Thursday, November 16, 2017

Preface to TANAH TUJUH ~ Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos



AT THE OUTSET I wish to declare that I am not an anthropologist.
 
I am, however, deeply interested in mythology. What fascinates me about the mythic tradition is that it has proven to be an effective way of preserving important archetypal images and ideas for thousands of years, merely through oral transmission down the generations. Like nursery rhymes imbibed in early childhood, a myth once heard is never forgotten, even if a few minor details get added or subtracted along the way.
 
Nadi Empok & his wife Lumoh in 1994
In this respect I perceive myths as organic time capsules of the tribal superconscious. More precisely they are a semiotic time-travel device: “reality spores” designed to survive aeons of incomprehension or indifference, only to germinate anew as soon as favorable conditions occur. To bring the stories back to life, you only have to add the water of empathy, of emotive resonance. Of course, it helps greatly if you also have “genetic access” to the stories. For each story, like a life, has its own specific genealogy. But in the end, all stories can be traced to a single source - the Mother Lode of Stories - which I comprehend as the deep memory of the Earth herself.
     
MYTHOLOGY, folklore, and grandmothers' tales are by definition non-logical story forms, meaningless to the rational mind and subject to no “scientific proof.” Characters tend to appear and disappear without rhyme or reason, and their actions and reactions are generally an unfathomable mystery - until one adds the essential ingredient, subjectivity. The fact that “mystery” and “myth” both contain the key word my is highly instructive. One has to own them, take personal possession of these transpersonal, extra-dimensional truths, before they yield their secret kernel of meaning. More specifically, one has to incorporate the mythic system into one's vision quest, so that the sense of revelation which follows the sudden flash of insight becomes an intensely intimate experience. For whom does the bell toll, if not yourself?
 
Halus, Titit & Kusak in 1996
In attempting to piece together the few Temuan myth fragments that I chanced upon, I have had to apply a liberal amount of interpretative glue. It is certainly not my intention to present this as some sort of “definitive” Temuan gospel. The shreds of tribal lore that have survived, at least amongst the Temuan I know, are too tattered and incomplete to reconstitute into any meaningful whole - unless one matches them with myth fragments from other native traditions. But essentially I just want to share my own insights and opinions - and the exquisite tingle of quiet excitement that each discovery brought - with whomsoever may be interested.   
 
The gods and heroes of antiquity are, in truth, fragments of our own mystery, our own unfolding story in space and time. We need only take the initiative to reclaim them from the myopia of our throwaway consumer culture and the self-destructive forgetfulness of our times.



TANAH TUJUH ~ Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos was published in 2007 by Silverfish Books. It's available in hard copy as well as digital format.

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