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.
Dream About A Mother Complex June 2, 2015
Note: The International Association for the study of Dreams will have its annual Conference in Virginia Beach this weekend. As some of you know, I’ll be presenting Friday night’s keynote speech. Since I’m still polishing it, I don’t have the time to write a new post, so this is one from a few years ago. Interestingly, last month I wrote a post about the mother complex and several of you wanted to know more. Then last week I wrote about a friend’s dream of killing Lance Armstrong that received more comments than any other post I’ve written. So it feels especially appropriate to repeat this one which features both themes. I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference this weekend.
A friend recently sent me this dream. I want to share it with you, as it brings to mind the very interesting topic of the mother complex.
An old lady is beating up a boy. She is beating him up really badly, he has a bloody face. When she is done, she comes towards me, moving to my right. I go to the left to see if the boy is still alive. I fear he is not. She comes at me, and I kick her in the stomach and she goes flying backwards, off a cliff.
She comments: “This was not a positive dream. Kind of freaked me out a bit, had a hard time going back to sleep. Was wondering what you thought, if you have time.”
My initial response: “Think of the waking life context a day or two before you had this dream. Did anything happen that gave you the same feeling you had in the dream? Were you angry or worried about something? An older woman in your life? An uncomfortable awareness of your own aging? A memory of something hurtful involving an older woman?”
She responded: “This dream came right before I played in my first big tennis tournament. In retrospect, I was the oldest lady on the courts I played, all my opponents were at least half my age. I think it had something to do with that, being something I was worried about. The older feminine who squelched my ambition and drive in waking life was my mom. Since her death I have finally come into my own. This dream seems like a significant one.”
Being the oldest woman on the courts may have triggered emotions which activated the ancient Great Mother. In her positive aspect this archetype creates and nurtures new life. In her negative aspect she smothers and destroys it. The way we see her depends to a certain degree on our experiences with our personal mothers although other factors can enter in as well.
In this dream she’s a mean old lady trying to kill a boy. I’d see him as my growing Animus, associated with my drive to individuate. He’s the part of me that wants to rise up from my unconscious bath in the maternal matrix wherein I just float along enjoying being taken care of and respond to discomfort by blaming outer circumstances while remaining innocent of all personal responsibility. He wants me to light my own fire, forge my own identity, prove myself through tests of my own choosing, accept responsibility for my own behavior, and assume my own authority.
The fact that the dreamer kicks the woman off the cliff suggests a mythical motif Jung called “The Sacrifice.” Jungian analyst June Singer writes about “the child’s sacrifice of the paradise of the early and rewarding unity with the mother” that “All children have to work it out with their own mothers or mother-surrogates in the process of moving toward maturity.” Why? Because until they do, they will struggle with a host of debilitating issues and emotions which prevent the fuller development of their unique and creative selves. This is essentially what is meant by having “a negative mother complex.”
While the imagery of this dream may be shocking to a waking ego which does not see itself as a raging killer of little old ladies, there’s a deeper metaphorical meaning. In my projection, the mean old lady represents her negative mother complex: the factors that have stood in the way of her individuation.
This dream seems to say that the dreamer has acquired the psychological strength and self-awareness to acknowledge the wounding she received from her mother. No longer dependent on or controlled by her mother’s opinions of her, she is ready to empower herself, even if it means sacrificing her unrealistic fantasy of uniting with Mother in an innocent blissful paradise. This creative and courageous act has freed her dammed-up libido, (the positive aspect of the Great Mother, the divine creative force of nature), to be used toward protecting and manifesting her truer, fuller self.
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.
An Easter Visitation From Serpent Mother April 7, 2015
What an exquisite time of year it is in Orlando. Easter weekend was especially lovely. Saturday night we went to the home of good friends, where, in the most gorgeous weather imaginable, we celebrated her 60th birthday with dinner in the backyard while watching the glorious rise of the astonishing red-orange “blood moon” over Lake Virginia. Afterwards, with the doors open to the cool breezes, we danced barefooted in the living room to his exquisite play list of the best dance music ever!! It was like The Big Chill—one of my favorite movies ever—all over again, except this time the music wasn’t Motown, it was “O” town!
