What’s wrong with myths, anyway?

First I love this quilt

Second I stopped to read because I’d read Dash’s Daughters of the Dust though Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow is where I first read of this legend of the Ibo refusing to live in chains and walking back into the water into freedom. Then this quote

And then interestingly enough, in my research, I found that almost every Sea Island has a little inlet, or a little area where the people say, “This is Ibo Landing. This is where it happened. This is where this thing really happened.” And so, why is it that on every little island – and there are so many places – people say, “This is actually Ibo Landing”? It’s because that message is so strong, so powerful, so sustaining to the tradition of resistance, by any means possible, that every Gullah community embraces this myth. So I learned that myth is very important in the struggle to maintain a sense of self and to move forward into the future.

unlocked something in me concerning Antigua’s Devil’s Bridge…I’d posted on it somewhere and someone in my virtual circle had been mocking of people who believed in the lore about enslaved Africans jumping to their death (or to freedom)  …and I wondered why that bothered me …usually I don’t care, to each his own when it comes to beliefs. Besides, the person was right, right? Who knows what the truth of the legend is, and I do have a respect for the unraveling of historical fact from historical fiction…but I am a person of African descent (and an artiste) and maybe both had a lot to do with me wanting it to be so…and I realized why when I read this…these were my people and I like the idea that they had an escape and I didn’t appreciate the dismissal of the myth…because while I believe in investigating and dealing with the truth of things, I suppose I believe, like the blogger at Afrodiaspores says, that “myth is very important in the struggle to maintain a sense of self and move forward into the future”.

Myths and other fictions have their place in the psyche of a people; they say something about what they believe, how they cope, how they see themselves in the world, how they vision their future. Knowing the facts is important but hey I deal in fiction, is it any surprise that, as I wrote in this conference paper (in which I reference both my fictionalization in my novel Oh Gad! of a slave dungeon of which really only the oral history is known making it more myth than fact even in reality, and the let’s call it sense memory that informs my creative treatment of Devil’s Bridge) that I also believe beyond what happened there can also be emotional truths that are just as unshakeable?


2 thoughts on “What’s wrong with myths, anyway?

  1. Very powerful words! It occurs to me that perhaps every island has it’s own “Devil”s Bridge”… In Barbados it is Pico Tenerife and myth has it that slaves from nearby plantations would hurl themselves from the cliff into the raging waters below in an effort to “return home”. … Thanks for sharing this, Joanne.

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