Speaking in Symbols

Learning the language of the subconcious

Archive for the tag “dreams”

“The dagger represents you completely”

A few nights ago, I had a dream. I dreamed I was at a seance (for lack of a better term). I was in a small room dominated by a large table, with many people gathered around. The walls were covered with pictures, plates, and other tchotchkes. The table was covered in a cloth, with many random images painted onto the fabric. The table was also bisected with a line of ash.

The man leading the séance (or whatever it was) instructed us to gather as closely around the table as we could, but to be careful not to touch the line of ash. He began by talking to a young man a bit to my right. As he pointed out symbols on the wall and on the table-cloth that represented the young man, his thoughts, feelings and desires, I unconsciously leaned forward to listen, resting my arms on the table, and disturbed the line of ash.

Pre-Roman Iberian iron dagger forged between the middle of the 5th century BCE and the 3rd century BCE. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Pre-Roman Iberian iron dagger  Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The man turned to me and called me by name–which startled me, because most people mispronounce my name the first time around. He said that I should not have been able to touch the ash, and that in doing so, proved that I had a great potential. He then pointed to an image of a knife on the tablecloth. He said “The dagger represents you completely.”

This dream, especially this line from the dream, have been subject to a great deal of scrutiny and confusion since that time.

A dagger is a weapon, pure and simple. It is designed to stab and slash–it is not a tool for, say working with food or skinning an animal.  It is ancient, with daggers being found from the neolithic era.

It is also a very masculine, aggressive symbol.  It represents conquer and aggression.  Everything about a dagger speaks of aggression, of force, and power. It is a tool of betrayal–to be an effective weapon, the wielder of a dagger has to be close to his victim.

In short, I couldn’t find much of anything to reconcile the dagger as a symbol for myself.

A few days of pondering this dream, and the thought came to me “What makes you think he was telling the truth?”

Huh.

I’ve been dealing with major depressive disorder for over 20 years now. That voice inside that’s telling me that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not ANYTHING enough is very familiar to me, and I’m still learning to control it. The thing about that voice is that logically, I know it’s a product of my brain not processing chemicals correctly. Emotionally, it’s really hard to ignore.

By realizing the man in my dreams was a liar, it puts a face to my depression (which would be infinitely more useful if I could remember his face). It also shifts the important symbolism of that dream away from the dagger, and onto other elements–the ash, perhaps, or the fish and rice that played a role in a different part of the dream.

In speaking about depth psychology to my therapist, she said that learning these symbols is like learning the language of the soul. Different symbols, different images will have different meanings to different people. While books and websites like the ones i use as reference materials are helpful, I’m really the only one who can interpret what my soul is saying, and what my personal symbols are.

And that includes characters from my dreams.

 

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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