Dreams & Discussions
From: Eleazar (Antoni Tejero)
Dear friends in Jung Circle, This is a message from Eleazar. Its quite a synchronicity, I guess, that while I am recovering from the night s dark soul, someone in the circle is mentioning one of my recent topics in the area of symbols, which is the Labyrinth and its meaning. I understand this synchronicity in my life as saying: "Have a rest, but be patient because on the labyrinths path you will be finding more darkness and monsters". I know that the Labyrinth is one of the symbols of the Jungian Self, since Jung used to draw and meditate on circular mandalas. I propose that we discuss the symbol of the Labyrinth, darkness, monsters and individuation.
When I think of sol niger I see a swamp with stagnant waters surrounded by thick trees and fog obscuring the light of the sun. Yet we know the sun is there behind the trees, behind the thick vapours. The sol niger state, if gestated through, leads eventually to a sol lumina. It is a state of faith waiting for birth, waiting for the photo to be developed so that the Gold may finally be revealed not only to our physical eyes, but also to the eyes of the soul.
It has been so nice when I have time, to hear others on this journey we call individuation! I was intrigued by this group as it seemed to offer a more "real" experience than some of the other Jung groups online. It is wonderful to understand others journey through the labyrinth, as it helps us all understand more fully our own. I have been studying Jungian psychology at a very rapid pace for 5 years now, so rapid that I have to reread things frequently and have been in analysis for almost two years. I have found a great many synchronicites while reading all the writings and soul searchings of others here. Maureen, the kitten dream is just what we needed to hear to bring the focus back! It really is a simple process, as it continues throughout our lives and we (I), tend to get bogged down in the symbolism and the metaphors behind the metaphors. The ego really does have to suffer a loss, sometimes through alienation with Self and for some, it is the loss of an inflation, when ego is identified with Self. Anyway you arrive there is OK, but you are going to have to suffer and sacrifice!
From: Maureen R.
The Labyrinth has come up a few times recently (Al and Mary mentioned it), so is probably worth exploring further (excuse the pun). In the Astrology as Psychology course I teach, we talk about it as a key feature of the Taurus myth, since it is the Underworld home of the dreaded half-bull, half-human Minotaur, a great devourer of surface-dwelling citizens (of the ego). Taurus energy, in other words, finds it very hard to come to terms with, or even acknowledge its shadow, but would instead rather cling stubbornly to the illusory security of personal possessions, until it ends up being backed into a corner - often by imposed fate - and is forced to relinquish its security in order to face its labyrinthine depths. Its shadow is, of course, an energy whose ego is at home in the dark Underworld, Scorpio, whose mythic protagonist is Medusa (later transformed into the flying horse Pegasus). Indeed, the motif of winged transcendence seems to link in with Taurus, since the designer of the Labyrinth is Daedalus, who was later renowned for inventing wings used (inappropriately) by his son Icarus to escape the Labyrinth. Scorpio, in other words, doesnt try to hoodwink Tao and Nature by putting on fake wings and flying close to the Sun; it earns its wings through a Medusan suffering that thrives on emotionally intense death and rebirth. (Sorry, Im just musing aloud here.)
Last night, for the first time in many years, I remembered my dream, and I have total recall. I was running down a dark street, between tall buildings, because something was chasing me, I made a right (or wrong turn and came to a dead end; I was trapped. I huddled down in a dark corner and yelled out, Whos there? and I heard a whispered word in my mind: Death. I replied, Am I going to die? and once again I heard a whisper, Yes and I replied, Am I going to die now? and again I heard, Now is all there is. I woke up in a cold sweat and looked at the clock, 2am (closing time) and I couldnt get back to sleep. Im still trying to understand its meaning.
As the past is gone, and the future is always coming, "now" is all there is. As all finite things are always in a constant process of changing (becoming), they are always dying and being reborn depending on how one wishes to calibrate time in the time/space continuum which we call (relative) "reality". In this finite realm our physical vehicle is constantly changing, i.e. breaking down and reconstructing itself as best it can with what it has to work with on all levels.
At present, from a purely physiological standpoint, this appears to be regulated by a "telomerase" molecule which is attached to the ends of the DNA chromosomes and which activates the "polymerase" molecule that is involved in the chromosomal duplication process during cell division. The number of "telomerase" molecules appears to be finite in number, and one is lost during each division. Thus, in a sense, although our body continually repairs itself, each time it does so it takes one more step closer to its eventual termination and thus we are being reborn as well as dying all the time. From a psychological standpoint we are constantly constantly learning, reconstructing, or in some other way modifying our thought processes. This, too, could be considered a continual birth/death process occurring in the ever=present now. Even memories of the past only exist as experiences in the present.
The question then becomes, Do you believe that you are your body, or is your consciousness capable of remaining intact without the presence of a physical vehicle? Does the soul exist? If you believe that you cease to exist without the physical body, then yes you will die; if not, then there is really no such thing as death as an end to consciousness; it is merely a restructuring of energy on the physical plane of energy/matter and is realized as an illusion. For one to live, death must die.
Dear Fellow Travellers,
Last night at the cemetery we went to bury our dear friend who had died two years ago this day and we put her ashes in the ground. It was a dark night and we had only a couple of candles stuck in the ground next to the plot. As I finished smoothing the soil over her grave, my hand brushed something moving - we shone a torch on it and found it was a deadly funnel-web spider! I felt this to be very significant, somehow - as though my friend were saying to me "Ha! Death is never very far away from Life - I have not gone very far."
Is a spider some sort of shamanic symbol? Or is it archetypal, or is it anything at all? By the way, I have grown very fond of this Jung Circle.
Shadowcatcher, you are in trouble because Notorious C.O.V. can easily relate to your dream.
There are of course many interpretations of the concept of death. Many people in diners and at church accept literal interpretations, and do not bother with anything else. The interpretation I relate to most often when I think of death is the concept that an old belief system has been (or will be if you let it) let go; and a psychic rebirth has (or will if you let it) taken place. Obviously, a concrete statement can not be made about this kind of inquiry; any statement begets its opposite, if you accept the most rudimentary aspects of Jungian theory. So statements can only have rhetorical or symbolic significance. With this caveat I will make a statement that sounds like opinion, but one must take it as an Art statement if one is to profit (no pun).
