Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bones are more important than you may think…

Offering to the gods
CC Jean Stimmell: August 21, 2015
Mircea Eliade reminds us modern Western folks– addicted as we are to rational thought and mathematical algorithms –why bones are so existentially important, something all traditional  cultures have always understood because, rather than being cognitively divorced, indigenous people's way of being is intimately interwoven within the web of life.

"Indeed, for the hunting peoples, the bone symbolizes the ultimate root of animal Life, the matrix from which the flesh is continually renewed. It is starting with the bones that animals and men are re-born; they maintain themselves awhile in carnal existence, and when they die their "life" is reduced to the essence concentrated in the skeleton, whence they will be born anew according to an uninterrupted cycle that constitutes an eternal return. It is duration alone, time, which breaks and separates, by the intervals of carnal existence, the timeless unity represented by the quintessence of Life concentrated in the bones. By contemplating himself as a skeleton, the shaman does away with time and stands in the presence of the eternal source of Life."[1] 

[1] Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries: The Encounter Between Contemporary Faiths and Archaic Realities.pp 83-84. Also see 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Facing My Shadow

Facing My Shadow
CC Jean Stimmell: August 2015

While meditating, I had a startlingly real, dream-like vision of being chased by a malevolent presence until rubber-legged and exhausted, I was able to run no more. To my immense surprise, when I turned around to face my fate, I found out the dreaded enemy was me, my split-off, vulnerable, frightened-to-death self, in need of understanding, compassion and love.

My experience is similar to what happened in a masterful, mythological fantasy written by Ursula Le Guin, I was first exposed to in graduate school 20-years ago: Ursula’s protagonist, Ged, was also being relentlessly pursued by a fearsome presence, yet when he finally turned to face the shadow, Ged discovered they were both one:

“Ged took hold of his shadow, of the black self that reached out to him. Light and darkness met, and joined, and were one.” [1]

Through the voice of Ged’s friend, Ursula goes on to say: “Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself…”[2] Ged gained this power because he was no longer divided against himself; he no longer has to live in fear of being punished by higher powers who turn out to be, when confronted, only phantom shadows.

I take this daydream vision, as well as several of my recent dreams, as a sign that the armor of my ego is softening and starting to crack open, opening up the possibility of entering a higher consciousness and a deeper spirituality. But I know full well not to take anything for granted. Nothing in this world is certain and, in order to allow my fate to unfold, I must maintain a total commitment to “not knowing.”

As the Jungian analyst, Barbara Sullivan, wisely says,  “We need to find ways to swim in the murky waters of our lostness rather than getting out of the water to live in certainty."[3] My goal is to dive ever deeper in the waters of my emotions, not get out!

I have written a lot about this in my blog, my journey to descend from the tender-dry, joyless, abstracted certainty of the thinking mind to immerse myself in the Waters of Life: my emotions, my body, my sense of place within Mother Earth’s embrace.

[1] Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea, p. 179
[2] Ibid. p. 180
[3] Barbara Stevens Sullivan, The Mystery of Analytical Work, Weavings from Jung and Bion, page 29

Monday, August 17, 2015

Clytie’s plight after being betrayed by the Sun

A  black and white rendition of one of my beloved sunflowers
CC Jean Stimmell 8/17/15
I have always tended to view sunflowers as positive, personifying life and transcendence. Most people do: in the literature, sunflowers are most often associated with truth, loyalty, and honesty.

But, if you are a Jungian, you know that everything has a shadow side. The Sunflower’s shadow side – including betrayal, jealousy, rage, grief, misogyny – is illustrated in the following story I have cobbled together from various renditions springing from Greek and Roman mythology. 

Clytie’s plight after being betrayed by the sun

Clytie was an ocean nymph, daughter of the Titans Oceanos and Tethys.  She was loved by the Sun, who could be either Helios or Apollo depending on the version of the myth; in return, Clytie loved the Sun with all her heart. Then the Sun broke off the relationship, deserting her for another woman.

