For the Crones May 3, 2016
The powers most capable of halting the escalation of hatred and chaos in our world today are not physical or political. They are psychological and spiritual. They are activated in individuals whose minds are committed to seeking justice for all, whose hearts are filled with caring and compassion, and whose behavior is directed toward connecting and healing.
When everything we say and do originates from that core of love, it spreads through Indra’s diamond net and quickens the sacred spark that lives in every soul. Each of us can make this contribution to healing the separations within and between the peoples of the world.
Throughout history mothers and grandmothers have dedicated most of their energy, and often their lives, to nurturing and preserving life. Of course, many fathers and grandfathers have done the same. But women’s contributions have been educationally, financially, politically and spiritually restricted, vastly underrated, and largely taken for granted except for occasional lip service.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In a world splitting apart to birth a more evolved consciousness, the most important work we can do is to consciously respect and courageously share the blessings we’ve received from the other side of the Divide. To that end, and because Mother’s Day is celebrated this month, I offer these questions for reflection:
How have my female ancestors enriched and improved my life?
Am I as nurturing toward others as the benevolent women in my life were and are to me?
How can I use my unique skills in original and authentic ways that will justify their belief in me and benefit all beings?
One of my responses to these questions is this song to the elder women who’ve made a difference in my life. I dedicate it to crones everywhere.
THE YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN ADDRESS THE CRONES
To the Queens:
Sovereign and brave, you stand
firm against those who would abuse power
and labor tirelessly to bring justice to the voiceless
and downtrodden. You protect all that is vulnerable
and foster culture and creativity. You nourish seeds
of hope and new life in our hearts. Help me
lead with caring and integrity.
To the Mothers:
Wild and free-spirited, you have raced the wind like Horse.
Like Lioness you have fearlessly forged new trails to feed your children.
Like Bear you bear your solitude by boldly entering the dark winter wilderness,
yet you always return to the world in Spring with love honed fierce by sacrifice and birthing.
Great Mother of all that exists, teach us to love our bodies and trust the cycles of our lives.
To the Wisewomen:
Understanding, intuitive and trusting, you have aided birth and befriended death.
You have borne and survived intolerable suffering on paths of deep descending;
yet, aware, authentic, and free, here you are! Still dancing among the living.
You release your attachments to desire as you weave strands of meaning.
Show me how to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.
To the Beloveds:
Attractive and magnetic, you receive your lovers passionately
and share the truths of your souls with honesty and intimacy.
Your acceptance and encouragement inspire heroic striving.
Your beauty and endless generosity inspire artful living.
Bless me with gracious hospitality to otherness.
To all the Crones:
You are the Wisdom Women.
We are watching you.
Image Credits: Google Images.
Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015
Our children and grandchildren have left now and I’m alone except for Izzy, my son’s golden retriever. She keeps me company when Fred has to be away for a few days. At the moment she’s sleeping contentedly on the bed while I’m writing at my desk. It gives me enormous pleasure to have her and my family here.
The source of my pleasure goes way back and deep within. I spent my early years as a horse- and woods-loving Artemis, the Greek virgin goddess of the wilderness and the hunt…who was usually accompanied by a dog. But Artemis stepped aside during my young adulthood to make room for Athena, daughter of patriarchy and Goddess of wisdom, who helped me with my education, teaching, and soul-searching; and for Demeter, goddess of motherhood and fertility, who showed up when I gave birth to my children.
Like all gods and goddesses of myth, these favorites of mine are humanity’s projections of archetypal energies in every psyche. Nobody activates them all, however. We each have our own preferences that may emerge at different times in our lives…or not at all.
For example, after serving Demeter and Athena faithfully during my young adulthood and middle years, I invited Artemis back. Her desire to expose our children (and, we hoped, grandchildren) to nature motivated our decision in the early 80’s to buy this land in the Smoky Mountains from Fred’s parents and build a cabin on it. Years later she inspired me to buy a horse and add a small pasture and stable where Shadow could live in the summers.
