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Monica Mody, PhD - Decolonizing Mythology
Episode 1213th May 2023 • Mythic • Boston Blake
00:00:00 00:49:23

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Welcome to Mythic, where we explore meaningful living through the power of myth, including topics that span ancient lore, modern popular culture, and depth psychology. I'm your host, Boston Blake.

Monica Mody, PhD - Decolonizing Mythology

About Monica Mody

Dr. Monica Mody is a transdisciplinary poet, educator and theorist working at the intersections of embodied regenerative consciousness, earth-based wisdom, and decolonial frameworks of wholeness. She is the author of KALA PANI and a forthcoming poetry collection BRIGHT PARALLEL. She holds a Ph.D. in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame, and a B.A. LL.B. from the National Law School of India University. Her doctoral dissertation was awarded the Kore Award for Best Dissertation in Women and Mythology. Dr. Mody currently serves as Adjunct faculty in the Women's Spirituality Program at CIIS as well as in the Mythological Studies Program at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and as core faculty in the Doctoral Program in Visionary Practice and Regenerative Leadership at Southwestern College Santa Fe. She was born in Ranchi, India, and lives in San Francisco (Ramaytush Ohlone territory).

Key Moments

  • 05:03 A very brief history of the Partition of India
  • 11:46 Musings on kintsugi
  • 14:05 Marija Gimbutas and goddesses of matriarchal societies
  • 15:14 Athena’s role in the myth of Medusa
  • 19:02 Saraswati and her wild river origins
  • 27:43 Sita Sings the Blues

Links for further exploration

Transcripts

Boston:

Hello, and welcome to mythic.

Boston:

Thank you for listening.

Boston:

my download numbers have gone much higher recently.

Boston:

I don't know what's happened, especially with the infrequency of

Boston:

the podcast, but whoever is out there.

Boston:

Thank you for listening and please find me on social media.

Boston:

I'd love to have a conversation around the podcast and learn who's listening and why.

Boston:

My guest today is the brilliant and talented doctor Monica Mody.

Boston:

She is a poet.

Boston:

And a writer and a theorist and educator and her work crosses borders and genres.

Boston:

She was born in Ranchi, India and now lives in San Francisco where she got

Boston:

her PhD in East-west Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Boston:

She also holds an MFA in creative writing from the university of Notre Dame.

Boston:

And a bachelor of arts and laws from the National Law School of India University.

Boston:

Her doctoral dissertation received the 2020 Kore Award for best

Boston:

dissertation in Women and Mythology awarded by the Association for

Boston:

the Study of Women and Mythology.

Boston:

Monica's poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals.

Boston:

Her critical work advances Earth based and decolonial feminist worldviews.

Boston:

She teaches as core faculty at the PhD program and Visionary Practice

Boston:

and Regenerative Leadership at Southwestern College, Santa Fe.

Boston:

And as adjunct faculty at the School of Consciousness and Transformation at CIIS.

Boston:

She has studied and circled with elders, wisdom keepers, and medicine

Boston:

holders from many earth based and indigenous traditions, developing

Boston:

an interconnected worldview rooted in ancestral healing practices.

Boston:

And in this conversation with Monica, you're going to hear the

Boston:

relationship between myth and colonialism and decolonization.

Boston:

So let's get to it.

Boston:

Here is Dr.

Boston:

Monica Mody.

Monica:

I'm so glad to be taking this time with you to talk about myth and story.

Boston:

Myth and story.

Boston:

What do you want people to know about you and your relationship to myth and story?

Monica:

You know, it's interesting because as an artist, my primary

Monica:

role so far has been as a poet.

Monica:

And not as a narrative poet, a poet who really operates in experimental

Monica:

registers and works with the rhythm and beat and music and metaphor.

Monica:

So it's interesting that especially when I was working on my doctoral

Monica:

dissertation, I found myself really circling back to this gap that I

Monica:

had in my own expressive context.

Monica:

like that of narrative.

Monica:

My academic work then in some ways became about locating where the gap,

Monica:

the breakage, in story and storytelling happened for me in a community, a

Monica:

collective and personal context.

Monica:

That feels like a very resonant place to begin For a long time why

Monica:

this was not something that was very facile or easy for me to step into.

Boston:

So it was difficult for you to step into narrative,

Boston:

step into storytelling.

Boston:

And so this was the gap in your ability to express poetically.

Boston:

Did I understand that correctly?

Monica:

Poetically or as a writer to as it kept going through the research

Monica:

tunnels, I'm sure you understand these research tunnels where they take you.

Boston:

It's a never ending Byzantine conduit of information from every

Boston:

direction piling on top, and somehow ideas get put into words on paper.

Boston:

Yeah.

Monica:

Exactly.

Monica:

And what if, what about that engine inside of yourself, which does

Monica:

not really not allow you to stop from going inside that Byzantine?

Boston:

Yep.

Boston:

Yes.

Monica:

So as I was doing that, I started making certain connections, Like my

Monica:

family, my mother's side of the family had moved from what is now Pakistan into what

Monica:

is now India at the time of the partition.

Monica:

And I started realizing that there was a way in which this whole episode

Monica:

of the partition of India, which is in some ways it's a horrific, It's

Monica:

part of something really big and tragic that happened in South Asia.