Sunday was equally balmy and breezy. So between the traditional indoor Easter Egg hunt for our grandchildren (we’re still missing a purple egg containing a $5.00 bill; maybe they’ll find it next year), and our version of Easter dinner (featuring Grandma Raffa’s Italian spaghetti and meatballs), we relaxed on the deck.
Our house is on a small secluded island on the edge of a large lake. Most of the island lies within in the city limits of our suburb, but our end of the road is governed by the county. So the neighbors across the street, whose home straddles the dividing line, have chickens on the county side of their backyard. On our side of the street, a canal edged with a cypress swamp runs behind the few houses and merges with the lake at either end. Our tiny enclave is so isolated by the water and trees that it’s easy to forget we’re surrounded by large neighborhoods near the big city.
It’s paradise to the critters with whom we share this space. Nearly every day I see pairs of wood ducks flying in to make a splash landing near their nests. Or hear a kingfisher screeching as he races through the treeless air space over the canal like a noisy space ship trying to shake off an enemy from Star Wars. Or listen to the piercing whistles of the ospreys who surf the air currents over the swamp and lake searching for fish. We have 8-hooter owls, great blue herons, green herons, wood storks, coots, anhingas and bitterns. Ginormous turtles have been known to lay their eggs in our backyard, raccoons try to dig them up, bass swim in the canal, and alligators rule.
So I wasn’t very surprised Easter afternoon when I heard a shout from the big kids who were playing volleyball in the side yard. “Snake! Snake!” As we rushed over Alex was hopping through the grass like a dancer over hot coals. Sure enough, passing beneath the center of the volleyball net, a 6-foot long snake was making a slithery bee-line for the canal.
My son-in-law recognized it right away and told us it was a non-poisonous rat or corn snake. We watched, mesmerized, as she slid over the sea wall, slipped into the water, sashayed swiftly across the canal and disappeared in the undergrowth.
Judging by the direction from which she had come, my guess is she was returning from a visit to the henhouse across the street. Do they like eggs? I asked him. Oh yes. Aha! So Serpent Mother likes to celebrate Spring with Easter egg hunts too!
Why do I call this serpent “her?” Can I tell the gender of a snake at a glance? No, I’m not speaking literally. Everything has symbolic meaning that reflects the inner life of spirit and psyche, and snakes are especially rich with associations. Aside from being a common dream symbol of transcendence, life-giving energy, healing, and the Sacred Self, the snake has always and everywhere been associated with the archetypal feminine and the ancient goddesses who represented the Great Mother of all life.
The moon is likewise associated with the cool light of the feminine, as compared to the masculine sun. And a full moon, pregnant with life-giving blood, rising over Lake Virginia on Easter eve, a day when my psychologically aware and spiritually mature friend celebrated her 60th birthday, has very special meaning for me.
Plus, the element of water is the feminine counterpart to masculine fire. The name Virginia (from the OFr. virgine, and Lat. virgo), means virgin, a chaste maiden or unmarried woman who has taken religious vows of chastity. And Serpent Mother’s synchronistic visitation on Easter Sunday reminds me of the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, a Spirit Person who transcended the physical limitations of earthly life, thus symbolizing our hope for new spiritual life.
I hope your Easter was blessed with reverence for the Mystery of new life, and I wish you an especially meaningful Spring.
Corn snake image credit: Wikipedia
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.
What’s the Point of the Three Kings? December 22, 2014
Those of us raised as Christians know this holiday is about a lot more than rushing about, partying, shopping, eating, decorating, and giving gifts, and many of us enjoy warm memories and nostalgic feelings this time of year. But why does it sometimes feel that our gifts are not enough, both the ones we give and those received? Why do we sometimes feel we’ve missed the point of Christmas? What is the point, and how can we celebrate it?
To understand what’s missing we need to discover the true meaning of Christmas for ourselves, and to do that we need to look at the Christ story and our own lives through the symbolic language of mythos. This is not the left-brained language of fact and logic, but the language of myth and symbol, the language of the Soul.
The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, common associations for the symbol of darkness include the unconsciousness of our instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, death, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.