When one is ready to trash the blind expression of the whole ego archetype, one may have this dream (in one form or another). Most often, one little piece of ego expression gets trashed at a time, and the trasher cannot refer to the ego archetype in its entirety because s/he can see only this little piece s/he is trashing at the moment - like vanity or somesuch. When one can finally, after usually many decades, see the concept of a whole ego expression, then and only then can one consider trashing the whole damn thing: when one wakes up early in the mornings in Sedona, year after year after year, and watches the hawks and the coyotes, one can start to appreciate the immortal words of Lord Tennyson, "After many a summer dies the swan."
When the ego archetype expresses so you can see it, everything beautiful dies, because beauty is longing for the perfect mate - the princess or the knight on the horse - the perfect situation, the perfect life - in a word, romance. The light of rebirth after ego death is at a higher and deeper psychic level than beauty, and while beauty can always be reminisced with loving care, it is never important again, after death and rebirth of the whole ego. This is too much for 99.99% of mortals to give up, because they have to give up being right about what being alive is, and beauty is so nice...so much fun; but if one does, s/he is liberated and truly alive - because as your dream said, "Now is all there is." It didnt say beauty is all there is, or should-bes or would-bes is all there is, or even love is all there is. Pay attention, Shadowcatcher, if you want to save your life for the first time. Your dream said all, not most, or when you have no wonderful young girls to pleasure, or roses to smell. Now is it. Thus, the ultimate joke is life is death and death is life. And you got it! By god, you are close, good friend. Maybe it is time.
In the depths (death) of my dark night a year ago, I had a dream image about eagles. I am with a man (who in real life had been horribly and sadistically cruel to me and was a perfect outer reality of my inner animus). He has this eagle in a cage and I have a pet crow resting on my shoulder. He comments that his eagle can fly faster than mine and my silly crow will never catch up to his great bird. He proceeds to let his caged bird loose, to which I reply, Well, she will fly if she wants to; she is free to go. My dream ego wants her to fly and beat him, but my crow just sits there on my shoulder, comfortably upsetting my plans! When his eagle has soared almost from view, my simple crow lifts from my shoulders in a most unhurried and graceful flight. I watch in utter amazement as she does the impossible.....she catches up to this great eagle against all odds and begins a mating flight: crow and eagle. Then they soar off and disappear together. This negative animus and I are left there. We have both losts our pets; they are not coming back to either one of us, ever again. One was caged and one was free, but they both flew off from the complex. The symbolism here is hard to escape. It both explained a current event and foretold a future healing of the instinctive and intuitive drives, the polar opposites in their flight patterns: Apollo and Dionysus, Masculine and Feminine, Light and Dark, Death and Life.
From: Maureen R.
Mary, I like this one! In addition to your own helpful associations, the clever tactics of your Crow ally remind me a lot of the Tricksterish wiles of the Wren in our Druid sacred traditions (do you have Celtic ancestry?) In contrast to Eagles tendency to be an egotistical high-flier, Wren (who symbolizes God/Goddess and is the most sacred Druid bird of all) reminds Eagle that humility, subtlety and patience can overpower power in a non-grandiose manner. The Druid tradition has always esteemed the less ambitious wisdom of the feminine and the small is beautiful approach, as is evident in this Celtic tale (which resonates with your dream):
"In a great assembly of birds, it was decided that sovereignty should be given to the bird who could fly highest. The favourite was naturally the Eagle, who immediately began his flight toward the Sun (cf. Icarus!) - fully confident in his ability to win. When he found himself flying high above all competitors, he proclaimed his monarchy over all birds. But suddenly, out from his wings popped the Wren, who had hidden herself under Eagles feathers. She flew a few inches higher and chirped loudly, Birds, look up and behold your Queen!"
In the Druid tradition, the shaman was often known as the cunning one, and the Druid shaman can become invisible like the Wren. Being small, s/he can enter worlds that bigger folk cannot - as Alice discovered in Wonderland. Being small enables us to slip down a throat (which I do during shamanic diagnosis and healing), or down the root of a tree, or inside a crystal to converse with its inhabitants. (This relativization of size can, of course, be reversed in shamanic mode. When - flaunting Icaruss limitations - I travelled to the Sun last year (in a Big Dream), for instance, He shrank to the size of a football (with no loss of detail) and hovered between my hands while I directed heat-healing to him, some of it channelled from neighbouring old red Bernards Star, his Fatherly mentor. (You can read more about this in my paper on Jung Circle, "The Road Less Travelled"). I later found out that the Mexican Huichol shamans had been calling on fellow shamans to help heal the Sun, because He was ill. Hes picked up somewhat since then . . .
My reference to romance as a pervasive cancer to understanding was not a frivolous thought of the moment. When I was nine and ten, I spent most of my time in a jungle-like region around the Erie Canal. Even then I told my parents I wanted to be buried there, and they looked at me like I had three heads. I had a soul mate: a young girl of ten years. We lived in a garden of consummate eros, without clothes, and animals played with us. I had a wonderful collection of snake pets; and larger animals, such as woodchucks, would wait for us and then come out of their holes to visit. We loved each other in a way that haunts me today, not with pain, but awe. It was just before her 11th birthday that the girls mother explained the facts of life to her. I got to hear the first installment, but never heard the second. She left the garden.
I stayed at the canal, but my orientation changed. Honest to Pete, a snake bit me, and I was a little wary of them ever since. I also started trapping; trudging down to the half-frozen water at 4:30 a.m. in the middle of the winter to collect my muskrats, and kill them with a club if they werent already drowned. (God knows how my parents allowed it.) The next summer I saw my angel walking my way from her house, now looking like a pre-adolescent - pretty, very pretty, and all. I sauntered down to the road and asked her something, even though I was pretty sure of the answer. And I was right. Indelibly burned in my mind is her... everything walking away. That moment I experienced the Fall, and for the next couple of days it was touch and go. I never since experienced so much pain.
I provide this schmaltzy background to make the point that I know what romance is. And because I experienced this first stage, and pure, and very powerful form of eros first hand, I can tell you there is no romance in it. It was only after the fact that I could see that the girl was very pretty. I dont remember what she smelled like, even though I couldnt have been closer to her, because such judgements are functions of the ego. I didnt read this, I know this. Nabokov was probably never really there, since he interjected tons of romance and passion in Humberts relationship with Annabel.
