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.
It’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. 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.
The 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.