The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Friday, 2 August 2013
digging up the bones
We could say this story is about male initiation: the movement from boyhood to manhood. So this might suggest what a man needs to do to claim his own masculinity – by detaching his 'father complex' from his actual father he can see more clearly what is his own journey, rather than being driven by an unconscious relationship to the father and therefore masculinity. (He has to do the equivalent with his mother, too, by stealing the 'golden key' that is hidden under her pillow, the myth of Iron John tells us in the book of the same title by Robert Bly.)
I was very struck by Johnson's telling of that story, and fell to reflecting on what it would mean for a woman to 'dig up the bones'. The axe, of course, is a symbol of masculine energy, like the sword and the lance. The equivalent for a woman in relation to the mother, or Mother, would be the cauldron or the grail – those great archetypal symbols of feminine energy.
I've been having a hard time since the death of my mum, in November 2011. I miss her enormously; we had a very close warm relationship and there simply isn't a substitute. I've also found myself in a great deal of grief about aspects of her life that were less than fulfilling; opportunities she simply didn't have, a great loneliness in her. And then there was, the last few years, her dissolution into Alzheimer's.
Beneath this lies my enormous grief and anger at the wounded feminine in our patriarchal culture, whether that takes the shape of violation of the rights of other species and humans, the disassociation that allows war and destruction, the repression of the feeling nature and relatedness, or the abuse of women and children. As Johnson says: 'The feminine aspect of humankind continues to weep over the barrenness of modern life.'
I've been stuck in that, seeing the wounded and neglected feminine everywhere I look. Thinking about the Paiute story has enabled a huge albeit subtle shift in me to take place, and looking 'beneath', as the story counsels, has restored to and in me a renewed awareness of the enormity and power of the gift of the feminine, and its ability to survive and thrive anyway.
The cauldron and the grail, for me in relation to my mum, have enabled me to see what blessings the feminine in my mum truly brought and loosed into my own life: the feeling nature, a love of plants and animals, a deep attunement to music and art, an awareness of psychology (my mum was extraordinarily switched on to the importance of psychology, bringing us up in the late 50s and 60s on the latest thinking in child development), a focus on relatedness. What a gift, under the bones, for me to take forward as a lamp.
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