Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story
By Dennis Patrick Slattery
Imagine sitting in an Irish pub, drinking ale and listening to the bard weave stories about so many different things, or perhaps captivated by the glow of an outdoor fire while listening to an elder telling stories about history, traditions, and ways to navigate the different life portals that each and every one of us will have to enter at some time. And then—there are stories about destiny, that illusive, mercurial something that catches hold of us at the beginning of life and never seems to want to let go. La forza di destino!! These are the experiences one has in knowing and working with Dr. Dennis Slattery. Whether sharing a pizza and beer or having the luxury of attending one of his lectures or classes, one is privileged to experience an authentic “elder” who, in the tradition of all those wise ones who came before him, has the gift of bringing the world of myth and imagination to life and showing us that indeed these are as real as anything we can touch and hold in our hands.
Dr. Slattery reminds us that myths teach us about all aspects of life, from birth to death, and through the weavings of these eternal stories not only help us recognize the presence of these universal and archetypal patterns but also shows us ways to approach the transcendent.
With more than thirty years of teaching and working with myth, Slattery’s newest work, entitled Riting Myth, Mythic Writing, is a bold adventure in that it asks the reader to actively engage in the mythic tradition, who is asked to take on the role of bard and allow the soul to tell its story. While he opens the book in reminding us of the perennial wisdom contained in myth, he extends this work by inviting the reader to speak with Self and soul and, in a mythopoetic way, engage psyche as experienced in one’s own symptoms, fears, hopes, and joys.
Unless one understands inherent profundity contained and revealed in myths and legends, it may be difficult to grasp the challenge inherent in Dr. Slattery’s latest work. He wants his readers not only to know these perennial stories but to assume a certain authorship in the mythic process. His hope is that through this process of “Mythic Writing,” the individual will cultivate a meaningful relationship with those transpersonal forces which guide the life process.
There are far too many workshops dealing with myth, legend, and personal writing experiences where individual narratives are somehow elevated to the domain of archetypal, mythic stories. Personal narratives are temporal, whereas myths are eternal and exist as the universal bedrock upon which each new experience is built. The “prima materia” of the soul’s experience may not easily accommodate personal narratives, which tend to override, dominate, and ignore those eternal processes that represent the gold of myths. In this journey between the personal and eternal, we sail between Scylla and Charybdis, a journey of two worlds. One is the world of the ego and the whims, needs, and illusions of an egoic world whose actions are often purely secular, despite its protest of caring for soul. Then there is the world of the transcendent. This is the domain Jung spoke of as Soul and Psyche and Rabbi Herschel calls the “Ineffable.” Once the realm of transcendence is touched, ego dominance and the supremacy of conscious intentions must, by necessity, take a back seat. Constructionism, narrative therapy, and the illusion that every piece of personal writing is a magnum opus of the soul must be humbled by all that is truly profound. We all know how important it is for parents to believe that whatever their child produces is sacred, and to some extent it is, even when it involves peanut butter, tomato sauce, sesame oil, and chocolate over noodles. But there comes a point when pasta and steak dinner and a really great bottle of wine really does sound and taste so much better than our child’s culinary creative expressions. For anyone who partakes of the joys of gastronomical wonders, a moment of reckoning and humbling will someday come when we have to say that my cooking just does not match up with what I know is truly delicious. After more than fifty years of working side by side with many of my own families’ cooks, learning the tradition of “La Cucina Povera,” there are still some foods I still can’t make as well as my aunts and grandfather have done for decades.
Slattery knows and fully appreciates great food and wines and knows where to find the pubs serving the finest brews in Ireland. He knows and loves tradition and has an eye for beauty, originality, and the dialect of Self. Now the question remains if he can inspire these same sensibilities in his students and readers.
His work is that of a bridge builder, a “mediatore,” one who connects, and in this book he points to a realm where the universal and eternal can be approached through the personal. In doing so, he shows us the relationship between those myths that have guided humanity since the beginning of time and those very tender and personal moments when we begin to write our own story, tell a tale, and hope to God that our story is a telling of something that still connects our life to the life of all those who came before us and that bridges the ego to the transcendent and archetypal. Writing from the ego can be—well, the story of the ego, while the work of myths is a telling of the eternal, the story of soul and a wisdom that far transcends conscious understanding. These are two very different approaches to myth and story.
It is in this work of making connections between ego and soul that Dennis Slattery is a master. From his many years of working with these eternal motifs, he can easily distinguish when the story is created for the benefit of aggrandizing the ego, from those moments where Self and pure inspiration eclipses the wishes of ego. Two different worlds, two different sensibilities, and each requires the deft hand of a master to sail through these waters, in which one wrong turn will land you against the rocky shore. On the other hand, we also experience those moments when sailor and sea are one, and at those times one has access to those vistas reserved for seekers of—of what?—of wisdom, of knowledge, of a way of life that far transcends the limitation of their personal ego?
So dear Dr. Slattery, navigate well with these sojourners. Teach them the ways of ancient mariners, of the shoals that have stranded sailors since the beginning of time and those stretches of open water that allow for endless journeys across the deep blue sea.
–Michael Conforti, Founder and Director of The Assisi Institute, Brattleboro, Vermont
Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D. has been teaching and studying mythology as well as depth and archetypal psychology for the last 35 years. During that time, and in large measure through the writings of Joseph Campbell and C.G. Jung, he has been creating and offering writing retreats throughout the U.S., at the Eranos Foundation in Ascona, Switzerland and the Assisi Institute summer program in Assisi, Italy. Riting Myth, Mythic Writing is a compilation and distillation of those experiences. These riting meditations can help guide and connect a person to a greater sense of the mythic as a way of knowing, and of story as a way of seeing and discerning the broad contours of one’s personal myth.
Riting Myth, Mythic Writing
by Dennis Patrick Slattery
220 pages – Large 7.5 x 9.25 page format
Publisher: Fisher King Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
ISBN 13: 9781926715773