Monica:

And then it was buried.

Monica:

It was buried collectively until pretty recently where a few people are beginning

Monica:

to talk about it and addressing it.

Boston:

What is it that happened?

Monica:

Well, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, they were part of the British empire.

Boston:

Yes.

Monica:

in the colonized period and right as the British were exiting the area,

Monica:

they created this I'm giving you a very simple and reductive version of this,

Monica:

but there was an artificial line that was drawn creating three separate countries.

Monica:

So that region, that area, which was imaginally one unified, suddenly had

Monica:

political demarcations and they were East Pakistan and West Pakistan, East

Monica:

Pakistan later on became Bangladesh, but these two were given to the Muslims.

Monica:

This is what colonization did and many parts of the world, they were

Monica:

operating on a divide and rule policy.

Monica:

So in India, there are division happened specifically along religious

Monica:

lines and the colonial project had started instituting that had really

Monica:

started emphasizing the divisions from the beginning of the 20th century.

Monica:

So by the time the petition happened, there were undergone isms that ran deep

Monica:

in the collective psyche not for everyone, but there was definitely enough of an

Monica:

atmosphere of fear, collective fear that was created that even though India

Monica:

identified itself as secular, it's still was more I don't know if feasible as a

Monica:

word, but Many Muslims felt they would want to move from India to Pakistan.

Monica:

And many Hindus felt it would be safer for them to move from from Pakistan to India.

Boston:

So these lines actually They created something.

Boston:

they rooted divisions.

Monica:

They changed the national myth, This is the biggest mass

Monica:

migration in the history of the world.

Monica:

And it's surprising to me that, more people don't know about it, but it's

Monica:

not surprising when I think about what happened in the post-colonial period,

Monica:

especially in India, where we were so busy as a nation, trying to be modern,

Monica:

that we swept all the pain and the trauma and the wound under the carpet.

Monica:

We didn't even discuss it.

Monica:

And that became a part of my family wound too.

Monica:

It's oh, what happened?

Monica:

The part of my family lost its lands, lost its history, lost family members.

Monica:

And there was no talk about this.

Monica:

So that's the rupture in narrative that I realized was going on.

Boston:

Oh, wow.

Boston:

I'm just sitting with that.

Boston:

this conversation is happening with myth and story in the background.

Boston:

When you lose connection with narrative, you lose connection with the land,

Boston:

with history with with a sense of place and family, and that's hearing it so

Boston:

personally that really brings it home.

Boston:

It's one thing to have this as an abstract concept and conversation,

Boston:

it's something very different because it did happen so quickly.

Boston:

This is not something that happened over centuries.

Boston:

It's something that happened in a matter of a decade.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

I think the movements, the migration was pretty compressed maybe over a couple

Monica:

of years, two, three years, and...

Boston:

wow.

Monica:

yeah.

Boston:

This is making the quote that started this conversation.

Boston:

You said to stake your claim over culture, your cultural practice.

Boston:

You have to tell your stories.

Boston:

Ultimately mythology is about place and belonging.

Boston:

as you've now engaged in this in, in storytelling as access to

Boston:

filling these gaps, filling this gap, What have you discovered?

Monica:

When I wrote that, I hadn't contributed this lacuna.

Monica:

I think I can only like reconstruct what was really playing for me when

Monica:

playing up for me when I wrote that.

Monica:

But the other piece of this is, that in this book, in this lifetime,

Monica:

I'm sure in the body of a woman.

Monica:

And in south Asia in particular the whole terrain of mythology more and more

Monica:

has been usurped by people who are very xenophobic, nationalistic, fundamentalist,

Monica:

so there's this context of oppression and it's not unrelated to what I discovered

Monica:

later because to the course of my doctoral research, because in fact the colonization

Monica:

and nationalism I really related.

Monica:

There's that, but there's also, something about the power of the

Monica:

imagination, the power of retrieval, and that's where then we talk about

Monica:

something like story and myth there.

Monica:

And then they're potent forces.

Monica:

Even when there has a lot of hurt, even when there is a lot of rupture, there are

Monica:

still always going to be ways to connect the pieces even through the fragments.

Monica:

In my academic work I talked about re mythologizing, this idea that

Monica:

we can gather together the pieces.

Monica:

And and again, this is I think for for women in patriarchy and in, in

Monica:

a patriarchal context better, but also like patriarchal colonial.

Monica:

There's so many layers of capitalism.

Monica:

There's like layers and layers of oppression, right?

Monica:

Like certain bodies, certain voices, certain experiences, certain ways

Monica:

of knowing have always been cast aside, always these been othered.

Monica:

So this is not new practice, right?

Monica:

Like you, as someone who's been studying that, you probably

Monica:

know this intimately, right?

Monica:

There's this way in which we want to reach out to whatever

Monica:

myth is, whatever mythology is.

Monica:

It's this it's very, really talking about something that

Monica:

emerged from an ancestral context.

Monica:

Like it came from who, who was the first?

Monica:

Who were the authors of the first myth?

Monica:

The first myths.

Monica:

So were they the shamans?

Monica:

Were they the medicine people and the seekers and the seers and

Monica:

the, the oracles, who were they?

