Personal myths in light of our modern-day “reality”

“The supreme madness is to see life as it is and not as it should be,

things are only what we want to believe they are ...” Jacques Brel

Big fish eating small fish

A broadside criticising the exploitation of political power by alluding to the proverb of big fish eating small fish; with an engraving with motives after Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel showing in the centre a table with a large dish of small fish, around the table are sitting five large fish with human arms, dressed in clothes and devouring the small fish, the table scene surrounded by various scenes of larger fish being cut open, revealing smaller fish, in the background small fish hanging on the gallows; with engraved title and text.

  • Light and Dark Personal Mythology in Current Events

These days we ponder what should be the “new myths” in light of our modern-day reality, but upon reflection we can see that many already exist and are playing themselves out on the public stage, in the form of people’s “personal myths” that drive their words and actions. In our Internet age, “personal mythology” is not merely a private matter of each person’s individuation process. The manifestations and consequences of personal myths are often bizarre, tragic, and dangerous to society. We have seen this recently: in the minds of the shooters in the massacres in Charleston and elsewhere, the takeover of Oregon’s Malheur wildlife refuge by an armed self-styled militia, attitudes toward Muslims, the debate over immigration, race relations, and in much of the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign. In order to understand events and control our future, it has become more urgent than ever that we be able to recognize and understand myths when they see them, which is the first step both to controlling their dark side as well as to developing healthier new myths that will inspire individuals and society in a more positive way.

Masquerades played a big role in the carnival festivities and contributed to the reverse practices. Masks frequently evoked animal or even demonic faces and revealed the dark tendencies of being. Indeed, each person used to choose, without even realizing it, a disguise and a mask that best reflected the lower tendencies. Far from hiding his face, the individual put on a mask revealing the darkest face that he tried to hide under different social masks in everyday life.

The mask (from the Latin “persona”) actually concealed the various external and changing appearances of the social character and revealed the real personality of the individual.

Like carnival practices, the Italian theatre of the “comedia dell’arte” gave the actors a mask that hid their face and removed any possibility of expression other than that of the character.

Let us note in passing that the Chinese (Chan) and Japanese (Zen) Buddhist traditions consider that every being has an original face, the face of his or her true being, under the mask of the apparent face. So, the mask can both reveal the dark aspect of the being during the carnival time and hide the luminous aspect in everyday life.

James Ensor is in line with the Flemish painting and Jerome Bosch in particular. Like Jerome Bosch, he did not try to paint men according to their outer appearances, but as they were inside. And there is no better way than the Flanders’ carnival parties to unveil the other side of the picture.

The carnival mask did not only conceal the appearances of the social figure, it also revealed the hidden face of the being carrying it. Each person chose indeed, subconsciously, a mask (From the Latin “persona”) which best reflected his or her true personality. Far from hiding the face of the person, the mask let appear, on the contrary, his or her true face.

The grotesque faces of these masks revealed the desires that animated the being: jealousy, cupidity, concupiscence etc. If these desires were not counterbalanced by opposed tendencies such as love, generosity, non-attachment and so on, they generated anguish: the anguish of losing what one has, anguish to lack, anguish to die etc. Desires are always sources of torment. And at the time of Jerome Bosch, the supreme desire consisted in accessing Paradise and the supreme torment to end in the flames of Hell. Two dangers threatened any being by the end of the Middle Ages: Death and Devil. That theme often came back under the metal point or brush of James Ensor.

Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889

Devil (from the Greek “diabolos”, which means disuniting, splitting, dividing) symbolizes beforehand all our own inner demons. Desires and anguishes often conceal the other tendencies of the being. Othello only saw Desdemona through Iago’s eyes; jealousy masked his love for his wife. The being forgets this side of himself that unites him to the other and maintains his inner unity. He is disintegrated, split up and let people only see a hideous facet of himself because it was deprived of its complement.

The features revealed during the carnival parties are not specific to a particular being, but characteristic of the gathered crowd. James Ensor was always haunted by crowds and insect hordes, which share the same conditioning and know only one destiny, to follow their instincts.

  • Note: Krampus or   Spiritual  “winter”  of  the modern world

In Catholicism, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children. His saints day falls in early December, which helped strengthen his association with the Yuletide season. Many European cultures not only welcomed the kindly man as a figure of generosity and benevolence to reward the good, but they also feared his menacing counterparts who punished the bad. Parts of Germany and Austria dread the beastly Krampus, while other Germanic regions have Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht, black-bearded men who carry switches to beat children. France has Hans Trapp and Père Fouettard. (Some of these helpers, such as Zwarte Piet in The Netherlands have attracted recent controversy.)

Krampus’s name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.

The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair.

According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night of December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. The next day, December 6, is Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior). (







  • In The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King Lloyd D. Graham explains the source of Carnaval and the period of change  from winter to Spring.

The “ insurrection “of january 6th 2021 in USA Capitol  is an expression of the deep rooted origins of the folklores of Carnaval and Krampus,

6 january is the feast of Epiphany


On this day we are making King cakes . They come with cardboard “crowns” to be worn by whoever gets the slice with the token and becomes monarch of the event.







The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King  by Lloyd D. Graham
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the seduction of the wild man Enkidu by Shamhat the
harlot symbolically causes his death as an unreflective animal and his rebirth as a
human – an Eden-like fall into self-awareness. Created as a match for king
Gilgamesh of Uruk, Enkidu goes on to become the king’s beloved friend. In
European folk traditions, the Wild Man is interchangeable with the bear, and
parallels can be drawn between Enkidu and the Candlemas Bear associated with
Carnival. Since Enkidu symbolises our pre-human nature, one can perceive a
figurative truth to the pan-European folk belief that people are descended from bears.
Thematic overlaps exist between some Gilgamesh narratives and European folk-tales
about a Wild Man whose father was a bear (the Bear’s Son / Jean de l’Ours motif) or
about twin boys, one of whom was raised in the wild by a female bear (Valentine and
Orson). Perhaps surprisingly, the roots of Santa Claus lie in the Wild Man. So too do
the origins of Merlin, the wizard of medieval Arthurian romance. Merlin has
elements in common with Enkidu, while King Arthur can be seen as a metaphorical
“Bear’s son.” Over time, the status of the Wild Man has changed from a wholly
inhuman monster to a “noble savage” who today might even be cast as a salvific ecowarrior.  Read here

The Wild Man or the Masquerade of Orson and Valentine – Brueghel

  • Free yourselves from mental slavery – part 2

“The crisis in sense, meaning, and identity doesn’t just push people into cults and conspiracy theories, it also makes mainstream belief systems more cult-like.”

      • From QAnon’s Dark Mirror, Hope

By Charles Eisenstein

A dark mirror shows features one would rather not see. You gaze at the repulsive visage in the picture frame, the caricature of everything despicable, only to realize with dawning horror that you are looking not at a portrait but at a mirror.

