Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015

A perfect moment in the hammock...

A perfect moment in the hammock…

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.

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

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.

Our cabin in the early days

Our cabin in the early days

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 KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


The King is Dead! Long Live the King! March 15, 2011

Many religious and philosophical traditions have given death a feminine face because the things most feared by the “masculine”dualistic ego are associated with the feminine principle. For example, if the sun and bright light of day are associated with safety, the Father God, life, and consciousness, then the moon and darkness are related to danger, Great Mother, death, and the unconscious.

In Greek mythology death is seen as the daughter of night and sister of sleep. Demeter, the Greek mother goddess of life, also has the power of death. When Hades will not return her abducted daughter Persephone (who symbolizes the death of innocence), she refuses to let anything grow on the earth, thus causing famine and death. Only when she is reunited with Persephone, who is now married to Hades and therefore the goddess of the underworld, does Demeter allow the earth to be fertile again.

Hinduism’s black goddess Kali, the Mother of Eternal Time, is similar to the Nigerian Yoruba goddess Oya, the Polynesian goddess Pele, and the Aztec snake goddess Tlillan, all of whom represent the creative and destructive breathing of the universe. In her “corpse” aspect Kali is shown with a fleshless rib cage. She is also depicted as a horrible hungry hag who feeds on the entrails of her victims. As a bloodthirsty warrior arrayed in blood and a necklace of human skulls, she dances on the corpse of her husband, Shiva, to celebrate her victory over her enemies and signify the ongoing process of creation. We’re talking serious fear of feminine power here!

While none of this is literally true, of course, it is nevertheless very real to the psyche. The death goddesses and their myths are, in part, metaphors for loss: the loss of youth and innocence, of important roles and relationships, of personal power, of fertility. In dreams as in life, death symbols point to the outworn attitudes and assumptions we need to slough off, like a snake shedding a tight-fitting skin so it can keep growing. They are reminders to take our inner lives seriously and examine beliefs that deny reality; for instance, that our honest feelings and emotions are unworthy and pretending and conforming will bring happiness and fulfillment; or that keeping rules, performing certain spiritual practices and attending worship services regularly will keep us safe and protect us from pain and death.

Resisting the Mistress of the Dead just brings Old King Ego more fear and pain; but surrendering to her brings freedom. Tolerating the tension of our suffering without dulling it with dogma and drugs or escaping through addictions and denial eventually brings the gut-level realization that if we really are going to die someday, we might as well live more honestly and fully in the meantime. To quote Kris Kristofferson, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

The death of the fearful old ego is the supreme liberation and a prerequisite to a psychologically whole and spiritually mature ego. In descending to the Mistress of the Dead, we, like all dying goddesses and gods, acquire greater wisdom and power because kissing the false self goodbye and welcoming the truth connects us with the sacred Mystery. As Cirlot’s A Dictionary of Symbols notes, death “is also the source of life — and not only of spiritual life but of the resurrection of matter as well. One must resign oneself to dying in a dark prison in order to find rebirth in light and clarity.”

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.


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