Don’t Step on the Mome Raths

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Jabberwocky, Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll

Mome Raths first appear in Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass, where they are depicted as green and somewhat pig-like creatures. To “outgrabe” is to make a sort of interrupted snorting/roaring/whistling sound.

Disney’s 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland features Mome Raths as somewhat flower-like creatures with fuzzy heads, googly eyes, and two little legs.

They appear in the film when Alice, after chasing the White Rabbit through a hole to Wonderland and having many other adventures along the way, becomes lost in Tulgey Wood and begins to lose hope that she will ever make it home. Birds crossed with a hammer and a pencil build a sign that reads “Don’t step on the Mome Raths”.

A pack of tiny creatures spring up from the ground and form an arrow pointing her to a path out of the woods. Alice thanks them and cheers that she will make it home in time for tea. As she begins following the path, a dog-broom walks up and sweeps it away. Alice succumbs to despair and begins weeping, and the assembled critters fade away into nothing.

Wonderland in this film is a dream that Alice is having. Like many dreams, it appears to be full of absurdities. Alice constantly struggles against what she perceives to be nonsensical actions of its residents, but to those that live there the logic of their world is internally consistent. Flowers can sing, individuals can change size or disappear, a deck of cards can have a battle, and none of this is strange except to Alice.

To understand the world around you, it must be observed. Everything which your senses become aware of is something asking for your attention, and you (usually) get to decide to grant it or not. Any preferences on what appears to you is irrelevant, each thing you notice is telling you something about the way things are, no matter how big and important or small and inconsequential it seems.

As you observe, you may begin to notice strange connections between the meaning of events. You might realize a coin flip somehow has the power to tell you how you feel about things, or a deck of cards can give you advice. Maybe you speak something out loud and the television repeats what you said moments later. Perhaps a synchronicity arises between a specific set of triple numbers on a clock and finding your lost car keys, or a deer standing next to the road is seen every day that your cousin calls you on the phone.

These are all indicators that the world is operating on a different set of logic than we are used to from unobserved daily life. That there is a connection between seemingly unrelated happenings. From this point you are left with two options:

You can deny what you have seen. You can fight and struggle against it. Following this path sees the path dissolve entirely. The things you’ve noticed begin to fade away as they are dismissed as pure coincidences that carry no meaning. You stop seeing, or stop acknowledging you are seeing, how the world is presenting itself in favor of the way you’ve decided it should be.

Alternatively, you can dive headfirst into a new perspective on the world. You can accept what it is you have seen, saying “well, I find it MORE strange to deny that the T.V. repeated me, multiple times, than to decide its just random chance”. In doing so, you begin to accept a much more dreamlike logic into reality. And you may find that each of these little individual happenings are flowing in a coherent direction. Taken all together, they might form an arrow leading to a specific path.

What would happen if Alice stepped on a Mome Rath? Perhaps it would momentarily outgrabe, but in all likelihood it would be crushed. By temporarily accepting the whimsy and paying attention to them they point her to a trail to follow, but, as she is seeking an escape back to a place where things make sense to her, the path is wiped away before she can take more than a few steps. That is not a place they can lead her. Instead, her despair for a rational world makes them, and the whole world around her, disappear.

A crescent moon appears and becomes the Cheshire Cat singing about Mome Raths, who asks her if she is still chasing the White Rabbit (her original initiation into this world), explains that she can’t find her way because she has no way, and then opens a tree like a door which leads to the heart of Wonderland (in the form of an ineffective King and tyrant Queen). To proceed, she must once again accept the seeming absurdity of the place and walk through the tree-door. All ways here are the “Queen’s ways”, not the way Alice wants to force the world to be.

There is plenty to be said about the overall occultism of Alice in Wonderland, however that is mostly beyond the scope of this article.

I suggest a close look at the world around you, both external and internal. Perhaps, if you’re quiet and careful, you may discover a Mome Rath and avoid stepping on it. Maybe a pack of them will spring up. If you know how to look, you might even find that they are everywhere, each one outgrabing for your attention, ready to point your way to the very heart of the world.

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