Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What More Did I Think I Wanted? June 26, 2014

Misty MorningI’ve returned to my beloved mountain valley. After five days the stillness is starting to settle in.

This morning the eastern sky was red.  “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”  It will probably rain today.

The sun is slow to reach the west side of the house. For now the garden is shrouded in shadows and mist.

“Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.” ~Wendell Berry

Izzy and the crowsIzzy watches attentively while I fill her bowls with food and fresh water. This is her first summer here and her interest in the smallest things is rubbing off on me. I’m unusually attentive too as I prepare my breakfast of coffee, fresh strawberries and blueberries, yogurt and walnuts while she wanders in and out of the house.  Although I intended to meditate every day, I haven’t yet.  But this morning, this stillness, this heightened awareness….it’s all a meditation.

Our walks through our 28 acres bring new wonders every day.  Izzy has been fascinated by flowers since she was a puppy.  At two and a half, she still sniffs every new one she sees.

The crows seem determined to attract our notice this summer. Or am I just more aware of them?  They wake us up in the morning, punctuate the quiet air with raucous caws throughout the day, leave their perfect black feathers on the trail. This year we brought gifts for them. Izzy approves.

“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. They shake off the fetters and allow nature to touch them. It can be done within or without. Walking in the woods, lying on the grass, taking a bath in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.” (Carl Jung, Dream Analysis: Notes on a Lecture Given in 1928-1930).

IzzyHike2Yesterday brought us a rare visitation from a beautiful timber rattler who barely moved but eyed us warily as we passed. “A truly numinous encounter with Other-ness, Jeanie. Very auspicious— just give plenty of room for her to move. Many Rattlers do not even carry venom. They come as Teachers of the ancients,” says Facebook friend,  Melissa La FlammeElaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine. I imagine you writing about this soon.”  Yes, I will write about this once I’ve absorbed its message.

This morning I found a skeleton by the back steps. It looks like a baby alligator’s head, but that’s impossible! Not in the Smokeys! What could it be? What can it mean?

SkeletonOther gifts arrived this morning via Grandmother Spider’s world wide web, including the quotes and poem I’ve cited here.  Her messages speak to my immediate experience.  Such synchronicities no longer surprise me.

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of the same thing.” (C.G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, Collected Works Vol. 8, para. 418).

 

 

 

 

VII

by Wendell Berry

Again I resume the long

lesson: how small a thing

can be pleasing, how little

in this hard world it takes

to satisfy the mind

and bring it to its rest.

Within the ongoing havoc

the woods this morning is

almost unnaturally still.

Through stalled air, unshadowed

light, a few leaves fall

of their own weight.

The sky

is gray. It begins in mist

almost at the ground

and rises forever. The trees

rise in silence almost

natural, but not quite,

almost eternal, but

not quite.

What more did I

think I wanted? Here is

what has always been.

Here is what will always

be. Even in me,

the Maker of all this

returns in rest, even

to the slightest of His works,

a yellow leaf slowly

falling, and is pleased.

yellow leafJean Raffa’s newest book, 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

 

Keeping Score June 11, 2013

big-spiderA BIG black spider crosses the porch toward me. What if it climbs up my leg while I’m absorbed in my book? My territory. I consider stepping on it. This feels harsh. Maybe I’ll just relocate it. I slide a piece of paper under it but it leaps onto the nearby wall and scuttles beneath a plank of cedar siding. I turn my rocking chair to watch. Why did it come here? Is it looking for food? A place to weave a web?

“When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning.” John O’Donohue

This area of the Smoky Mountains is home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, a culture rich with legends about animal helpers and teachers. In “Living Stories of the Cherokee” by Barbara R. Duncan, storyteller Kathi Smith Littlejohn tells about a time long ago when there was no fire and everything was dark and cold.  The animals knew there was fire on the other side of the world so they decided to get some.  Buzzard went first, but when he tried to carry hot coals back on the top of his head, he burned all the feathers off. The little black snake, who wasn’t black then, tried next, but the only place he could carry coals was on the back of his neck and it burned his body black all the way down. To this day he’s still black.

Then Grandmother Spider said, “I’ll get the fire.” Of course, the other animals laughed at her, but she said, “I may be small, but I’ll get it.  You watch me.”  So she went to the river and made a little pot of clay. She carried it on her back to the other side of the world, put some hot coals into the pot, and carried them back. That’s how she brought fire to this side of the world and gave the Cherokee people the idea of making pottery.