I feel like Im holding hands with Sophia, being there before and after romance. Perhaps you have to have been with eros before romance to effectively get past romance. But I think it is the ability to bracket romance that is part and parcel of the coniunctio. And I think from experience that it is the forming of the coniunctio that sets you free, and alters the course of events away from the direction that New Agers, and others, who have not really formed the Union, say you go next. It is not more of the same stuff; there is no more pain and suffering. You run on a different fuel and raison detre - but you cant possibly convince anybody.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti ~How They Met Themselves...
"You must weave the webs of deep designs and capture thought by Thunder."
[Terragian, Shamanic Trickster Guide & Cosmic Fool]
.Is a spider some sort of shamanic symbol? Or is it archetypal, or is it
anything at all? .
Yes, yes, and yes (re the last: spider is, well, Spider . . .)
Im glad folk are getting into spiders here. Gods, they are wondrous critters. Do you know that a spiders yarn is stronger (for its thickness) than the strongest metal; hence webs can blow and bend in wind, yet not break (i.e. they go with the Flow!) What I love about Spider is the way she travels so lightly; when she wants to shift house, she simply folds up her web, tucks it under one leg, and heads off for greener pastures. Then she brings out her web bundle, and creates a new mandala through her beautiful circuiting; first she anchors the web to firm supports, then draws each axis (from the many Directions) to Centre; then around she goes like the alchemical Uroborous, weaving like the spiralling journey of the soul, an inward path to the centre, where she sits, waits, watches for life to bring her all she needs. (Hence the spiders circulatio and centred stillness symbolize the individuation process and its goal of detachment - or is it the other way around?) Spider is like a gem in the Hindu Net of Indra - in touch with every place on her web such that she feels any movement shuddering throughout the whole. And when morning or Moonlit dew adorns her home, there is surely no more beautiful sight on Earth. Lets learn from her the art of creating a calm, simple, and centred life.
Extract from "Beautiful Circuiting" paper:
"Every soul that knows its history is aware, also, that its movement, unthwarted, is not that of an outgoing line; its natural course may be likened to that in which a circle turns not upon some external but on its own centre, the point to which it owes its rise. The souls movement will be about its source; to this it will hold, poised intent towards that unity to which all souls should move. . . ." [Plotinus, The Enneads ] This self-circling process is often depicted as a spider in its web (Psychology & Alchemy 291), recalling Keats analogy of the imaginations self-creation as being like a spiders weaving of its own beautiful circuiting (L 1:231-32, to J. H. Reynolds, 19/2/1818), a process which produces uniting symbols.
Safe circling about the Centre!
From: Stephanie Ericsson
Ah, the inseparability of art and shamanism... Having my own system of logic since childhood, it makes total sense that these would be inseparable. As a child, raised by the Franciscan Brothers in San Francisco, paganism and spiritualism never seemed separate. Of course, I didnt know of such terms, or divisions in my innocence, but followed a natural Gnosticism toward nature, knowing intuitively that God existed there. I would often find myself transported into the world of insects, animals and plants. Observation of them wasnt an "I-Thou" thing, for there was no separation between us, but rather a journey into the world of my brothers, where I went to join them. My grandmother used to tell my mother, "Helen, you have a strange child!" because I would spend hours with my face in the grass, (that1s where the kingdom of the ants was!) or staring at a rose in her garden (oh, what ecstasy there is in becoming a rose!)
Later this led to an epiphany that all spiritual laws paralleled physical laws. That is: things that go up, come down; voids demand to be filled and full vases to be emptied; or the mathematical law that says all debts will be repaid. Likewise, upon becoming sexual in my youth, I simply could not fathom that the union of two wasnt also union with the spiritual world. My body told me so.
I am certainly not immune to the influences of culture, but was gifted with a recognition of synthesis, of all things being intricately related. That Descartes created a schism between the body and the spirit, assigning the spirit to the Church and the body to science was a puzzle to me. Had this not become a hegemony, I doubt that shamanism, art, spiritualism or even society would have moved forward because it caused a natural void, which I felt as a yearning to seek out more. That it did become hegemony sorely crippled science, but it served politics well. All things being in need of balancing themselves, the over-abundance of power will lead to an emptying (only five gallons of water will fit in a five gallon bucket, the rest will run over and be lost) and a re-examination of the self-centered gluttony for more, more for me! More to a humility and willingness to take counsel from the other inhabitants of earth. There, in your dream, it seems that you were the bridge between the real world, and the world weve made.
Art is the synthesis of this world and the inner world. As a writer, I do not claim to invent what I write, but rather, I catch it. Something from the inner world (the world of all things?) is thrown at me, and I catch it. It comes in the form of a first line, or a situation I cannot dismiss from my thinking. When my step-daughter had a psychotic break, ten years ago, I was present at her side through much of it, and I recognized that even with the horrendous torture she was enduring of not being able to synthesize that inner world with the outer worlds expectation of her, she was in fact going through what I go through daily as a writer, but in a far more extreme and sacrificial manner. The difference between us was that I had my psychotic breaks in socially acceptable ways, so the world let me walk around free. The most critical difference between us was that the membrane between the worlds had been torn away in her, and she embodied the collision of the two realities, without a guide to take her through the journey. The torturous part of being with her then, was that I could not really be there with her, to take her hand.
The outcome of it for me, personally, was a breakthrough in my writing. In my own journeys into the world of asylums, I can say that the sanest people I ever met, were there. Their insanity was simply an appropriate and sane reaction to an insane world - a world which erases all the realities beyond those sanctioned as acceptable. Certainly, if I were to obey those sanctions, I would not be a writer. As a writer, I believe I act the shamans role in uniting the inner and outer worlds.
Would you agree?
From: Maureen R.
