The Myth Lab: Myth and Permaculture - Interview with Willi Paul by Mythologist Margo Meck,

Activist, Permaculture promoter, and myth maker, Willi Paul, presented his Myth Lab, “Mythic Roundtable: Tools and Inspiration for Creating New Myths” on January 22, 2015 at the Granada Book Store, 1224 State St., Santa Barbara. Please see the results from this event at in early February.

I was curious about his method of combining myth with his passion for permaculture. I sent him a couple of questions and he was kind enough to respond. Here is our correspondence:

Question – I hear the word “myth” used more and more frequently. As a term is popularized, it becomes a victim of its own success. Even in Classical Greece, the term had multiple meanings. When you use the term “myth” please clarify what you mean by it and if that meaning is consistent throughout your work?

Willi Paul - Myth is a new, universal story that is generated by issues / crisis of our times like climate change, species extinction and drought. Classic myths support with general structures and motifs like hero, journey and initiation. My myths deal with new community types like the permaculture and Transition movements. But my myth also includes bliss, an alchemic power to see past the hype and empower solutions. I believe that creative mythology, as described by Joe Campbell, is the right overall framework for individuals in these times.

Question – The mythic motif of death and resurrection or rebirth is founded in agricultural/vegetative mythologies (e.g. Aphrodite/Adonis, Jesus the Christ, Ishtar/Tammuz, Inanna/Damuzi, etc). What mythic motifs, if any, are you seeing emerging from the permaculture phenomenon?

Willi Paul – I prefer to use symbols rather than motifs as these are more powerful connections:

Shovel – turning, renewal

Cob bench – community

Pond – water birth, diversity

Sun flower – Nature Steward

Moon – magic, Nature wisdom

Bees – togetherness, eco-business

Lightning – ecoAlchemy – transmutation

Cob feet – dance, new Nature rituals

Broken concrete – reuse – recycling

Butterflies – metamorphosis, freedom
(for more on Willi Paul’s perspective click here: Permaculture Symbols)

Secondly, new archetypes work with new symbols now:

A. Permaculture & Nature Archetype: A love to preserve unique landscapes for future generations. Mistrust of greedy, short-term land and energy developers
Symbols: Tree of Life, Permaculture logo, Yosemite, Seeds, Amazon Rain Forest, US Gulf Coast

B. Permaculture & Nature Archetype: Our hope is to build sustainable systems in our local neighborhoods and towns. Fear of food and fuel shortages; fights for resources between neighbors and governments
Symbols: Crude oil on rails, GMO; Convergence and sharing expo events; neighborhood plans and new rituals

C. Permaculture & Nature Archetype: A deep love for freedom to own fire arms; fear of guns and killing.
Symbols: AK-47, US Flag, Scenes from mass shootings, vigils, pawn shops

D. Permaculture & Nature Archetype: Fear that global warming will destroy all life on Earth. Mistrust of business and goal of short-term profits
Symbols: Rising coastal tides, melting polar ice, coal fired power plants.

E. Permaculture & Nature Archetype: Mistrust of energy privatization and corrupt safety practices. Love of the system and blind faith in corporate responsibility
Symbols: BP, PG&E, Duke Energy

(for more on Willi Paul’s comments on this click here: Permaculture, Carl Jung and the New Archetypes)

Question – I believe humans are hard-wired for story. There is much distress in some groups that Hollywood is dying. It is possible that form of storytelling is in decline, but I doubt if humans will ever be storyless. Please detail your experience in using story to explain, enlist, and engage in expanding permaculture awareness.

Willi Paul – The best place to start in your journey to new stories is Texting Joseph Campbell – Five Methods to Design New Stories & ...:

The Five methods that I have invented to date are:

1. Building a Mythology Generator for the Sustainability Age

2. Mapping Future Myths for the Transition –
Workshop & Video, First Study of Myth Symposium, Pacifica Graduate Institute

3. Myth Lab

4. SCORE: sounds symbols myths

5. Mythic Engine

Thank you Willi Paul for you input on this important issue. Your creative integration of myth making and permaculture promotion are truly inspiring.

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Margo Meck is a mythologist, writer, story consultant, and speaker. She received her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. in 2007. She has lectured on various myth related subjects such as Personal Mythology, Proof of Identity in Myth and Fairy Tale, and the Hero’s Journey.

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