Mythology: How necessary is it? Does it affect your practice? Should it?
I think mythology is very important. It is the framework that shows what the gods are like in action. It establishes patterns, and those patterns are often referenced in ritual and spellwork. For example, there are many instances in the Coffin Texts that use mythic parallels. As Heru saved his father, may he also save this person who has also died. As Thoth defeated the enemies of Ra, may he also defeat my enemies. Sometimes the spell work goes a step further where the speaker claims to be a deity who is taking a specific action mentioned in myth, something like saying “You scary thing can’t hurt me because I am Shu and all gods tremble before me!” These are all paraphrased, of course. The texts are full of many variations on those themes. It helps to know enough about the myths to get an understanding of what they’re referring to in the spells.
Besides all that, myths are fun. They’re stories. They’re entertainment. The common people probably didn’t have much involvement with actual spellwork or ritual. If they needed something like that, to treat an ailment, for example, they would go to a professional. The myths, on the other hand, were much more accessible. They were told and retold countless times. Variations did crop up from one city to another, or from one century to another, but they still maintained the basic character of of the deities who took part in them.
The myths show us that our gods are fallible, which I think is an important thing to know. It shows how they overcome adversity and restore Ma’at. It makes Them relatable to us. We’re not perfect either. We face problems too, and we can also work to restore Ma’at in our own lives. Different deities approach their problems in different ways. This shows us that there is more than one way to approach a situation. Do you use reason? Brute force? Trickery? Flattery? If the first thing doesn’t work, do you come back and try again?
Sometimes the stories do seem a bit overblown and ridiculous. That’s a good way to get us to remember them! You might think that you’d never send out a dangerous animal (a Lion Goddess!) to devour all humans, but wouldn’t that be a good lesson for anyone to not get carried away when things go wrong? Those enemies of yours are people too, and maybe you shouldn’t just try to wipe them off the map. Maybe you need to think about what you start, because it might not be so easy to put a stop to it once it gets going.
Mythology is not so much about my “practice,” it’s more about my life. How can I apply the things that went on in myth to what is going on now? Do I give up when adversity strikes? Or do I keep trying different ways to achieve my goal? What do I need to do to restore Ma’at in my life?