A main feature of the original cabin was an open loft with a bedroom on either side of a bathroom for our teen-aged daughter and son. To our great joy, grandchildren eventually came along. Now our son’s bedroom contains 3 twin beds plus a bunk for the five grandchildren, while our daughter’s old room is an enclosed guest room which her teen-aged daughter recently claimed.
The cabin and land continually evolve with new projects almost every year, always with the family in mind. For a while we entertained the idea of building a tree house for the kids in a stand of giant hemlocks at the top of the mountain. That idea was squashed when the hemlocks were infested with the wooly adelgid parasite. As the dead trees fell we found other uses for them. Most of the wood was chopped into firewood to warm our and our neighbors’ cabins in winter.
Then a few years ago Algie, our friend, neighbor and a gifted builder, used the most promising fallen wood to make a table that would seat the eleven of us. He’d never built furniture from hemlock before. No one around here does because the wood tends to be too soft and twisty and it cracks and warps easily.
But after some experimentation he crafted a beauty. As you can see, despite year-round exposure to the changeable weather, it’s holding up well on the screened porch beside the creek. So are the lights we bought in Mexico to hang over it: eleven rusted metal birds, each with its own Edison bulb…for the light in each of us.
When my family’s here, Demeter’s a proud mother hen keeping an eye on her chicks (and grandchicks) as they enjoy the property and local attractions. The best time is when we return to the nest each evening for a family dinner that everyone contributes to and shares around our special, hand-made table.
Last winter’s project was a new foot trail that branches off the main one into the remote parts of the property. A few places are piled high with dead hemlocks. The rest is dense with poplars, oaks, maples, and tangled masses of wild rhododendron. Until our yard man got hold of it, it was largely unexplored. Now, after a winter of clearing, digging, fortifying and general magic-making, it’s done, and hiking it with Izzy and the grandchildren has become a major pleasure.
On this summer’s visit our nine-year old granddaughter and seven-year old grandson decided to build a playhouse on a levelish space above the waterfall. Initially, it was their secret. Our granddaughter made a detailed design complete with elevations and measurements, (she may have inherited her father’s architect genes…or maybe it’s her mother’s interior designer genes), and they cleared a trail and leveled the space. It wasn’t long before the older three demanded to know what was going on and started helping. Soon, the fathers and Grandpa/Boppy were involved too.
By the end of the week they had constructed an 8 X 10 wood plank floor supported by four 4 X 4 posts. Our son and his sons stayed up late Saturday night to finish the floor, and Fred drove in the last nails Sunday morning after they left. It was the archetypal childhood “build a tree-house with Dad” experience with the added twist of being a waterfall house that is satisfyingly hidden by tree branches all around. They plan to finish it on subsequent visits.
At bedtime the night before they left, our seven-year old grandson wistfully told his mother, “I wish my arms were long enough to wrap all the way around the cabin.” My Artemis and Demeter are still doing a happy dance! Seeds have been sown, and I can rest easy knowing my love for family, nature, and wilderness is a legacy my grandchildren will carry on.
For more on the goddess archetypes, check out Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s wonderful books, especially Goddesses in Everywoman. I just finished and enjoyed her latest: Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman.
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.
The 52nd Week December 29, 2014
I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always stood out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.
During the 80’s when I was juggling parenting with college teaching, I often spent this week assembling and basting together sandwiched layers of fabric backing, cotton batting, and the quilt tops I’d been working on all year. It took another year of hand-quilting everything together before I presented them to my children the next Christmas. After they each had a quilt of their own I used the last week of the year to start more quilts for our new mountain cabin. When these were finished we took them with us for our annual years’-end visit.
On the outside the 80’s were for me a time of perfecting and preserving my persona and the collective values of the times in which I was raised. But on the inside I felt I’d been shipwrecked and was living on my own private, isolated island. There I spent most of my time fishing in the watery depths of my psyche for psychological sustenance that could help me understand myself and resolve my inner conflicts.
Then, in the fall of 1989 I found what I was looking for: I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology, and suddenly the lights came on! I don’t remember what I did during the 52nd week that year but I’m pretty sure I would have spent most of it reading, studying and underlining one of the 20 or so books by Jungian analysts I had immediately ordered from Inner City Publishers. Intense study was the first of the practices I undertook that made the year of 1990 a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.