Hi there Stephanie
In noting that you could not be there, or guide your step-daughter, you touch on a crucial distinction, surely, between the shaman (who isnt necessarily also an artist) and the artist (who isnt necessarily a shaman). As Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade and Stanislav Grof all point out, the shaman is the person who has self-resurrected from a totally inward-turning schizophrenic crack-up; hence, having been there and so knowing the road, she is able - with the help of her guides and drum-induced trance - to lead, escort, or find another in these places. It is for this reason that shamans can work effectively with persons suffering from (certain forms of) psychosis, or from chronic schizophrenia. (And here, of course, is the link with Jung and his 4-year midlife crisis, during which, like the shaman, he fell headlong into the Abyss of the collective unconscious and had to rescue himself from it. In shamanic cultures, this constitites a shamanic initiation).
Through the shamanic power of ek-stasis (which, again, the artist does not necessarily have, since its not the same thing as imaginal journeying), the shaman can enter and explore the schizophrenics terrifying, electrifying and wondrous Otherworlds of power and passion - without her ego going under. In other words, this voluntary control/choice and ego stability is the crucial distinction between the chronic schizophrenic and the shaman.
Hence your comment:
"The outcome of it for me, personally, was a breakthrough in my writing. In my own journeys into the world of asylums, I can say that the sanest people I ever met, were there. Their insanity was simply an appropriate and sane reaction to an insane world a world which erases all the realities beyond those sanctioned as acceptable. Certainly, if I were to obey those sanctions, I would not be a writer. As a writer, I believe I act the shamans role in uniting the inner and outer worlds. Would you agree?"
Would I agree? Yes (as a writer) and no (for reasons already clarified). While authentic, or prophetic art (i.e. art thats mediating crucial vision, repressed shadow energies, and/or healing gnosis from the collective unconscious) always has, in my view at least, a shamanic role, the distinctive features of the shaman are not her artistic abilities, but rather her capacity for ek-stasis and ability to work closely with her guides - more often than not for specific purposes of healing and soul-restoration - hence shamanism is ultimately hands-on and extremely practical. (But dont take my word for it - read Eliades text, Shamanism - which is still widely regarded as the standard work on the subject).
As to the link between shamanism and madness which you allude to, I think Hillman hits on the crucial archetypal factor here; the patronizing rejection - by Apollonian medicine and Western consciousness in general - of the Dionysian and feminine; the presumption that logic, detachment and calm focus (as worshipped gods!) have precedence over irrational, polytheistic soul and over the Shivaic explosion of the isolated ego throughout the Cosmos. Hillman hence aligns schizophrenia and hysteria with Dionysus (Shivas Western counterpart) mad cry to be given equal status with his fraternal opposite, Apollo.
From: Maureen R.
Since birds have recently cropped up among the flames (a la Phoenix), I thought folk might be as intrigued as I was by the following dream, which was an oblique comment on my own dual vocation in the context of the shamanic role of the artist and the artistic role of the shaman. I dreamed this the same week in which I finished two short stories, one about whales, the other about birds (both are on Jung Circle, one under a pseudonym, Starwing J. Vardrewan).
In the dream, I was employed by a high up Government agency and in my capacity as shaman to act as an interpreter, or mediatrix between animals and humans for important negotiations and peace talks. Standing between the two parties, I would talk with the animals concerned, via empathy, touch and telepathy, then translate what they wanted to communicate into English for the Government bods. Then the humans would respond and I translated their words into animal feelings instincts, values and telepathic empathy, partly through shamanic dance, chanting and drumming.
Significantly, the two animal kinds involved were birds and the whale family (including dolphins). In the dream, I was dressed in my somewhat formidable Druid garb (which I first wore in a dream), which consists of a long seal-skin cloak overlain with a feather cape and Druid hood, to which is added a large array of amulets, bone carvings, snakeskin bracelets, small skulls, stones, kangaroo skin leggings, and Celtic face-makeup. At the time, Id been concentrating on writing (rather than shamanic work). so the dream was a mild compensation which reminded me of the inseparability - at least in my own life - of shamanism and art.
Maureen/"The Dark" Nathair
Regarding the spider........ Grandmother Spider in American Indian stories, is the mother of all things. She wove the web that became the universe as we know it, connecting all things. This universe of galaxies is not a set of unrelated hunks of rock, gases and energy, but a complicated (to us!) web of circuitry, where all things are related and affected by all things. Thus, we have quantum physics which has proven that two particles of matter, when split and separated will make simultaneous moves in tandem with the other, without any measurable time difference.
Ergo, Grandmother Spider is the Knower of all things, and Connectrix of all things. She stands for the irrefutable fact that there is nothing we do that does not effect another. And vice versa. (Again, physics is just now proving this theory.) She is the hope that we are not really alone, in these earthly bodies, but part of a matrix where all things originated. We are bonded inextricably with all other things, the groundmass, the womb, the formative tissue, the binding alloy of all that is.
Grandmother Spider is the original Elder. She teaches us as an elder, tells us stories of creation, of love and estrangement, of the dangers along the path, of the indisputable truth that there is a God and that we are a part of, and all of us is a part of God. Without demeaning herself into appearing as a god anthropomorphized into a human form that our egos must fashion for the convenience of our comprehension, she stands as a great mystery, beyond all the limits of understanding. Yet she is ever among us, palpable, accessible.
Her web is this and death as well. For should a fly be caught unawares flying recklessly, mindlessly, into the web, it is caught and consumed. That is the price of unconsciousness. Those who are alert in their paths, live on to propagate and those who are asleep when they should be awake, are eaten. So, her web also serves to weed out the undesirables, the creatures who are being less than they could be. So it is with us, when we take drugs, or get numbed by TV - we become snack food for the unforgiving side of Grandmother Spider.
Mind you, there are some of us who fly mindlessly into her web and escape.
We are warned by close calls, and the indelible terror of death. We awaken. And for those of us who have gotten away, we have Grandmother Spider to thank, for getting our attention and making us walk this earth path alive and with all of our senses in full faculty.
A sort of PS to Judy, who asked about Spider as shamanic symbol . . . Web-weaving: This is a soul retrieval technique for multiple soul loss that I learned from Terragian. (Some folk, for instance, have various lost soul-parts trapped at different chronological points in their past, or in different places in World or Underworld).
