Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better. Enjoy.
We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou
The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020
The Magic of Women in Community December 17, 2019
“Every girl and every woman, has the potential to make this world a better place, and that potential lies in the act of thinking higher thoughts and feeling deeper things. When women and girls, everywhere, begin to see themselves as more than inanimate objects; but as beautiful beings capable of deep feelings and high thoughts, this has the capacity to create change all around. The kind of change that is for the better. Remember: High in the head and deep in the heart. Antlers on your mind and anchors in your heart.”
“What’s in hibernation? What’s giving birth?” These were the discussion prompts our hostess gave us for yesterday’s gathering. Our small community of six women (we’ve just lost the seventh who, sadly, is moving to another town) meets monthly to share the issues, concerns, challenges, joys, and blessings of this phase of our lives. We’re all still pursuing our passions in meaningful work, all but one is married (she has a boyfriend), all have adult children — some of whom have given us grandchildren — and we’re all interested in consciously exploring the mental, physical, and spiritual (three of us are Jewish and three, Christians) dimensions of our lives.
We’ve all led groups in our professional lives and are fully aware of the importance of listening well and taking turns. None of us wanted to be in charge of this group. Nor did we feel a strong need for a formal structure or specific subject matter. Mostly, we just wanted to take time out of our full and busy lives to be with other kind and interesting women with whom to engage in meaningful talk over hot tea and a simple snack. With no expectations, we have been living in the question and waiting to see what will happen.
So far our gatherings are very organic. At the first one we decided to meet at a different member’s home each month. It has deepened our appreciation and respect for each other’s uniqueness to experience the kind of environment each chooses to surround herself with.
One practice that has evolved is for the hostess to email a few questions about a relevant theme a few days in advance to give us time to think about it. Then after we make our tea, she opens the conversation with a centering practice like a meditation or conscious breathing and then restates the topic. We usually stay on that for a while, then veer off to follow fascinating threads that take us to new places before eventually returning to the topic with deepened insights. Occasionally someone brings a poem or written musings. Sometimes someone shares a dream and the insights they gained from it. Or a special, inspiring book. After two hours we usually close by going around the circle so everyone can share a final thought, feeling, or insight.
One of us will soon have a hip replaced, so yesterday’s discussion quickly zeroed in on the challenges of aging bodies that demand changes in lifestyle and attitude. What thoughts are germinating in her during this time of preparation? What feelings and new attitudes want to be born and listened to? How can the rest of us be of help during the recovery phase?
Another spoke of the fear she felt some years ago when she was about to undergo a difficult and complicated heart surgery. Before the operation she practiced several forms of inner work to dispel her fear, and eventually came to a deep sense of peace. Most surprising was the profound love she felt. Not for herself, her life, her family, or the doctors, but for her poor, struggling heart that was about to undergo such a stressful experience! That spurred a lively discussion about the importance of thinking about, talking to, and treating our bodies with kindness and love, especially in times of physical difficulties and pain.
One naturally independent woman had surgery on her shattered shoulder a few months ago in the midst of a stressful move to a new house. What did it take for her to admit she needed help? What did she learn when several friends volunteered to help her pack?
These days I think about the importance of community. Until about twelve years ago I was always in at least one group of wise and caring women who met my needs for meaningful female companionship. Then I went through a period of intense writing and hibernating and giving birth to a blog and two books that took up so much time that I dropped out of all of them. A natural introvert, I’ve always loved solitude, silence, and my own company. And writing about what is important to me is enormously fulfilling.
But last fall I noticed a nagging emptiness. I missed the friendship of women around my age who are linked by their desire to live their lives authentically and mindfully. Women who could never settle for a meaningless, purposeless life. Women who have compassion for the suffering of people and our planet and take actions to alleviate it. Women with the strength and courage to ask the big questions and dig deep to bring out the unspoken words that still need to be said, the feelings that still want to be met. Open-hearted, generous-spirited, intelligent women who struggle to understand themselves, develop their skills, and give back to their communities.
