Speaking in Symbols

Learning the language of the subconcious

Archive for the category “knowledge”

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.

Tough and Tender

A few days ago, someone I’m friends with on Facebook posted a quote that starts out “We have enough women who are tough, we need more women who are tender” (The actual quote doesn’t matter, but if you’re interested, you can find the quote, and the talk it was taken from, here.) My response to this quote started out “sometimes a woman has to be tough to protect her tender heart.”

As I wrote my reply, and thought about a tough exterior to protect a tender interior, lychee fruit came to mind.

Lychee

For those who are botanically and culinarily deprived, the lychee is a fruit native to south-east Asia. About the size of a plum, it has a leathery skin that protects an milky, almost opalescent flesh. It’s smell has been described as “perfume-like”, and the taste is incredibly sweet and delicate.

I also happen to be allergic to lychee. The one time I’ve eaten it, my throat started to swell up. For me, lychee is quite literally a forbidden fruit.  So why had my mind placed it at the heart?

The lychee was a symbol for love, beauty, well-being, and sensuality in ancient China. (source). The syllables li-zhi (an alternative spelling/pronunciation of lychee) can also mean to produce money, and to have an heir (especially a son). Li is also a homonym for li, which means intelligent or clever (source).

Love, beauty, well-being, sensuality, children, and intelligence all make sense placed at thelychee heart heart.  But the problem of my allergy keeps coming to the surface–I don’t think I’d ever heard of these symbols before researching this image of a lychee placed at the heart, so I don’t know how much my subconscious was utilizing them. It is true that I have avoided becoming romantically involved with another person. I identify as asexual, bi-romantic (meaning I don’t want sex, but I’m aesthetically and emotionally drawn to both men and women). Along with my sexual orientation, my personality is such  that it would be very easy for me to become a victim in an abusive relationship. To protect myself from this, I have avoided getting involved in romantic relationships.

Perhaps, then my subconscious was linking the good qualities I knew about the lychee–it’s fragrance, it’s taste, it’s beautiful flesh–to the world of relationships. On one level, I know they are good, but on another level, I’m afraid of getting hurt, so I don’t pursue them.

Anna Lee Merritt "Eve"Western tradition and philosophy doesn’t have anything to say (that I could find) about lychee, but it does have much to say about forbidden fruit. The lychee is a desirable fruit, and one that is forbidden to me. (if I eat it I would surely die. Especially if I didn’t have any Benadryl or an Epi-pen handy.) The tree that Eve ate from, which resulted in her and Adam being expelled from the Garden of Eden, was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, often referred to simply as “The Tree of Knowledge”.

I had put a forbidden fruit at my heart.

I am a Mormon, though not a very active one. I grew up in a tradition that says that Eve’s actions were good and noble and necessary for mankind’s spiritual development, and eternal progress. With this background, a forbidden fruit at the heart isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and when I change the name from “forbidden fruit” to “knowledge”, then it becomes a very good thing indeed.

I have a personal symbol. Something of a crest. It is an open book, overlaying a heart. I Book heartuse it to mean “wisdom”, and it has come to represent both me and my journey to overcome depression.

Breaking this symbol up, the book represents knowledge, and the heart compassionate and wise application of that knowledge. This, to me, is wisdom. Knowledge of good and evil makes this combination an even more potent symbol of wisdom.

So, then, it makes sense that my subconscious would put a forbidden fruit, fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, at the heart. It then becomes a reminder to be wise, especially when choosing between the good and the evil.

The wonderful thing about symbols is that they can mean more than one thing. So, in this case, the image of a lychee used as symbol for the heart can be a kick in the pants to me about my relationships, or lack thereof, and a reminder to be wise.  Ignoring my allergies, the leathery, ugly exterior covering a sweet and beautiful flesh is a reminder to look beyond the exterior into another person’s heart. And maybe a reminder to look more tenderly at my own.

 

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