Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Hag Bound in the Roots

This morning, just before waking, I dreamed that I was helping a collection of (male) astronauts train to go into space. I was in charge of helping them, and organizing the training. But it was not going well. Two other trainers (female) were, intentionally or unintentionally, sabotaging the effort. They spread rumors, sent inappropriate gifts at bad times, and so on. For example, they had a car delivered, as a present, to an astronaut in the middle of a crucial bit of training. The astronauts and I knew what they were up to; and we were tired of it and frustrated. But there was nothing we could do.

The issue of sabotage -- especially subconscious passive-agressive sabotage -- has been forefront in my mind lately. Despite my best efforts on the conscious level, I've found that I've been subconsciously working against myself, as if some part of myself wanted me to fail. This has happened in everything from doing the dishes to my work with Amazon, and all sorts of levels in between. I've washed the same dishes multiple times, without realizing it, and without really getting them clean. I've subconsciously taken a passive, unassuming role at work, allowing opportunities to pass by and projecting an air of being unambitious. And I've sabotaged planning our vacations, ordering our finances, and my own health.

It's become increasingly clear that some part of my personality is not pleased, and is trying to "break" things. The dream showed me this quite literally; and the association of astronauts with the Apollo program (!) suggested that my patron, Apollo, was the primary target here. But what part of me was behind it? Who was the saboteur? The dream suggested that there was some "feminine" aspect, but beyond that I had no clue.

Before I got out of bed I decided to do a meditative technique that has worked well for me in the past: returning to the dream in visualization, and dialoguing with the dream characters. This works best if you do it right after waking up.

I tried to find and visit the women. I called first for my anima, who has served as a strong link to my intuitive side, and she came. When I first met her a few years ago, she was a beautiful young woman with fiery hair (rather like Merida of the Brave movie, but this was back in 2006), but ever since shortly before moving to Seattle, she has, for some reason, appeared only as a mute, sexless Earth spirit, rather like a cross between a gnome and a beet.

Today, however, she took the form of a whole horde of (actually rather unpleasant) earth spirits. They led me to a dank, overgrown place in the woods, where an old woman sat under an embankment. She was dressed in tatters and was herself overgrown with vines, lichen, cobwebs, roots, and so on. These held her motionless, especially her hands, the fingernails of which were so long and tangled with roots and vines they seemed to be grown into the earth. She was sitting at a desk, an unfinished manuscript next to her.

The symbolism here was so blindingly obvious: she's that part of myself that feels like it never has time to get any writing done. It was terribly clichéd, but the feeling of it was nevertheless very strong.

My first impulse, of course, was to try and cut her free. But I realized that doing so might prevent her from being able to complete her project. Her bottom half was dead or crippled; she would not be able to walk at all. She was half-alive. In a way, she was Hel, Loki's (and Odin's) daughter. And my feeling was that this sickness, or perhaps this brokenness, created the art.

I wasn't sure what to do. I had an urge to try and take her to the City of the Sidhe for healing. But I'm frozen, not sure if I can, or if they can even help her.

That morning, I discussed the dream with Alison. She pointed out to me that I've been griping about not having enough time to write ever since she's known me. Is this desire to write healthy? Is it, itself, a trap? Is it possible that this desire to write is what's trapping the woman at the desk?

I wanted to get to the bottom of it, so I went to the big guns: my Buddhist Tarot deck. For some reason, this deck has always seemed to me to cut most deeply to the heart of matters, and to give me the most reliable advice and guidance.

I primarily wanted to know who this old woman was, and what my relationship was with her; so I chose a Relationship spread which provided three cards each for myself, the old woman, and our relationship. There would also be three final cards of advice. Once I did the reading and some meditating, I asked Alison to give her interpretation.

Three cards for self (left to right):

  • Buddha of Jewels (King of Pentacles)
  • Ace of Double Vajras (Ace of Cups)
  • Young Siddhartha (Emperor).

This set of cards focuses on my projects, my job, and my plans for the future. Alison agreed, and noted that the two cards on the edge provide a safe, structured space for the expression of the wellspring of emotion in the center.

Three cards for the old woman in the forest (left to right):

  • Peacock - Animal of Lotuses (Page of Wands)
  • Yasodara and Siddhartha (Lovers)
  • Flag of Victory (Six of Wands).

