Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Wants to Be Born? March 22, 2016

Buds on our Meyer lemon tree

Buds on Our Meyer Lemon Tree

“Everything you can imagine is real.” ~Pablo Picasso

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Nature is in labor once again. All winter long she’s been hibernating, gestating powerful new forms in her underground womb. Atoms and molecules have been moving around in the dark, separating and connecting, ebbing and flowing, and now she’s giving us front row seats, as she does each spring, from which to view Act IV of her Birth/Growth/Death/Rebirth passion play.

Signs of her new life are sprouting everywhere, even here in Central Florida where most of our vegetation stays green throughout winter.  On this morning’s walk I photographed tightly folded buds that will be transformed into lemons this summer, brilliant red bottlebrush blossoms still laden with unopened buds, and fresh unfurling leaves of crape myrtle trees that spent the winter naked as skeletons.

Blossoming Bottlebrush

Blossoming Bottlebrush

Where does all this new life come from?  Well, that’s the Big Question isn’t it?  The Mystery that’s always confounded us, that we have yet to solve. Humanity has always reflected on it. When our ancestors sank deep into reverie, opening their minds and suspending their judgment, images entered their awareness as they observed the creations and forces of nature. Some images were borrowed from nature;  others came from depths we still cannot fathom. Hungry for understanding, our forebears interacted imaginatively with their images, examined them from all angles, anthropomorphised them, embellished their attributes, furnished them with motives, and imagined nefarious plots until they’d created stories that satisfied their spirits and souls.

They told their stories, each culture in its own way, to the people around them, with images and themes that would captivate and instruct.  Like the 5,000 year-old story of Sumeria’s Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, who descends to the Great Below to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. Inanna…who is hung on a meat hook to rot while Ereshkigal suffers birth pangs. Inanna…who, with the help of loyal friends instructed to wait for her, is resurrected with the water of life three days later and returns to the Great Above.

Skeletal Crepe Myrtle with Tiny New Leaves

Skeletal Crape Myrtles Sprouting Tiny New Leaves

Or the story of Egypt’s king Osiris, first told around 4,400 years ago. Osiris…who is murdered by his brother and becomes God of the Underworld, the dead, and the afterlife. Osiris…whose wife, Queen Isis, restores his body and conceives a son from it. Osiris…who in dying and being symbolically “reborn” in his son Horus, is worshiped as God of transition, resurrection, and regeneration. Osiris…a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife and the granter of all new life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile.  Osiris, the “Lord of love” with whom the kings of Egypt were associated at death; then, “as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic.” (Wikipedia)

Or Greece’s Persephone who, according to the 3,500 year-old story, is kidnapped and raped by Hades, God-King of the Underworld. Persephone…beautiful daughter of Demeter, Goddess of Fertility who, in her mourning, allows vegetation to die and people to starve until Zeus allows Persephone to return. Persephone…who, according to the Eleusynian Mysteries, brings the green new shoots of vegetation with her so the cycle of life can begin anew.

Mandala-Jahreskreis-SEASONS-NATURE-BEAUTYAnd Israel’s Jesus, son of a virgin who is married to a carpenter. Jesus…whose story from about 2,000 years ago tells us that he grows up to challenge the prevailing religious authorities with his gospel of love and social justice.  Jesus…who heals the sick, raises the dead, makes disciples of women and fishermen and forgives prostitutes their sins.  Jesus…who is killed by the Roman authorities who have invaded and conquered his land. Jesus…who is hung on a cross, buried in a cave, and reborn after three days.

“My whole endeavor has been to show that myth is something very real because it connects us with the instinctive bases of our existence.”  Carl Jung, Letters, Vol. 11, Page 468.

The universal story about the sacred Mystery of Life is told in myths. Each of us participates in this story, physically and mentally. Like Mother Nature, we too go through cycles. Like her we go into labor during winters when our souls have grown weary and cold. But beneath the surface, in the underground womb of our unconscious, our life energy continues to ebb and flow, separate and reconnect in new images of insights, possibilities and potential. And if, when they emerge in dreams and fantasies, we will see our images and use them imaginatively, our story can rebirth us into a new spring of hope, meaning, and resurrection.

“You are the Hero of your own Story.”  ~ Joseph Campbell

What new part of your story wants to be born this spring?

Photo Credits:   Mandala.  Google Images.

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

An Easter Visitation From Serpent Mother April 7, 2015

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia.

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia

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.

Serpent Mother

Serpent Mother

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

 

Easter to the Soul April 18, 2014

One of the oldest recorded myths comes from Sumeria and tells the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. After a period of growing, assuming her authority, working to bless the world with the gifts of civilization, courting, marrying, birthing and mothering, Inanna descends to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, its Queen. On the way down she is stripped one by one of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. At the bottom she is met by Ereshkigal who has her hung naked on a meat hook. And there she hangs. But on the third day, with the help of her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, she’s rescued and returns to life in the world above.

This is an allegory of a universal truth. Like all great myths, which are stories about our relationships with the gods, it does not have to be factually true on the outside but is always true on the inside, the domain of the soul. The truth is, whether or not we all agree on the meaning, names or details, this story is relevant to every soul.