The mythological motif of the smallest one succeeding when others fail is universal. It teaches that when your intention is sincere and benevolent, fierce determination, careful observation, and creative thinking count more than size, age, gender or physical strength. Can I learn something from careful observation and creative thinking about this spider?

I watch her explorations until I lose her. What did I learn? I think back. I’ve been worrying that my preoccupation with writing dulls my appreciation for the life and beauty that surround me so I came out to the porch to get out of my Mind. One point for Nature. But I brought a book with me! One point for Mind.

My first instinct was to kill the spider. Instincts are Nature.  Point. But when I recognized my instinctive response I decided to spare her. Choosing to override an instinct comes from the Mind. Point.

I reflected on this experience.  Reflection is both Nature (according to Jung it’s a natural human instinct) and Mind (it requires a deliberate choice to use cognitive skills).  Point. Point.

Three points each so far.  But here’s the tie-breaker:  I took notes! Then I turned the experience into another blog post.  Darn! My writer animus is relentless!  As usual, Mind trumps Matter.

I worry. Is this imbalance in my personality a bad thing? Just as taking action satisfied Grandmother Spider’s need to bring life-giving fire to her community, writing satisfies my need to understand myself and help others acquire self-knowledge. So what’s the difference between us?  I worry about which aspects of my personality are dark, which are bright, and which side’s winning. She’s too busy doing her thing to worry. Here’s Grandmother Spider’s message to me:  “Keeping score is more appropriate to gaming than living.  Your job is not to perfect every aspect of your personality;  it’s to do the work you are uniquely suited to.”

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

 

Dream Symbols of the Beloved: Part II August 31, 2012

My friends, My family is with me in the mountains to celebrate summer’s last hurrah!  Writing two posts a week takes more time than I have right now, so I’m republishing this post from two summers ago. It’s one of my favorites—and one of my readers’ favorites as well.  Enjoy.  I look forward to your comments. Have a happy Labor Day!

I’ve just arrived at my soul’s home in the mountains of North Carolina where I will spend the remainder of the summer. I’ve often wondered why I love this place so dearly, why it makes me feel so loved and connected and alive and grateful for my life. My answer came last night and this morning as I read your comments to my last post (Dream Symbols of the Beloved) and did a bit more research.

I’m at my desk looking out an east-facing window. The morning sun enters my backyard late because it has to rise above the mountain before its rays filter down through a thick tree canopy. Most of what I see is in shade but a patch of sun has highlighted the brilliant silver threads of a spider web between two branches of a buckeye tree. Grandmother Spider is busily checking connections, tightening threads, and hunting for tasty morsels that got trapped during the night.

This morning I opened Aion, Volume 9, ii, of Jung’s Collected Works, to re-read his section on symbols of the Self. In paragraph #356 he writes about animal symbolism. He says, “The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of all the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.” Spiders. Mountains. Trees.

When I entered the gravel road last night my arrival was heralded by a cawing black crow who flapped off toward the house. The first thing I did was feed the rainbow trout in our pond. Black birds. Fish. Lake. (Do you think a pond counts?) Then I walked around the garden to check out the flowers. My treasured peonies are already spent, but the pink New Dawn roses and purple clematis are a-riot on the trellis, the hydrangeas look like giant blue and white powder puffs, the hostas are sending up tall bud-laden spikes, the astilbe have myriad pointed white cotton candy tufts, the golden daylilies are in full bloom, and there’s a huge mound of pink petunias by the kitchen door. I don’t garden in Florida. It’s just too hot. But here I can have my flowers. Flowers.

Below Bear Pond and Shadow Brook there’s a small pasture and stable where my horse, Shadow, used to spend his summers. I’ve always had a thing for horses. And Shadow, well, he’s a subject for another post. Horses. By the way, bears are the theme of this mountain home.  They’re all over the house.  But that’s another story too. Bears.

Speaking of bears, every summer for ten years I’ve come here with my sweet friend, a handsome golden retriever whose name was Bear. He passed on last August, but his ashes are in a white box with a label that says “Bear Raffa:  Forever Faithful” in the cabinet four feet to the right of where I sit. I cried when I entered the house without him last night. But this morning when I was still in that borderland between sleeping and waking, I heard his joyous bark. Twice. He’s glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m back.