So I told a woman I admire for the same qualities what I needed and together we created it. I simply took the next step I needed to take, and what is emerging is magical: a community of wise, compassionate women who know how to comfort and heal. Do you have a special community of women? What kind of women would you like to know and be with? Who would you start with?
“Who is She? She is your power, your Feminine source. Big Mama. The Goddess. The Great Mystery. The web-weaver. The life force. The first time, the twentieth time you may not recognize her. Or pretend not to hear. As she fills your body with ripples of terror and delight.
But when she calls you will know you’ve been called. Then it is up to you to decide if you will answer.”
Image credit: Top: Google images, from thespacebetweentherapy.com. Bottom, author photo.
Gifts From Dream Mother and the Crones October 1, 2019
Respect for the Goddess archetype in her aspect as Crone may still be scarce in the Western world, but she remains a reality within the psyche. Many people who carefully attend to their inner life report experiencing significant encounters with wise old women, especially in dreams, but also in waking fantasies and visions. Jungians interpret these as important indications of the ego’s willingness to accept the guidance of the unconscious feminine which indwells us all.
Thirty years ago I made the decision to take my inner life seriously enough to work on my dreams. The tenth dream I recorded presaged a turning point in my life that would come about because of that choice. Here is a brief summary:
Dream # 10A: Gifts From the Crones.
I’m visiting a foreign, forbidden place, like a kibbutz. I feel guilty and afraid and know I will have to sneak out illegally. Dorene [a wise and admired professor friend in waking life who is married to a Jewish man] is working here and I’ve brought gifts for her. She’s with three or four older women, grandmothers perhaps. They’re sitting cross-legged on the floor dressed in flowing, earth-colored, ethnic-looking clothes. Plump and solid, with heads wrapped in turbans fashioned from natural fibers, they seem serene and benevolent.
To my surprise, they hold out gifts for me — small, loosely woven bags overflowing with sweet-smelling herbs and spices. I say their gifts to me are so much better than mine to them and know it to be true. I look forward to using them in the future.
I want to avoid the guards at the check point at the train station, so I leave by sneaking in the back door of a dark theater and crawling through on my hands and knees. I’m nervous about this surreptitious avoidance of the authorities, but full of confident, decisive energy.
Although I didn’t understand the full import of the dream at the time, today it seems clear. Here are my associations:
I’m in a place like a Jewish kibbutz (somewhere foreign and somewhat threatening to my conscious orientation: i.e., the unconscious). I’m met by an admired professor friend (symbol of my positive feminine side), and three or four crones (images of the wisdom and authority of the deep feminine). I’ve brought gifts (my strong desire to connect with, and show respect for, the contents of my unconscious); but, surprisingly, the elder women give me sweet-smelling herbs and spices (symbols of the feminine, nature-based mystery wisdom which awakens the body and its senses and brings physical and spiritual healing in natural, organic ways). The dream says I know the value of these gifts and look forward to using them in the future (I want to acquire the wisdom of the Great Mother and hope to use it wisely someday).
This dream planted the seeds for this blog some thirty years ago. It said I know (from the Greek word, gnosis, meaning knowing or knowledge, particularly intuitive, esoteric knowledge of spiritual truths) the value of these gifts. I want the wisdom of the Great Mother (from the Latin mater > matrimonium) and hope to use it wisely someday.
Matri. Gnosis. Matrignosis means “knowing Mother wisdom.” I made up the word when I started this blog over nine years ago but Dream Mother told me long before that that the Grandmothers were giving me gifts I would use some day. And I am. To name and write this blog, and to write four books about empowering the feminine principle in humanity.
Here’s another gift from Dream Mother. The dream ends with me crawling away through a darkened theater feeling guilty and nervous, yet confident and decisive. Why was I in a theater? I didn’t know at the time, (I was in the dark) but four years later, that tiny detail inspired the title for my second book about the inner life, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work.
A third gift was a new awareness of hidden beliefs and emotions that were blocking my growth. In the dream I felt anxious and nervous about being caught by the authorities. Who were these authorities, and why was I so afraid of them?
