of what I know comes from Cecil B. DeMille and snatches of Seders when I had the tolerance for such things.

The Jesus myth is far bloodier, but blood is merely wine after all and the narrative had legs. Of course Easter is like yeast rising and the resurrection a bit of a stretch signifying, again, the bursting forth of poppies, daffodils and an array of blooms painting the desert floor.

Whether up or across, the holidays all go back to the pagans and natural world which deserves any attention it can muster in this age of neglect. The fables need to be reconsidered not as literal truth but as literature pointing us to pay attention to the cycles of Nature and blessings it brings. Miracle enough for me.

Now that I've offended everyone I'm going out to smell the flowers.