Matt Witt – The Mythical Ship

3 minute read

Words and Illustration and song by Matt Witt Plus Illustration by Daria H.

As a human born of a seafaring island, images and experiences of the ocean have featured prominently throughout my life. As a child, my favourite toy was a Lego galleon that I would take on grand voyages across the blue carpet of my bedroom floor. I read Noah’s arc again and again in my Children’s Version Bible. One of my fondest memories was of my father’s discovery of a nearly complete fossilised ichthyosaurus (fish lizard) spinal column, he allowed me to take three vertebrate to school for show and tell, before donating the fossilised skeleton to a museum.

In my adolescence, the ocean and the ship were brought to a prominent place in my inner world. I wrote poems, and later, songs about the ocean. One song told the tale of my own living ship, she could whisper to me and guide me through rough seas, avoiding terrible monsters. She was endlessly courageous and loyal and would sing me to sleep on the open ocean.

The following piece, by Ukrainian artist Daria Hlazatova, was created in response to one of the songs I wrote about the mythical ship, from 2011.


Daria Hlazatova – An image inspired by a song about a Ship 

This edition has led me to investigate the relationship between these experiences, the internal stories, and their connection to myth and archetype. I am consumed with speculation that by adopting the ship as a protective character in my internal story I was able to approach real-world situations from a perspective of exploration, intrigue and discovery, helping me to overcome fear.

The Ship is a myth I tell myself, sailing through a modern sea, but perhaps harking back to bygone days of a hero’s seaborne exploration and the mythical representations of the ocean as unknown chaos and order combining. There are links to the hero archetype, the explorer, the magician, to the call to adventure, to initiation, and the interplay of feminine and masculine energy. These are archetypes that I can relate to behaviours in my life. Understanding there are powerful underlying drives at play has shed light on and given a possible explanation for some of my seemingly irrational, overly adventurous behaviours.

Perhaps this imaginary world was and still is a means of strengthening and reinforcing real-world actions. The ship provided a stable point of reference that guided my direction in life and maybe even helped me to make decisions. She may have been an internal structure designed to help me to feel protected against the unknown vastness of everything.

Maybe I built a metaphorical arc to help me explore reality/myself, to act as a saviour or a protective feminine guide who helped me to stay afloat when things got rough. Perhaps she represents my ideal traits in a partner and is some sort of projection of the values I admire in a human.

The mythical ship still permeates my creative endeavours, particularly with Wake up screaming. I continually reference the inner image of an idea setting sail. It feels like the creation of a living story with a bearing of its own, in search of those adrift on the same metaphorical ocean. This perspective allows me to cope better with the endless potential I find myself embedded in and approach this project as an adventure, without trying to control it. Aboard this metaphorical ship, I am able to let go, allow the sails to fill and the ship’s wheel to spin and to understand that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This edition of Wake up screaming has helped investigate my personal relationship with myth, it evolved from an external point of study to an internal exploration that allowed me to observe the possible roles myth plays in my life and behaviours.

This process has helped me to understand my drive to be guided by feeling and metaphor. I have found that exploring myth sparks a similar investigative, meaningful feeling as creating art, or writing poetry. I have broadened my reference points, encouraged deeper meaning and imagery in my art and gained at least a little more understanding of the drives that direct my life unconsciously.

I hope this edition provides an interesting starting point to unravel the relationship myth can share with our creative self-exploration. I invite you to climb aboard this metaphorical ship as we embark on this journey.

Matt Witt