The political defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 election is a crossroads for the quasi-political movement grouped loosely around the QAnon conspiracy myth and, more broadly, around Trump himself. Because the man and the movement were a dark mirror for the whole of society, it is also a crossroads for society. Read more here


  • Traditionalism and Folklore

Among the Traditionalists, Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon touched upon folklore, but never made an extensive study of it. And Martin Lings, in the anthology Sword of Gnosis, did a metaphysical exegesis of a Lithuanian folk song. That’s about the extent of the Traditionalist treatment of folklore, though Rama Coomaraswamy told me that his father Ananda had made a collection of folk songs with a view toward a metaphysical treatment of them, but never finished the project. Among Sophia Perennis titles, Cinderella’s Gold Slipper: Spiritual Symbolism in the Grimms’ Tales by Samuel Fohr deals with this neglected area, as does Tales of Nasrudin: Keys to Fulfillment by Ali Jamnia, as well as Mining, Metalurgy and the Meaning of Life: A Book of Stories by Roger Sworder.

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy had this to say about the metaphysical dimension of folklore:

[By] “folklore” we mean that whole and consistent body of culture which has been handed down, not in books but by word of mouth and in practice, from time beyond the reach of historical research, in the form of legends, fairy tales, ballads, games, toys,crafts, medicine, agriculture, and other rites, and forms of organization, especially those we call tribal.

This is a cultural complex independent of national and even racial boundaries, and of remarkable similarity throughout the world. . . . The content of folklore is metaphysical.

Our failure to recognize this is primarily due to our own abysmal ignorance of metaphysics and of doctrines are received by the people and transmitted by them.

 In its popular form, a given doctrine may not always have been understood, but so long as the formula is faithfully transmitted it remains understandable;

“superstitions,” for the most part, are no mere delusions, but formulae of which the meaning has been forgotten. . . . We are dealing with the relics of an ancient folk metaphysics its technical terms. . . . Folklore ideas are the form in which metaphysical wisdom, as valid now as it ever was. . . . We shall only be able to understand the astounding uniformity of the folklore motifs all over the world, and the devoted care that has everywhere been taken to ensure their correct transmission, if we approach these mysteries (for they are nothing less) in the spirit in which they have been transmitted (“from the Stone Age until now”) with the confidence of little children, indeed, but not the childish self-confidence of those who hold that wisdom was born with themselves.

The true folklorist must be not so much a psychologist as a theologian and metaphysician, if he is to “understand his material”. . . . Nor can anything be called a science of folklore, but only a collection of data, that considers only the formulae and not their doctrine. . . .

René Guénon, who died in 1951, also dealt with the folklore as the transmission of the Primordial Tradition, in his book Symbols of the Sacred Science:

The very conception of folklore, in the generally accepted sense of the term, is based on an idea that is radically false, the idea that there are “popular creations” spontaneously created by the mass of the people….As has been rightly said [by Luc Benoist], “the profound interest of all so-called popular traditions lies in the fact that they are not popular in origin”; and we will add that where, as is almost always the case, there is a question of elements that are traditional in the true sense of the word, however deformed, diminished and fragmentary they may be sometimes, and of things that have a real symbolic value, their origin is not even human, let alone popular.

What may be popular is solely the fact of “survival,” when these elements belong to vanished traditional forms…. The people preserve, without understanding them, the relics of former traditions which go back sometimes to a past too remote to be dated, so that it has to be relegated to the obscure domain of the “prehistoric”; they thereby fulfill the function of a more or less subconscious collective memory, the contents of which have clearly come from elsewhere.

What may seem most surprising is that the things so preserved are found to contain, above all, abundant information of an esoteric order, which is, in its essence, precisely what is least popular, and this fact suggests in itself an explanation, which may be summed up as follows: When a traditional form is on the point of becoming extinct, its last representatives may very well deliberately entrust to this aforesaid collective memory the things that otherwise would be lost beyond recall; that is in fact the sole means of saving what can in a certain measure be saved.

At the same time, that lack of understanding that is one of the natural characteristics of the masses is a sure enough guarantee that what is esoteric will be nonetheless undivulged, remaining merely as a sort of witness of the past for such as, in later times, shall be capable of understanding It.

  • The mummers were costumed actors who participated in midwinter festivals in ancient and medieval Europe, largely in pantomime, though songs also formed part of the performance.

In the Middle Ages they performed at Christmas; the tradition of the Christmas mummers in England was revived in perhaps the 18th century.

Their plays included such motifs as the duel, death-and-resurrection, and the triumph of St. George over the dragon.

The word “mummer,” though derived from the Greek word for “mask,” is the likely origin of the English word “mum”; to “keep mum” means “to act like a mummer, a mime”—though the word “mime” comes from the Greek mimesis, “imitation; art”, which is related to the Sanskrit maya, the magical or dramatic power by which the Absolute manifests Itself as the universe. The universe, like a mask, both veils and reveals the mystery of the Absolute Reality. The symbolism found in “Nottamun Town” also suggests that the mummers, at one point in their history, may have had some relation to the tradition of Christian Hermeticism.

It is interesting, however, that the first two lines of stanza five, perfectly accurate in their context and entirely at one with the genius of the song, were written by Jean Ritchie herself (she tells me), following a vision she had, while walking in the woods, of the procession that appears in that stanza—proving that the ancient but always-new lore of the Primordial Tradition is transmitted by inspiration as well as memory, even if the one inspired is not entirely certain about, or necessarily even interested in, the intellectual meaning of the gift he or she has been given.

So René Guénon’s idea that the folk act as no more than a passive receptacle for metaphysical ideas received and transmitted by the esoteric sages must clearly be supplemented by the understanding that “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth,” that artists working consciously within folk traditions can sometimes be inspired by the same Source that the sage himself also acknowledges and serves; no-one can put their copyright on Wisdom, or their brand on Truth.

In traditional cultures, silence, like any essential human gesture, is not neutral. It indicates not simply the subjective desire not to speak, but the objective presence of a “mystery,” an initiatory secret; the Greek word for “mystery,” mysterion, is closely related to the verb myo, which means “to shut the mouth”, to “keep mum.” And to judge from “Nottamun Town,” the silence of the mummers was symbolic in precisely this sense, indicating that they were the transmitters, perhaps at one time the conscious transmitters, of mystical or alchemical lore in cryptic form.

In any fully traditional culture there is always a give-and-take between initiatory mysteries on the one hand and popular religion and/or folklore on the other, whether or not this exchange is mediated by an established “church.”

To take only one example, the Hindu Mahabharata may be viewed either as a mass of folklore which has collected around the core of a sophisticated literary epic, consciously designed to transmit a mystical doctrine in the guise of a semi-historical legend, or as a consciously-composed mystical epic which has drawn upon a mass of mystical and/or historical folklore for its raw material. This ambiguity and tension between the two poles of aristocratic literature and folk legend is expressed in the epic itself through the figure of the sage Vyasa, who is at once the poet who composed the Mahabharata and a character appearing within it. And this two-way flow of lore between the folk and the literati seems to have taken place in the mummer-tradition as well, where established poets would compose libretti for mummer-plays based on folk material—literary ballads which, after a generation or two, might themselves be transformed into folk songs.