My other main practice was recording and studying my dreams. Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork every morning and wrote every afternoon. I also meditated and practiced yoga. But I always devoted the 52nd week of each year to rereading my dream journals, summarizing important themes and trends, noting new developments, and highlighting valuable insights. Remembering and integrating my soul’s processes at the end of every year was an extremely valuable ritual for me in those days. Essentially I was building a new foundation for my psyche and I could feel it growing stronger with each passing year. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring the unconscious and the Self.
The new millennium brought new insights and year’s-end rituals. Feeling an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature, I usually spent the 52nd week hiking and climbing the mountains near our cabin. As my grandchildren began arriving, they and their parents would join us; we’d also play games and enjoy lots of physical, outdoor, non-cerebral fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen!
Once again it’s my favorite week of the year. This year Fred and I brought Izzie—our grand-dog who’s a female version of her predecessor, Bear—with us to the cabin. One of my favorite things so far has been to take a long daily hike around the property with her. Another was to prepare a welcome meal of chili, salad, homemade biscuits, and key lime pie for my son’s family who joined us a few nights ago.
So far, the only theme I see emerging during this decade is to listen and follow the guidance of my instincts and energy. I don’t feel much need for closure any more—annual or otherwise—and the days of making special preparations for the 52nd week are long gone. In fact, I rarely do much of that any other time of the year either. Mostly I just like staying present with myself, my family, and the moment and its opportunities.
Above all, I’ve been spending a lot of time savoring the many blessings of my life. Believe me, I’ve had more than my share and I’ve never felt more grateful for them. Right now, that’s enough for me. Whatever the new year may bring, I welcome it with open arms.
May the new year bring you renewed awareness and gratitude for the special times of your one, precious life.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my introduction to Jungian psychology, you might enjoy this radio interview I did for the Centerpoint Foundation.
Ebook versions of Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
That’s Amore: A Father’s Day Tribute October 7, 2014
My friends: Last week my husband’s father died at the age of 103. He was a beautiful man who was loved by all. To honor his memory I’m sharing this post from June of 2011 which I wrote on the occasion of his hundredth birthday. May you rest in peace, Dad. Thank you for bringing so much love and beauty into the lives of your family.
In 1904 a young man named Antonio Raffa stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island with a small bag of belongings, $9.00 in his pocket, and hope for a better life. His first act was to kneel and kiss the ground. As he told us years later, there was nothing for him in his small hill town near Messina, Sicily where his only choices were to be poor or join the Mafia. Neither option sounded good to him. With help from his older brother Phillip who was living in New York, Antonio established a barber shop in Brooklyn and settled in.
The next year Phillip returned to Italy and chose the lovely Giovannina Iannelli to be Antonio’s wife. Escorted by her parents, “Jenny” came to America and met Antonio over dinner on Friday night. They were married the next day. After a while she contracted a lung infection and their growing family left Brooklyn for the mountain air in the Catskills town of Liberty, NY. This is where Anthony Raffa, Jr., or “Tony,” the third of four sons, spent his youth. (He’s the third son from the left in the picture.)
Growing up as children of Italian immigrants wasn’t always easy in those days and Antonio wanted his sons to have every advantage. His first rule was to speak English. The second was to work hard and do well in school. The third was never to leave their house without being well-dressed and immaculately groomed. Tony Jr. was an especially intelligent, well-meaning, and attractive young man, (he could have been Ronald Coleman’s double with his wavy black hair and thin moustache), who thrived in the land of opportunity and made his parents proud.
After working his way through the College of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri where he joined the Acacia club, played the violin in a small combo, and paid his bills by ironing his friends’ shirts for four cents apiece, Tony returned to Liberty and started a medical practice on the downstairs floor of a Victorian house on Main Street. When he married Julia Vera Segar, a nurse of Scotch-Irish descent, they set up housekeeping above the office. My husband is their firstborn son, Fred. His favorite memory from those days is of coming home from school and meeting Rocky Marciano whom his dad was secretly treating in preparation for his upcoming match with Roland La Starza! Wouldn’t the paparazzi have had a field day if they had known?
