Fans of Liz Greene & Juliet Sharman-Burke's well-known Mythic Tarot will find a welcome continuation of their work in The Mythic Journey. Trained in both psychology and myth, the authors deliver a deft psychological interpretation of ancient stories making them as relevant today as they were in the past. The main emphasis is on the Western classics, from Greco-Roman to King Arthur but the Asian traditions are also well-represented with tales of Sidhartha/Buddha and Hindu myths. A few Norse, Finnish, Egyptian, Maori, Blackfoot and African stories round out the series.

The book is divided into sections based on psychological issues rather than by cultural origin. The tales are beautifully told first and then in a separate commentary section, the underlying psychological lessons are explored. I like that the analysis can be read immediately after or put aside for later but are not included in the text of the tale itself. Some of these stories are simplified from the original which was necessary to make this a paperback and not a large volume series. The writing is on point.

The first section, In the Beginning, includes stories about parents and children, siblings and family inheritance. This section relies mostly on Greek myths but also includes a retelling of Cain and Abel, the story of Osiris, Isis and Horus and a Blackfoot tale, The Children of the Wind. Family dynamics and psychological patterns prove timeless.

Part II, Becoming an Individual, covers leaving home, fighting for autonomy and the quest for meaning. This section travels the world in much the way young adults seeking their life path may leave their home. The separation from parental authority is represented here with the story of Adam and Eve expelled from paradise when they gain knowledge of good and evil and in the Buddha's Departure which describes how Siddhartha voluntarily leaves his royal paradise to seek enlightenment. The stories move to the next phase of life, claiming a stake in life through personal choices with Gilgamesh and Siegfried. Representing our own self definition as adults, Vainamoinen and the Talisman, Parsifal and the Grail and Perseus stumble through the pitfalls of early adulthood.

Part III focuses on love and relationships, passion and rejection, the eternal love triangle and marriage. This section is very much in the Western tradition with Greek, Turkish, Biblical, Nordic and British stories. The story of Cybele and Attis, a mother and son who are also lovers is the kind of tale that is made so much clearer through the lens of psychological analysis. Pagans will recognize the ancient story of the young God who is knocked down at the height of his manhood and represents the changing seasons. The commentary reveals love's dark side of power, control and possessiveness.

Part IV, Position and Power, delves into the less common topic of finding a vocation, and the ever poplar topics of greed, ambition and responsibility. I love that there is a vocational section. Ancient myths may not be able to tell us which tech skills to pick up but they have a lot to say about the soft skills that will lead to success. Pay attention to the career advice from the Celtic Lugh, lessons in how to gain favor and prosperity from East Africa and recognizing one's limits in the tale of Paethon and the Sun Chariot.

Part V, Rites of Passage, is a probing look at separation, loss and suffering, the spiritual quest and the final journey into death. These poignant stories speak to the kind of grief and loss that render many speechless. When dealing with anyone who is suffering, the wise counsel in these myths may offer the insight needed. Comfort is no where in sight. The perspective of the Gods looking at our mortal lives is duly humbling.

Years ago these two authors opened my eyes to the underlying psychological meaning of myth and led to me extensively reading more. For teens, this kind of book can be revelatory. It is, of course, different reading these stories now with more life experience. I find a greater appreciation for the scholarship and the enduring problems of human nature. The power of the ancient tales still rings true. Make some room on your bookshelf or give it as a gift to a youth ripe for the lessons.

Highly recommended.

~review by Larissa Carlson Viana

Authors: Liz Greene & Juliet Sharman-Burke
Weiser, 2017
pp. 240
$16.95

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