The mystical truth which is realized in the sage is virtual in the folk.

 If the folk are the field, the sage is the fruit of the tree which grows in the center of it, a fruit which, even as it takes its place in the eternal domain of God’s attributes, also cyclically returns to the field from which it grew, via its seed, to propagate wisdom.

Note: Fulk is an old European personal name, probably deriving from the Germanic folk (“people” or “chieftain”). It is cognate with the French Foulques, the Italian Fulco and the Swedish Folke, along with other variants such as Fulke, Foulkes, Fulko, Folco, Folquet, and so on. However, the above variants are often confused with names derived from the Latin Falco (“falcon”), such as Fawkes, Falko, Falkes, and Faulques. Folquet de Marseille, fulco minstreel Fulk, King of Jerusalem

The folk correspond to the Aristotelian materia, that which receives the imprint of forms, and the sage to forma, that which shapes or “informs” the material which allows it to appear.

 And the tree corresponds to Tradition in the sense employed by French metaphysician René Guénon: that body of spiritual Truth, lying at the core of every religious revelation and a great deal of folklore and mythology, which has always been known by the “gnostics” of the race since it is eternal in relation to human time, representing as it does the eternal design or prototype of Humanity itself.

A traditional culture permeated by half-understood mystical lore on the folk level is a fertile matrix for the full development of the gnostic, the sagacious individual, who, by means of his darshan, his willingness to allow himself to be contemplated as a representative of spiritual Truth, returns the seed of wisdom to the folk who venerate him.

Such a sage may also compose tales, ballads, riddles, plays, proverbs and dances impregnated with mystical lore rendered into cryptic form, which can be subconsciously assimilated by the folk without breaking the seal of the mysteries.

A great deal of Sufi lore, for example, has been transmitted in this way. And if mystical truths may be shown to ordinary people in dreams—who will be unable to consciously understand and assimilate these truths in the absence of a traditional hermeneutic and a mystagogue who can employ it, unless God wills otherwise—then we can also say that there is a constant two-way communication between the enlightened sage and the people via the subtle realm, or between God and the people via the sage—a communication which, however, only the sage is fully conscious of. The voice of the people may be the Voice of God—vox populi vox Dei—but only the sage can hear what, precisely, this Voice is saying.

  • At the most basic and broadest level, a myth can be thought of as nothing less than our psyche’s construction of reality, or parts of it.

As psychologists have shown, myths, like dreams, are essential to our psychic well-being; we can’t do without them. The challenge becomes how to tend them.

Historically, myths were developed, taught, and ritualized in a public manner, so that everyone in a community shared the same myths and therefore the same essential vision of reality. Myths thus bonded societies together and served to enforce society’s rules and control its members. But this is no longer the case in our modern world where the old myths have lost their hold on most people. Among other things, science now explains things formerly explained by religion and myths; globalization has taken hold, breaking down the cultural walls that supported traditional religions and mythologies; technology and media have a dominant role in culture; there has been unprecedented migration and intermixing of cultures and of people themselves; and the rise of women has been unsettling and threatening to many men. The pace of change in society and culture has accelerated, to the point where it has outpaced the possibility for the traditional kind of public myths to develop and take hold.

Many elements of this process have been going on in Europe for centuries, where the various nations with differing languages and cultural traditions and myths lived closely together and worked out and minimized their differences at the cost of many wars, followed by integration.

But in the USA we were more isolated from this dynamic. Even after WWI when we emerged preeminent on the world stage, we imposed on others’ cultures rather than exchanged with them, and the Cold War rendered our relationship with the rest of the world rather one-dimensional. We have felt the shock more acutely since the end of the Cold War. Without a superpower enemy to unite us, we had to look more inward to find our identity. For this we needed new mythmaking, but in the new era the traditional public mythmaking could no longer work so well. Enter personal mythology, which when practiced at its best is what Joseph Campbell called “creative mythology” (see below).

“Personal mythology” is one way to describe the result of a person’s psychological individuation process (or failure in that process) as visualized by Carl Jung. As a mythologist, I like looking at individuation in terms of mythology, because it results in one’s own “story.”

This perspective begins by recognizing that our view of the world, including ourselves, is shaped fundamentally by common unconscious patterns within our psyches called archetypes (together forming our collective unconscious), together with elements of the unconscious accumulated from our personal experience, especially from childhood. This is the ultimate source of mythological symbols and motifs.

Our waking, ego consciousness, interacts with what wells up from the unconscious to produce a somewhat coherent (to ourselves) narrative or construction about ourselves and the world. In that process, our shadow asserts itself, with our ego rejecting what doesn’t match its image of our self (suppression/repression), resulting in corresponding projections of the same onto the external world (e.g., scapegoating). If this process is left to proceed on its own, we become passive prisoners of our archetypes and are carried through an unaware, unenlightened life, living according to corresponding myths, with pernicious, destructive consequences to our psychic balance and the outside world (in Star Wars terminology, going over to the dark side, which indeed has power).

Historically, when myths were imposed by society, they served to control people’s individual actions, while resulting pernicious behavior was often collective (e.g., witch trials, the Inquisition), but when the controlling function of the old myths is lifted in society at large, anti-social individuals with their own destructive mythologies can more easily surface to wreak their damage directly, which we see increasingly today.

Not only Campbell (from the perspective of the mythologist) but also a number of psychologists including David Feinstein, Stephen Larsen, Stanley Krippner, Rollo May, and Jean Houston recognized the problem and developed methodologies for proactively developing one’s personal mythology along a more enlightened path.

This is a centering/individuation process that involves identifying what one’s initial personal myth has been, as well as competing myths, integrating them, and then living out the new vision (Feinstein and Krippner). At bottom, this is an exercise in self-mastery. Such well-balanced, self-aware, integrated individuals in turn can help generate a healthier society. Campbell agreed. He wrote that creative mythology springs “from the insights, sentiments, thought, and vision of an adequate individual, loyal to his own experience” (pp. 6-7, emphasis mine). Such people are able “to relate to the wealth of mythological images and meanings in a creative and life-enhancing way” (Larsen, p. 15). In the end, argued Campbell, the new myths will come from such inspired individuals, who most commonly will be artists. Jung viewed this process as the most fundamental and important thing a person can do, and in fact described his whole lifelong journey as one of finding and developing his personal myth (Jung).

Don Quixote following his errant personal myth.

Returning to the course of history, we can see how chaos in our public myths results, at least initially, in chaos in our personal myths. The roots of this unsettling process go back at least to the Renaissance, and it is interesting to compare today’s situation with the similar impact this chaos had on people’s psyches centuries ago. As an example, Joseph Campbell, in his book Creative Mythology, used Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, as interpreted by him, with help from José Ortega y Gasset’s Meditations on Quixote.


