Editors’ Introduction: The following is the first in a two-part series of posts by guest contributor Scath Beorh on the topic of “Mythopoetics,” in which Beorh defines the basic categories involved. We’ll publish the second part, in which the role of the poet is considered in light of his or her true role as mythopoet, in about two weeks. Many thanks to Scath for his insights.
Mythopoetics is worked in three descending levels:
- Myth & Legend
- Speculative Fiction
The highest level of Mythopoetics can be called Theriake, when myth and dynamism meet and combine in the storyteller. Since this ‘keeper of lore’ carries an undiluted theriake, or antidote, for the poison which fills and kills mankind, he becomes an inextinguishable light and healer for all who come into contact with him. His life is often transformed through martyrdom, though sometimes he leaves us through a natural death. On the rare occasion, he departs in toto into Eternity. Paradigms of such ‘living myths’ from the Hebrew tradition are Moses, Solomon, David, Enoch, Elijah, Elisha, Stephen, Peter, Paul, John the Beloved, John of Patmos, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth and those who wrote of Him. Later we have, among many others, Patrick, Francis of Assisi, Gemma Galgani, and Thérèse of Lisieux. This level is perfect Logos/Rhema predication. The storytellers both live and speak theriake, those looking to the coming of the Christ less so than those experiencing the Christ firsthand. The theriake itself sets forth several things at once:
- The Who and What of the Source of Life
- Eternal promises made to all who hunger and thirst after righteousness
- Atonement, peace, and abiding for those who endure to the end
The next storytelling level is Myth & Legend, which most usually does not put the life of the storyteller in any danger. Nevertheless, the stories told are considered lofty, and do have an enormous amount of theriake. Logos/Rhema predication in a secondary form is found at this level. Philosophy and Theology find their homes here. From the Greek tradition we have Aesop, who was an Ethiopian slave. From China we have Lao Tzu. Northern Europe gives us J. R. R. Tolkien, George Mackay Brown, Lord Dunsany, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, and others. Norse and Irish myths fall into this category, as well as the myths and legends of many other world cultures. The storytellers often live the theriake while they speak it, but this is not always the case.
The next level is called Speculative Fiction and has been divided into three styles: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Fantasy and Horror have been with us for millennia, and much of these two verge on being mythological. Sci-Fi is a recent addition ca. the 19th century. Allegorical Fantasy falls into the Spec-Fic category. Ray Bradbury is a master of Spec-Fic. The three styles, or genres, work with the feelings and emotions of wonder, terror, and horror… and generally ask one or more of the questions How, Why, What, Who, When, and Where. Ghost Stories additionally give us our forgotten histories as well as frightening glimpses into spiritual realms unclean or beneath divine judgment. At times the storytellers carry antidote, and when they do, sometimes they live the theriake while they speak it, but this is a rarity. Most fantastic writ is not mythopoetic.
Part two can be found here.
Scáth Beorh writes stories permeated with themes of violence, brutality, anguish, punishment, magical realism, and blurred lines between this and the afterlife. Sometimes veiled and at times more overt sarcasm about Christian values and moral inconsistencies underline an ingenious design behind the entertaining tales. The quality of the writing and storytelling indicate an extremely well-informed and competent storyteller. Beorh is the author of the novel The Vampires Of Dreach Fola (JWK, 2016), the story collections Children & Other Wicked Things (JWK, 2013) and Classic Ghost Stories (Editor, Crucifixion Books, 2017), the poetic study Dark Sayings Of Old (JWK, 2013), and the novels The Witch Of Ballinascarty (Ghostley Books, 2017) and Pinprick (Ghostley Books, 2017). Forthcoming works include The Annotated Nephilim Field Guide, Ghostly: A Novel Of Postmodern Ireland, Uncle Treacle’s Bestiary, Hollywood & Vine, The Horror Of Rue Royale, and Stained Glass: Mythopoeic Storeys.