Monica:

And what was really going on there when these myths became the codes that contain

Monica:

so much information about cultures.

Monica:

So I'm, in some ways I ardently believe that these codes are not lost.

Monica:

We just have to figure out how they can heal and restore

Monica:

us today, because the, yeah.

Monica:

Colonialism capitalism, patriarchy.

Monica:

They're always going to try to take over that space, but we still

Monica:

have something in us and that's linked to our creative capacities.

Boston:

Oh, there's so much in there.

Boston:

Stepping back that the image of fragments that you laid down, it made me think

Boston:

of this, of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repair, where you have the pieces

Boston:

of a shattered, shattered pot, and then you put it in a mold and you.

Boston:

Fill in the gaps with gold and then it has structure.

Boston:

It's use, it's usable again, it's a pot, but it is something

Boston:

different from what it was.

Boston:

It still has all of the elements of the original, but also something else.

Boston:

And it's stronger, more unique and its history is then included.

Boston:

That fracturing is a part of its story.

Boston:

And I'm now thinking about how myth moves through centuries and how myth is always

Boston:

reflecting the culture that it comes from, but the same stories, a few centuries

Boston:

apart might be very different stories.

Boston:

Hera is a goddess that very much interests me in Greek mythology.

Boston:

And one of the things that interests me is that Hera's temples are

Boston:

older than Zeus's in that region.

Boston:

And so this starts to suggest that her reverence goes back further.

Boston:

The stories that we hear today, Hera is one a one-note wonder she's like a goddess

Boston:

of jealousy, which strikes me as insane.

Boston:

if you take that same story, she could also become a goddess

Boston:

of enforcement of contracts.

Boston:

Something more like Freya that she is the Punisher of broken vows.

Boston:

And then is a power goddess who is standing up to patriarchy.

Boston:

She may not be able to challenge it directly, but she can

Boston:

attempt to contain it's impact.

Boston:

The point is that mythology how we tell the same stories, you can reconstitute

Boston:

those fragments in different ways.

Boston:

What are some myths that are on your mind right now?

Monica:

Oh that's a great question.

Monica:

But, and I also want to quickly say, this is the, you touched on two important

Monica:

points that I resonate with so much, the idea that when you bring the

Monica:

fragments together, it's something new.

Monica:

the gold that connects them, allow something else to, and what is that gold?

Monica:

And yeah, the idea that mids change over time and You were talking about

Monica:

para do you know the work of Marija Gimbutas this archaeo-mythologist.

Boston:

I do not, please educate me.

Monica:

So Marija Gimbutas was a more central figure to in archeology.

Monica:

And then when she started making controversial claims that there was in the

Monica:

Western civilization before the gods, the male gods became part of the dominant way

Monica:

of culture, there was a different past-- exactly what you're saying, that there

Monica:

were feminine goddesses and matriarchal societies that were peaceful and, that

Monica:

centered mutual nurture and cooperation, and she started making these claims.

Monica:

She was slowly marginalized and her work is only now been remembered.

Monica:

But I think again as a woman who this idea of reclaiming.

Monica:

myth off the goddesses from their tellings which again, cast them only

Monica:

in such a narrow and almost demonic light sometimes, or not demonic but

Monica:

they're either shrews or, like this one note wonder that you mentioned.

Monica:

I love for instance, the myth of Medusa, right?

Boston:

One of my favorite stories and very complicated and problematic.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

And Athena's role in that.

Monica:

What it does to the relationship between women, So for me, part of Medusa's myth

Monica:

is also, I'm going to also say Hélène Cixous who came in and talked about

Monica:

Medusa's laughter in, in her book.

Monica:

And she used that to tell the women, they have to write, we have to take

Monica:

back this narrative space back for ourselves because we are part of that,

Monica:

I think that's very fertile space, Like that these mythic figures and.

Monica:

Outside in, not just operating in this objective mythic field, but they're really

Monica:

affecting us and interacting with us.

Monica:

And that's in, in that mutual, in the space of mutual interaction is

Monica:

where we can make changes happen.

Boston:

What is the book you're referencing about Medusa,

Monica:

It's called The Laugh of Medusa.

Boston:

Laugh of Medusa?

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

And yeah.

Boston:

I will link to that in the show notes and I will read it myself.

Boston:

I have been there's a, another myth podcast it's called.

Boston:

Let's talk about myths, baby.

Boston:

And the hostess is is Liv Albert and she's amazing.

Boston:

And she is a hardcore defender of Medusa and I really love her take.

Boston:

And it has me slipping into the imaginal around Medusa and

Boston:

specifically Ovid's version of Athena transforming her as retribution.

Boston:

And I thought, what if, what would it, what could a story be like where

Boston:

Athena is actually empowering Medusa?

Boston:

What could this look like?

Boston:

Where Medusa never wants to be touched by a man, the way that she has been

Boston:

abused by this god and what might be a S w what could a sister action be in here?

Boston:

These goddess says if Athena cannot go against the king of the gods, but

Boston:

she can somehow affect this path, but then it, and then Perseus become.

Boston:

The enemy, purse Perseus becomes this man who puts an end to this immortal creatures

Boston:

life, maybe as retribution against Athena.