Campbell observed that by 1600 when Cervantes was writing, the Renaissance and science had just changed the world, but Quixote would not and could not recognize the cold facts of this new outer reality. Rather, he was a captive of old myths and his personal myth. Riding for the honor of his lady Dulcinea (a projected, imaginary form of his real-life farm-girl neighbor), he sees (projects) windmills as enemy giants to be overcome, but in the event he winds up in a heap. His aide Sancho Panza cries, “Anyone could have seen that these are windmills – not giants – unless he had windmills in his head!” But Quixote’s myth still drives him, creating a scapegoat shadow figure: “I am sure it was that necromancer Frestón who transformed these giants into mills, to deprive me of this victory. He has always been my enemy, this way. However, his evil arts will have little force, in the end, against the virtue of my sword” (my emphasis). Quixote’s will, remarked Campbell, had become “reality in itself” (p. 605).

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Translated by John Ormsby illustrated by Gustave Doré.

  • Note: The Perfect Individual as a Mirror
  • The Perfect Individual, as a perfect reflection of God, is given special status in the world. The Perfect Individual is the only creature that manifests all the Names or Attributes, of God, and therefore is the only creature that fully manifests Being. The question arises: “if the Perfect Individual perfectly and completely reflects God or Being, then is this individual somehow more ‘real’ than other individuals?” The answer to this question will always be yes and no. The reason for this paradoxical answer/non-answer is evident within the mirror analogy employed by Ibn al- ‘Arabi. Read more here
  • Polishing your heart, Virtues Ethic for a modern Devotion in our times
    • Ego rules the world: Anti-“God”, Anti-“Humanity”, Anti-“Nature

    Our civilization is in decay. Because we have blown-up our ego. Cosmic Balance has been disturbed. The Origin – Cosmic Womb/Vacuum – “doesn’t tolerate” this. With the help of Her two Cosmic Forces of “Death and Rebirth” (“Stirb und Werde” – “Die and Become”-J.W. von Goethe) She breaks down our ego-accumulations, thus restoring the Original Balance.

    see  Crisis of the modern world  and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

    Current decadence, greed, evil, falsehood, corruption, violence, injustice, exploitation, thus have a Cosmic undertone. It is a “Cosmic Law” that civilizations which have become megalomaniacal will inevitably collapse. Because all levels of existence are corroded – including the religious realm – only a Dimension that is beyond – META – God and the world can redeem us.  “God hasn’t created the world out of nothingness, but Nothingness (Cosmic Womb) is giving birth to God and the universe, the latter continuously returning to the Origin”.

    One of the many disastrous consequences of an ongoing repression of this trans-personal Ground of Being – and the mistaken assumption of the Absolute by a relative entity or self – is epitomized in our techno-industrial pursuit to convert the earth into one large global factory – reinforced by multinational monopoly. Herein, nature is viewed simply as exploitable “raw material” for a “manufacturing” process aimed at churning out “products” for the “consumer.” This apparent narrowing of human perspective is the logical result of paradigmatic trends linking back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment. Read more here


  • l’Home de la Mancha ” Jacquel Brel ” De Munt Brussel 1968.( in Dutch)


” l’Homme de la Mancha “Jacques Brel 1968

Amerikaanse musical met ouverture door Mitch Leigh. Libretto op tekst van Joe Darion. Vertaling naar het Frans van de Broadway versie door Jacques Brel.


De man van La Mancha is een Amerikaanse musical gebaseerd op de door Cervantes geschreven roman. De vernuftige edelman Don Quichotte is de man van la Mancha. De eerste versie was een toneelstuk van 1 h 30 met als titel ” Don Quichotte ” , in productie gebracht voor de Amerikaanse TV in 1959. Men paste het werk aan om op het podium te kunnen brengen, maar regisseur Albert Mane raadde Wasserman aan er een musical van te maken. Voor het toneelstuk werden nu liedjes geschreven door Joe Darion die de basis zouden worden van het toneelstuk en die werden op muziek gezet door Mitch Leigh. De nu originele Amerikaanse versie ging nu in première in 1965 en werd meer dan 2000 keer opgevoerd in Broadway. De belangrijkste rollen waren Cervantes/Don Quichotte door Richard Kiley, Dulcinée door Joan Dienes en Sancho Pancho door Irving Jacobs.

In 1968 heeft Jacques Brel deze musical op Broadway gezien en was er zo door gecharmeerd dat hij er een Franse vertaling en bewerking van maakte onder de titel van ” l’Homme de la Mancha “. Brels versie zou op 4 oktober in première gaan aan de Koninklijke Muntschouwburg te Brussel en Brel zou zelf de regie voor zich nemen en de  hoofdrol vertolken . Op 11 december ging ook de première van start te Parijs aan de ” Olympia “.


Het is de laat zestiende eeuw. De mislukte schrijver-soldaat-acteur en belastingsgeld-inner Miguel de Cervantes is door de Spaanse Inquisitie, samen met zijn onafscheidelijke vriend en bediende Sancho Pancho in de kerker gegooid. De twee hebben al hun bezittingen bij zich. In de kerker worden ze door medegevangenen, onder leiding van de gouverneur en de cynische hertog gedwongen deel te nemen aan een nepproces. Als Cervantes schuldig bevonden wordt zal hij zijn bezittingen moeten overdragen. Cervantes stemt hiermee in , maar wil een kostbaar manuscript achterhouden. Hij wil zich daarom in het proces verdedigen. Hij wil dit doen in de vorm van een toneelstuk waarin alle gevangenen hun rol zullen spelen. En dit wordt geaccepteerd.

Cervantes transformeert zich in Alonso Quijana, een oude heer die veel boeken van ridderlijkheid heeft gelezen. Hij heeft zoveel nagedacht over onrecht dat hij niet meer normaal kan denken en nu van mening is dat hij als dolend ridder verder moet gaan om het onrecht te bestrijden. Hij hernoemt zich in Don Quichot van la Mancha, hij wil samen met zijn vriend als wapenknecht,  Sancho Pancha de wereld verbeteren.

Als ze op stap gaan ziet hij een windmolen aan voor een reus en wil deze verslaan, een herberg aanziet hij als een kasteel en eenmaal aan de herberg aangekomen neemt hij het scheerbekken van de barbier voor een speciale helm die de drager onoverwinnelijk moet maken. In de herberg ontmoet hij zijn droomprinses Dulcinea, maar het is in werkelijkheid een meisje van lichte zeden Aldonza, Don Quichot is heel vriendelijk tegen haar, maar ze begrijpt er niets van. Vertwijfeld vraagt ze aan Sancho waarom hij Don Quichot volgt, zij is niet gewend dat mannen aardig tegen haar zijn. Sterker nog, voor weinig geld moet ze naar bed met de muildierdrijvers. Het kan haar niks schelen met wie, uiteindelijk wordt Pedro uitgekozen. Ondertussen is met Antonia ook kennis gemaakt, een nicht van don Quichot, zijn enige erfgenaam. Zij en haar verloofde Dr. Carnasco ( de hertog) zijn uit op zijn geld en willen hem weer normaal maken. Ze proberen dit door een pastoor in te schakelen, die echter erkent dat ze een droom najagen.

