A Dream of Venus, the Morning Star October 28, 2011
After years of near-obsessive inner work I’ve given myself permission to relax a bit. Sometimes weeks go by before I record and work on a new dream. But when I do I’m always rewarded with a cornucopia of insights and meaning. Following is the first dream I’ve analyzed since the one about individuation I posted nearly two months ago.
Dream #4338: Venus Rising. I’m holding half of a large clamshell, maybe 5 inches from end-to-end, behind my back. It’s covered with a small square of cloth. I know there’s a baby beneath it. Someone says I should take the baby out. I bring the shell around to the front, lift off the cloth, and see a placenta. The cord is attached and hanging out and down to the left. I start to pull up the baby and “someone” warns me to be careful. Ashamed at forgetting how vulnerable babies are, I pull more gently and there, dangling from the bottom of the cord, is the baby. I cradle it in the palm of my left hand. Tiny, but with adult proportions, it’s softly glowing with a pale, pearl-white aura. I’m grateful it’s okay.
Associations: My immediate association is to the classical images I’ve seen of the birth of Venus. This one is from a fresco in Pompeii. Click here to see Botticelli’s more famous painting. To me they suggest the emergence of the feminine archetype of beauty and love from the maternal depths of the collective unconscious. In waking life I’ve been trying to honor and empower all four basic feminine archetypes (Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved) for many years. This dream says that so far my ego has been shielding this one, the Beloved, from the public eye. In other words, I haven’t integrated the qualities she represents into my persona so that others can see and acknowledge her beauty and worth. But something within me — i.e. my intuition, the voice of the feminine side of the Self — knows the time is right to bring her out into the light.
According to the dream I haven’t fully appreciated just how vulnerable this archetype of love, relatedness, delicate beauty and tender feeling is in a world which still glorifies masculine toughness and treats feminine softness so carelessly. That she is still attached to the placenta by the cord suggests her dependence on my physical health. I need to treat my body with more love and care. I need enough rest and exercise, healthier food, less stress.
The warning tells me to be more mindful of my thoughts and behavior. I need to bring more gentleness to every word and action. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to stop striving for perfection, stop judging myself and putting myself down, stop trying to please others while holding the real me back. Like Venus, I need to celebrate the beauty and miracle that is me.
I’ve shared this very personal dream with you for two reasons. First, because it’s a perfect follow-up for my last post about dream symbols of transition and transformation. Second, because the dream itself seems to be urging me to do so. Didn’t the mysterious “someone” tell my dream ego to bring the baby forward and be careful in doing so? I hope I’ve been sufficiently careful in bringing forth the message of this dream, and I hope that regardless of your gender you are inspired to revisit the integration of your own Beloved into your waking life.
As with my previous dream about individuation, I invite your associations and look forward to reading them.
The Tao of Popeye March 19, 2011
It seems I’ve always wanted to know who I am and why I am what I am. I smile as I write these words because they remind me of the very first official Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon: “I Yam What I Yam!”
Remember Popeye? He’s a runty, uneducated, playful, squinty-eyed guy with a speech impediment who sails the seven seas, adopted an infant foundling he calls Swee’Pea, and is in love with a tall, skinny drink of water named Olive Oyl. Unfortunately, his nemesis, the musclebound bully Bluto, is also attracted to Olive Oyl and keeps trying to kidnap her. When Popeye comes to her rescue, Bluto beats up on him until he starts feeling weak. Then he eats a can-full of spinach (and occasionally the can itself), which immediately gives him superhuman strength and problem-solving abilities to defeat Bluto. Usually.
I find two characteristics of this flawed little guy of special interest. First, he has found, and regularly uses, a magical panacea which gives him strength. Second, according to Wikipedia, he has a “near-saintly” perseverance to overcome any obstacle to please his sweetheart, Olive Oyl.
Now of course this is just a silly little cartoon meant to entertain and amuse. But like every story ever told by any human anywhere, there’s also an underlying psychological meaning. Why? Because the way the psyche is made influences our every thought, word, and action. So in psychological terms, I could say that Popeye represents the ego which has embraced the vulnerable inner child (Swee’Pea), found a wonderfully helpful way (spinach) to strengthen and stabilize itself enough to overcome adversity (Bluto), and connected with the inner feminine (Olive Oyl).
