Speaking in Symbols

Learning the language of the subconcious

Archive for the tag “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.

 

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.

 

Of Kings and Slaves

I have had two figures that have been reoccurring in my dreams recently, the figure of a king, and the figure of a slave.  Thoughking and slave their appearance change, they always show up together, and I have an innate knowledge that they are the same person.

While trying to figure out the best way to represent the sameness and the difference between the king and the slave, drawing them as a Janus, or bifrons, figure made the most sense.

Janus was the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He was often depicted as having two faces, because he could see into the future, and into the past.  To  me a Janus figure represents a dual nature, in this case, the extremes of power–an all powerful king, and a lowly slave.

 

The image of a king is one of power and responsibility. He holds the wealth of nations, he isking card the ultimate authority.  He is the decision-maker, and the results of his (and other’s) decision rest firmly on his shoulders.  He is a masculine power. He is the closest thing to a god on the earth.

In further exploring the symbolism of the king, the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King came to mind. The Fisher King was the last in a long line charged with protecting the grail. He was wounded in the leg or groin, and his health was reflected in the well-being of his kingdom–upon receiving the crippling wound, his kingdom became an uninhabitable wasteland.  The health then of the king archetype is a reflection of my mental health.  Unfortunately, determining the well-being of my king has proven to be a difficult task.

There is a great deal of anxiety attached to the image of the king for me.  For all the good, benevolent and compassionate deeds he preforms, he is also a stubborn, proud tyrant. I have a flowchart in my art journal under the entry for king;  anxiety<–tyranny–>discipline.  The way that the tyranny of my inner king is directed, if it is towards anxiety or discipline, has a profound impact on my mental well-being.

 

 

slaveIf I look at the slave that always accompanies my king, I see a puppet, a tool, a thing to be used. Even though the slave in my dreams is always male, the archetype of the slave is a female power, and as I was exploring the symbolism of the slave, it became natural to write about it with female pronouns.

The slave is more flexible and adaptable than the king. Her road is a tough one, but it is also the path of least resistance. She knows she will never “get ahead” in life, and she’s content with this.  Her existence is based solely on serving others, she is the epitome of humility.

In a way, I found more freedom in the slave image than in the king image. The slave doesn’t have to make the tough decisions, and she doesn’t take responsibility for her mistakes. But this is a trade-off for a comfortable life.  She has traded comfort for ease. She also believes that her worth comes solely from what she does.

I spoke to my sister on the phone while I was researching the characteristics of the slave. We were talking about some of the causes that I am passionate about (victims rights, feminism, education, etc). I expressed a wish to be able to do more, and she said “You don’t have to save everyone”. This struck a deep chord in me. I don’t think the slave knows that she doesn’t have to save everyone except herself.  She doesn’t see herself as worth saving.

 

The most important thing about these archetypes is that they always appear together. I never see the king without the Balanceslave, and I never see the slave without the king. They are one and the same.  There is a balance to be made between these two extremes.

I think that everyone has a dual nature, that we all have our extremes. The idea that I need to find my center, find my balance is one that has been overwhelming to me lately, mostly because I don’t know how I’m out of balance, I don’t know what side of the scale is lacking, so to speak.

Perhaps it isn’t so much that I’m out of balance, but the things that I’m using to find my balance is off–it does no good to counter the arrogance of a king with the fatalism of a slave, for instance.

The combination of the king and the slave also bring to mind the Christian God, with the kingly representation of God the Father, and the lowly Jesus of Nazareth. It is possible that I am being told to become closer to God, I don’t think that is the whole of the message.

I have worked on decoding the meaning of the king and the slave for a long time now, and I don’t think that I’m anywhere near having it all figured out.

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