Three brothers were travelling. They decided to stop for the night. As they made their camp, the oldest said, “I hear a stream. I’ll go get water.”
He took their water bottles and walked toward the sound of running water. Sure enough, he found a stream and sitting beside it was a hag. She was a terribly ugly old thing – her skin was wrinkled, pocked and greenish-grey. Her hair was a tangled, matted mess; one eye was bloodshot, the other clouded with a bluish cataract. Rotted, yellow teeth poked out of her mouth. She stood to meet the oldest brother.
“Hello,” said he, “I’ve come to get some water.”
“You may have water and more,” the hag croaked, “but first you must give me a kiss.”
“I’m afraid I must be going, then. Good evening” and the oldest brother returned to camp. “There is a stream”, he told his brothers, “but it’s guarded. I couldn’t get water.”
The second brother took the water bottles and went to the stream. He, too, met the hag and was offered the bargain – water and more in exchange for a kiss – and he, too, returned without water.
The youngest brother took the water bottles – what else could he do? He met the old hag as his brothers had.
“Hello. I’ve come to get water.”
“You may have water and more, but first you must give me a kiss.”
“Only a kiss? I’ll give you that and a hug as well.” The youngest brother embraced the old hag and, closing his eyes, kissed her square on the lips. When he opened his eyes, he saw that she had transformed into the most beautiful, young maiden he had ever seen, with clear, smooth skin, bright, shining eyes and golden tresses falling over her shoulders.
“Well done,” said the maiden. “You have made me young again. I am a Queen in this land and you shall be my King.”
The above is not a proper myth, but a snippet of mythy stuff. I might’ve gotten the outline from Joe Campbell – I’m not sure. It’s the kind of thing you find in various forms all over the world, but the way I’ve presented it is basically western European, which is apropos as I am too. I’ve bothered to type it out because there’re some shows on the calendar and I’m changing how BDSR performs - taking it away from the improvisational psychedelic noise with occasional myth telling and toward a more organized improvisational drum circle with some noisy elements and constant myth telling. I’m gonna use the above to introduce the idea to the audience – present the short story of the three brothers and the hag and then explain it, which’ll go something like this here –
See, it’s like this – in myths, nothing is only what it seems to be on the surface because everything represents something else. Traveling means living. The three brothers are three aspects of one person and that’s the person you’re supposed to identify with, though you’ll do well to identify with the aspect that succeeds, not the two who fail and who are, by the way, pride and fear. The sound of the stream is the lure of the quest for enlightenment or maybe it’s the rustling of the unconscious mind, depending on whether you choose to take these things metaphysically or psychologically. Me, personally, I take ‘em anyway I can because all interpretations are equally valid and all have their lessons.
So the brothers go to the stream and meet the wretched ol’ hag, the embodiment of the unknown who can only become known on her terms, which in this case means a kiss – there are plenty of myths where the hero has to fuck the ugly old woman and this can be bothersome to those of us who are bothered by gender stereotyping, but we need to look past all that and recognize that there are things beyond our socio-political ideologies and this myth ain’t about intersectional feminism, it’s about the importance of saying “Yes!” to life even when that means cozying up to some archetype that’s hard to look at and might possibly bite, which the youngest brother does, in fucking fact, do and gives more to the Goddess than is asked of him and that is exactly what the hag is – the Goddess in one of her forms and our hero’s willingness to say “Yes!” changes her from her wintery fearful form to the one she wears when representing spring, which is much easier on the eyes and so the youngest brother enjoys the bounty of the blooming, blossoming land of which the Goddess is Queen.
So, too, should we, in the journey of our lives, be willingly led aside by the babbling song of cosmic water, toward adventures unplanned and so, too, should we accept the invitation of the dark and loathsome-seeming Mystery who asks only that we relinquish our preconceived notions, our pride and fear, our clinging to an image of a self and the proper way that self should behave, and accept the terms life offers in exchange for the water of knowledge. This is what the story is saying – “Give yourself to the forces of the Universe, whose purposes are beyond your guessing, whose reasons are unknowable to you. Embrace the form that your life takes and give more to it than you must. This is the way to the fullest experience of life. This is the way become a Divinity.”
This story has been told and told and told again, by every culture in human history and precious fucking few have grasped it. All religions tell this tale.
Or something like that. Ya gotta remember that I’ll be shouting this stuff off the cuff, wearing a loincloth and a medicine hat with bones and strings of beads swirling around my head, a veil impairing my vision and a handful of ne’er-do-wells banging on buckets and drums behind me. I’ll be all amped up on caffeine and adrenaline and trying not to trip over my mic cord, so it’s possible I’ll forget half of what I’m trying to say. But it’ll be a spectacle, that’s for fucking sure.
Hope to see ya at the show.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.