Physically, it’s about the seasonal Death/Rebirth cycles of vegetation and fertility. Psychologically, Joseph Campbell saw it as a metaphor for the soul’s empowerment and evolving consciousness via the descent into the unconscious, the experience of powerlessness, and the realization of our strength through facing our disowned shadow qualities. Spiritually, it’s about the universal longing for salvation and redemption through divine revelation and intervention.

To the ego it sometimes feels crucial that we get the facts right, possess the “correct” interpretation — especially the religious one — and reject the “wrong” one. But to the soul, these details are beside the point. To your soul and mine, this story is a celebration of the sacred miracle of life, and all three interpretations are equally true.

Every soul is grateful for the sun which brings warmth and light to our days so plants can grow and we can learn and improve and do the hard work that brings meaning and comfort to our lives. We’re all glad when each productive day is followed by a cooler, softer, moonlit night when we can rest, enjoy our loved ones, rejuvenate our bodies and spirits.

Our souls appreciate the exquisite balance of seasons whose alternating cycles likewise bring times of arising, thriving, descending, and dying. And every soul celebrates when the ego dies to its ignorance and meanness and awakens to its nobility in a miraculous new season of enlightened forgiveness, gratitude and compassion.

Above all, our souls know our ego selves did not make any of this happen. Something far greater, some Sacred Mystery over which we have no control, some benevolent, boundless, timeless Otherness set the processes of life in motion and keeps them working. And when we set apart times like this to stop and think about it, we remember that we are blessed beyond measure to participate in this miracle.

In this season of rebirth and renewal I send my blessings to all celebrators everywhere of the miracle of life.

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 

 

Why I Find Easter Difficult to Write About March 29, 2013

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Easter is difficult for me to write about. Partly because I can’t think of anything to say I haven’t already said.  I’d love to tell you a story about my favorite Easter as a child, but I don’t have one!  We were Christians but we didn’t celebrate Easter in our house when I was growing up. Except for one year when my uncle dropped by and surprised Jimmy and me with Easter baskets. They probably had chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil, and yellow marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans, and green plastic grass. Until then I had no idea such things existed. Maybe that was my favorite Easter….

I don’t remember Daddy ever being home at Easter, although he must have been there for my tenth birthday in April.  I know he was home for at least part of that month because his mother, Grandma Benedict, had come to stay with us while he was home recuperating from his second heart attack and she made me the first birthday cake I ever had.  I remember that well! It was angel food with strawberries in it. She served it with strawberry ice cream, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to me, and I got to blow out the candles. I had never felt so important in my life.  But since Easter is on a different date every year and not all of them are in April, I can’t be certain Daddy was home for that. If he was, we would have gone to church if he was well enough, and I might even have gotten a new dress. That would probably have been my favorite Easter. But I don’t remember.

I do remember one Easter when our children were around 5 and 3 years old. Mostly I remember because my daughter still tells me it was her favorite Easter. The Easter Bunny must have noticed that we had a new sand box in the backyard because s/he brought the candy and grass in two large plastic toy dump trucks! The children played with them long after the candy was gone.

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

The other reason I find it difficult to write about Easter is because not everyone who reads my blog is Christian. Moreover, I don’t want to offend those who are. Because here’s the thing. I’ve been studying Jungian psychology and my inner life for 24 years. During that time, I’ve experienced enormous growth and change. For example, I’ve gone from being terrified to look at my dreams lest they show me something that was wrong with me, or that might scare me, or heaven forbid, that might predict my imminent death, to being so excited every time I remember a dream that I can’t wait to write it down and start working on it!

So here’s my point. As I’ve changed, so have my religious ideas.  Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t lost my faith.  Far from it! I’ve never been so convinced of the reality of the Great Mystery some call God, and I’ve never felt so connected to it. But I’ve discovered that the less afraid I am of the unknown “otherness” in myself, the less afraid I am of the otherness in different people, different cultures, and different religions. Best of all, the more I forgive myself for being flawed and human, the more compassion I feel for myself and others. To me, this is what religion is supposed to be about and what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within. So I find it hard to take the ideas I was taught about original sin and our need for punishment and redemption literally any more. To me, Easter is a metaphor for two corresponding realities: the miraculous birth/death/rebirth cycles of life that recur in nature every year, and the archetypal reality of our need for psychological birth/death/rebirth from out of our old unconscious and self-centered instinctual natures into new levels of understanding, awareness and compassion.

Well, I guess this wasn’t so difficult after all. If you’d like to read more, check out last year’s post called “Easter to the Soul.”  Wishing you all a happy, hopeful spring filled with greening, budding new life within and without.

You can find my latest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Easter Sunrise April 8, 2012

Filed under: Holidays — jeanraffa @ 9:41 am
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Cascades of light spilling into the Atlantic Ocean on Easter morning, 2012.

Happy Easter! Wishing you the blessings of new life from the east coast of Florida.