Boston:

it's a story idea, but this is what happens when a myth comes up.

Boston:

when I was a kid, I loved this story.

Boston:

When I was a kid, it was just the hero, Perseus, killing the monster Medusa.

Boston:

She's big and snaky and ugly.

Boston:

And why shouldn't she die?

Boston:

That's the thinking of a seven year old

Monica:

Right,

Boston:

creepy.

Boston:

And then you get to this point.

Boston:

Wait a minute.

Boston:

She was just minding her own business and dude comes in with

Boston:

a lops her and lops her head off.

Boston:

So let's unpack that what's going on, what tradition is being upheld and

Boston:

how could that story be revisioned?

Boston:

Anyway, I'm just playing with ideas here.

Monica:

But that's a potency, I think that you can be visionary and people.

Monica:

And so many writers I'm thinking of do you know the book?

Monica:

So C by Madeline Miller.

Boston:

I've read it three times.

Boston:

I

Monica:

Oh, wow.

Boston:

much.

Boston:

I love Madeline Miller and the song of Achilles is my other favorite.

Monica:

This is happening where people are really going there and

Monica:

interacting with these figures.

Monica:

But I wanted also take a step back.

Monica:

So I grew up in a different country, a different context, right?

Monica:

Like a different like mythic context.

Monica:

And I was a voracious reader when I was a child.

Monica:

For me the distinction between reality and books and an imagination, it,

Monica:

it was very hard for me to make that distinction in some days, because I spent

Monica:

so much time in books and with books.

Monica:

But also the children's magazines and books and that I was reading

Monica:

and Hindi and an English.

Monica:

There is this mutability in the mythology in India.

Monica:

I find it very hard to pinpoint, this is the story.

Monica:

This is the story.

Monica:

Because again there's, it's possible that a thousand different versions of

Monica:

the same myth exist from region to region from sub-community to sub community.

Monica:

And that, that diversity of course is what is at risk right now

Monica:

under the nationalist government.

Monica:

But but because I grew up there for me, sometimes I get very restless.

Monica:

I'm like, oh, I don't even want to like the bone.

Monica:

Off the mainstream narrative.

Monica:

I don't even wanna operate within that.

Monica:

So the there's a poem that I wrote recently.

Monica:

And I wrote it for, and for a project called An Exaltation of Goddesses and

Monica:

the project was in fact commemorating Marija Gimbutas with us as work.

Monica:

And even though Gimbutas's work is centered more on west

Monica:

Western Europe the project itself invited cutting international

Monica:

poets from all over the world.

Monica:

And so the FIGO the deity the.

Monica:

Spirit I interacted with was Saraswati and Saraswati, in Indian

Monica:

mythological slash religion.

Monica:

Religious context is a very it's she's presented as a pretty demure civilized.

Monica:

And, she's varying like silk saris and she has this graceful, gentle, demeanor.

Monica:

And as I was doing my research to write this poem, I started realizing,

Monica:

she gets her name from a river, which vanished and the river itself is, like

Monica:

the Hindu restaurant, the nationalists in India are using that river in a

Monica:

way that I don't at all buy into.

Monica:

But at the same time, that river, if you look at the descriptions of the river,

Monica:

she's portrayed as wild unbridled.

Monica:

She is just like storming down, storming through the lands

Monica:

and creating new pathways.

Monica:

And so for me, I was like, I'm going to, really break apart the bones of that

Monica:

story, where Sarasota has to be dosed solid and Muir, and has to move with

Monica:

that yeah, with this feminine grace which leaves the wild and the completely natural

Monica:

uninhibited aspects of her outside.

Monica:

So I started with her as a river and I, it's for me, I think that was so freeing.

Monica:

Saraswati is wild, because again, Saraswati is the wisdom goddess,

Monica:

Sophia in the best and panty.

Monica:

And so that wisdom has to look a certain way.

Monica:

No, for me, if the roots of it come from nature, the roots of it come from

Monica:

there, that terrain, which is yeah.

Monica:

Lush and yeah,

Boston:

You're speaking to something that is pervasive across pantheons and across

Boston:

religions and mythologies as patriarchy these powerful forces, these powerful

Boston:

feminine forces, whether it's a river or an earth goddess or reproductive

Boston:

capacity itself, it becomes ma it becomes reduced and made demure and fitting

Boston:

underneath the patriarchal umbrella.

Boston:

And of course, these are wild forces of nature.

Boston:

They're recognized as goddesses, very likely because they were untamable.

Boston:

Mysterious.

Boston:

And something we couldn't control.

Boston:

We were at the mercy of, but then they get told into stories.

Boston:

They get turned into human narratives where so often the woman

Boston:

nest, the woman identity, I don't even want to call it femininity.

Boston:

That's not right.

Boston:

But the woman, they become embodied as a woman and then in a patriarchal

Boston:

role and yet, and then you tell me this story about connecting with

Boston:

the wildness of the river itself.

Boston:

She's still under there.

Boston:

Saraswati is who's wearing that sari?

Boston:

this is not someone to be fucked with It's so fun to play with these.

Boston:

When you were a child, what were your favorite stories growing

Boston:

up and where did you find them?

