Although I disagree with Janet Rudolph’s view of the “unity of religions,” (Note 1.) I agree with her points on how to examine various myths. “Each person is also human, each editor, writer and reader have the potential to filter the knowledge through one’s own ego, triggering biases and distortions. When accessing divine knowledge, divine truths can easily be changed into subjective opinion.” This I cannot stress enough; I have my own biases. Like Rudolph, I try to be straight forward as to what they are. The readers then can decide how to interpret what I or Rudolph writes.
Points made by Janet Rudolph in looking at myths:
- What has been removed from the telling?
In various versions of the same myth, certain things may be left out to emphasize other aspects. In the Neo-Pagan retelling of the “Descent of Inanna,” (Note 2.) the focus is on Inanna descending into and rising from the Underworld. Left out is Inanna’s indirect killing of Ereshkigal’s husband, the Bull of Heaven. (Note 3.) Leaving that out neglects Ereshkigal’s anger towards Inanna. That does change how the myth is read.
- What is hidden only for initiates to know?
The “Descent of Inanna” can be read in many ways. The Neo-Pagan version emphasizes the initiations into the mysteries of the Underworld. How Inanna leaves her godly possessions behind is how the initiates need to prepare to enter into the mysteries.
- What has been changed to further a political agenda?
“The Enuma Elish,” the Babylonian creation story, adds onto the original Sumerian myth. The exploits of the God Marduk of the Fifty Names is depicted as He defeats the Elder Goddess Tiamat, and recreates the world. Marduk of Babylon now rules the Pantheon. This epic omits Enlil, the Holder of the Tablets of Destinies who was the Head of Pantheon after Anu, the Father of All.
- What if the actual messages are different from what the commentaries suggest.
Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE) wrote in his “Histories” that the Babylonians practiced sacred prostitution. (Note 4.) This became the basis of several factoids that got repeated and expanded over time. What was overlooked was that Herodotus, a Greek, was writing at a time when Persia was expanding into the West. The actual Babylonian culture presents a different reality from what he wrote.
Rudolph details how she approaches myths, which I find useful.
“Layering recognizes that differing interpretations can all be true.” This is looking at myths with a Polytheistic lens.
- Examination of the form of Hebrew letters.
The alphabet of a culture offers spiritual clues in a myth. Examining the mysteries of the alphabet is an exploration into a culture’s thoughts and language.
- Spiritual forensics.
This is pondering the meanings of the concepts and symbols of a myth. It also entails comparing the translations with the original language of the myth.
Note 1. Rudolph wrote a trilogy of books – “One Gods,” “When Eve was a Goddess,” and “When Moses was a Shaman” to explore the myths of the Bible.
Note 2. Inanna, Goddess of the Morning and Evening Stars, decides to pay her respects to Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. This starts her journey into the Underworld.
Note 3. Gilgamesh had rejected her advances, and She wanted to punish him. Inanna asked that the Bull of Heaven kill him. Instead, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven and Husband of Ereshkigal.
Note 4. Herodotus is called the Father of History and the Father of Lies.