Don Quichot verzoekt de herbergier( die wordt gespeeld door de gouverneur) om hem tot ridder te slaan, maar dan moet Don Quichot eerst buiten een nachtwake doen over zijn wapens. Hij doet dit met Aldonza die nog steeds niet met Pedro naar bed is geweest, omdat ze worstelt met de aandacht die Don Quichot haar gaf. Don Quichot zingt hier dan de wereldsong ( ” La Quiete – l’imposible réve “). Pedro komt ook naar buiten en slaat Aldonza, omdat ze hem zo lang laat wachten. Don Quichot komt tussen beiden en begint met Pedro een gevecht. Samen met Aldonza, Sancho worden Pedro en de inmiddels toegesnelde muildierdrijver verslagen. Don Quichot moet de herberg verlaten  en wordt door de herbergier nog wel tot ” ridder van de droevige figuur ” geslagen. De wetten van het ridderschap eisen volgens Don Quichot, dat de slachtoffers weer op de been geholpen worden.  Aldonza doet dit omdat Don Quichot daarvoor te zwak is geworden, maar de ezeldrijvers slaan haar, verkrachten haar en nemen haar mee. Dat laatste weet hij niet want hij hoort dat pas als hij Aldonza terug ziet vol met blauwe plakken in de herberg.

Don Quichot en Sancho moeten terugkeren naar de herberg omdat ze hun bezittingen in bewaring hadden achtergelaten bij de moorse dansers. Don Quichot wil Aldonza wreken, maar zij wil met niets meer te maken hebben. dan komt een ridder binnen met zijn gevolg met spiegels als schilden. Die beledigt Aldonza en Don Quichot verdedigt haar en valt de ridder aan. Don Quichot kan echter niets uitrichten  want hij ziet in de spiegels alleen zichzelf en deinst daarvan terug, hij schrikt er zo van . De ridder in de spiegels blijkt Dr Carasco te zijn, de toekomstige echtgenoot van Antonia. De Carasco wil Don Quichot weer bij zinnen brengen en als Don Quichotte  instort vertelt hij hem dat de enige mogelijkheid was om hem terug tot zichzelf te brengen .

Don Quichot geraakt echter in coma en ontwaakt hieruit door een vrolijk lied van Sancho. Don Quichot is nu volkomen normaal en herinnert zich zijn dwaas bestaan als een droom. Dan komt Aldonza binnen die niet meer kan verdagen dat ze Dulcinea niet is. Eerst herkent Don Quichot haar niet maar zij zingt Dulcinea en een aantal regels uit de song (l’Impossibele rève ) en Don Quichot herinnert zich nu alles weer en wil uit bed stappen om zijn weg als ridder te gaan vervolgen. Echter gedurende het zingen van de tweede reprise van het titelnummer ” l’Homme de la Mancha ” kreunt hij en valt hij dood neer. Aldonza verklaart dat ze nu Dulcinea is en dat voor haar Don Quichot altijd zal blijven leven.

De Inquisitie komt binnen om Cervantes mee te nemen naar het proces. De gevangenen vinden hem niet schuldig en geven hem zijn manuscript terug. Het is nog zijn onafgewerkte roman over Don Quichot de la Mancha. Als Cervantes en zijn dienaar ten slotte de trap naar hun naderend proces betreden zingen de gevangenen als afscheid ( ” l’Impossibele rève “) .


  • Jacques Brel says: “The supreme madness is to see life as it is and not as it should be, … things are only what we want to believe they are ...”

  • “I can’t Breathe” is the expression of the Crisis of the modern world.

Justice for All March – Dec. 13, 2014I can’t breathe is  sure the slogan associated with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The phrase is derived from the words of Eric Garner and George Floyd, two African-American men who died of asphyxiation during their arrests in 2014 and 2020, respectively, as a result of excessive force by primarily white police officers. The phrase is used in protest against police brutality in the United States.

But this protest, this Cry show us the real problem of the Modern man:

Modern man is a human without Soul, without the “Living Breath”.

The protest is the expression of  his deep spiritual Crisis in the times of deep ignorance..

Modern man suffocates and cries:  “i can’t breathe” , because  a human without “the living Breath” is always dying. It is his only certainty in life, man shall once die and all traditions in the world teach us to take care of our Soul, our “Living Breath”, always in our daily life, but sure at the moment when we are dying. Modern man is the only one of all the traditions of the world who dares to think that he is right to live without his soul and without his “Living Breath”. What an arrogance and Vanity! But remember Vanity is the quality of being vain, something that is vain, it is always empty, or valueless. Read more here

  • Free yourselves from mental slavery – part 1

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: The origin and meaning behind Bob Marley’s Redemption song.

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Those words are widely associated with the lyrics in “Redemption Song” by Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds.

The Work That Has Been Done, Marcus Garvey, October 31, 1937, Sydney Nova Scotia

Few know those sentences and thereby the song’s true meaning. Those words can be traced to Marcus Garvey. In fact though Garvey’s movement was disparaged as being a “Back to Africa” movement, Garvey and his supporters refer to it as a movement for “African Redemption,” which has a reference in the song’s title. The earliest known reference to the concept of “African Redemption” can be found in a letter written by Benjamin Lundy on May 28th, 1833. The letter was addressed to the Annual Convention of Free People of Color Convention due to meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lundy’s words to that effect are as follows:

A new era has opened upon the world! The “dark age” of African oppression is drawing to its close; and the happy “millennium” of African redemption is near at hand! Let the inhabitants of that ill-fated continent rejoice, and her children wherever scattered, sing praises to the Most High, on the “banks of deliverance.”

In Garvey’s only work that can be considered an actual book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” Volume 1 is “Dedicated to the true and loyal members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the cause of African redemption.”

Thereby it can be claimed Bob Marley paraphrased Marcus Garvey’s speech “The Work That Has Been Done” for not only that key lyric, but the song’s title as well. The speech is presented in its entirety below. Read more here

Bundy Malheur

Modern-day Quixotes living out their errant myth.

  • Fast forward to the recent siege in Malheur, Oregon, where we have: a self-styled militia visualizing themselves as heroes and patriots, knights if you will, in cowboy hats instead of a knight’s helmet, fighting not for an imagined lady but for an imaginary version of the Constitution and against an imagined tyranny, attacking not a windmill but an empty federal wildlife sanctuary building, riding in pickup trucks and SUVs rather than on the imagined steed Rocinante, and wielding, instead of a lance, an American flag on a standard and automatic weapons.