Monica:

Oh gosh, it was so polyamorous, my vote stories, and that, that

Monica:

question is still something that I'm in.

Monica:

I'm never able to answer that question favorite?

Monica:

No, but I'll tell you, I'm so grateful that there were these repositories

Monica:

of myth and folk tale that.

Monica:

Published being published at the time.

Monica:

So there were these books, these magazines children's magazine in India, Nandan and

Monica:

gosh, Chandra forgetting the name of that.

Monica:

But there was a bottle Chitra, cathartic sorry to anyone who is from

Monica:

India and listening to this this.

Monica:

You forgot the names, but there were these children's magazines, which would

Monica:

come out either once a month are, twice a month and they would have these stories.

Monica:

I'm, the name that I'm trying to think of?

Monica:

It's on all now.

Monica:

We're dying.

Monica:

Chitra is picto.

Monica:

So these are picture stories.

Monica:

For me that was one thing that was happening.

Monica:

I was reading.

Monica:

I grew up in a small town and it was one of the towns in India, which

Monica:

actually had a British council library.

Monica:

So I was reading a lot of British books for children also.

Monica:

And then this is around the time and the national television of India, which was

Monica:

. There was only one channel at the time.

Monica:

It had just started broadcasting there's so much analysis that has

Monica:

been done of how that was a project of knitting the nation together.

Monica:

And, how this one version then continued to supersede all other

Monica:

versions of that myth, but that's what you would do every Sunday.

Monica:

We would all sit around the television and watch it.

Monica:

Remember I grew up in a very small town, I was picking up all these pieces from also

Monica:

the conversations that we would have in the communities, but that my parents were

Monica:

a part of and there, again, storytelling would happen in a different way.

Monica:

It was rich in some ways.

Monica:

And also I think, again, it had a very narrow version of femininity, but more,

Monica:

it doesn't really answer your question.

Boston:

But it does.

Boston:

And these picture books, that picture stories, I'm imagining something akin to

Boston:

comic books, something you named three levels of story that were impacting you.

Boston:

There are these picture books that you're reading and consuming for entertainment

Boston:

and the library, which you were drawn to, there is a dialogue happening

Boston:

with your parents and storytelling is happening in a very human way.

Boston:

People telling stories as in a cultural way, but then also this very interesting.

Boston:

The Ramayan through a single network, spreading a national story, the United

Boston:

States, our version of that was we had three networks that all told us variations

Boston:

on the same news narrative, before cable.

Boston:

And it did feel like a more cohesive culture at that time.

Boston:

There was a more cohesive America when the narrative Was more tightly contained.

Boston:

More viewpoints add more complexity.

Boston:

Did I miss anything in there where there movies that you were seeking out or

Boston:

other types of entertainment, narrative?

Monica:

One thing I do want to mention as you were talking, I

Monica:

realized there was actually another class of stories that was in there,

Monica:

Is stories from Russia.

Monica:

So interestingly enough, because India and Russia were very close at that time.

Monica:

This is where we're still talking about.

Monica:

I think when it was still USSR right before the are right around the time when

Monica:

yeah, the break the breakup happened,

Boston:

So early, mid 1980s.

Monica:

yeah.

Monica:

Yeah, exactly.

Monica:

So because of the close connections politically, between India and USSR, there

Monica:

were all these like books, Russian books.

Monica:

So they were also feeding my imagination.

Monica:

So I think, even though we had the national through language and just, that.

Monica:

Through line had just started coming in via mass media, This is the role that

Monica:

television played globally in some of these capturing their imagination and

Monica:

saying, this is the only way to do story.

Monica:

But because the cauldron was so already in, in some ways rich with

Monica:

complexity, which I think is a very post-colonial phenomenon in some days.

Monica:

it's the idea that you're finding yourself in a society where there's

Monica:

many different versions of how to be human and what the world is these

Monica:

exist in, in such a complicated way.

Monica:

I think that really liberates imagination in a way.

Boston:

I agree.

Boston:

It becomes pantheistic instead of monotheistic, one, one path

Boston:

to expression versus many paths, finding other ways to identify.

Boston:

While we're in this particular realm, is there any myth or fairy tale or a story

Boston:

from any place in your life that has had a particularly powerful impact on you?

Monica:

I remember when I first saw Sita Sings the Blues, it's a

Monica:

movie by, do you know that movie?

Boston:

No.

Monica:

I loved that movie because.

Monica:

Yeah, it just takes, Sita's myth and opens the top and puts it in a different

Monica:

context and makes her a blues singer and gives her agency, gives her a voice.

Monica:

This is something that I know it's been because many of the

Monica:

figures, seminal figures in Indian mythology are also are pretty.

Monica:

Again, docile are pretty linear in some ways are, they are operating

Monica:

mostly not for their own ends, not

Monica:

As their own agents, but on behalf of men to free men, to

Monica:

help out men, things like that.

Monica:

So I think this, I know it's been a look at the work of writers from

Monica:

India, women writers from India either now or are in the last, I

Monica:

think since independence, right?

Monica:

Since they're in independence it's remains really valid.

Monica:

It remains like this through-line the wants that we want

Monica:

to reclaim these figures.