Sadly, Vera died after the birth of their second son. Five years later Tony married Helen Scobell, a home-economics extension agent. After the birth of their first child, a daughter, they moved to Tampa where they had two more sons, a thriving medical practice, a sophisticated home filled with art, music and laughter, and a country club membership. Active in the Masonic Lodge, he was awarded the 33rd Degree and became a Noble in the Mystic Order of the Shrine. Tony retired from his medical practice at age 74 and lost his second love, Helen, to cancer at 82. At 85 he married Winn Wiley who still fills his life with love.
Unlike his feisty, cigar-smoking bantam rooster father, my fun-loving and even-tempered father-in-law is the most humble, gentle and tolerant man I’ve ever known. I’ve never heard him criticize anyone or speak an unkind word, never seen him angry. As one whose favorite saying is, “Family is the most important thing,” he brought his parents to Tampa and looked after them until they died. Last weekend I was reminded of the wisdom of these words when his family and friends gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday! I can’t imagine my life without him, his son Fred, or our children and grandchildren.
Family. As Dean Martin, a fellow Italian-American, once sang, “That’s amore!” Happy Father’s Day to Tony and fathers everywhere. May your lives overflow with amore!
Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Viewing Your Life through Mythic Eyes September 16, 2014
A few weeks ago my brother Jim and sister-in-law Mary came over for dinner. Jim brought me copies of some old photographs he’d found stashed away in a closet. Among them were two taken in the dining room of our childhood home. As I was preparing to publish last week’s post, The Interior Designer Within, which was about a recent dream, I realized the old photos might make good illustrations so I added them. In the week since then I’ve been flooded with many meaningful connections between the pictures and the dream. In this and the next post I’d like to share them with you.
The spate of insights was triggered by a comment Steven made. In the dream I’m sitting at a white table in the new dining room of my remodeled childhood home. Steven wrote, “I’ve only scanned the article and will return but have to say that photograph with the double-candle gateway is simply beautiful. I like the second one also, very much, but the first one is not only rich and warm but also loaded with symbolism. A child looking into the future…it could be a European film.”
I reviewed the pictures to check out the symbols and what I saw was mind-boggling.
We’re celebrating my tenth birthday. A round birthday cake sits in the center of the table. In Jungian psychology centrality and circles are primary symbols of the Self, the archetype of wholeness and our religious function. So Steven’s association of the double-candle gateway on either side of it struck a very deep chord, indeed. The Self has been the ultimate object of my search since way before I had any idea of what I yearned for: Enlightenment!
Moreover, this child looking into the future is leaning toward her father on the opposite side of the table. Daddy was my hero, and he died only 20 months after this picture was taken. So it’s no surprise that a major impetus for my psycho-spiritual journey has been a powerful desire to connect not only with a masculine God who would never die, but also with my inner opposite, my masculine Animus for whom Daddy is most certainly a symbol.
I’d already noticed the round picture above the center of the buffet and the circular glass bowl (alchemical vessel) beneath it, but now I saw another circular object (Self) on the left (unconscious) side of the buffet. Positioned precisely between the flames of the two candles (conscious and unconscious?), a cup and saucer (chalice and paten) were on display.
In the same photo I saw my shadow on the wall. Then I saw it again in the second photo, this time just over my left (unconscious) shoulder. (I’m pretty sure all that darkness isn’t just my hair.) If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know that befriending my Shadow has been another major impetus for my explorations into the unconscious.
Now here’s where it gets mind-blowing. In the first photo I suddenly noticed the book under the round object on the left side of the buffet. Since I’ve written four books, it’s especially meaningful to see a book in the only two pictures I have of the dining room in my childhood home. But then I saw that in the second picture my right hand is resting on what looks like another book! On the table! What was so wild was that in my recent dream, the white dining room table was where I did my writing!