They imagined that ex-Navy Seals and other veterans would rally to their cause and join them, but no one came, and their self-perceived heroic exploit likewise ended up in a messy heap. While their actual motivations have been shown to be selfish economic ones, they were able to suppress that fact into the background and instead created and elevated for themselves and to the public their own dark myth, or more accurately became the prisoners of it. Their angst and that of like-minded people is an outcome the accelerated breakdown of their old myths and inability to adjust, prompting them to project enemies everywhere and construct new myths, which seem not to have been developed or held in a self-aware manner.

Because the underlying process is psychological and largely unconscious, the manifestations are varied and in the end constellate into a whole complex of interchangeable vehicles that reflect the same underlying fears, leading such people to rally to multiple, interchangeable causes to vent them. Thus, for example, one of the Malheur militia protesting federal “tyranny,” Jon Ritzheimer, also maintains an anti-Muslim website and recently led an anti-Muslim rally in Arizona wearing a t-shirt saying “F**k Islam.” We can multiply the examples of (and vehicles for) tragic wayward personal and group myths, such as that in the mind of the crazed Charleston shooter, Christian (and Islamic, and Jewish) fundamentalism, Confederate flag lovers, extremist gun culture, the Tea Party, climate change denial, rising religious intolerance, and proposals to ban immigration by targeted ethnic and religious groups.

So looking ahead to the near future, it becomes important, for example, to evaluate the messages of the current presidential candidates in the above mythological terms, dysfunctional myths become more dangerous when held and promoted by those in power. What dysfunctional myths does Donald Trump hold and ask us to buy into when he wants to ban Muslim immigration (and throw them out of his political rallies), stereotypes unauthorized Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists and proposes sending them back to Mexico, characterizes various people as “losers” (and himself as a winner), and more vaguely vows to “make America great again”? (What mythological America is that?) And what about the evangelical Ted Cruz seeking to reinstate the old religious myths? But, then, what underlying myth has caused Trump (at least in some polls) to enjoy nearly as much or more support than Cruz among evangelicals? (Since seemingly competing manifestations derive from the same underlying myth, cognitive dissonance can be at work so that both of them can be held, even if one of them, well, trumps the other.)  So beware not only of Greeks bearing gifts, but also of politicians bearing myths. And let’s do our myths the right way.

  • 2 February: the mythology and ritual behind groundhog Day
    by Arthur George”

Groundhog Day is our first holiday that formally looks forward to spring weather, optimistically reminding us that it will come sooner or later, the interesting question being which it will be. The equivalent holiday worked likewise for our ancestors centuries ago, with one difference: Technically the date actually was the beginning of spring. Today we regard this holiday as quaint and secular, but in centuries past it was mythological and religious, featuring rituals that were taken seriously. This holiday, Carnival, and Valentine’s Day are actually related, as we shall see, so this is just the first in a trilogy of posts about our interrelated February holidays.

The importance of what is now the beginning of February goes back even to Neolithic times. In Ireland we find in Neolithic monuments alignments for the rising sun on this date, which became the festival of Imbolc. According to the Irish myth Tochmarc Emire (“The Wooing of Emer”), the maiden Emer named the calendar points of the year, including Imbolc, when setting up a challenge to her half-divine suitor, the hero Cú Chulainn, to remain awake for an entire year in order to win her. She divided the seasons of the year according to the four days which fall roughly halfway between the solstices and equinoxes (called cross-quarter days), now the first days of February, May, August, and November.

Emer called the opening of spring Imbolc, after the lactation and milking of ewes which began at that time of year . Thus, for Ireland anyway, was created what is commonly called the Celtic calendar. Our practice of dividing the seasons at the equinoxes and solstices is relatively recent, coming to full fruition only in the 20th century, following the lead of America. But even today in America, we still have at least three holidays marking the old seasonal divisions: Groundhog Day, May Day, and Halloween. (The first-fruits or harvest festival of August 1 is not observed here in our industrialized society, but it continues in some places, such as Lughnasa in Ireland.)

In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have begun by the god Lugh (modern spelling: ) as a funeral feast and athletic competition (see funeral games) in commemoration of his mother or foster-mother Tailtiu.[

Before the advent of the Gregorian calendar, this beginning of spring occurred on February 14, which is now assigned to Valentine’s Day .

All four cross-quarter days were considered days of transition, when the veils between the normal and supernatural worlds were thin. So it was natural that people practiced divination on these holidays, which pertained not just to when the warm weather would arrive, but also more generally to the season’s crops, prospects for marriage, and other matters of concern. People also sought supernatural blessings for protection against sickness, blight, evil spirits, and other nasty things. For this purpose, protective fires, in the form of bonfires, torches, and candles were also part of rituals. In Christian times the Irish thought that St. Brigit traveled around Ireland on the eve of her holiday (Christianized Imbolc, called St. Brigit’s Day, thought of as her birthday, appropriately at the start of spring), conferring blessings on people and their livestock, and visiting their homes. Accordingly, the Irish had home rituals designed to welcome her into their homes and receive her blessings

When it came to divining the weather, people used various mediums to determine what was coming, including animals, which is natural: Any farmer or herdsman can predict the weather by watching the animals. Most important were hibernating animals, which emerge from their winter sleep in the spring.

In Ireland, just to see a hedgehog (the European holiday equivalent of our groundhog) on February 1 was a good sign ; not surprisingly, the hedgehog came to be connected with St. Brigit, and its behavior on her day was thought to predict the weather. The focus on the hedgehog (or badger) for divining the weather was most pronounced in Germany, however, which is how this holiday ritual made it to America via the so-called Pennsylvania “Dutch,” which was originally “Deutsch” since these immigrants were really Germans (who then used the American groundhog as the oracular animal). It was from Germany that the idea spread that the animal seeing his shadow on February 1 meant a continuation of winter for several weeks, whereas seeing no shadow meant that the warm weather was about to come, in which case the animal should remain out of hibernation.

People are often puzzled why a sunny Groundhog’s Day, when the groundhog sees its shadow, means that winter will continue, but cloudy or bad weather portends that spring weather is nearly upon us. Doesn’t this seem backwards? The answer, I suspect, lies in the original mythology lying behind the holiday ritual.

Originally in Europe, the animal associated with this holiday was not a hedgehog, but the bear. See The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King and changed by  the church as Candlemas (Bear)

A straw bear (German: Strohbär, plural Strohbären) is a traditional character that appears in carnival processions or as a separate seasonal custom in parts of Germany, mainly at Shrovetide but sometimes at Candlemas or Christmas Eve.

The people playing the bears either dress in costumes made of straw, or are actually wrapped in straw. The straw used may be that of wheat, rye, oats, spelt or peastraw; twigs and modern artificial materials have also been used. The bears may be relatively realistic in appearance, with detailed masks,[1] or fully rounded headpieces,[2] or they may be more abstract, with narrow heads like a long, tapering sheaf.