Do I need any further reminders from the Beloved of how loved I am and why I love this place so? Not really, but such is the nature of the Self that I’ll probably continue to get them every day anyway. And night, too. Sweet dreams of the Beloved, my friends.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, from www.Amazon.com or www.LarsonPublications.com

 

Dream Symbol: The King January 22, 2011

Did you ever dream about a king or other powerful leader and wonder why? Throughout history kings and queens in the outer world have represented the mysterious force that creates and sustains life. This force has two basic drives: self-preservation (masculine) and species preservation (feminine).

The drive for self-preservation compels us to promote our individuality, protect our physical lives, and guarantee the prosperity of the “tribe” on which we depend for survival.  The King archetype is a symbol of this drive. In terms of our inner growth, Jung saw the King as a symbol of individuation, or becoming differentiated from our social groups.  Together, the King and Queen represent the masculine and feminine authorities of the psyche.

We enhance our chances for survival when everyone agrees to certain guidelines and standards that encourage orderly, responsible behavior. To that end we look to leaders with strong King archetypes to devise, enact, and enforce rules. Healthy King energy uses clear and logical  thinking to create fair and just rules in systems of hierarchical authority. Unhealthy King energy is either too obsessive or passive to truly care about others and therefore wreaks havoc in families, schools, businesses, churches, and nations.

Examples of men upon whom we project the King archetype include leaders at the top of social hierarchies such as fathers, school principals, CEO’s, generals, presidents, ministers, priests, and popes; historical kings such as Caesar, Louis XIV, and Henry VIII; mythical god-images associated with kingly authority like Zeus, Thor, Hades, and King Neptune; and kings in stories and legends like King Midas, King Arthur, The Fisher King, The Lion King and his negative counterpart Scar.

Women with well-developed King energy include Maat, Egypt’s goddess of justice, truth, and law; Themis, the Greek goddess of equity, law, and peace; the Cherokee’s Grandmother Spider; Japan’s Sun Goddess Amaterasu; and human women like Cleopatra, Catherine de’ Medici, Catherine the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, Judge Judy, and decisive, authoritarian, rule-oriented mothers.

Dream themes associated with our King address rules, crimes, morality, authority, order, leadership, and individuation. Two King dreams are especially auspicious.  An old King dying to make way for a new one says we’ve outgrown our childish dependence on outer authorities and are assuming our personal authority.  A wedding between a King and Queen suggests the conscious integration of our inner opposites.

Dream symbols that refer to our King include all the examples above plus other powerful authorities like dictators, governors, prison guards, police men and women, judges, lions (the king of beasts) and stallions. We learn more about the strength and health of our King energy by noticing the way these dream figures treat us and others, and by how our dream ego feels and behaves when we are in their presence or in positions of leadership ourselves.

In waking life, the problems we experience as leaders and the way we feel about and respond to those with authority over us can be traced directly to the maturity of our personal King and Queen. It is important to integrate both forms of energy into our awareness so we can choose the best possible leaders,and so we ourselves can live, speak and lead with wisdom and benevolence.

Has a King ever showed up in your dreams?  I’d love to hear about it.

 

Dream Symbols of the Beloved: Part II June 15, 2010

Your response to my last post was so overwhelming that I’m going to save the one about how to work with your dreams for next time and continue with the current theme. I’ve just arrived at my soul’s home in the mountains of North Carolina where I will spend the remainder of the summer. I’ve often wondered why I love this place so dearly, why it makes me feel so loved and connected and alive and grateful for my life. My answer came last night and this morning as I read your comments and did a bit more research.

I’m at my desk looking out an east-facing window. The morning sun enters my backyard late because it has to rise above the mountain before its rays filter down through a thick tree canopy. Most of what I see is in shade but a patch of sun has highlighted the brilliant silver threads of a spider web between two branches of a buckeye tree. Grandmother Spider is busily checking connections, tightening threads, and hunting for tasty morsels that got trapped during the night.

This morning I opened Aion, Volume 9, ii, of Jung’s Collected Works, to re-read his section on symbols of the Self. In paragraph #356 he writes about animal symbolism. He says, “The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of all the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.” Spiders. Mountains. Trees.

