Musings of a Pagan Mythicist by Maggie Jay Lee: “Myth and Mnemosyne”

Humanistic Paganism

A cloud of ash pours from Puyehue volcano in southern Chile, at sunset on June 5, 2011.

Mnemosyne, whose name means Memory, was the mother of the Muses, therefore the mother of all the ancient arts. It is now well accepted that the poetry attributed to Homer goes back to a time without writing. The gods and their stories come from this world, when all knowledge was held in memory and passed down orally. It is the ways of Mnemosyne, the constraints of memory and the adaptations used to minimize these constraints, that are at the heart of mythic religions. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, the “medium is the message.” Myth is often described by modern commentators as the first attempt by humans to provide causal explanations. The line of thought goes something like this: “Because ancient peoples did not have science, they did not understand the true cause of…

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