When Helios abandoned her for Leucothea, Clytie was so hurt and angered by his betrayal that she told Leucothea’s father, Orchamus, about the affair. Since the Sun had defiled Leucothea, Orchamus had her put to death by burial alive in the sands. Clytie intended to win Helios back by taking away his new love, but her actions only hardened his heart against her. She stripped herself and sat naked, with neither food nor drink, for nine days on the rocks, staring at the sun, Helios, and mourning his departure. After nine days she was transformed into a heliotrope (a flower known for growing on those sunny, rocky hillsides), which turns its head always to look longingly at Helios' chariot of the sun. Modern narratives of this myth have substituted the sunflower for the heliotrope. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015


CC Jean Stimmell 2015
Days of pain after my operation unhinged spasms of activity.
For no good reasons, I took my camera outside
and took shots of the richly textured leaves
of our 12’ tall, Mammoth Sunflowers.

Then I found myself using the sunflowers
as a stage to introduce new objects,
like the pelvis and backbone
of a winter-killed deer
that our hound dog
had carted home.

When I processed the images in my digital darkroom,
one photograph, in particular, jumped out at me:
The composition was dynamic
and embraced the ALL:
Death and Rebirth
Yin and Yang.

Looking more closely, I exclaimed, “oh my god,
it looks like Jesus on the Cross.”
At that very instant I knew
 what the title must be:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Raven myth is my reality

CC Jean Stimmell
It’s funny how Raven has come to me in times of danger and spiritual need.  Raven first appeared to me over 10 years ago at the end of a vision quest while I sat on a ridge bordering a chasm in the deep woods far behind my house. Raven, perched unknown to me at the top of the tree I was sitting under, squawked, thus revealing herself for the first time. I nearly dismissed her as an hallucination. 

Around seven years ago, Raven reappeared after I was first diagnosed with melanoma cancer which the doctors feared had metastasized – but it turned out surgery was able to catch it in time.  

Again this Spring I blogged about being being visited by Raven, circling around my yard, looking for carrion and I told her I wasn’t ready to go yet. ⁠1Two months later I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 

Then last week, Raven beckoned again from the tall tree by my house: Raven squawked and I answered. She flew in a circle above my head and flew off to the west.

Over the years I have made art featuring ravens. One image is featured above, a photo montage of two of my photographs: A Raven taken on a beach in Point Reyes California superimposed onto a Cape Cod beach at sunset in which I have replaced the the raven’s eye with the setting sun.

Recently I got a different take on my intuitive pairing of Raven with the sun after wandering into a Native American gift shop in Portsmouth. I was immediately drawn to a miniature raven carved from stone which captured her trickster nature because of what looked like a stolen berry she was carrying in her beak. 

I felt a kinship with this little sculpture and decided to buy it as a good omen for my upcoming operation. When I went to pay for it, the owner told me Raven carried, not a stolen berry in her beak but the sun itself. She asked if I knew the mythological story of Raven and the Sun – which I did not. Here is one version:

“For the traditional story of "Raven Steals the Sun/Light", it is difficult to say where the origins of this myth are, but there are many variations and versions of this story up and down the west coast of North America [as well as in the Midwest and the East]…It is central to the Northwest Indian's spiritual beliefs. Just as western religion suggests that the world was void of light in the beginning, so too does this.”

“In many versions Raven steals the Sun from the Old Man who had hidden it away to keep for himself, thus returning the Sun to the Sky and to the People who have been in the dark for a long time.”⁠2 

Raven is my spiritual animal in all her aspects, both as a trickster and a benevolent transformer who helps people and shapes their world for them. Certainly, Raven has always been there for me when I needed her most.

Best yet, I know Raven is not here just for me but to rescue all us two-legged ones from the Old Man who has conquered our world again, pretending this time to be our savior when, in fact, he is the agent of colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism.

The reality of our situation resides in myth: the Old Man is still the greedy thief, stealing the Sun, plunging the people back into oppression and darkness. Luckily, Raven is here to return the sun back to the sky and to we, the People, who have been in the dark for too long.