In those days I couldn’t see the patriarchal cloud of unspoken repressive attitudes and expectations for women under which I had lived all my life. I didn’t know I was intimidated by it. But deep within I felt I was breaking the Old King’s rules (the unspoken agreement of collective culture to discount femininity and the life of the unconscious) by entering this dark and foreign land, and I was afraid of ridicule and scorn. Thirty years later this fear has not completely left me, but I’ve made much headway and I’m still determined to overcome it.
Do you see why I trust the wisdom of my dreams? My ego could never come up with this stuff all by itself. And it happens often. Our ego selves are not alone. All we have to do is turn within where our teachers are waiting to bless us.
Being known and loved by the mysterious, benevolent grandmothers confirmed my worth. It touched me deeply that they were prepared for my arrival, wanted me there, loved me as I was, and offered their gifts freely.There were no strings, no reservations, no sense I had to behave a certain way or believe certain things to be acceptable.
Yes, I received this assurance from a dream. For some, this might invalidate its worth. But this would be a grave mistake. The archetypal feminine is an actual force within humanity that contains the potential to change and heal us and our world. My willingness to cooperate with it was all that was needed to spark a process of growth that still goes on. Even now, there are times when I need the reminder that I am good enough as I am, and entitled to be loved by my maternal Source. In retrospect I believe the unconditional love of this Source is the secret power of the crones’ gifts. Tapping into it may be the ultimate meaning of life.
Photo Credits: Google Free Images, Origins unknown.
Aging and Becoming July 9, 2019
“These are writings about ‘becoming’ as an ongoing and active process with its especial significance as we age….becoming assumes a ‘changing to’ and a ‘moving toward.'” Susan Scott and Susan Schwartz
The above words are from the preface of Aging and Becoming: A Reflective Enquiry, by Susan Scott, a writer from Morningside, Johannesburg, and Susan Schwartz, a Jungian analyst from Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Each of the 26 chapters in this slender volume begins and ends with an appropriate quote, most from wise women throughout history. In between is a conversation between the authors on topics ranging from A–Aging & Attitude–to Z–Zero. Stitched together, these musings create a nurturing patchwork quilt of a month’s worth of meditations on how women can age consciously and wisely. Here aging is not treated as a downhill slide to a disastrous end, but a series of challenges and opportunities to grow your soul into its intended fruition.
A: Aging and Adapting
Susan Scott: Attitude is a word of motion that in its best sense expands and broadens. Many of us who do not allow for an expansion of attitude, a growth in our view of ourselves and the world and our place in it, can get stuck…This entrenchment of attitude is limiting and draining to personal power and leaves little room for movement or maneuver.
Susan Schwartz: We are not only on a descent but also on an ascent into a more complete rounding out of our personality….Perhaps what is referred to as wisdom is the ability to cope and find reasons, strategies or ways of being and for valuing the present moments….The wisdom and spirit of age can be demolished only if we agree or collude with those attitudes that denigrate and demean.
Susan Schwartz: The time for conformity and fitting in just to be accepted is over. Real forms of self-expression derive not from a false front or to superficially conform, but arise from the real self, a more complete woman self. As we age, the need to define and express our essence becomes more insistent. The image of the older woman as frumpy is not true. Voice, artistic writing, style, intellect comes in all these numerous garments and more for expressing her soul.
Susan Scott: Healthy self-care differs from the obsessive body panic. The fine line is to be aware of judgments about the body as negative or perfect. That signals the false ego rather than a devotion to restorative self-attention.
D: Dreams, Death & Depth
Susan Schwartz: Dreams are both messages and messengers. And how awful it is to be ignorant of them. The mystery of not understanding them while holding them preciously allows for secrets to gradually unfold….[Dreams] illustrate, through their mirroring function, how the personality keeps on presenting information about life events, aging and changing.
Susan Scott: The dream reveals our own metaphor, our own myth, as a gift to one’s self. It carries great responsibility and opportunities. The rich and honest soil of the dream, unconscious and wanting some light thrown on it requires attentive watering for its fertility and to bear fruit.