Firstly, Four Guardians (usually two power animals and two deities) are evoked (or asked in the case of gods) to stand watch outside the healing temenos at the Four Directions. The person suffering soul loss lies wrapped in skins at Centre (preferably outdoors, among enclosing trees, rocks and bushes). The web periphery is constructed - through circular/spiral dance, trance and drumming - by firstly anchoring it to key energy-rich points at the circumference, then drawing these axes inward to Centre. These periphery points can be tree branches, other plants, or rocks; crystals are placed at these energy vortices to act as detector-transformers and temporary way stations for retrieved soul-parts.
The web-lines are then constructed by circle-spiralling (simultaneously clockwise around the rim and anticlockwise on ones own axis) toward Centre, using the web axes as anchor points. Once the lost soul parts are retrieved from the Directions, they are blown into sheltering crystals, or spherical wood wombs (my term), then blown back into the person through either the heart or temple. Web-weaving can also be done to cleanse, energise, or sanctify a piece of land. As an intriguing example of the power of this work, a pal (on this list), for whom I did a garden web-weaving one night, came out the next morning to find tangible skeins of web woven around the garden. (Makes ya wonder, eh?)
Dear Maureen and All,
I appreciated your information concerning the soul retrieval ritual. I particularly like the part about wrapping the participant in skins! Also, the part about your shaman dress (the seal skins) intrigued me. As you and others probably already know, many fairy tales feature the motif of animal skins. Your seal skin wrap reminded me of the story (and I have loaned that book out, so the title may not be correct) of the Seal Skinned Woman, a beautiful story told in Women Who Run With The Wolves. I have always found the skin stories of relevance to my own process, so I would like to comment a little further on this topic if I may. Marie-Louise von Franzs book Redemption Motifs in Fairy Tales explains this much better, but I will try to paraphrase from my intuitive participation with this wonderful book.
Anyway, sometimes in fairy tales, the hero/heroine needs to be wrapped in the skins of an animal, so that the warmth and the protection of the animal can be utilized in a life saving moment, as this is embodied in your soul retrieval ritual. For me, this symbolized my need to wrap myself in my instincts, as I was a living example of instinct injury! I have found this wrap in the temenos of my Jungian analytic experience. Other fairy tales speak of curses, where the person is turned into an animal (another way of being cloaked) and we must burn away this outer shell to release the individual from the curse. To quote, By the curse the individual may be transformed into a cold blooded animal, or warm-blooded, or into a bird which flies away and cannot be caught. Birds in general, because of their evasiveness, are fantasy or spiritual contents of the psyche, hence the idea that souls of the dead have wings and may appear in bird form. If therefore, someone is transformed into a bird you may say that something is being expressed only as an idea whereas there should be a total experience".
From: Marilyn Geist
.I guess my question to you and others is how do you tell if a person needs to be cloaked or unwrapped? Or is it usually a process where we need both? .
I think you are right that we need both. There seems to be a constant weaving back and forth between wrapping and unwrapping, yet what is wrapped and unwrapped is always changing and evolving. For me the skin symbol was a childs blanket, and I really wanted to throw that babyish thing onto the fire and burn it. It couldnt be done - I had to hunt for it in my pile of discards, and allow myself to wrapped again. And I know enough now to know that it will be needed yet again - and again.
.Actually, the dance was one I first did in a dream that called me to shamanism, i.e. a vocation dream, in which I was a Druid shaman, dancing about someone using this double-direction pattern, while wielding a serpent and chanting in Old Gaelic .
Wow, that evoked the sudden memory of a dream I had when I first went into analysis. I was in a wild dance around a huge fire, dancing in interweaving circles, both left and right. It was clearly a Celtic setting, and I was - as was my male partner, who I would meet, then move away from, then meet again in the dance - clad only in blue paint and fantastic heavy bronze and gold jewelry. The energy of the dance built and built. We ended by having ecstatic sex.
I dont think I was ready for such a dream at the time - I know I wasnt ready for it! How exciting to remember it now, though, and I feel drawn back into that dance. Im not sure what the implications of it are - any thoughts, Maureen?
From: Maureen R.
Who knows, you could have been tuning into an ancestral memory here(?) The dance sounds like it might have been one of the Four Fire Festivals, Imbolc (plowing), Beltane (sowing), Lughnassadh (growing) and Samhain (harvest). Beltane, a time of sexual freedom - which resonates with the overt sexuality of your dream - celebrated the union of the Great Mother and the Horned God of the Woodlands (Cernunnos). A good dramatization can be found in Marion Zimmer Bradleys The Mists of Avalon. (Note also how almost all Celtic art depicts interweaving circles).
Your recent post Maureen made me think of synchronicity. A few days ago I pulled a book down by Rudolph Steiner called Man as Symphony of the Creative Word. I opened randomly to a chapter where he compares birds, butterflies and bats. He had some interesting things to say of bats:
He feels that bats are the animal most closely related to the human activity of dreaming, to the unconscious. The vampire legend is also interesting: a being assuming bat-like characteristics who lives at night and lives by sucking the victims blood (life force); they then become undead or unconscious, part of the unseeing bat legions who only sense the world through a sonar system. They are under the control of a collective force, driven. Only when a stake is hammered through the heart can the soul once again be freed. But this requires physical death. How analogous to certain diseases or pathological states where it is only death which presages new birth.
Also in connection to birds comes to mind a novel by Stephen King where there is a malign alter ego named George Stark, brought to life by the writers own words in the story. He is destroyed finally by sparrows who carry away his soul. By the way, I grew up in the state of Maine at the same time as King, not far from where he lived.
Maureen, when you talk of shamanism this resonates personally with my deep connection with wolves. Since early childhood I have loved them. In Minnesota where I used to live I did a sport called dog-sledding for 10 years. I was in races from 50 to 500 miles and had 30-50 dogs in my kennel. They were my brothers, my kindred spirits and I cannot begin to express to anyone the depth of our love! I knew each by their names, quirks, and personalities. I guess you could say that the wolf, embodied in these Alaskan huskies,i s my totem animal. The magic, the ritual of my journeys into the wilderness with my"pack", the solitude, the silence, their sounds - this will always be a part of me.We always completed the circle, came home, tired, hungry, thirsty, but complete with one another. I bring all this up because your Druidic experiences, your shadowy cloaks and Celtic markings remind me of my own position as mediator between man and animal which to this day lives in my being.
