Jeff Leinaweaver, PhD, is a renaissance man: professional storyteller, musician, global sustainability consultant, professor, radio talk show host, father, husband, mythologist …and friend. He invited me to help launch the Bainbridge Island Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythological Roundtable Group. ( That long name is mandated by the international organization to which we belong.)
I am so inspired by hosting our first session that here, now, three days later, my socks are still rolling up and down.
We listen to a two minute clip of Campbell himself talking about the four functions of mythology, the first of which is the Mystical. He says we have forgotten that the very ground of our being, the source of our consciousness, is mystery and that we come from and return to the darkness without answers and no precise definitions. Because we don’t acknowledge our mysterious origins, we have lost the capacity for awe, the very quality that makes us most compassionately human. This perspective sings in me because I live by the same melody.
But something greater unfurls as I absorb one of Campbell’s favorite myths in preparation for telling it at the meeting. On the surface, we all know the story of the Frog Prince, when the power of a kiss transforms ugliness to beauty. But in this version, perhaps older and closer to the original, there is no kiss but a …
Now that wakes me. I start probing the story with inquisitive antenna. Why are ostrich feathers, not peacock, eagle or robin, on the heads of the horses? Why a gold ball and not one of silver or with green and blue stripes? Why does the princess seem like a child on the first day of the story and on the second is ready for marriage? And what about those bands around Faithful Henry’s heart? I tell you, once I begin listening to this story with my “third ear”, an endless array of exhilarating paths show up to carry me ever more deeply into amazement.
The most astonishing is this. The pivotal event takes place under an “old Linden tree.” Why not an oak, or a fig, or a maple or even a sweet pine? But the story specifies a linden. Being a researcher at heart and a “bookaholic” in my core, I turn to my own library and find: The Meaning of Trees by Fred Hageneder. Happily, linden is listed in the index.
I just about take flight with what I read. Not only are these trees a nectar source for bees and thus often nicknamed the “bee tree,” ( Isn’t that propitious given the plight of bees on our planet?) they’re also known as the “soothing tree” whose tea is good for the heart, calms children, eases diarrhea, high blood pressure, sinus conditions and skin problems. But here’s the really fascinating bit: the linden was the traditional hub of village life and the gathering place for both feasts and courts of law. Considered a sacred tree, it is “revealing that the ancients gathered, discussed and judged underneath the ‘female’ linden which represents mercy, rather than the ‘male’ oak tree” associated with the god Thor.
My mouth gapes open as I get it!
Our ancestors recognized guidance and wisdom in every aspect of the world around them and specified specifics in every story because they knew their community understood the significance. We’ve lost all that meaning! We are no longer embedded in a “wisdom world” and have to turn to secondary sources, as I did, to grasp the depth of meaning in the details of a story. We dismiss a treasure trove of information and interconnectedness when we deprive the world of sentience and relevance. As industrial/technological/information age humans, we have lost our ability to receive direct wisdom and unprocessed knowledge.
WOW, just WOW again!
No wonder we feel alienated and ungrounded. No wonder stories of all kinds are so important to rediscover, share with each other and imagine more of our own…discovering a living mythology for our time that nourishes a living world to which we belong.
Hello dear Deborah, Your posting is timely. I had an odd encounter with a frog this week which I’ve been unable to understand, but maybe it relates to your post. On Sunday I dreamt that someone gave me a shiny, gray/silver frog. I held it in my hand a moment, then when it tried to jump out, I placed it in a makeshift aquarium.
Now, the next morning, wondering what the dream was about, it occurred to me to take a small “frog prince” figurine with me to work, (which normally sits on a shelf in my kitchen) as a meditative device to gain understanding about the dream. That afternoon, I remembered I had the frog in my purse and so I took it out and set it on my side table where I keep all my “working” files. Then I stepped out into the hall for just a moment to get an office supply I needed. When I came back, the heavy wooden table had moved 6 inches into the area where I sit (so it couldn’t have happened earlier, as it was in my way). I asked the only three people in my unusually quiet office if they’d been in my office, but no one had (not to mention, I was only outside of my office and would have noticed someone going in). Off to read the frog prince now, though! Love and light, Alisa
So good to hear from you, Alisa. I was thinking about you just the other day! I am delighted by the synchronicity of your story with my own awe for the magic all around us. Moving tables, frog princes, and unexpected gifts of dreams. Yummmmmmy. Because the old Frog Prince story revolves around the power of the “splat” and the breaking of the bands around Faithful Henry’s heart and the potency of authenticity and integrity, I’m wondering if something in you is longing to break apart, crack open. Oh oH, have you checked out the Oracle Card header on my blog? One of my cards in that deck is called Cracking Open. The Fearless Sisters who produced the deck are about to commit to a second printing. I’m currently sold out but let me know if you’d be interested in a deck this Fall. Much love and hoping I’ll meet up with you again in person!
Hello dear one. Yes, I’d love to purchase a deck when you have them again. Let me know. Oh yes, cracking open indeed. I’ve been longing to get back to my mediumship/psychic work, and that’s exactly what’s happening over the last month or more and it’s astounding and wonderful. I’ve been a program director of an adoption agency where I am pretty unhappy due to a consistently impossible work load and I’m longing to get back to the work that brings me so much meaning (and is of great benefit to others), but I’ve been afraid (for too many reasons to get into here). And so I’m in the midst of a huge “opening” psychically speaking, and on the verge of making “leap” away from the security of a full time paycheck to a vocation that fulfills but may not be as reliable financially speaking. Oh, and then there’s menopause. 😉 I have to get, but will write more via email…would love to share more. xo Alisa
Alisa, did you just send me a Frog Prince post from Paradigm Shifting? What an awesome connection. I just reposted it on my blog. Love this connecting with you!
Yes I did…wasn’t that a great blog.
Hi Deborah- the Frog prince is one of my favorite stories… but I think you already know that:). Thank you for the associations around the linden tree and your passionate insights. I’m so happy that you and Jeff are holding a roundtable together, telling stories, and sharing all the gold you have to bring to us. xoxo catherine
Hi Deborah- this is one of my favorite stories— but I think you know that:). Thank you so much for this post and the associations with the linden tree. Every detail does matter and you make great heartfelt moves with what you uncovered. I’m so happy that you and jeff are holding a roundtable, telling stories, and sharing your gold in this fashion. Are you coming to JT for the symposium in September?? xoxo catherine