Speaking in Symbols

Learning the language of the subconcious

Archive for the category “balance”

Suicide as Symbol

I’ve been spending a lot of time, lately, trying to be more cognizant of the symbols around me, especially those that show up in dreams. I’ve mentioned my depression before, and it seems that when it rears it’s ugly head, doing anything, especially something that might lead to getting better, becomes difficult to the point of being impossible.

I’d like to state, that, despite being in a dark place, and despite the symbols of death and suicide that I’m going to examine in this post, I am not currently suicidal. I have been, as recently as January, but right now, I am not seeking my own death.

If you are, suicidal or otherwise considering hurting yourself, please get help. There’s the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as numerous local helplines. If you’re the religious type, talk to your pastor. And, in the very worst case scenario, go to the emergency room. I know how dark and scary it is standing on that brink, but I also know that it can and will get better.

I’m also still hanging out at my parent’s house as I write this post, so I don’t have access to the books that I use to look up symbolism. I’m going off of what I wrote in my art/symbol journal. I’d also like to reiterate that when I talk about symbols, I’m bringing up what they mean to me–in no way am I writing a comprehensive symbol encyclopedia.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those dreams that is so powerful, it stays with you. In this dream, I have broken in to the school where my mom used to teach. I’ve gone there with the intention of hanging myself. I went first to her classroom, and, using her key, let myself in. I stand in the middle of the room for a while just breathing in the scent. I want to remember the way it smelled.

I then go to another wing of the school, and break into a random classroom, this time, picking the lock. Once there, I stood on a desk and looped a rope through the drop ceiling, and hanged myself.

Searching out the symbols in this dream have been difficult, naturally. It makes me wonder why my subconscious can’t be giving me rainbows and puppies and unicorns, but it is what it is.

astral-tarot-hanged-manI kept coming back to the tarot when looking for these symbols–specifically, the Hanged Man, and the Death card. Now, I’ve tried tarot, but the cards just don’t “speak” to me–and I’m slightly jealous of those who can read and understand the cards. If you are such a person, and see that I’ve missed something in my interpretations, please let me know in the comments. All that I’ve written here comes courtesy of Google.

Anyway, Suicide by hanging.  Suicide is the act of ultimate despair. It’s forcing and ending by taking matters into your own hands. In the western world, it’s wildly perceived as the ultimate sin, while in the east, it’s more of a mixed bag. Hanging is a disgraceful way of dying, especially in places that execute criminals on the gallows. It’s also one that’s very easy to arrange. You can walk into any hardware store or sporting goods store and buy rope with no background checks or waiting period.

The Hanged Man of the tarot is hanging from the World Tree, like Odin seeking wisdom. He symbolises suspended action, feeling of being stuck, and sacrificing for a higher goal.

tollundman4

While researching symbolism of hanging, Tollund Man came to mind. This man lived and died in the 4th Century BCE in Denmark. Now, Tollund Man probably died by strangulation, not hanging, but the noose was left around his neck.

I don’t know if I have a genetic connection to Tollund Man, but I do know I have Danish ancestry, and it’s likely my ancestors worshiped in the same manner as those who sacrificed Tollund Man. (I am interested in learning about Pre-Roman Europe, especially the religion, but, alas, there’s just not that much information.) We can speculate as to why Tollund Man, and the other bog bodies were sacrificed, but, unfortunately, if there is a definitive answer, I could not find it. Tollund Man for me represents family, however distant, and the religious traditions that I don’t believe in anymore. He also becomes a symbol of mysticism, in that I don’t know why he was sacrificed, what god or gods the people were trying to appease (or even if he was a criminal or prisoner of war, rather than a religious sacrifice). He, and the culture he comes from, represents a lost knowledge, something for which there are currently not answers.

DeathFor all the negative imagery, death, in the Tarot, at least, is a positive thing. It represents change, endings, the old giving way to the new.  I don’t know if I’ve talked about soil on this blog or not, but I know I’ve mentioned it with my therapist. The individual bits of soil–manure, dust, rotted leaves and other organic matter–are vile things, but when they are combined together, they create something beautiful and useful. Without death, not only would the world be over-crowded, but nothing new could grow.

In the modern, Western world we are removed from death, while for the generations before us, death was simply a part of life. So death, for me, becomes a symbol of knowledge lost.

800px-Standard-lock-keyThe other powerful image in this dream is that of a key. I let myself into the school, I didn’t break in to the school, and it wasn’t my intent to cause property damage–I didn’t want to harm anything but myself.