It came to me that this old woman probably was my anima. The fact that she was merging with the earth in the meditation matched up with the earth spirits I got instead of her when I usually meditated. She is bound up with the earth, on the edge of death, and doesn't like it. The cards seemed to be indicating that love was drawing her in two directions; she had to make some kind of choice she was unhappy about.

Alison's interpretation was that she wanted to have the freedom and vitality of the animal (peacock), but perhaps coming to realize (like Siddhartha) that there was only death that way. Instead she was turning towards the deeper love, the long-fought hard-won victory.

Three cards for the relationship (left to right):

  • Four of Jewels (4 Pentacles)
  • Seven of Double Vajras (7 Cups)
  • Buddha and Sakti (the Sun)

It seems clear from the Four of Jewels that I am trying to impose some kind of structure on her, but I cannot see her; she is veiled by some illusion I have. Her true nature is closer to the Sun, just as I saw before the connection between the anima and Bel. Alison noted that the Seven of Cups does not necessarily refer to illusion, but it is a choice; and one of the choices -- often the veiled choice -- is the true self. In this reading, the Sun is the revelation of the anima's true self, and Alison zeroes in on the 'release' or 'middle way' aspect of the Buddha's enlightenment. Perhaps I am trying too hard to hold on to something -- some expectation, or formula, or plan, or structure -- and need to release it to allow the relationship to flourish. But the Buddha and Sakti card hints at the powerfully positive relationship that can develop.

Three cards of advice:

  • 9 Double Vajras (Cups)
  • 9 Vajras (Swords)
  • 5 Double Vajras (5 Cups).

The Nine of Double Vajras shows the mudra of the Buddha touching the earth, calling Her as his witness. The earth remembers what you have done, the earth knows your true self, and the earth will always support you. This card serves as a reminder of that. The Nine of Vajras is a card of worry and fear; it's reminding me to turn away from that. Finally, the Five of Double Vajras, the spilled milk, is a reminder that sometimes milk spills -- and sometimes that's what should happen.

I was also reminded of the steampunk voyage reading I did a year ago (which I never did write up properly). In that reading, one of my fellow voyagers was a woman I identified as representing my 'writerly' side. I didn't think she was my anima at the time, but perhaps she was -- or at least, some part of her. She was most seriously hurt by the spinning metal ball, and went into a coma (between life and death) as we hid in a cave (more death symbolism). That night I carried her into the Lost City (a dead city) hoping to find a cure, and found the Tomb of the Red Emperor (more death). Going back in time, we were able to meet the Red Emperor in person, and find a cure for her. This ties in with the old woman in the forest being half-dead as well. I suspect this is quite an epic tale being spun out here...

Alison wondered if zazen (or similar meditation that simply provides a safe space for expression of subconscious) would be a good way to start releasing structures and expectations for my anima. She also suggested performing ritual or acts to honor the earth and see its virtues, to help my anima see that the vegetation of the earth is just as "alive" as the peacock.

Later in the day Alison happened upon the myth of Sir Gawain, who is forced by honor to marry a hag.
"Gawain assents to treat his new bride as he would if she were desirable, and go to bed with her as a dutiful husband is expected to do. When he looks up, he is astonished to see the most beautiful woman he has ever seen standing before him. She explains she had been under a spell to look like a hag until a good knight married her; now her looks will be restored half the day. She gives him the choice to have her beautiful at night, when they are together, or during the day, when they are with others. Instead, he gives her the sovereyntĂ© to make the choice herself. This answer lifts the curse for good, and Ragnelle's beauty returns permanently." (Wikipedia)
So again, we have the theme of allowing the woman the freedom to make her own choices, rather than trying to organize or control matters.

I was reminded also of Odin visiting the dead prophetess and gaining insight into Ragnarok, as told in the Voluspa. In a lot of Germanic folklore, the seers were always women; and the dead, of course, could see further than the living.

So: a lot to think about. :) I have to admit to myself that I do indeed have a very strong desire to merge my creative / artistic side with my professional work, since working can be such a drag sometimes, especially with its stressful, capitalistic soul-sucking. But perhaps the lady will simply not be bound in that way. I will sit still and silent, and see what she does.

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