I struggled with whether or not to post this blog for it references, as mildly as I could manage, a current affair, let’s say. And I’ve already written about how unproductive it is in art-craft terms to ever concern oneself with what some folks would term “the news.” But my nose for mythology is what it is and, as I’ve also said, when in doubt, stick your nose up the crotch of the cosmos and follow it, come what may.
Maa-alused, small human-shaped mythological creatures…, which live beneath the ground, were mainly known in Northern Estonian folklore. Various skin diseases such as eczema, pimples, swellings, scabs, sometimes bursal and other diseases, have also been called maa-alused because these beings are believed to have caused the diseases. Diseases caused by maa-alused could also be caught by encountering the hostile force of the earth – the wrath of the earth – by sitting, lying, or sleeping on the ground. For example, it was not recommended to sit on the ground before the first spring thunderstorm. It was believed that the spring thunder cleared the land of the impure power that had accumulated there during autumn and winter.Marju Kōivupuu, “Tradition in Landscape, Landscape in Tradition: Discourse of Natural Sanctuaries in Estonia,” Time & Mind, Vol.13, Issue 3, September 2020, 276.
The mythology of disease or the mythologization of disease, illness or sickness, alongside the mythology of death of course occupies its own, vast landscape within the geography and history of myth. Before doctors and hospitals, after all, there were shamans, seers, medicine men and witch doctors and such – men, women or transgenders who perhaps spent the majority of their time attempting to heal and cure. There still are. How often they were successful, one would assume, would have been hinged to their legitimacy. But one never reads about shamans having been cast out for inefficacy, ineffectiveness or incompetence. Probably because, even to this day, a healer is interpreted as much in subjective as objective or so-called evidence-based medicine (EBM) contexts. EBM, by the way, is a term I’m not making up – it’s described as “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”
Many folks, I’m sure, would consider the current epidemiological silliness, lack of science, misinformation, fear-mongering and active mythologization of a non-fatal strain of influenza that happens to be transmitted, like all influenzas, by contact with infected bodily fluid – hence, why would you wear a dust mask, especially walking down the street? – by tyrannical government organizations, the agenda-laden media and the paranoid wealthy (who happen to own the media) to rather be exemplifying the idea of EBM. No. Sorry. The mythology of disease always has been and always will be a function or phenomenon of what people want to believe. I read somewhere that many people believe there’s a 50% chance that if you contract Covid you’ll end up in the hospital. When the facts say the actual percentage is 0.5% But numbers are generally lost on people unless they happen to bolster their own mostly baseless opinions. Me included.
My wife probably had Covid in December of 2019 and likely caught it at the family Christmas party that she attended and I didn’t. She got over it not by going to the hospital or whining to her doctor about it. Or getting tested. She just toughed it out. I recall a woman at my previous job hacking away for six months before that – she must have had it. It’s a crankily aggressive form of influenza. Trump had it. I may have had a mild version that I may have acquired from my wife that same December but as a lifelong sufferer of allergies and bronchitis and what have you, I’m used to my biology messing with my enjoyment of life and I’ve long since learned that illness is part of life. Deal with it. Get tested for an influenza strain? Why? Take vaccines? Every year in my memory the drug stores have offered flu vaccines. Again, why? It’s not like this thing is Tetanus, or AIDS, or Tuberculosis or whatever the hell. What does a physician typically do anyway besides prescribe something to help ease the discomfort until your own body cures itself? Or not. In which case you continue to suffer or die. So be it. Life will kill you, as they say. Meanwhile, use the common-sense EBM information regarding transmission of viruses that has been available for many decades, namely, wash your hands before you eat, try not to touch your face and keep as clean a house as your sanity allows. Otherwise, it all has to do with risk management. Not the elimination of risk, mind you, but the management of risk. You aren’t walking or driving or taking a jet plane through this life or for that matter getting out of bed in the morning without exposing yourself to risk. But if I need to explain this to you, you’re the type who has already quit reading this post. No worries.
Meanwhile, whatever works. Literally. Don’t sit on the ground until after the first spring thunderstorm if that works for you. One likes to assume that nobody really believed in maa-alused, at least in technical terms; that folks concocted the myth of the wrath-of-the-earth simply to assuage their sense of powerlessness; that they enjoyed suspending their disbelief if nothing else. Do a rain dance for rain. Sometimes it seems like it works. Then again, who’s to say it didn’t? After all, you can’t have faith in mythology and not leave room for the super_natural. I like to believe, for instance, that if I’m as authentic as I can be – if I express my VAPM – and write books that do likewise, I’ll enjoy a sense of being properly alive. And, on a good day, I’ll sell a book or two and my tribe will thrive. I’m here to tell you that, in my experience of this crazy world it tends, in its ultimately mysterious way, to work.
So, get your shot if it makes you feel empowered over something you don’t fully understand. This isn’t a criticism as long as you don’t attempt to force me to get one. Don’t be a Moleman or for that matter a Mothman in this way. Don’t be righteous. In many ways we humans are all alike and in many other glorious ways we differ. Mythology centers all this, that’s all, within and without, at least when we let it do its proper work.
And the best, most reliably affecting mythologies have always been and always will be a refuge and a power corner for outsiders and the exiled among us. A classic mythology empowers freedom. Literal and psychological. Freedom to be who you are. One’s affecting images offer a way back into the world we so often feel exiled from. The answers to your questions are there. The Mystery isn’t solved but rather legitimized – mythologized – first by way of images that affect you for reasons you may find initially baffling and finally by way of a narrative that makes sense to you in your own way. Personal mythology provides access to a cultural mythology. But, again, please, just remember that it’s your mythology, not the mythology.
 Marju Kōivupuu, “Tradition in Landscape, Landscape in Tradition: Discourse of Natural Sanctuaries in Estonia,” Time & Mind, Vol.13, Issue 3, September 2020, 276.