F: Fear & Fulfillment
Susan Scott: When I am assailed by fearful feelings I realize that they are often the spur that shakes me out of my languor and torpor. It is not easy sitting with them. Yet, by virtue of sitting and being in that fearful place, another kind of awareness may emerge creating a slight shift.
J: Joy & Journey
Susan Schwartz: Jouissance is a French word for physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy…it means to go beyond the superficial and metaphorically get out of the box. Jouissance transports us to what is beyond the familiar. It represents…intricacies to be appreciated as the journey wends its way even more uniquely and we continue to define and refine.
M: Moon, Mourning & Mystery
Susan Scott: The moon’s principle is constant change and as such is symbolic of an emotional inner and outer principle. What other force is there like the moon that pulls the oceans from shore to shore? Now as we age we are more mindful of the powers of darkness, the night atmosphere represented by the moon and its associations to the feminine energy.
Susan Schwartz: it is time to unravel the shadow pieces lying on the dark side of the moon. This expands the personality making us more inclusive and complete. We could then be more honest, openly accessible to ourselves and to others. Honesty is not hiding what we never had to hide to begin with.
P: Path & Pain
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Gloria Steinem
Susan Scott: The quest in life is being aware of the questions–about who we are, our place in this mystery of life as we experience it. We can ask the questions, stir things up a bit as it will surely do…we can welcome whatever arises as we would a guest, coming newly into our home. Can I live the questions I ask of myself? The only foolish question is the one not asked.
Susan Schwartz: The end of the alphabet, zero, is a letter than denotes what begins and ends…An aspect to Zen is waiting, awareness, feeling and not feeling the body and its sensations and reactions, being and not being caught in the mind….And the zebra that is such a lovely and unusual animal…Like the zebras none of us have the same stripes. This is similar to how we move through aging by negotiating its complexities and living consciously….Aging presents challenges that we do not escape at life endings.
Aging and Becoming is not a work to rush through. It is contemplative reading, packed with thoughts to savor slowly, like a leisurely conversation over coffee with a beloved friend. It will activate your ego’s awareness of your soul’s natural condition: an appreciation for wonder, mystery, and curiosity, and a knowing of the essential meaning and potential of your life. Like winter, these inner events portend spring’s renewal.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.
The Mediatrix Archetype in Dreams May 21, 2019
My last two posts here and here, were in response to questions from students at Justina Lasley’s and Tzivia Gover’s Institute for Dream Studies. This post is the answer to their final question: “How do I identify the Mediatrix archetype in my dreams?”
In Aeschylus’s tragic play Agamemnon, Cassandra is a prophetess who foretells the fall of Troy and the death of Agamemnon, but no one believes her. Agamemnon goes to war with Troy anyway, and when it falls, Cassandra is raped, then given to Agamemnon. On their way back to Greece, she and Agamemnon are murdered. Cassandra’s seemingly supernatural ability to see into the future, as well as her suffering for it, is one theme associated with the Mediatrix archetype.
In the ancient myth of Inanna, Goddess of Heaven and Earth, Inanna descends into the Great Below to visit her sister, Queen of the Underworld. There she is stripped of all her belongings and hung on a meathook for three days until she is rescued by tiny emissaries of her priestess. When she returns home she rules as a benevolent and wise goddess.This myth depicts another Mediatrix theme: the wisdom gained from the suffering that comes with going deep to connect with the darkest mysteries of oneself and life.
Persephone’s rape and kidnapping by Hades, followed by Demeter’s search for her with the aid of a torch provided by the goddess Hecate, contains the above themes and suggests a third: the guidance and protection provided by the Mediatrix. In this story the Mediatrix is represented by Persephone, who goes to the underworld unwillingly, Demeter, who consciously explores that realm in her search for her beloved daughter, and Hecate—the goddess of crossroads, entrance-ways, light, and the hidden arts of magic, witchcraft, ghosts, and sorcery.
In The Odyssey, Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, disguises herself as the old man Mentor. Mentor is Odysseus’s wise friend and guide, and in his absence, the teacher of his son, Telemachus. The word ‘mentor’ means wise counselor, teacher, sponsor, or supporter. These, too, are qualities of the Mediatrix archetype.