.He had some interesting things to say of bats:
They "dont want to see things"? What a curious assumption. They MUST see things - either with their eyes or their ears - and why in the name of the Cosmos would they not want to? Bats, actually, see OK. Not great, like birds, since they rely on their sonar for food and navigation because of their nocturnal habits. But they are not "blind." And their wings are elongated hands. And the membranes, which they clean meticulously to keep them supple and add no weight, are extraordinarily tough and flexible - more flexible than the wings of birds. Some bats can snag moths with their wings.
Im making a caveat here because Steiner is making assumptions not based on facts about bats, which are even more astonishing than his speculations. Thus it is no wonder that they have been demonized. Mammals that fly - impossible! Creatures who "see in the dark"? Must be demons since I cant. Erratic flight (chasing individual insects usually) indicates dementia...
I think the little brown bat that I held in my hands was the softest thing I have ever touched. It weighed almost nothing. It was like cotton candy. And mad as hell that it was daylight and some huge predator had captured it. (I justified my cruelty because I was on camera talking about bats as ancient, honourable and beautiful passengers on our planet. And much misunderstood.) I appreciate what Steiner is saying but deplore his lack of understanding of bats. He adds to the misunderstanding of them. (This is not a flame, please.)
Vampire bats, by the way, do not "suck" their victims. They make a precise incision and lap the blood as it flows. The saliva of the vampire bat contains an anti-coagulant that keeps the blood flowing. When they are satiated, they stop licking and the wounds generally heals over. The (generally) cows or other large mammals do not continue to bleed. The bat is licking up its own anti-coagulant as it feeds. Nature does provide. Yes, the image of this curious creature feeds our imagination and is the stuff of fantasy. In the case of bats, centuries of misunderstanding have led to endangerment of many species. A bat gets into your house (any of you have this happen?) and it is generally in the spring. If you knew what to look for, you would probably discover that it is the young of the year, curiously going places and getting stuck inside - where it definitely does not want to be. Most bats in houses are youngsters, prowling around in the way of kids. And what do most people do? Screech and get the broom and try to kill the kid. Hmmmm.
If we understood. We might just open a window and let it find its way out. Sorry -25 years in the trenches as an environmental activist does pop out now and then.
From: Maureen R.
Marilyn Geist wrote:
.I think you are right that we need both. There seems to be a constant weaving back and forth between wrapping and unwrapping, yet what is wrapped and unwrapped is always changing and evolving .
Yes, this is extremely well put, Marilyn. Re the wrapped ones: cocoons and eggs are surely a prime example, here; the metamorphosis that can only occur in the dark warmth of the nigredo - too much heat and they die; too little heat and they die. (Hence the importance of warmth in alchemy, which ideally translates into the human warmth of the therapist - Vs letting off steam, or getting hot under the collar, or heated debates! Wrapping in skins, or cocoon-weaving (which I use in shamanic work) is also helpful for protecting fragile or vulnerable folk during healing. Again, warmth - and the reminder of the companionship of death, which the comforting animal offers - plays a vital role. This, as you note, is the (legitimate) security blanket theme - which Im sure we can all relate to!
Re bats . . .
Yes indeed, bats are as wondrous as spiders, eh? Membranes: sensitive, semi-transparent interfaces between the Worlds, hence Bat as power animal helps one navigate between World and Otherworlds. Bat radar: the power of intuition as a sixth sense that operates as a kind of invisible tuning-in and homing device (hence is on the same non-rational, pragmatic axis as the sensation function).
[Al] .The vampire legend is also interesting: a being assuming bat-like characteristics who lives at night and lives by sucking the victims blood (life force); they then become undead or unconscious, part of the unseeing bat legions who only sense the world through a sonar system .
Well, I think the vampires have been given too much bad press here. Lets not forget that Vampire, like Mosquito (or Mozzie, in Australia) is sucking blood in order to feed her young, hence is a symbol, as are parasites, of the sometimes ruthless yet always sublimely fascinating interdependence of the citizens of Nature. As a reflection of psychic truth, Vampire is, in other words, ambivalent - beyond the human categories of good and evil. (A sobering thought: its only we vampirish humans who have sucked the Earth dry of her life and resources for primarily selfish or greedy ends. Vampire, on the other hand, takes only what she needs for herself and her young.) Vampire also illustrates the disinterested flow of libido from one state, or area of life in the unus mundus to another. As we all know, we dont have boundless energy; sometimes we have to take from one area in order to put more into another, eh?
And by the way, have you seen the pic of me in Vampire guise on my shamanic healing page? This reflects a fun dream I had in which I was a Vampire taking children for joy-rides through the sky at night. The kids loved it; I was a sort of Peter Pan Vampire (yeah, Puer-ile, I know), swooping into kids bedrooms and asking them if they wanted to go for a fly in the dark. They all did. Glad to hear you are a Wolf brother, Al! Another beautiful and much-maligned animal . . . Thanks for sharing tales of your special bond with them.
May your paw-tracks always guide you Home!
.Anyway, sometimes in fairy tales, the hero/heroine needs to be wrapped in the skins of an animal, so that the warmth and the protection of the animal can be utilized in a life saving moment, as this is embodied in your soul retrieval ritual. For me, this symbolized my need to wrap myself in my instincts, as I was a living example of instinct injury! .
While your experience is of course sacred, treasurable, and valid, Im bound to comment that this is one way in which shamanic (Erocentric) vision differs somewhat from analytic (homocentric, or human-centred) vision. In shamanic work, the companionship of the skin expresses the equal partnership and reciprocal giving between human and animal, i.e. the skin is not only there to help us, but we share in the life-in-death of the animal and it is in turn comforted by us - partly through our appreciation of its sacrificial death.
You say: . . . Birds in general because of their evasiveness, are fantasy or spiritual contents of the psyche, hence the idea that souls of the dead have wings and may appear in bird form. If therefore, someone is transformed into a bird you may say that something is being expressed only as an idea whereas there should be a total experience.. . . .
Hmm, I dont go along with this [i.e. von Franzs view] as the only valid angle on birds. In sacred traditions, they are also mediators between World and Otherworlds, sometimes as messengers, or gateways (e.g. Blackbird in Druid lore), oracles and teachers (Raven and Owl), or healers (Eagle, in NA tradition also). And again (from an Erocentric angle), perhaps its just as valid to ask what we symbolize to the birds!? (Im not disagreeing with you anywhere here, by the way, just tossing in a few complementary perspectives to add some creative tension - rubbing sticks together!)