 

Easter to the Soul April 6, 2012

One of the oldest recorded myths comes from Sumeria and tells the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. After a period of growing, assuming her authority, working to bless the world with the gifts of civilization, courting, marrying, birthing and mothering, Inanna descends to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, its Queen. On the way down she is stripped one by one of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. At the bottom she is met by Ereshkigal who has her hung naked on a meat hook. And there she hangs. But on the third day, with the help of her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, she’s rescued and returns to life in the world above.

This is an allegory of a universal truth. Like all great myths, which are stories about our relationships with the gods, it does not have to be factually true on the outside but is always true on the inside, the domain of the soul. The truth is, whether or not we all agree on the meaning, names or details, this story is relevant to every soul.

Physically, it’s about the seasonal Death/Rebirth cycles of vegetation and fertility. Psychologically, Joseph Campbell saw it as a metaphor for the soul’s empowerment and evolving consciousness via the descent into the unconscious, the experience of powerlessness, and the realization of our strength through facing our disowned shadow qualities. Spiritually, it’s about the universal longing for salvation and redemption through divine revelation and intervention.

To the ego it sometimes feels crucial that we get the facts right, possess the “correct” interpretation — especially the religious one — and reject the “wrong” one. But to the soul, these details are beside the point. To your soul and mine, this story is a celebration of the sacred miracle of life, and all three interpretations are equally true.

Every soul is grateful for the sun which brings warmth and light to our days so plants can grow and we can learn and improve and do the hard work that brings meaning and comfort to our lives. We’re all glad when each productive day is followed by a cooler, softer, moonlit night when we can rest, enjoy our loved ones, rejuvenate our bodies and spirits.

Our souls appreciate the exquisite balance of seasons whose alternating cycles likewise bring times of arising, thriving, descending, and dying. And every soul celebrates when the ego dies to its ignorance and meanness and awakens to its nobility in a miraculous new season of enlightened forgiveness, gratitude and compassion.

Above all, our souls know our ego selves did not make any of this happen. Something far greater, some Sacred Mystery over which we have no control, some benevolent, boundless, timeless Otherness set the processes of life in motion and keeps them working. And when we set apart times like this to stop and think about it, we remember that we are blessed beyond measure to participate in this miracle.

In this season of rebirth and renewal I send my blessings to all celebrators everywhere of the miracle of life.

 

Nature’s Promise of New Life April 3, 2012

Happy April everyone!  I hope it’s pleasant where you are. We’re having some beautiful spring weather in Florida. It’s by far my favorite time of year. The temperature is mild. The bald cypress trees are sprouting new growth. The confederate jasmine perfumes our neighborhood with its outrageously lovely fragrance. Rose buds unfold after their long confinement. And like a sleepy mother bear, I grumpily begin my slow crawl out of a peaceful hibernation.

Throughout March the birds were unusually active and vocal. An especially intense bittern screeched anxiously in the trees across the canal every day from dawn until dusk. He has a megaphone voice and it’s not easy to concentrate in the midst of that cacophony!  Apparently this is his subtle way of advertising for a mate. I guess he found one because I haven’t heard from him in a few days, thank goodness! I imagine he’s found the girl of his dreams and his beak is now otherwise occupied in picking up moss and twigs for their love nest.

I’ve been experiencing similar issues. In the past month I’ve been compelled to leave my cozy winter routine behind and juggle a challenging final round of tasks in preparation for my new book. I was talking about it with my publisher today and he reminded me of an astrological event I’ve been hearing about. I don’t know much about these things, but I’m told Mercury is in retrograde, and when this happens it creates problems with communication.

Sure enough, in the week when the sunspots were particularly bad, both computers acted up with technical problems, and last week my e-mail provider stopped working off and on for a couple of days. This at a time when my communication needs were far more pressing than normal! At times like this one is tempted to ask, “Why me?” Fortunately I’ve had the presence of mind not to take the planetary alignment personally!

I’m happy to report that despite the universe’s interference, as of this month this new baby of mine is in the “final trimester”and all is progressing normally. We’ll have some advance copies ready for the New York Book Expo in June and the projections point to an official July birth! What with the fourth of July fireworks and my granddaughter’s first double-digit birthday, I’ll have a lot to celebrate then.

I’m noticing a related spiritual theme here: the universal problem of stretching ourselves to satisfy our drive for species-preparation and powerful need for love, the ensuing communication glitches and chaos that accompany busy preparations for birth, and the joyous celebration of new life that follows. No wonder Easter occurs this time of year. I mean nobody really knows when the events that led up to Christianity’s birth actually occurred, right?  For all we know it could have been late August.  But no! Every soul knows that wouldn’t feel right or meaningful to anyone.

No matter how hard we may try, there is simply no way to separate Nature’s cycles from our own. The human animal is intimately tied to the physical world in every way. There’s an inherent congruence between every cycle and every form of life: mental and physical, psychological and spiritual, planet and solar system, self and other. Moreover, as I wrote to a reader who commented today in response to my post about the symbolic meaning of trees, every aspect of Nature has a lesson for us if we look for it. Our world shows us where we are and what’s coming next all the time. Today I’m feeling especially grateful for her promise of new life.

 

 
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