Only when the population of bears in Europe was diminished did people resort to hedgehogs as a substitute for divination on this day. Bears were the largest, most powerful and magnificent creatures in Europe, the king of beasts, like lions in the more southern climes. Venerated since prehistoric times, the bear was the oldest zoomorphic deity (Campbell, p. 127), and they have figured prominently in myths, folktales, and art. Some of their traits are similar to humans, so they were viewed in anthropomorphic (including totemic) terms, often viewed as the ancestors of humans. They also could move between worlds, and thus were thought even to instruct shamans. Importantly, they also were considered spirit or soul animals, and their shadow was thought of as their soul.

The process of hibernating in the winter and emerging back into the world in the spring was thought of in terms of death and rebirth , much like the seasonal death and rebirth of plants.

In the winter, life goes back into the womb of the earth (death), only to be reborn. When the bear “dies” and for so long as it is dead before it is ready to be reborn, its soul must remain in the underworld. So, if it emerges from hibernation (its “little death” ) on February 1 and sees its shadow (soul) on earth, this emergence is premature: It must return for a few weeks because it has not yet completed the sleep of death and rebirth, so spring weather must await. On the other hand, if he sees no shadow, then he has truly completed the full cycle of death and rebirth, so spring can begin and he can remain above ground. Such seasonal, cyclic processes of nature also resulted in spiritual analogues in the form of ancient mystery rites such as the Eleusinian and Mithraic mysteries, where candidates were initiated in underground caverns and experienced (spiritual) rebirth.


In the Film Groundhog Day, the “dead” Phil undergoes rebirth like the holiday animal and the season according to the original mythology of the holiday, but not before he/the groundhog (literally together, and “driving” the point home) enter into the abyss.

The above hibernation mythology helps us to understand the meaning of the famous and insightful Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day. There Murray’s character is equated with the groundhog: He is named Phil, like the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, and like the groundhog he is a weatherman. But appropriately he fails to predict the wintry weather that descends upon him that day, setting up his personal ordeal. Phil is stuck in Punxsutawney in the winter in a hotel, so he is figuratively in hibernation, in a state of spiritual death. This is paralleled by the groundhog in the film seeing his shadow. In one scene in the breakfast restaurant, when another customer learns that the weatherman’s name is Phil, the customer says, “Watch out for your shadow.” This is a psychological reference: In order to escape his fate Phil must confront his own shadow.

Thus, while potentially Phil could emerge from his self-induced plight on Groundhog Day in accordance with the mythology, he is not yet spiritually ready to do so. Therefore, he is fated to re-emerge from his hotel-room lair each morning to re-live Groundhog Day over and over again, like the bear whose soul has not yet undergone transformation. He must keep returning to re-hibernate until he gains in wisdom and is worthy, such that his old soul can be left behind when he emerges into the outdoors on holiday morning. His process is much like that of karma and reincarnation; indeed, in one phase of the film, he literally does die each day and is reborn each next morning, only to keep trying until he figures out how to live. In the end, by eventually learning to love and be authentic, he is finally reborn, both physically and spiritually, into a new day and a new way of life.

Today, Groundhog Day is but a shadow (so to speak) of its former self: It is no longer observed at the beginning of spring, there is no bear, the original mythology has been lost, and the ritual is simply taken in jest. But at least we have a fine film to remind us in part of what this occasion originally meant to people, and what the holiday can still mean for us.

  • 14 februari : St Valentine

The most original and enduring symbol of Valentine’s Day is a heart pierced by the arrow of Cupid, Eros in ancient Greece. It is not obvious, however, what this pagan image and the mythology that lies behind it should have to do with the third-century CE Christian martyr St. Valentine. The road from Eros to the Saint and then on to our holiday that bears his name is as tortuous as it is fascinating. As we shall see, at all points along the road – except for Valentine himself! – the ultimate idea has been about celebrating the spring season and the various themes that it has evoked in myth, literature, philosophy, and art, love being not the only such theme.

In Greek myth Eros was not originally the cute cherub that people visualize today. In fact, originally he could not be visualized at all because he was not even a deity, and so at first was represented simply by a herm. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Eros self-generated into existence once Chaos and Earth came into being (lines 116-23). Eros was the driving force behind the universe responsible for every other created thing, the motor of generation and procreation. Eros is usually translated as “Love” because Eros as a force manifests itself in humans as the passionate desire that drives physical love, and hence procreation. Eros was thought to strike our hearts because in the ancient world the heart was considered the repository of thought as well as of the affective powers (e.g., emotions, intuition, wisdom), as evidenced by our heart pounding when we are excited and inspired. The primal power of Eros was overwhelming and could not be resisted by humans, gods or goddesses, or anything else. The result is what we see in nature: fertility, life, and the seasons.

Eventually Eros came to be represented as an Erote, a type of winged sprite (ker) that both symbolizes and mediates the coming of life, and so also spring. Hence Theognis (Eleg. 1275) wrote:

            Love [Eros] comes at this hour, comes with the flowers of spring, . .
            Love comes, scattering seed for man upon earth.

Indeed, Eros as an Erote was usually depicted holding sprigs of foliage or sprays of flowers, and also could be seen watering flowers in a garden (Harrison, pp. 633-35). Eros later evolved from an Erote into a fully formed, handsome youth (ephebos) with golden wings, and his power was then represented by the arrows that he sent into the hearts of humans and gods alike.

Eros portrayed on a red-figured cylix, holding a spray of flowers, as the creative spirit moving upon the waters. Cf. Genesis 1:2, and so likewise Sophocles (Ant. 781): “O rover of the seas, O terrible one/In wastes and wildwood caves,/None may escape thee, none.”

The Greek philosophers also got ahold of Eros, making him the inspiration of lofty philosophical ideas. The most famous example is the discussion about the nature of Love (Eros) in Plato’s Symposium. To understand that dialogue properly we must put aside our contemporary notions of love and appreciate that Plato’s symposiasts were debating the question against the traditional mythological background of Love as Eros; Hesiod’s above-mentioned creation myth is even quoted at near the beginning (178b).

At the end of the dialogue, the prevailing idea emerged that the primal power of Eros can serve as a starting point to inspire and guide a person in realizing beauty in earthly nature, and from there shed these illusions and eventually realize pure, heavenly beauty – “beauty’s very self” – so that when such person “has brought forth and reared this perfect virtue, he shall be called the friend of god, and, and if ever it is given to man to put on immortality, it shall be given to him” (211e-212a). Somewhat analogously, in the Orphic tradition (where Eros had similarly self-generated, but from the cosmic egg), Eros as a fertility figure played a key role in Orphic mysteries, mediating the initiations .