You say:. . . how do you tell if a person needs to be cloaked or unwrapped?. . . .
Well, how does an egg know when to hatch, or a bulb when to sprout? It conceives, gestates and births its individual Tao in harmony with the universal Tao. When we attune to this truth, we know (not how, but as a detection of the right kairos time) when to uncloak and cloak! And no offence to analysts as individuals, but not all of us can afford $70,000 to train as an analyst so must instead make do with what we learn from intense self-analysis, Nature, contemplation, art, myth, and other folk. No amount of money can buy, or substitute for an ability to understand, commune and work with Nature, hence Jungs repeated reminders about the psyche being a fact of Nature, of personality being the flow of Tao, and his related complaint that folk were forever interfering with, or trying to help along the natural process of individuation, instead of leaving it in peace and allowing it to unfold in its own time and way. As he said, "I never think that I am the one who must see to it that cherries grow on stalks." (And lets not forget that Jung was never analysed and never trained as an analyst, but that he did spend a great deal of time learning from Nature and his patients). So again, Ill offer a gentle dig here (excuse the garden pun): in my view, the humblest gardener understands more about the Tao of personality (individuation) than anyone who esteems qualification as an analyst, or academic credentials above an appreciation of the wisdom inherent in Nature - not that individual analysts necessarily fit into the latter camp! (Ever see that wonderful film, "Being There" with Peter Sellers as the Holy Fool Gardener?)
Safe digging and weeding.
This line of emotion may have been applicable a long time ago, but today most of us are educated as children in our science classes about bats, how they "see" at night, their insect-catching behaviours, etc. So why do we still fear them?
Other creatures that evoke similar fears are rodents and insects. We hire "pest control" experts to eliminate all of these. What do they have in common? They are all disease carriers: bats-rabies, rodents-plague, insects-encephalitis, etc. Perhaps our instinctual reactions are grounded with a certain survival value. Jung often used evolutionary arguments for his theories. I am not implying that our feelings for these creatures are "nothing but" survival instinct, however I think there is value in considering where our myths may have evolved from.
Another POV to consider is that these "pests" share an attribute of the Spirit archetype: in our encounters with them they all seem to "come out of nowhere" - they surprise us. If you couple surprise with the disease origin you have a potential origin for them as negative spirits.
From: William Hart
I have watched with great interest the discussions and although theyve all been very stimulating, I am selfishly hoping that someone will get into the issue of the soul and place. By place I mean actual, geographic places; places in our imagination; places in our memories; mythical places and places in literature and myth. Can anyone suggest what influence they may have on the psyche? What do we mean when we use the term "spirit of place", anima mundi and so on? Anyone have any thoughts? Regards to all my Jung Friends, especially Maureen for whom I have great honour and respect.
A few months ago I had another very telling dream...In this dream I am with 2 male friends and this self-imposed guru of theirs. In real life these two guys were severely damaged early in life by this man and his beliefs. I will not name him here, as I have not met him; I just have seen the damage and heard tales of his beliefs. Anyway, in the dream, I am blind or pretending to be. I do not want to see this guru when I am introduced to him. I feel he will contaminate my psyche and steal my energy. He exclaims very loudly,This girl is blind - why would you listen to her! She is just another stupid woman and blind as a bat! She does not see, so why would you hear anything she says. I continue to walk right out of the room. Upon waking, I felt a small victory, as the old Mary would have stayed to work things out and try to make them accept me. I was immediately reminded of Lady Justice!
The next day, I was browsing through an antique store and stumbled literally into a small bronze statue of Lady Justice. She was beautiful and was depicted in a manner I had never seen. She is blindfolded but she stands upon a pile of books (knowledge) with a sword in one hand and a Serpent wrapped around her leg. If anyone knows this particular form of Lady Justice and the maker, please let me know. I might also add that a few weeks later, while working on a project (I am a landscape architect) again, Lady Justice came to meet my inner world. I was working on the installation of a huge fountain at a law firm, which we had flown from England to the site. My clients were responsible for finding the centrepiece and when it was delivered, what to my wandering eyes did appear, but Lady Justice. I just wish she was the one I saw in that store instead of this typical depiction of her with the scales. I am now working on the landscape around another centerpiece of Pan. He also follows my inner musings, but that is another story, another time. Yes, I tend the soul garden, too, and many times I end up tending my own by building others...
From: Maureen R.
Mary, Im curious about this because of its resonance with Jungs dreams of the blind Salome, one of his spirit guides, who was always accompanied by Wise Old Man Philemon (the Logos of discrimination). Jung comments that Salome is blind because she does not see the meaning of things, i.e. like the blindfold alchemists wandering about in the prima materia of Hades, she (as the personification of Eros, or lunar consciousness) feels, senses and intuits the meaning, often with the help of her animal instincts (hence the rabbit leading the alchemists about in the dark Underworld).
Note also your dream comment, blind as a bat, in light of our recent discussions of bats. While your chauvinistic dream figure speaks derogatively of this, you share positively in bat-power - and serpent wisdom! Interestingly, Jung also links his two guides P and S with a black snake, which he connects with the hero myth: the hero often has eyes like a snake, or is changed into a snake after death, or his mother is a snake. The outer appearance of Lady Justice in your landscape garden would seem to indicate an amusing synchronicity and confirmation of your integrity and lack of intimidation in the dream! Justice, symbol of Libran detachment and intellect, also, it seems, needs anything-but-rational snake wisdom to be a fair judge. Her abstract metallic Scales, I suggest, must be balanced by Snakes living scales and double-entwined Caduceus - as the wounding-healing justice of Nature. (Thanks for sharing.)
From: Andrew Walker
Maureen B. Roberts wrote:
. . . Her abstract metallic Scales, I suggest, must be balanced by Snakes living scales and double-entwined Caduceus - as the wounding-healing justice of Nature.. . . .
This last comment, along with your comments last week about the consequences of failing to recognize the significance of pathology in pursuing healings, set off a bombshell in my head, suggesting to me that in my quandaries about depression (specifically my interest in responding in a healing way to my sisters depression) its very likely that I m failing to ask the right questions, thus the feeling that Im chasing my tail is an uroboric indication that the problem itself is trying to call my attention to something I keep overlooking.
