“According to Jung there exists, in addition to the individual unconscious, a collective unconscious which is common to the whole human race . . . . Being very primitive, it is pre-logical and its reactions are expressed not in thought but in images. Myths, or at any rate the older and greater myths, are such images recovered from the collective unconscious. ”[1]

Always Once and Future

Myths orated around the fire. Words sacrificed on a pyre.

Modern man’s ancestors, long dead, speaking of death,

Speaking of life beyond, life renewed, something they knew

And knew not, buried deep inside their collective mind:

Bequeathing tales, Bedouin men, of hope and innocence—

Children lying under thick, green, and lively canopies

Practicing their speech, antiquated, never to be outdated—

All in hopes for the one who was, who is, and is to come.

As myth and time passes on from fable to legend to song,

The smoky images, smelling sweet, their aroma rises to meet

And mix and mingle with the burning stars, speaking from afar

The same tales that were treasured and told by mouths of old:

Heroes and figures, more than men, among men have risen;

It is these shadows and stars we seek, of whom we speak;

Most are gone, beyond the grave, but one in Avalon waits

To come again, to bring, at long last, their innocence.

Myth burns like a coal simmering on man’s lips, unclean.

Prophecies deep inside, deeper than these unclean minds,

From origins remote and unknown, deep in the soul,

In the imaginative cave where the first images won’t fade,

Speak loud and clear. Beyond the wilderness we hear,

The fountain rushing up from below, down from above.

In the middle, in the human mind, they at last collide

With stories of what always was—there is one to come.

Citation Information

Donald W. Catchings, Jr., “Always Once and Future,” An Unexpected Journal: King Arthur Legendarium 6, no. 2. (Summer 2023), 211-213.


[1] C.S. Lewis, “Psycho-Analysis and Literary Criticism” from Selected Literary Essays, ed. by Walter Hooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 297.