Speaking in Symbols

Learning the language of the subconcious

Archive for the tag “symbol”

Crickets and Cockroaches

Recently, my anxiety has been out of control. I’ve had a hard time even leaving the house. My parents, in their wisdom, had me come spend some time at their house, and got me a doctors appointment to talk about the medication I’m on. In short, the doctor became the third diagnostician to say “bipolar” about me, and prescribed lithium–which, so far, has the side effect of planting a Nirvana earworm in my head whenever I even look at my pill bottle.

So, with that rather long and personal introduction, the night before my doctors appointment, I saw a black insect scurrying about the bedroom. It looked to me like a cockroach. I saw it again the next night, this time, with less scurrying , and I realized that it was a cricket.

Both the cockroach and the cricket have potent symbolism attached to them. I found it interesting that they are visually similar, and have nearly identical diets, but they are regarded so differently–as a personal note, I had no problem scooping up a cricket and depositing her on a plant outside, where a cockroach is to be killed on site.

cockroachCockroaches are, well, unpleasant. They are indicative of death, decay and filth. The naturalist in me can admire them for their tenacity and adaptability, but there’s something about them that is just…gross. They symbolize a desire to pull back from the world, to focus on survival. While Kafka never uses the word “cockroach”, the symbolism of cockroaches speak very strongly to his “The Metamorphosis“. The character of Gregor Samsa is often depicted as a cockroach or a cockroach-like creature in the art surrounding the story (as an aside, I once had a literature teacher who was a native of Germany. She would be appalled to see me write “Samsa” and “cockroach” in the same sentence.)

cricketWhile I was able to find some positive symbolism of cockroaches, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disgust and loathing surrounding them. Crickets, on the other hand, seem much more positive.  The cricket’s song is a staple of summer nights, and is something I consider comforting to hear. A cricket in the house symbolizes luck or fortune to come in some cultures (a token I destroyed by ushering my guest out the door). The character of Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio (at least the Disney version) and Chester Cricket from “The Cricket in Times Square” bring an air of cunning and wisdom to the cricket archetype.

The most striking thing to me about my visitor was that before my medication change, I thought it was a cockroach. After, I saw that it was really a cricket. The symbols around me lately have been urging a change, while being vague about what needed to change. I’ve been getting a lot of death symbols–a category where the cockroach fits nicely–and the non-death symbols all pointed towards movement, as does the cricket’s hopping form of locomotion.

I’m not faithful or conceited enough to think that God or the universe or whatever drops signs into my lap. I do, however, believe that my subconscious causes me to notice things in a timely manner. I can’t fathom the cockroach-turned-cricket as anything other than a coincidence, but I’m glad that it happened. And I hope that as my new medication starts to kick in, the world will be filled with more crickets, and fewer cockroaches.

“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.

 

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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