Why spinach? Well, when I google spinach I discover that its main nutritional element is iron. And when I google iron I find that psychologically it can symbolize inner strength and the will and determination to see things through to the finish. What is it Popeye always says? “I’m strong to the finich. Cause I eats me spinach.”
But Olive Oyl? Surely the name of this goofy, gangly gal can’t mean anything important, can it? Check it out. Apart from its many health benefits, particularly for the heart, olive oil has spiritual meaning. Olives come from the olive tree, which in the Bible is associated with love and charity. And olive oil was used for anointing kings and priests (earthly and spiritual authorities) and for fueling lamps which, of course, bring light, and by association, enlightenment. So psychologically, Popeye’s beloved Olive Oyl symbolizes the healthy inner feminine authority which brings spiritual enlightenment! I love it!
If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know why I can relate to Popeye. I’ve adopted an inner orphan. I strengthen my ego by regularly “digesting” Jungian psychology and dreamwork. I wrestle with an inner bully who’s always trying to steal my feminine authority. And I persevere in my efforts to connect with the Beloved of my psyche. Like Popeye, I don’t always defeat my bully, but I am getting stronger. And like Popeye’s relationship to Olive Oyl, the partnership between my ego and unconscious is by no means problem free. In fact, my failures are sometimes laughable.
But I, too, am determined to be “strong to the finich. Cause I eats me spinach!” I yam what I yam. And that’s becoming okay with me.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.
A Mother’s Love June 22, 2010
There’s one more reason why Bear is such an important symbol for me. I’d like to tell you about it. The mother bear is one of the most tender, nurturing, and fiercely protective mothers in the animal world. In the spring when she emerges from her den, she brings with her at least one new cub who was born during the hibernation. The first and most difficult lesson she teaches her baby is to stay hidden and quiet high up in a tree while she searches the forest for food. It is essential that the cub remain in the tree, for if she climbs down and wanders around alone it is only a matter of time before she will become lunch for a ravenous adult male bear.
Having no idea of the danger that awaits, in those first few days out of hibernation the cub tries to climb down and follow her mother. When this happens the mother must swat her child firmly and chase her back up the tree. Finally the poor baby stays, afraid of being alone, but more afraid of the disapproval of her mother. Soon she learns to trust that if she stays there long enough, Mother will eventually come back. Then the joyful cub can climb down out of the tree and together they will eat, play, and snooze until it is time to return to the den for the night.
Mother and cub follow this routine for about two years. During this time the dutiful child learns her lessons well from the good mother. Then one day the mother bear trees her cub as usual. She goes out into the woods as usual. And she never comes back.
The sun’s rays lengthen. Twilight arrives. The baby waits in the tree. She is hungry. She is lonely. She is afraid. Maybe she is angry. How dare Mother stay away so long? Still she waits. Night falls. She hears terrifying noises and there is a gnawing hunger in her belly. But she has learned her lessons well so she waits for her mother like a good little bear.
Here is the terrible truth that the baby bear must learn: in order to survive and grow into a mature bear capable of becoming a nurturing mother herself, she must commit an act of disobedience against the good mother. She must climb down from the tree. The moment she leaves the tree’s safety and makes her sad and lonely way through the forest is the moment she accepts her royal birthright. No longer will she be a naive and innocent princess. She has no choice but to grow up. The Queen of her universe is dead. Long live the new Queen.
Like the baby bear, our job during the first half of life is to become civilized and safe. But the journey is not over once we have learned to respect society’s authorities — whether familial, political, or spiritual — for too often they are flawed and their agendas stifle our psychological and spiritual growth. The baby bear’s predicament represents our ego’s awakening to the personal meaning and sacred authority of our own souls. At some point we, too, need to commit an act of disobedience against the good mother of society so we can expand into the authentic, compassionate, and responsible moral beings we were created to be.
It may seem cruel, but society’s abandonment of us when we grow strong enough to go our own, individual ways is actually a gift that initiates us into discovering the guidance and wisdom of our inner mother, Sophia, the feminine side of the Beloved. How have you been initiated by Mother Bear?