The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth into greater maturity and wisdom.
And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Mary, like the Hindu goddess Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Middle-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit. This experience is characterized not just by believing in the ideal of love or having a strong desire to love others, but by actually feeling and living with love.
At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes the conflicts of duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East with rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the wisdom and individuated, religious outlook of a mature and unified consciousness that is born through self-reflection and self-acceptance. Having endured the hard work of this inner journey and assumed our own sovereignty, we are finally able to see the sacredness in everything and revere every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important. Knowing the preciousness of this gift of new life, we want to give it to others.
And finally, the kings are guided by a star. Stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven. They represent spiritual inspiration, the highest attainment, and the presence of divinity, hope and light in our lives. A star is also a symbol of creative imagination, our uniquely human capacity for combining outer facts with the soul’s meaningful inner truths and expressing them with life-changing symbols and images.
Like the myths of every religion, this story combines historical events with psychological truths. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in ego consciousness from a primitive, ignorant, and self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of bringing wisdom, love, and authentic being and living.
The point of Christmas is that you and I can take this leap into Christ-awareness and experience for ourselves the life-enhancing, soul-satisfying love, hope and wonder that come with it. Giving material gifts is certainly one way to show and share our love during the holiday season, but giving the gift of our growing psychological and spiritual maturity to our loved ones is far more rewarding and lasting.
May a more mature psychological consciousness and spiritual enlightenment be quickened worldwide during this holiday season, and may the love in our hearts be abundant and overflowing. Thank you for stopping by in this most blessed season.
P.S. I hope you won’t mind a little shameless self-promotional hint: If you or someone you love is on the inner journey, one of my books might be a good holiday gift. 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.
Art Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Three Kings Altarpiece (open)
1507 Linden panel, 121 x 70 cm (central), 121 x 28 cm (each wing) Staatliche Museen, Berlin
What Do Dreams Have to Do with “Real” Life? Part I July 15, 2014
If you’ve never thought of dreams as having any relevance to your waking life, I can assure you, they do. This one which came at a pivotal time in my life convinced me beyond any doubt that some unimaginable, unconscious Mystery which dwelled both within and outside me knew what was going on in my conscious life and had something to tell me about it. I’ll share the dream in this post and comment on it in the next.
Dream #843: Two Snakes in the Tree of Life”.
Someone is telling a story. I watch from afar as the events unfold.
“Once upon a time a little green snake started his life in one side of a tree.” I see the snake. He is long and thin and his underbelly is the color of the inside of an avocado.
“On the other side of the tree lay a huge, old, brown female snake, but the little green snake did not know it. He grew and grew until one day he decided to go on his journey and he entered the hole.” The little green snake slithers into a hole in the tree and disappears. I look to see if his head comes out of the hole on the other side where the big old female snake is, but it does not. Maybe the way inside the hole is long and winding.
“It took him a long time of traveling and he was enjoying his journey, but eventually he came out on the other side.” His head peeks out of the hole. Will he see the big snake? No, he turns right and takes a narrow spiral path that curves around the tree to the left, to where the big snake is waiting.
“The little green snake slid along smack into the mouth of the big snake.” The green snake’s head peeks out of the side of the big snake’s mouth. The big snake munches down on his head twice. Chomp. Chomp. The little green snake’s face shows no fear or distress or pain. Maybe this does not hurt. Maybe he has no idea what is happening to him. I hope so.
Now the narration breaks off. There are other onlookers here. One says, “Oh, well. That’s the end of the little green snake.”
Someone else says, “Well, what if he fights back?” I wonder how he can possibly fight back with no hands or arms or legs. There seems to be no hope.
Someone else says, “Oh, no. He shouldn’t fight back. That would be wrong.”
The narrator says, “Oh, is fighting the wrong answer?”
Suddenly, a rainbow streaks across the sky and lands in a different place, like a lit-up stage in a vast, darkened theatre. It is the little green snake, who has been transformed into a young, handsome cowboy. Triumphantly he saunters across the stage to the bar, slaps down two coins, and says to the bartender, “Set ’em up, Joe.”
He survived! He did not have to die and he turned into a human! This is the best possible ending to the story.