Monica:

We want these feminine figures, We want these women to be more than.

Monica:

How they were written down how they were textualized because it's in the oral

Monica:

traditions of the myths that they're really alive and they have more agency.

Monica:

You have so many different versions of Sita already, right?

Monica:

Like in the oral myths, but it's been they're written down.

Monica:

When we started telling stories, but maybe it wasn't the telling stories,

Monica:

but maybe it was by who was writing down these stories that some of

Monica:

the deformities started happening.

Boston:

There's something really poetic in that too.

Boston:

Just in that, once you write something down, you capture

Boston:

it and contain it in a frozen.

Boston:

When you're telling a story, we tell stories for particular reasons.

Boston:

There's you don't just start talking.

Boston:

Maybe I do sometimes but generally if you're bringing up a story it's

Boston:

to teach or to explain or describe, and it's relevant to that moment and

Boston:

it, and these, if we're pulling on myth to do it, we're pulling on great

Boston:

deep ancient imagery and archetype.

Boston:

We're going straight for the soul.

Boston:

When you write it down, it's running through the intellect This may not

Boston:

be true with poetry, but it does have an intellectual component, but it's

Boston:

a soulful practice the way I hear it.

Boston:

Anyway, my point is.

Boston:

There's something about freezing a myth in time and freezing these

Boston:

characters in time that ultimately contains and controls them.

Boston:

And maybe both the men and the women that these are wild forces that somehow

Boston:

humans, by writing them down, they want to have some kind of dominion

Boston:

over them as opposed to embodying them.

Monica:

It's so interesting what you said about stories being told for a

Monica:

particular reason, That changed when we started telling stories for entertainment.

Boston:

Yes.

Monica:

That's part of, modernity's myth, again, we're talking, I'd come

Monica:

back to the middle of modernity, which removes the sacred as something

Monica:

that's needed to connect a community together to tie a community together,

Monica:

to, give purpose to human life.

Monica:

And also theater there's again, in different parts of India

Monica:

they've always been regional re forms of ritual theatre, right?

Monica:

And these, this ritual theatre which tells off the mythic stories that are

Monica:

particular to that region, they're not.

Monica:

It's supposed to be entertaining.

Monica:

They're supposed to enact very significant moments in that culture's timeline.

Monica:

So they could be seasonal moments.

Monica:

For instance, in their villages of Himalaya's they enact the goddess

Monica:

coming home coming back to her father's house at particular moments

Monica:

and there's like Petro, but that's also tied into the harvest season,

Monica:

So it could be seasonal, but it could also be related to rights of passage.

Monica:

And we've lost that, in secular modernity, in colonial modernity, you've lost

Monica:

so much of what it was to knit the community together through the stories.

Boston:

It's such an excellent point.

Boston:

And one of the things that's really interesting this superhero movie

Boston:

phenomenon, which I am really, I was enjoying, I am still enjoying it.

Boston:

I am a comic book kid.

Boston:

So there, this is what happens when the nerds grow up and get the

Boston:

power and the money and it's, but they are not of a particular place.

Boston:

They play with big ideas, but they're all the same note.

Boston:

You do get interesting things that happened with something like Black

Boston:

Panther and Wonder Woman that really do empower marginalized groups and

Boston:

really make a point of re-imagining a world that's different, but I think

Boston:

in general, and it's not just the superhero movies, it's movies in general.

Boston:

It's how do we make the most money possible on a global scale?

Boston:

So what is going to be palatable to the United States, China, India, Russia,

Boston:

and offend as few people as possible.

Boston:

And because America does drive this machine, it all has this

Boston:

underlying very American machismo for lack of a better word.

Boston:

I'm just thinking, yeah, that's something is lost when when a

Boston:

story is not tied to a place when it's not emerging out of a place.

Boston:

And this is back to what you said and mythology is about place and belonging.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

And this whole Americanization and globalization it's of course,

Monica:

it's a very real phenomenon.

Monica:

We it's really affected many of the minor stories and the minor myths.

Monica:

Even right here in, in the us, w how many indigenous myths do we know about right.

Monica:

Local place-based myths,

Boston:

you know,

Boston:

where they went, bugs bunny cartoons, the Tasmania, the Tasmanian devil,

Boston:

the trickster, the Southwest imagery.

Boston:

There are there local folklore is in the old Looney tunes cartoons.

Boston:

And this,

Monica:

know that is hilarious.

Boston:

it just it hit me recently when I was my father deeply involved

Boston:

in the Lakota Sioux traditions and has a wealth of knowledge.

Boston:

And he was telling me some stories about coyote, the trickster character.

Boston:

And I'm like, this is Wiley coyote.

Boston:

This is the coyote Roadrunner situation.

Boston:

And I started looking like this holds up.

Boston:

These stories that they did not have a written tradition, native American

Boston:

we call it folklore mythology.

Boston:

It was an oral tradition.

Boston:

And now we don't even have the languages to tell the stories.

Boston:

The languages have been lost.

Boston:

So many of them,

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

Yeah.

Monica:

And the loss of language and the loss of knowledge are really

Monica:

tied together in some days.

Monica:

But I do want to mention, and it's interesting because I don't

Monica:

want to also dis the written form because it's so important.

