Thursday, April 27, 2017

Whitewashed Rainbows

If you know how to decipher the rainbow beneath the whitewashing of history, you will see that there are a great many myths about homosexuality that can be explored and mined for the spiritual evolution of gay and bisexual men.  Some of the more common (and, dare I say, damning--for red blooded American men would certainly be appalled by this revelation!) examples of male mythic figures with homosexual leanings are Hercules and Gilgamesh.  Hercules had significantly more male lovers than female, and, when at home, he often wore garments traditionally reserved for women.  Homosexuality is so intertwined within the tale of Gilgamesh and Enkidu that it is genuinely surprising to me that it was ever doubted what their actual relationship was to each other.  (By the way, The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written myth known to man!)

It is not just within "civilized" cultures, however, that we find myths about homosexuality.  In fact, the documented cases of homosexuality among indigenous peoples far surpass their "civilized" counterparts.  The Aztecs actually had a god who acted as a patron to homosexuals and male prostitutes, Xochipili.  In the mythology of Dahomey from West Africa, the creator deity, Mawu-Lisa, was formed by the merger of the god of the Sun and the goddess of the Moon, who were twin brother and sister.  This merger created an androgynous or in some accounts transgender spirit.  Even the indigenous population of Australia (as far removed from the other examples as it is possible to get) had their own homosexual spirits.  Chief among the many examples is the Rainbow Serpent, Ungud, who is described in some accounts as simply androgynous and in others as transgender.

Mircea Eliade famously said, "The main function of the myth is that of establishing exemplar models in all the important human actions."  The exemplar theory of psychology "proposes that human memory assigns objects and ideas into broad categories and when confronted with a new object, the mind is able to place the new object into its appropriate category. For instance, tables come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, yet they all have in common that they are solid objects with legs and a flat surface on top. Therefore, it is possible for a human to place a formal dining table, a TV tray and a medical examining table all into the exemplar category of 'table.' Being able to categorize objects in this way, rather than having to analyze and label each new item individually greatly simplifies the human thought processes."  Basically, for the purposes of this discussion, this means that if a model (say homosexuality in general) showed up in myth, it was prevalent enough between individuals within that culture that it needed to be explained in some way.

So what exactly were the roles of men who loved men within the various Indigenous Cultures around the world?

In order to give this question its full-due, let's address it as an independent post next time.  Stay tuned!

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