In this light, the key represents being in charge of my own destiny, controlling what the change is I need to make in my life. A key can open or close, lock or unlock. Keys are associated with 5f22683e4576b147cb783984111263c4Janus, whom I’ve written about before. The image of a two-faced person, especially when the two faces represent opposites, has been a reoccurring symbol for me, and one that I’ve adopted to represent myself.  I especially like this particular image, where the balance is between male and female figures.

As I was looking over these symbols and images in my art journal, I realized that they are all about being stagnant, standing still, and stopping, as well as being indicators of change. This flat out scare me. I tend to get comfortable in my ruts, and being forced out of them, even when it’s for my own good, is always a painful experience.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d been getting a lot of images about death and change, and this is only a small sampling of those symbols. I don’t know if the change I’m being asked to make is related to my recent medication change, or if there’s still something else that I need to do.

 

Eye, aye, I.

It’s been how long since I’ve blogged? Ahem.

Without going into too many details, the past few months have been challenging. Between family drama, having a nervous breakdown (I’m better now, thanks!) my computer giving up the ghost and not being able to replace it until I got a tax return…

Well, I’m back now.

I don’t really have reoccurring dreams. What I have is reoccurring dream settings. Not long ago, I found myself in one of these settings, an old Mormon pioneer Tabernacle.

So, for my non-Utah readers, let me explain. Temples and tabernacles are both places of worship, but the temple is only for members of the Church who meet certain moral requirements, like attending church regularly, not Blogdrinking  coffee or tea, and paying tithing. Tabernacles are meeting halls, similar to cathedrals, where anyone can come in. Often times, the doors of the tabernacles are open to the community at large, and host things like graduation, concerts, and inter-faith worship services.

Some of these tabernacles feature the Eye of Providence, or the all-seeing eye of God . This picture is from the St. George, Utah, tabernacle. The tabernacle in my dream also has an eye, and in this particular instance, the eye seemed to be the most important thing.

After this dream, I began to see eyes EVERYWHERE. I don’t mean in people and animals, I mean in graffiti, random shapes in nature, jewelry, etc. Every time I saw a circle or an oval with something in the middle, it became an eye. I picked  up new book, and in the first paragraph, the author describes being in the Pantheon in Rome, and looking out the Oculus at the sky.  Clearly this is a symbol I need to pay attention to.

As I pondered on eyes, the word itself struck me–namely, the three English homophones for eye. There’s eye, like the ocular organ, that allows us to see. There is I, as in myself, and there is aye, as in yes.

220px-Blue_eyes

Humans are primarily visual creatures. While the other senses are important, we generally observe our world through our eyes. And as such, the eye has taken on a mystical element. We have such expressions as “the eye is the window to the soul”. We say a clairvoyant has a “third eye”, and those who wish to do us harm cast an evil eye on us–the charms in the picture to the right are to ward off such evil.

So eyes equal sight, as well as magical powers. For me, it became a realization that I needed to really look, to see.

But what do I need to see. I. I need to see myself. I need to examine the “I”, the me. The eye symbolism was telling me how I needed to do it too–aye. Yes. Positive.

The symbols of the eye that were popping out all over the place are telling me that I need to see myself in a positive light.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. But it is important, and it is a thing that I’m working on.

The Sow, the Horse, and the Butterfly, Pt 3

During a recent meditative session, I had the image of a sow, a black horse, and a brown butterfly come to mind in succession.  I’ve found all of these images fascinating, though I’ve had a hard time coming up with a connection. Perhaps they are all symbols that I need to consider individually.

For several days now, I have also tried to combine all three images into one big blog post, with little success. I’ve made a decision, then, to write separate posts for each animal.

The Butterfly:

Niagra Brown ButterflyFinding a link between the sow and the horse proved to be a fairly easy task. The butterfly, though, seems to carry the same weight, metaphorically speaking, as the two larger animals. Finding a link between all three has proven much more difficult.

Taken individually, the butterfly is fascinating. The life-cycle of a butterfly speaks of change and rebirth. Caterpillars my be comfortable and content the way they are, but until they pupate and then emerge as butterflies, they do not reach their full potential. For many cultures, butterflies represent the souls of the departed. It is seen as a keeper of the faith,

When the image of the butterfly came to me along side the images of the horse and the sow, it was vague and undefined. The following night, I dreamed I was examining the butterfly in detail. This is where the color brown came from, as well as the pattern on it wings.

scan0001In the morning, I used the highly sophisticated method of typing “brown butterfly with eyespots” into Google, then browsing the images. I didn’t find it, so I drew it as best I could (oil pastels again. I’m still working on precision with them).