Monica:

We talk about preservation.

Monica:

So a couple of years ago, I was at the book launch of this book called When a

Monica:

Mountain Was Made and it's a collection of stories by Greg Sarris and I'm

Monica:

forgetting he's from the, I think he's from California and the Sonoma state.

Monica:

again, the beautiful stories, but what happens is even as he was reading

Monica:

the stories, I found my brain getting conflict reconfigured, because again,

Monica:

stories are like, even if they made it to Looney tunes or whatever, but they

Monica:

didn't go with the worldview intact.

Monica:

That's what got lost.

Monica:

And also like a desert beautiful book.

Monica:

There, there are a couple of presses in particular in India, which are really

Monica:

trying to get the indigenous stories in the indigenous myths written down.

Monica:

There's a book called I think it's called the nightlife of trees,

Monica:

which is all about how, yeah.

Monica:

It's all about trees and it's about the.

Monica:

How trees come alive at night in a different way when than in the daytime.

Monica:

So it's so important, right?

Monica:

That we don't just rely on them.

Monica:

The main, if we are interested in myth and how do we even broaden which myths

Monica:

we find ourselves in conversation with because they are tied into worldview.

Monica:

And I think that's where the fact that we find ourselves in the predicament, we

Monica:

are globally comes in because What a lot of the Hollywood superhero stories are

Monica:

doing, they are talking about some real perils that the world is facing right now.

Monica:

But of course they are decontextualizing it.

Monica:

And they are, pulling out some elements and absolutely they are.

Monica:

they're doing it to make money.

Monica:

There's something very wrong with the world right now.

Monica:

Why is it that these corporate forces, these multi-millionaires like,

Monica:

why is it that they're getting to dictate our world in a certain way?

Monica:

Where do the answers come from and yes, maybe Hollywood has some ons and there

Monica:

won't be enough and that's what complexity theory also says, the answers will have

Monica:

to come from that place of complexity.

Monica:

No single individual or entity or group that ever have all the answers.

Boston:

What is something that, that you believe to be true in the

Boston:

world that you just can't prove?

Monica:

Let me start with a story and then I'll maybe answer that question.

Monica:

So I was writing this chapter on voice for my dissertation.

Monica:

There, I talk a lot about narrative and I talk a lot about the stories that

Monica:

have been cut off and the ancestral relationships that have been cut off.

Monica:

And I was researching this place where my nanny there, my grandmother's

Monica:

family came from in, in what is now Pakistan and the places

Monica:

So I was know, looking at the Wikipedia.

Monica:

I was trying to study the geography and string to see what kind of mountains

Monica:

were there and things like that.

Monica:

Like really trying to immerse myself in that region to activate my imagination.

Monica:

I didn't know what was going on.

Monica:

I was doing my research, so definitely in those tunnels.

Monica:

And then I came across this one reference in an entry about the

Monica:

mountains in that area that this which called the Shita legend says

Monica:

still lives on those mountains.

Monica:

And somehow, you know how it is when you S you grabbed, you don't even know why,

Monica:

but I was entranced with two sheet them.

Monica:

So I was like, I need to know everything I can about tissue down.

Monica:

So I did my, I didn't make Google trawling and I'm very good at that.

Monica:

And that was the only sentence of found in some 50 places, but I didn't

Monica:

find anything else about Toshi bounds.

Monica:

So this search for her, and then an imaginable connection with Toshiba

Monica:

on the mountain and her relationship with the village and, her relationship

Monica:

with the women in the village that became like a 10 page poem.

Monica:

And a few months later I was going to read that poem at a reading in Oakland.

Monica:

And so I was like, okay, I just want to go and check that page again.

Monica:

And it was a Wikipedia page and that entry had been deleted or

Monica:

it was no longer to be found.

Monica:

And I couldn't find that sentence anywhere on the internet after that.

Monica:

Like talking about something extraordinary that really wanted to be known coming

Monica:

through and, I had copied and pasted that, that, and that, that sentence

Monica:

is actually in my dissertation.

Monica:

Like I have the citation, I have the URL, I have everything, but it's gone now.

Monica:

It's only in that artifact, which is my home.

Monica:

Which is why I feel like if there's something behind the curtain that

Monica:

wants to be known, it'll figure out its way, even through this

Monica:

technological morass, that navigating,

Boston:

That does.

Boston:

She wanted to be preserved, wanted to be kept and herd.

Boston:

And then the veil closed.

Boston:

Will you send me a link to that poem?

Boston:

I'll include it in the show notes.

Boston:

I would love to read it.

Monica:

The, it is published, but it's published in a print magazine.

Monica:

And it's going to be included in my collection that's coming out in a month

Monica:

or two months, a couple of months.

Monica:

So unfortunately it's not online right now,

Boston:

Then they'd give me a link to that publication when it's

Boston:

ready and we'll get that out there.

Monica:

yeah.

Boston:

I'm imagining you, the, you I'm talking to right now and the little

Boston:

girl who was reading those picture books and then also going to the library.

Monica:

one of my favorite things to do if I even now is to stay up on

Monica:

light reading and I have to say it, fantasy and not scifi as much, but yeah.

Monica:

Fantasy and mythological books remain favorite but there's this

Monica:

awareness that there's something.