Then the full force of these coincidences hit me. When my grandparents came for Sunday dinner or special occasions we always read a chapter from the Bible before we ate. On this occasion my father’s deeply religious mother was there. She had traveled from Michigan to help take care of Daddy after his second heart attack. Since his birthday was only 13 days before mine, she had made the cake and arranged this celebration for both of us. The fact that the Bible was beside me meant that I had been invited to read. Whenever this happened I invariably chose the 23rd or 91st Psalm. Here are the verses I loved best:
Psalm 23; Verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…” Verse 5: “Thou preparest a table before me…my cup runneth over.” Death. Shadow. Table. Cup. They’re all foreshadowed in the photographs!
Psalm 91; Verse 1: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” There it is again: Shadow.
Two photographs taken sixty years ago. An unremarkable dream from two weeks ago. Two incidents that occurred almost a lifetime apart. Yet, when I put them together into one blog post, an alchemical reaction transformed them into a powerful testament to the interconnectivity of life. The Mystery is everywhere, within and around us. And we can see it when we view our life through mythic eyes. Can you see it?
Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Conscious Parenting May 6, 2014
I am so proud of my children: how they turned out, who they married, how well they are raising their children. Their parenting styles are different in many ways, yet both sets of children are delightful: sweet, funny, bright, good-natured, well mannered….(I could go on, of course, but I’ll spare you more grandparental gushing!) My time with them reminds me that no matter how well-prepared we may believe we are for the role of parenting, much of what we bring to it comes from unconscious factors over which we have no control.
I loved and respected my mother. I saw her as an intelligent, well-meaning, independent woman with an unemotional personality and a hands-off parenting style. Having a full-time job, she was never involved with my brother’s or my education or social lives, trusting us to get along fine without her participation or advice. And we did. Get along fine.
Well, except maybe for a couple of little things… As a child I longed for her to attend my plays and concerts at school. How good it would have felt if she had been a room mother or attended PTA meetings, how nice to come home to a clean house and find her waiting for me, perhaps with a tray of cookies or freshly baked bread. But I understood and forgave her for having to work and vowed never to let my work interfere with my children’s happiness. Other than that I assumed raising my children with the same love and trust I had received was about all that was necessary.
As it happened, my choices, combined with a lot of good luck, an education in child development, help from a good husband, and a strong desire to be a good parent made me a good-enough mother. But beneath the conscious aspects of my upbringing and later on, of my parenting, was an emotional undercurrent of which I was utterly unaware.
As a child I took my mother’s emotional reserve and unwillingness to discuss family problems for granted. I would never have guessed that her untaught lessons, unexpressed feelings and unrevealed truths would leave me ill-equipped to handle many psychological aspects of child-rearing.
I never heard or saw my parents argue. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Daddy was rarely home!) Moreover, I can think of only two instances when my mother and I exchanged heated words. The time she used the word “damn,” I was shocked into silence. Intuiting her emotional fragility and wanting to spare her more pain after my parents’ divorce and Daddy’s death, I spared her the normal adolescent phase of rebellion by disowning my uncomfortable emotions. For years I thought that was admirable. What a good girl I was! Just like Mama.
Naturally, this influenced my parenting. Without knowing it, I was so intimidated by conflict and anger that at the first sign of agitation my default response was, like my mother’s, avoidance. Since my family rarely saw negative emotions from me, I believed I was very good at keeping them under control. I was, but that wasn’t a good thing! On the rare occasion when shutting my mouth, swallowing my emotions or distancing myself didn’t work, I was quick to grow impatient, irritated and stern. And if that didn’t shock them into silence, an angry eruption from me would. That may have been an effective way to relieve my anxiety, but it was a dismal model of emotional maturity.
Our parents’ unresolved issues flow into us through dark underground passageways, and if we don’t bring them to the light of consciousness we pass them on to our children. With every gain I’ve made in managing my anxiety, I’ve gifted my family with one less problem to contend with. I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, or grandmother, whatever these elusive creatures might be, but knowing I’ve lightened my family’s inherited psychological burdens gives me comfort.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks