from BARDO

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.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

inviting the bad fairy to the feast

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin, Wikipedia creative commons

In a Christmas blog ('Christmas cheer & Baba Yaga'), I wrote about Baba Yaga – that fierce and fearsome witch of the Russian fairytales who eats people.

In summary, I spoke of the need to incorporate what Jungians call the Shadow into our consciousness. (In fairy tales, these unconscious 'subpersonalities' often appear as the ugly hag, the wicked stepmother, the bad fairy, the giant, -the ogre etc.)

All of us have parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of, or dislike, or someone else has disliked, or that we fear. We tend to deal with these aspects by repressing them very firmly. However, in this case they become constellations of energy in the psyche which, when triggered, can cause enormous unpleasantness as we suddenly succumb to a mood, or a rage, or an out-of-proportion upset that can tear us or others apart. When this happens, it's worth asking what it is in us that needs to be brought to the surface.

Often, we can get some measure of these psychic, 'hot', bundles of energy by noticing our moods and affects; often, too, by becoming aware of what really gets us going in another – if we don't meet our own Shadow aspects face-to-face, we'll tend to meet them 'out there', in the guise of another. (This goes for our positive but unrecognised aspects as much as our negatives – what we really admire in another gives us a clue as to what we need to work on in ourselves to liberate.) The wise way is to look them square in the face.

I've written much about all this, on this blog and also elsewhere, so I'm going to leave it at that, except to post a poem that addresses this, emailed to me yesterday by a long-time friend. Thank you, Sheena.

Sheena writes: '...have only just had a chance to catch up with your wonderful blogs. The one about the Baba Yaga within really struck a chord; it's a concept which has preoccupied me for years. I once wrote a piece about it which I called 'The Visitor' – although I think 'The Sitting Tenant' might be nearer the mark!'

I am your uninvited guest
at the feast
you eat alone    we share a name
but mine is mirror-writ and odd
you know it all the same

I am the little voice
that wakes you
long before the light is due
whispers the thoughts that you were dreaming
tells you your dream was true

naming casts a powerful spell
shall I name you     or you name me?
and will we be coupled closer then
or will we set each other free?

© Sheena Odle 2014 



  1. A very powerful and a/effective poem from Sheena (thanks) with your usual wise, comforting preface, Roselle. It's a constant battle, I find – me with my shadow which 'makes' me revert to aspects of the old self that I desperately want to shed. It's those last three lines of the poem that bring it home: I suppose I see it as an eternally close coupling but one that – with awareness and understanding – can also be set free and set me free. Not completely separate, necessarily, but able to see it as something to work with: that part of me that needs care, not necessarily rejection. If that's too abstract, there's this, from 15 minutes ago:
    Rushing, friends for lunch, only soup, bread & cheese. Is it good enough? Hell: no space in fridge, custard-tin flies out and spills – vicious outburst when J offers to clean it up; self-loathing. Vacuuming, I step back, apologise. Red face fades in cool of study, reading this. Thanks, R. May not be here for a bit – away Sat, am close to emailing about Mentoring.
    Love, Miriam.

  2. Miriam, thank you for such openness and honesty. Oh, we all do this! Do you know Rumi's poem 'The Guest House'? I expect so; if not, seek it out. That's a comfort. With love, Rx

  3. Thanks Roselle – I had forgotten (how could I!) this wonderful poem. There's so much to take comfort in, despite the despair (today's post). The poem is very true and it's good to see that I've imbibed something of this over the years. And is it possible to be too open or honest, I wonder? It can be so uncomfortable for others and oneself.
    Love, M.

  4. Well, in response, sometimes people are uncomfortable around others' openness because it emphasises their closedness. No reason then for us to close up too! - But yes I guess it IS also possible; something like the quote (was it Ram Dass? Can't remember) about 'idiot compassion - helping old ladies across the road whether they want to cross or not' - I mean, we do need to take into account others' rights to not have their boundaries violated too, don't we? So maybe it's about whether we operate openly and honestly from our own clear centre and others can take it or leave it, or whether we force it on them? Rx

    1. Good point, Roselle. Boundaries: violation of them – important topic close to home, on either side, whether being violated or violating. Constant alertness necessary.
      Thanks, M.

  5. Miriam, I suspect that violating boundaries goes with the territory of intimate relationship, don't you? - I mean even with the best intentions on the world, it's our loved ones who cop it when we're unskilful - and who isn't? I know I am frequently. Something about our boundaries (in the nicest way) being lowered when we love - but that also means the destroying tide can so easily breach the lowered seawalls by the same token. Am sure you'd agree? Love, Rx

  6. Absolutely agree, Roselle. I suppose that's what I was getting at in my blurt-everything-out mood the other day (here, above!) It's only too easy with loved ones to feel the blurring of boundaries, often when you want to help them most and I know I don't always do it in the most tactful way. But to be perfectly honest and open – in retrospect – I just felt I'd gone too far with my first reply above (tail-end bit) and could see that my rather egocentric 'open honesty' might for some feel invasive! I hope not.
    With love from rain-soaked Avon Valley – water rising fast again.

  7. Oh Miriam I was very touched by your openness and willingness to be visible! But I can always delete that if you'd rather - but be assured that it didn't feel at all egocentric nor invasive to my mind! With love - and yes in raininess - Rx

  8. Thanks Roselle – am also touched by your understanding. If you're happy then no need to delete – just in case someone out there finds it helpful.

    Unrelated: have just emailed you about Mentoring. We're contactable by email in E'burgh, back home 23rd.
    Love, Miriam.


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