Having a clearer vision of the butterfly certainly helps decipher it’s meaning. The brown color is reminiscent of the earth, as is the sow.  The shape of the eyespot  is called a circumpoint, and is an ancient symbol of the sun across many cultures. The horse is also strongly associated with the sun.

The curcumpoint is also a symbol for wholeness, and the spark of the divine. This is something that I’d discussed with my therapist earlier as being something I need to work on.

Every once in a while, I’ll see a butterfly that has been attacked by a bird, and is missing a portion of wing. Unbalanced in this way, the butterfly is made unable to fly, and is doomed to die shortly.

Balance is quickly becoming a theme of this blog, and of the work I’m doing with my therapist. It seems natural, then, that the color of earth and the symbol of the sun on the butterfly’s wings speak to that balance. These two factors also make the butterfly a linking characteristic between the sow and the horse.

There’s a little bit more, I think.  The sow and the horse are both earthbound creatures, while the butterfly lives a more carefree existence.  The butterfly is a reminder to enjoy life, with all it’s ups and downs.

 

Shadow monsters

As I’m learning about symbols, one of the things that I find fascinating is the division of masculine and feminine symbols and principles. On the masculine side, there tends to be things like the sun, the sky, light, inflation and stability, while on the feminine side, there are things like the moon, the earth, shadow and darkness, depression and chaos.

The feminist in me gets indignant over the idea that the masculine symbols tend to be positive, and the feminine symbols tend to be negative, and she is ready to go on a long rant about the patriarchal society–but I’ll save that for another blog.

There is a reason I’m bringing this up here, I promise.

 

Shadow monstersIt’s been about a week since this image came to me, and I began my research on it, so the details of what I was doing were a little fuzzy.

The details may be hard to see, but these three monsters are shadows cast by little people down at the bottom. I tried to make it look like the shadow was going across the floor, then up a wall, but I’m not sure how well I succeeded–this was also one of my first attempts at using oil pastels, so things aren’t as crisp and clear as I would like.

Artistic criticism aside, the more I study this image, the more interesting it gets.  My first impression was that the shadow monsters represent something hidden, some personal secret. Whatever is casting this shadow is completely overwhelming the people.  I saw this as an image of fear.

Looking at this image logically (a masculine trait), I can see that there is nothing to the monsters. They are just shadows, and shadows can’t hurt you. But when I bring emotion (a feminine trait) into the picture, I see fear and anxiety, and am reminded of a child who cannot sleep because he is frightened of the shadows in his room. No matter how logically you explain that there is nothing in the closet, nothing under the bed, and the scary shapes are the same things he sees during the day, it does nothing to comfort him.

I spoke in my last post, “Of Kings and Slaves“, of needing to find balance, and I think this image speaks of that. The shadow, the feminine, is overwhelming and scary, and masculine logic does nothing to ease the fear. By increasing the light, the masculine, the shadow monsters become stronger, more terrifying. Changing the angle of the light will diminish them, but it will not cause them to go away.

In speaking with my therapist, I came up with two ways to vanquish the monsters.light within our heart One, is to give each of the little people a light source, an internal light.  Doing this would allow each of the individuals to chase away the darkness in the shadow. For me, this inner light source is representative of God, spirituality, and self esteem. This is also the masculine way of doing things. By bringing additional light in additional places, it becomes a fight with the monsters. If I put the symbolism of spirituality aside, and  simply focus on the masculine method, this can be terribly destructive–think of the sun in a cloudless sky during the midst of a drought, for instance, or the destruction that is wrought by an out-of-control fire.

The light is good, certainly, but it is not the only way, and not necessarily the best way.

Tiers-of-night-sky_FullyM_001The second way to vanquish the shadow monsters would be to remove the light–without a light, no shadow can be cast. This would be a more traditionally feminine approach, It would involve figuring out the anxiety that the shadow monsters represent, and come to an understanding of a) why that situation would make me anxious, and b) coming to accept the anxiety as part of my life.

When this solution was first put to me, it seemed, well, scary. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I’ve spent more than 20 years fighting depression, maybe it’s time to listen to what it has to say. Besides, there is a great deal of beauty that can only be seen in the dark–as one who tries to star-gaze in an overly-lit neighborhood, I can certainly attest to that fact.  Still, too much shadow is also harmful, it leads to destruction through cold, rather than heat. And, without light, nothing can grow.

Whether I face these monsters in the light or in the shadow, there needs to be a balance reached. Combining the masculine and feminine methods will not destroy the monsters, but neither alone provides the answers for everything.

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