Living Myth

Mosaic presents Living Myth, a podcast with Michael Meade, renowned mythologist and storyteller. Meade presents mythic stories that offer uniquely insightful and wise ways of understanding the current dilemmas of the world we live in. Living Myth proposes that genuine solutions to the complex and intractable problems of our world require both transcendent imagination and cohering, transformative narratives.
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Feb 2, 2022

This episode begins with a dream of two fathers and an ancient tale that opens up the complicated territory that fathers and sons are bound to enter.


Fathers and sons can find themselves caught in the deep patterns and sweeping energies of mythological as well as psychological dynamics. Human fathers unwittingly join a long line of paternal figures that can appear as distant and out of touch or else as demanding, dominating and rejecting. Ancient Greeks had the gods Ouranos and Kronos to represent these extremes of fathering, while Romans called them Jupiter and Saturn.


In psychological terms, they can be called the absent father and the devouring father. Not that there aren't many other fatherly characteristics; but more that in critical moments, one or the other type of energy tends to appear. As inevitable tensions and confusions arise between father and son, a father will often feel pulled to extremes that seem out of proportion to the situation.


At one extreme the Ouranos or Sky father tends to escape the grasp of his children through vague, cloudy answers, disappearing into abstract principles, hiding behind the veil of a newspaper, a computer screen or a personal device. This kind of father may be easygoing, but also tends to disappear at critical times. Like old Ouranos, the absent father elevates above it all, leaving a gap between himself and his children. And that leaves them feeling abandoned and uncertain, unprotected and overexposed when facing the world.


The spirit of Kronos or Saturn pulls the human father the opposite way into tendencies for dominance, angry conflicts, even devouring rages. In myths, Saturn sees his children as a threat to his downfall. In this pattern the child is not avoided, but can be attacked or punished simply for reaching out to father or towards a reward in life. Before the son can even get going, the father snaps at him or cuts him down, having the effect of devouring his natural ambitions and efforts to enter life more fully. If a father refrains from attacking his child, he can still hold the Saturn position through acidic waves of cynicism or the cutting edge of sarcasm.


One type of father moves through the lives of his children like a mysterious cloud pattern they cannot hold on to, disappearing just when they need him near. While the other father type storms about, suddenly snapping and stomping through the lives of his children, so that they feel that they cannot get away from him. The sons of Ouranos can't quite get going in life, while the sons of Saturn are punished for trying to get things going on their own.


Even when father and son relate well, a single bitter occasion may cut the intimate connection from one to the other. How often is it heard that a man hasn't spoken to his father in many years or that a father can’t find a way to communicate with his son since a certain event occurred or a kind of curse passed between them. All or nothing can be how things go with fathers and sons, as what happens between them can suddenly lead to severe disappointments, to alienation and mutual exile.


As the old stories try to remind us, there are spirits involved; there are deities in our lives and in our closest troubles. There is something that goes further back and deeper down than father or son, parent or child might expect. To become a parent, just as to become someone's child, means to become part of a mystery that reaches back to the beginning of time. We are each born into a mystery that can only be solved by finding the natural nobility of our own souls. In doing that, we become more truly human and thus more able to forgive ourselves and see how others are caught in the mysteries of their own lives.


You can hear Michael Meade live by joining his new online series “Lead to Gold” that begins on Friday, February 18. Register and learn more at 


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