Monica:

Other than this world.

Monica:

I feel like for a while, in my twenties, because I was trying to fit in and I was

Monica:

trying to lead the conventional life.

Monica:

I lost the sense of awe and wonder, but the older I grow, I find myself

Monica:

connecting with that childlike sense of wow, this is our world.

Monica:

And that magic more.

Monica:

So I feel like if you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I don't know what

Monica:

I would have said, but now I would say, I feel like a kinship with that child

Monica:

now, like with that sense of wonder.

Monica:

So

Boston:

Have you ever experienced a phenomenon that you just can't explain?

Monica:

All the time.

Monica:

So part of it is like the more, and I really do believe that, right?

Monica:

Like the more we open ourselves to magic and synchronicity,

Monica:

the more we're gonna see that.

Monica:

And so Young's notion of synchronicity that that really is that connection

Monica:

between different phenomena in the world and that everything in the universe

Monica:

is alive and is trying to talk to us, which of course is a Jungian notion,

Monica:

but also if you look at it from an animist perspective, It goes even deeper.

Monica:

I think I'm opening myself to that lens and to that way of being more and more.

Monica:

And the more I do that, I have that happen.

Monica:

Plus I actually couple of years ago, two or three years after I started my doctoral

Monica:

program at CIIS, I actually studied.

Monica:

And that was my leap of faith.

Monica:

I started studying the, this West African diviner and teacher Dr.

Monica:

Malidoma Some.

Monica:

And I really studied in that cosmology deeply.

Monica:

And I became a diviner in that tradition.

Monica:

So as a diviner you are, you're really sitting in front of the

Monica:

community and saying, I'm going to call on the ancestors on your behalf.

Monica:

And there's specific technologies by which you do that.

Monica:

So when I'm sitting with people, I've had information come through that I would have

Monica:

no way of knowing, but it's because I've established that context as a diviner.

Monica:

it's a job that's entails tremendous responsibility.

Monica:

It's not to be done lightly at all.

Monica:

So I do not take it lightly.

Monica:

I take it very seriously.

Monica:

And ritually, so I had that happen too, where, I really find myself

Monica:

saying something and the other person is wow, this is accurate.

Boston:

Extraordinary.

Boston:

That's an entire line of conversation.

Boston:

I'd like to if you're open to it, have another conversation

Boston:

specifically about divining, about what it is to be a diviner are

Boston:

you

Monica:

would be fantastic.

Monica:

Yeah.

Boston:

And so my last of these five questions is when in your

Boston:

life have you experienced ecstasy.

Monica:

Oh well, dancing remains a big portal of ecstasy for me.

Monica:

I'm not very trustful of disembodied ecstatic practices at all.

Monica:

It's when I started dancing seriously.

Monica:

And I started dancing once a week because I was given the information in a

Monica:

ceremony that you have to do this right.

Monica:

But when I started doing that, I started, it changed understanding how the body is

Monica:

one energy field in many energy fields.

Monica:

And I think if we look deeper at, ecstasy is not merely about happiness or an

Monica:

elevated expression of that, but I think it's it's something that enables you to

Monica:

see the world as a alive and connected.

Monica:

Yeah, that's a big one for me.

Boston:

Thank you.

Boston:

It, I really hear that.

Boston:

It's interesting.

Boston:

The, everybody I've asked this question, I've I think everyone has

Boston:

said something to do with the body.

Boston:

The answers have been in the realm of sex and dance and connectedness and drugs.

Boston:

But also, but really it's interesting because the, I think the textbook

Boston:

definition is about getting out of the body is going beyond the body,

Boston:

but everybody seems to be connecting to ecstasy through the body.

Monica:

Yeah, but because the body, because we're of the earth,

Monica:

we really aren't off the earth.

Monica:

This is going to be our portal to open up to the universe.

Monica:

Not when we leave the body, but through the body.

Boston:

Yes.

Boston:

Yes.

Boston:

So as we start to wrap up our conversation here, are there any

Boston:

topics, is there anything you really want to bring to the table?

Monica:

Just that V have we really have the capacity to tell

Monica:

the myths that are needed today.

Monica:

Not by giving up the old myths, but by really interacting with them because,

Monica:

The oldest myths really do come from that very primal consciousness.

Monica:

And there is a sense of things moving in them, which is very different than

Monica:

the versions of the myths we see today.

Monica:

But we have the capacity to connect to them.

Monica:

that's the beauty of the imaginal So just go and do.

Monica:

it,

Boston:

That's our show for today.

Boston:

Myths.

Boston:

Thank you so much for listening.

Boston:

And another huge thank you to our guest, Dr.

Boston:

Monica Modi.

Boston:

If you enjoy mythic, please consider sharing it with a

Boston:

friend or on social media.

Boston:

For more information, additional resources, and to subscribe to our

Boston:

newsletter, visit mythicpodcast.com.

Boston:

Now I've left Twitter behind, but on TikTok, I'm Boston dot Blake, and my

Boston:

Instagram handle is mythic dot coaching.

Boston:

Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or requests.

Boston:

This episode was produced and edited by yours Truly, the music

Boston:

was composed by Kevin McLeod.