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Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

TDI’s textual archaeologists have been digging, and they have unearthed a rare find: an epistle by the writer Mary Lee Settle on the lure of ancient cities. We think it captures the essence of where we travel, why we travel, and how we travel, and it bears quoting in full. She writes:

How many miles to Babylon
Three score and ten
Can I get there by candlelight?
Aye, and back again.

FROM THE NURSERY RHYMES THROUGH the fairy tales and into the yearning to travel that comes after – the city is there, the one that has caught the rhythms of dreams and silence. I can go. I can find it – Baghdad, Ecbatana, the Cities of the Plain, Troy and Carthage and Trebizond and Petra and Lhasa -whatever legendary city has been in my mind and sometimes in my dreams since childhood. I must unearth it, or crawl through labyrinths, or dive, or go by donkey, or simply sit and dream.

A legend is a story that no one can take away from you. It is secret. It must be as far away in place as Shangri-La, as deep in time past as the dreams of Miniver Cheevy and in time future as adolescent hopes – neither mundane here nor mundane now. It is a place to be discovered on one’s own, whether in reality, as Heinrich Schliemann did when he followed his own dream to the Troad, or in poetry. (more…)

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They went to Delphi, the Earth’s center, to visit Phoebus’ Oracle, and prayed to him to grant them his aid in their misery, to give them some oracle that would restore their health and put an end to the evils of their great city. The ground, the laurel tree and the quivers which the god himself carries, all trembled together and, from the depths of the shrine, the sacred tripod uttered words, making the listeners’ hearts quake with fear… (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book XV)

Up on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in the time before Time, the young god Apollo slew the monster Python and founded a shrine commemorating the event. It was the omphalos, the navel or center of the world, and Pegasus swooped in and stamped his hoof and cracked the ground from which came forth the Castalian Spring, pluming underground waters bearing a sweet perfume. (Of the last, so said Plutarch.) Down in an enclosed subterranean chamber, the Pythian Sibyl sat on a three-legged stool, breathed in the vapors surrounding her, swooned into a trance, and uttered delirious visions that would be translated, by the Pythian Priestesses, into prophesies that would command the fortunes of the kings of the world.

The Sibyl was a huffer.

In 2001, geologists discovered that two geologic faults intersected directly beneath the ruins of the Delphic Shrine. About every hundred years, earthquakes rattle the faults, heating the adjacent rocks and vaporizing the hydrocarbon deposits stored in them. The result: ethylene vapors, which, inhaled in concentration, produce a sense of disembodied euphoria. It is no longer a myth or a tall tale: that’s how the Pythian Sibyl received her visions from Apollo. Read more about the Delphic Oracle’s drug use here and here.

See Delphi and get a whiff of myth on Travel Dynamics International’s Landmark Sites of the Mediterranean: Greece, Sicily, North Africa, and Spain from November 9-28, 2008.

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Last summer, The New York Times‘ travel section published a lovely piece by Jennifer Conlin on her “Zeus Trip”: a summer vacation in Greece specifically planned to teach her kids about ancient history and mythology. It’s written with deft tongue-in-cheek, as she learns, by trial and error, how to keep her kids interested and learning, rather than bored and flippant.

She needn’t have worried, she needn’t have stressed, if she’d left the planning to us at Travel Dynamics International. Our family learning adventure, “Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes,” is the model for ancient mythology-themed trips for kids. We design two separate sets of excursions: one for adults, and one for children, led by professional youth counselors who bring the legends of Theseus, Hercules, and Odysseus to life. Meaning you can have your cake and eat it too — you get to have your own elegant cruise in the Mediterranean, and give your kids or grandchildren a summer enrichment experience they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives. It’s a formula that’s a proven success: this trip has sold out for the past five years in a row.  

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An essay by Marina Warner, in the excellent British online magazine The Liberal, meditates on the meaning of myth:

WRITERS don’t make up myths; they take them over and recast them. Even Homer was telling stories that his audience already knew. If some individuals present weren’t acquainted with Odysseus’s wanderings or the Trojan War, and were listening in for the first time (as I was when a child, enthralled by the gods and goddesses in H.A. Guerber’s classic retelling), they were still aware that this was a common inheritance that belonged to everyone. Its single author – if Homer was one at all – acted as a conduit of collective knowledge, picking up the thread and telling it anew.

Read more from Marina Warner here. Travel Dynamics International would love to place you in the heart of mythical settings, and tease out the meanings of the ancient myths for  your life, in cruise programs such as Journey of Odysseus, Voyage to the Lands of GodsBill Moyers and Heroes, Journey of Aeneas, and a very special voyage called Landmark Ancient Sites of the Mediterranean, on which famed PBS broadcaster Bill Moyers will serve as guest lecturer. As many of you know, one of Mr. Moyers’ greatest works was a conversation series called “The Power of Myth” with the late Joseph Campbell.

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