When I entered the gravel road last night my arrival was heralded by a cawing black crow who flapped off toward the house. The first thing I did was feed the rainbow trout in our pond. Black birds. Fish. Lake. (Do you think a pond counts?) Then I walked around the garden to check out the flowers. My treasured peonies are already spent, but the pink New Dawn roses and purple clematis are a-riot on the trellis, the hydrangeas look like giant blue and white powder puffs, the hostas are sending up tall bud-laden spikes, the astilbe have myriad pointed white cotton candy tufts, the golden daylilies are in full bloom, and there’s a huge mound of pink petunias by the kitchen door. I don’t garden in Florida. It’s just too hot. But here I can have my flowers. Flowers.

Below Bear Pond and Shadow Brook there’s a small pasture and stable where my horse, Shadow, used to spend his summers. I’ve always had a thing for horses. And Shadow, well, he’s a subject for another post. Horses. By the way, bears are the theme of this mountain home.  They’re all over the house.  But that’s another story too. Bears.

Speaking of bears, every summer for ten years I’ve come here with my sweet friend, a handsome golden retriever whose name was Bear. He passed on last August, but his ashes are in a white box with a label that says “Bear Raffa:  Forever Faithful” in the cabinet four feet to the right of where I sit. I cried when I entered the house without him last night. But this morning when I was still in that borderland between sleeping and waking, I heard his joyous bark. Twice. He’s glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m back.

Do I need any further reminders from the Beloved of how loved I am and why I love this place so? Not really, but such is the nature of the Self that I’ll probably continue to get them every day anyway. And night, too. Sweet dreams of the Beloved, my friends.

 

The Alpha Mare April 18, 2010

untitled (3)The archetypal Crone represents many valuable qualities. One of these, leadership, is aptly symbolized by the Alpha mare. In herds of horses, the leader is almost always a mature mare. While the stallion is the physically strongest and most aggressive male who mates with the females and protects himself, his herd, and his territory by keeping intruders away, he is not the wisest, most trusted horse in the herd nor is he the dominant leader who makes the others feel safe and secure.

The Alpha mare does not command respect because she is youngest, prettiest, most charming, physically strongest, or the stallion’s favorite, but because her age and vast experience have made her confident, mentally strong, and savvy in the ways of survival. The other horses follow her because she makes wise decisions. She socializes the younger horses and teaches them to be obedient, leads the herd to food and water, and guides it to safety when threatened by predators. Of all the horses in the herd, male and female, young and old, the Alpha mare is the one who knows best how to preserve the species.

There was once a time when groups of people sat at the feet of Crones, respectfully seeking their guidance and benefitting from their wisdom. The Cheyenne tell a story about “The Old Woman of the Spring” who gave them the buffalo and horse and taught them to plant corn.

In the tale “Grandmother Spider Steals the Sun,” Spider Woman brought the sun, fire, and art of pottery-making to the Cherokee. Old Salt Woman gave the Cochiti the magical blessing of salt, in the form of some of her own flesh, to make their food taste better.

The Brule Sioux say that when a grandmother prayed for a sacred herb to save the Comanche nation, a spirit told her where to find Grandfather Peyote and how to use it. She brought it back to her people and gave them the ceremony, and from that moment on, they learned to know themselves.

The Tiwa tell of Apache Chief to whom Spider Old Woman gave special medicine and Gopher Old Woman gave secret knowledge that helped him retrieve his lost wife. Such stories speak to the reverence native peoples had for the elder women whose lengthy life experience and intimate relationship with nature sacralized their lives and improved their chances for survival.

As the Sky God replaced the Earth Goddess as our primary source of spiritual guidance and meaning, our respect for Crone wisdom diminished in many parts of the world. At the individual level this is occasionally justified. Certainly, not every grandmother has feet at which one would necessarily want to sit! Generations of being separated from all that feels sacred to women has turned some of them into the very worst examples of feminine shadow. These are the wicked witches we hear about in fairy tales, and they should be avoided like poison lest they spread their toxicity to us.

But there are also some Alpha mares out there. We need to seek out these examples of the positive, empowered Crone, for they hold vital secrets that could help us maintain the delicate balance between societal preservation and annihilation.

Find Healing the Sacred Divide at this amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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