Sunday, August 30, 2015

Traversing that mythological realm between shore and sea

Face-to-Face with Nixie, the Shapeshifter
CC Jean Stimmell: 8/28/15

Wandering along a deserted section of Great Bay, imagine my surprise when I came face-to-face with the most amazing apparition. I discovered, after doing some research, that I had stumbled upon Nixie, a female German water-fairy. Though often described as human-shaped, Nixie is a shapeshifter and can assume any form, including that of an alluring horse.  Nixie comes on shore to dance with humans but she is not harmless: she can also use her music to lure people into the water so she can drown them. Nixie offers assistance to women in labor but also steals children and replace them with changelings. Thus, it pays to be on your toes when you traverse that mythological realm between shore and sea.

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 traditional  cultures have always known because, rather than being cognitively divorced, indigenous people are intimately held within the embrace of mother nature 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.