My experience has been that in such cases the answer is so close at hand that when I finally see it, my first thought is, "If it were a snake it would have bitten me! So, looking at things real close and personal, I am given to ask, with no small amount of frustration, with all of my prayers for my sister, Id think by now that my sister would have found a mentor or guide for whom I could pray as for a vessel of healing (not as a caudron of alchemy, but as a minister of the Spirit of the Almighty); why has this not happened! The immediate answer that thrusts itself on my awareness is (not suprisingly, also a question): should I expect the almighty to grant through another person what I am unwilling to do myself? This invites me to pose the next question: is there something that I am in fact able to do that I am neglecting by reason of unwillingness to place myself at the disposal of the Spirit of the Almighty as a vessel of healing? This brings my attention to my own tendency to "shy away" from the task of achieving contact with my sister at the point of pain, or injury, which means (if I understand this correctly) using my vulnerability to rapidly escalating anger as a point of departure from which to build a healing rapport with my sisters pathology as the corresponding point of connection.
Your feedback on this will be greatly appreciated. (This is true for all readers.)
Wow, I did not know about Jungs dream about Salome and the story that accompanies it. Thanks for sharing this with me; I am still learning. While I cannot speak to this dream of Jungs, I can add further associations I have had. Your comments about the feminine intuition sent bells going off in my head! I have always been an intuitive, not an intellectual, although I struggle with my work each day in the intellectual realm of architecture. I struggle to write here, so that I am heard in a way that I hear myself thinking. To put it bluntly, I struggle to overcome the patriarchal consciousness within my own soul. All I really know is that my life is constantly bombarded by synchronicities and an inner knowledge.
As a child, I had a poisonous snake (a copperhead) wrap around my ankle while playing ball in the front yard with friends. At first, I thought it was a wet leaf stuck to my leg, so I did not stop playing to look down. I remember shaking my leg several times in an attempt to unlodge the wet leaf. When it finally would not budge, I looked down! It was wrapped around my leg in in a tight spiral! I jumped straight up into the air and it could be said that I flew. I continued shaking my leg over and over again, but it would not let go. Finally, it dropped to the ground and I ran to the porch where my parents sat looking on in disbelief. When my father went to find the snake, it was a copperhead about a foot long. I remember being sad that he killed it. I felt it should live because it did not even bite me. Since that day, I have had many encounters with snakes, some funny, some scary, but I have never been harmed, nor anyone I love. Just thought Id throw that story into the fire, since it popped into my memory. Thanks for your input - it really made me think, feel, intuit and sense. All four functions at one time... Geez, Im exhausted.
From: Maureen R.
Agreed - Copperhead was trying to befriend you, perhaps? Again an interesting synchronicity: copper (symbol = Cu from Cyprus, birthplace of Aphrodite) is the metal of Venus, who (astrologically) rules your Lady Justice as Libran impartiality. As Jung notes in MC, the alchemical gold, or sun owes its redness to the active heat of transformative red sulphur, correlated with Venus. You mention a wet snake leaf: an old alchemical recipe (quoted by Jung): "Smear [with it] the leaves of the shining goddess, the red Cyprian."
Red is of course a highly emotive and instinctual colour. Could it be that you are now being called on by your Tao to atone for Copperheads unnecessary death - by choosing to respect and work with Snakes healing and transformative powers (given that atonement is an at-one-ment, or reuniting with a lost entity?) Even more, why not consider the possibility of working with Copperhead as an ally and power animal? Just a thought (whispered to me by Nathair, my totem Serpent . . .)
Maureen/"The Dark" Nathair
In connection to dreams and healing, Jung writes:
"As the evolution of the embryonic body repeats its pre-history, so the mind grows up through the series of its prehistoric stages. Dreams seem to consider it their main task to bring back a sort of recollection of the prehistoric as well as the infantile world, right down to the level of the most primitive instincts, as if such memories can indeed have a remarkable healing effect in certain cases, as Freud saw long ago."
Now since these statements came in the chapter titled, "Healing the Split", I began to ponder the definition of the term healing and its connection to what was split. Any comments?
From: Robert Champ
. . . I was really struck by the Plotinus quote, which I promptly snatched and decorated a bit. The labyrinth image is the one at Chartres. It looks like a spider web, doesnt it? And both are about circumambulation.. . . .
And also about deception. The medieval literature of the labyrinth (symbolic of the world) is alive with those who take wrong turnings and find themselves in terrible quandaries as a result. Usually, of course, one has a guide - as did Dante, who was guided through the labyrinth of Hell by Virgil. Sometimes, unfortunately, the hero doesnt pay attention to the guide, as happens in the second book of The Faerie Queene. And at times the guide isnt always trustworthy. Recall, if you will Nathaniel Hawthornes story (much later than Virgil, of course) "Young Goodman Brown," which shows the titular hero accompanied by a very misdirecting guide indeed. (The guides in these cases, of course, are replacements for the Ariadne of the Theseus myth.)
The labyrinth has long been a favorite trope in literature. Virgil himself compares the Mediterranean to a labyrinth in The Aeneid for instance. And in modern times, there has been criticism of Joyce that points out the labyrinthine structure of Ulysses. In such works we see the nature of the labyrinth as deceptive, illusory, full of dangers. In this, too, we find a resemblance to the spiders web, which attracts the "unwary fly", then pounces upon it and drains out its life. The idea of the spiders spinning also goes along with the Indian idea of Maya, who weaves the web of the world (hearkening back once again to the labyrinth as a symbol of the world).
The chief distinction between ancient or at least old conceptions of the labyrinth and modern ones is that the former are likely to be unicursal: there is one path that leads out. Modern labyrinths are likely to be multicursal: there are many paths, but no escape - as in the case of Ulysses. I do like the idea of the spiders web and the labyrinth, though. Who is to say that the original labyrinths are not based on the sight of the spiders web, and all the literary associations arose from there.
Walking labyrinths is apparently in style now as a help to the process of meditation. Let us hope that the walkers have trustworthy guides!
All posts copyright c.1998
paintings by webmagick Pre-Raphaelite collection