Having discussed Eros as leading to an experience of God, we can turn to that man of God said to lead to love, St. Valentine. In fact we know almost nothing reliable about this murky figure. Most probably he was a bishop in Terni, Italy, who was martyred about 269 CE, supposedly on February 14. Catholic tradition also posits a second St. Valentine, a priest in Rome who also was martyred the same year, also on February 14. The prevailing view among scholars today is that the bishop of Terni is the real historical personage, but that his figure was then cloned in Rome and mythologized onto that of the nonexistent Roman priest. The stories about this priest were then attributed back to the bishop, which explains why the oldest stories about them are so similar. Both were said to heal people, whom they converted, thus arousing the ire of Roman authorities, as a result of which they were beheaded, both on February 14, which became the Saint’s feast day.) But none of the earliest stories, nor those of the next thousand years or so, contained or even prefigured any of the love and matchmaking themes and customs that we now associate with Valentine’s Day. We had to await the genius of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400), who has been called “the original mythmaker” in this instance , to make the connection and put us back on the path to Eros.


Chaucer put Valentine’s Day on the map in his poem, Parliament of Fowls, in which birds gather on February 14 to choose their mates:

           You well know how on Saint Valentine’s day,
           By my statute and through my ordinance,
           You come to choose your mates,
           As I prick you with sweet pain,
           And then fly on your way. [Lines 386-90]

Scholars over the centuries have tried long and hard to figure out how Chaucer got the idea to link the Saint with the coming of spring, but they have never been able to find an earlier tradition that he could have relied upon . The troubadours, for instance, wrote about love, birds, and the spring, but never mentioned or made a connection with St. Valentine. Rather, it seems that Chaucer’s creative genius simply combined existing bird lore and traditions of spring with the coincidence of St. Valentine’s feast day falling on the appropriate date of February 14. There was already a tradition of spring beginning on February 1, while other medieval calendars and sources marked the beginning of spring in mid-February when the sun moved into Pisces . Indeed, by then signs of spring were appearing, not only birds singing and mating but also some spring flowers, and some farming activity such as the pruning and grafting of trees. An observant poet like Chaucer would not miss this.

Once Chaucer had penned his poem, a cascade of other literature followed connecting the Saint with love. John Gower (1330-1408) and John Lydgate (1370-1451) both wrote that birds choose their mates on Valentine’s Day, Lydgate also making Valentine a type of poem. Sir John Clanvowe (1341-91) wrote The Book of Cupid. Soon members of the aristocracy in England and France started writing love notes on Valentine’s Day, and the custom had reached the commoners by the mid-to late 17th century. From the outset these valentines were decorated, most commonly with hearts and cupids.

Once Valentine’s Day had become a holiday and tradition, further mythmaking about the Saint followed. For example, while an old 5th or 6th century account told that the Saint had healed the blind daughter of his jailer and then converted the whole family to Christianity, now a detail was added that on the eve of his martyrdom the Saint wrote a farewell note to the young lady (implying that he was in love with her), thus accounting for the origin of Valentine notes.

See also: Carnavaleske achtergronden Valentijn ( in Dutch)

As another example, the idea of connecting the origin of some Valentine’s Day traditions (matchmaking and love-notes) with the Roman pagan mid-February festival of Lupercalia also surfaced, beginning in a 1756 century book by Alban Butler and embellished in 1807 by Francis Douce, a notion that scholars disproved long ago  but which nevertheless persists in contemporary books and on the Internet .

Quite apart from what Saint Valentine really did, today we have an image and dynamic of Valentine’s Day that harks back in important ways to the Greek concept of Eros. The occasion of this holiday can encourage us not only to celebrate our bond with our beloved but also to turn the force of our love and compassion toward the highest spiritual ends. At the same time, and quite apart from themes of romance, history shows us that the holiday is also a celebration of the coming of spring, like Groundhog Day and Carnival.

  • The Bear, the Harlot, the Magician and the King  by Lloyd D. Graham
    In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the seduction of the wild man Enkidu by Shamhat the
    harlot symbolically causes his death as an unreflective animal and his rebirth as a
    human – an Eden-like fall into self-awareness. Created as a match for king
    Gilgamesh of Uruk, Enkidu goes on to become the king’s beloved friend. In
    European folk traditions, the Wild Man is interchangeable with the bear, and
    parallels can be drawn between Enkidu and the Candlemas Bear associated with
    Carnival. Since Enkidu symbolises our pre-human nature, one can perceive a
    figurative truth to the pan-European folk belief that people are descended from bears.
    Thematic overlaps exist between some Gilgamesh narratives and European folk-tales about a Wild Man whose father was a bear (the Bear’s Son / Jean de l’Ours motif) or about twin boys, one of whom was raised in the wild by a female bear (Valentine and Orson). Perhaps surprisingly, the roots of Santa Claus lie in the Wild Man. So too do the origins of Merlin, the wizard of medieval Arthurian romance. Merlin has elements in common with Enkidu, while King Arthur can be seen as a metaphorical “Bear’s son.” Over time, the status of the Wild Man has changed from a wholly inhuman monster to a “noble savage” who today might even be cast as a salvific ecowarrior.  Read here


See also ( in Dutch)Bruegels Wildeman – alternatieve interpretatie: De maskerade van Valentijn en Oursson

Valentine and Orson is a romance which has been attached to the Carolingian cycle.


It is the story of twin brothers, abandoned in the woods in infancy. Valentine is brought up as a knight at the court of Pepin, while Orson grows up in a bear’s den to be a wild man of the woods, until he is overcome and tamed by Valentine, whose servant and comrade he becomes. In some versions, the pair discover their true history with the help of a magical brazen head. The two eventually rescue their mother Bellisant, sister of Pepin and wife of the emperor of Greece, by whom she had been unjustly repudiated, from the power of a giant named Ferragus.

Early Modern Versions

The tale is probably based on a lost French original, with Orson originally described as “sans nom” i.e. the “nameless” one. A 14th-century French chanson de geste, Valentin et Sansnom (i.e. Valentin and “Nameless”) has not survived but was translated/adapted in medieval German as Valentin und Namelos (first half of the 15th century).[1]

The kernel of the story lies in Orson’s upbringing and wildness, and is evidently a folk-tale the connection of which with the Carolingian cycle is purely artificial. The story of the wife unjustly accused with which it is bound up is sufficiently common, and was told of the wives both of Pippin and Charlemagne. The work has a number of references to other, older, works, including: Floovant, The Four Sons of Aymon, Lion de Bourges, and Maugis d’Aigremont.[1]

Like nearly all popular romances of chivalry of the period, the French chanson de geste was adapted into a prose romance by the end of the 15th century;[2] several versions from the 16th century are extant; the oldest prose version dates from 1489[1] (published in Lyon by Jacques Maillet).[2] An English-language version, The Historye of the two Valyannte Brethren: Valentyne and Orson, written by Henry Watson, printed by William Copland about 1550, is the earliest known of a long series of English versions – some of which included illustrations. One such illustrated variant of the tale was prepared by S R Littlwood and accompanied by the illustrations of Florence Anderson when published in 1919. It is known that Richard Hathwaye and Anthony Munday produced a theatrical version of it in 1598.

Other Renaissance versions exist in Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch,[1] German, and Icelandic. The number of translations show a European success for the tale.[1] The works of François Rabelais have a number of echoes to the romance.[2]