Harrowing the Myths:
Some Background in Greek Tragedy
One of the earliest and best known examples of the Re-Telling of Myths is the Greek Tragedy (and Comedy) as a form of theatre that emerged and reached its most significant form in 5th Century Athens. It is notable that this was a period in which there was considerable upheaval and trauma. The Greeks were at war for much of the century and also suffered a plague that wiped out nearly one third of the population.
What the Tragedies frequently did was to re-work Mythic Themes to address current issues facing the population. What happened was that at the Festival,
The Great Dionysia at which the tragedies were performed all the great and the good, as well as those that might have suffered trauma, would have been in attendance. The performances can be seen as a way of addressing the deep suffering and trauma that had been experienced. The tragedy would have been a portrayal of experiences that the audience (especially the soldiers) would have fully understood and yet sufficiently distant to enable a possible healing, or catharsis of the deep emotions.
In this regard, the performance of these re-worked and harrowed myths can be seen as a way of dealing with pain, crisis and failure, and especially in its most acute form trauma. It makes possible the purification of potentially dangerous and toxic emotions that could otherwise pose a threat to the health of individual and society. These emotions can be toxic and pose an insidious and corrosive threat.
The Bard Re-Tellings
It is in this context that the brief to the Participants for the retelling takes it’s inspiration. The idea is to craft a retelling that might speak to current issues in modernity is a way that leads to a deeper understanding and insights of the archetypal and mythic roots of individual and collective life. In particular we are looking to look at the “deep emotions” that are triggered at times of pain, crisis and failure. Our thinking is that the content of these stories is the mythic moments of an individual life or a culture’s life.
The belief being that these understandings and insights can act to facilitate and healthy and a balanced response to the suffering experienced. In a way it can be seen as a form of collective therapy. We can see it as a therapy for (relatively) healthy people, especially when they have had experiences that cause considerable suffering and pain. This project can be seen as the creative use of pain, crisis and failure.
The Specific Brief for Participants
We ask you to spend some time kicking around ideas based on the subject matter of the stories from the Fionn Cycle. You might particularly begin with moments where you felt moved emotionally, or where you found yourself strongly relating to an incident or experience in the Bard Telling.
We are particularly interested in the Cycle in a number of Themes:- Forces that unite and forces that divide- The specifics of Civil Wars and their Causes- The deep emotions experienced in circumstances of War
But feel free to use your imagination and engage in what Vico called “Fantasia” – an imaginative approach to the past and present and go where your instincts take you and your group. There is no right way and indeed the diverse range of re-tellings has been a delight and an inspiration.