Sunday, June 27, 2010

When the Moon Casts a Woman Off

article by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

The moon and then
the Pleiades
go down


The night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am


in bed alone
—Sappho (1)

When the Moon Casts a Woman Off

The muse is erotic. This is well known to the men who adore her. For me, her erotic nature can show up unexpectedly, as it did in India, or as it did during that powerful transition in a woman’s life—menopause.

When the moon has cast a woman off, and she is running hot and cold in a confusion of purposes, body and soul fighting over the terms of their engagement, she may find herself lost, wandering about in a flat landscape, emptied of the drama of her cycles, unfamiliar to herself. When her soul, having lived in all the female places, isn’t sure where she lives anymore; when her mind loses track of itself and falls through the cracks in the floor of her brain; when her spirit is short of breath, confused by the weather, by sudden surges of heat that lack any erotic purpose; and her womb that has been telling time, keeping her in tune with the sea and its tides, goes silent, keeping its secrets inside; she may find herself thrown back to what called her before her first blood flowered, as though soul, mind, spirit, need to root themselves again in her beginnings; her life needs to come full circle. For me, that circle brings me back to a reverie about my early sexual stirrings, and a fantasy about Sappho.

Sappho. Have you heard of Sappho? She lived 2600 years ago, in a time when the division between the erotic and the sacred had not yet hardened, when a young woman’s education included the arts of love as well as of poetry, dance and music. How is it she suddenly fills me with her presence, as though I’ve always known her; as though I can remember my time with her as a young woman on Lesbos: the temple to Aphrodite, the meadows with flowers we maidens wove into one another’s hair; what we sang around the altar in the moonlight; as though Sappho was my teacher, my priestess, my wild older woman crush.

How can I claim to remember Sappho? She is a revered ancestor in my poetic lineage. But all we have of her poems are fragments, all we can gather of her life are glimpses, pottery shards, passages in Longinus and Demetrius. Yet even those fragments, those glimpses, give us a lot. They say she is a great lyric poet, perhaps the greatest of all time. They say that she, like Socrates, taught the young. The aristocrats of 5th century B.C. Greece, sent their daughters to Sappho, to her thiasos, where she initiated them into the mysteries of love; taught them ritual, poetry, dance, officiated at their weddings.

The Greeks did not divide sexuality up as do we. Young women learned love, their bodily and emotional responses, from other women. Some of them went on to marry men and live what we call heterosexual lives. Others stayed in the temple, as priestesses. Some, it is clear from Sappho’s work, preferred to stay with women.

As Judy Grahn points out in a powerful evocation of Sappho in her book of essays, The Highest Apple, Sappho was born into a now lost lineage of women poets that stretched behind her for a thousand years.(2) She lived in changing times. Already by her time, Greek women were oppressed and controlled by the patriarchy; they could not own property; they belonged to their husbands. But on Lesbos, in Sappho’s thiasos, we catch a glimpse of a world where, in Grahn’s words “women were central to themselves.” I long to have access to such wholeness of female being, such authority of voice and image.

I took my lyre and said:
Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become
a speaking instrument(3)

Would I could be such a speaking instrument. Would I could summon such elegance and clarity. In Sappho female flesh becomes word. Her poems are personal, embodied, full of desire and of sensuous physical detail: descriptions of beautiful clothes, advise on what flowers a girl should wear in her hair. They are luminous.

H.D. brought Sapphic lucidity back into the language, describes Sappho’s poetry as: “containing fire and light and warmth, yet in its essence differing from all these, as if the brittle crescent-moon gave heat to us, or some splendid scintillating star turned warm suddenly in our hand like a jewel, sent by the beloved.”(4)

I wish I could study poetry with Sappho; learn to speak from female passion as did Sappho; I wish I could be on as intimate terms with Aphrodite, know the altar, know the ritual.

You know the place: then

Leave Crete and come to us
waiting where the grove is
pleasantest, by precincts

sacred to you; incense
smokes on the altar, cold

streams murmur through the
apple branches, a young

rose thicket shades the ground
and quivering leaves pour

down deep sleep; in meadows
where horses have grown sleek
among spring flowers, dill

scents the air. Queen! Cyprian!
Fill our gold cups with love
stirred into clear nectar(5)

But wait a minute. Is this the time to be invoking Aphrodite? At midlife, dealing with hot flashes and memory loss, struggling to keep track of many obligations, is this the time of life for Sappho to be stirring in me? Sappho who loved young women, sang of their beauty, taught them the erotic mysteries? Where was she when I needed her, when I had never heard of her, when I was a young woman, overcome by a confusion of passions?

I came of age in a time when it was believed that young women should be sexually initiated by men. The ancient practice of a woman learning the responses of her body in the hands of an older woman, had been mostly forgotten. There was an archetype missing (still is, for the most part), one the Greeks knew well: the archetype of sacred sexuality. In my day, a young woman’s passion was dangerous; if she expressed it, terrible things could happen to her. There were names: clinical names, colloquial names. Nymphomaniac. Slut. There were dangerous consequences. Pregnancies. Illegal abortions. Doors slammed for life. Shutters closed on her sense of self.

In the 1960s, some of us got wind of Sappho’s energy, without really knowing much about her. We saw that women had to learn to love women instead of only valuing our relationships with men. We formed circles of women and talked personally, about sex, our bodies, our passionate lives. In such a group, “consciousness raising” we called it, I remember wondering what menopause would be like. We asked an older woman some of us knew to write a letter about her experience. I can’t remember what she said. I do remember her tone, wise, funny, amazed and pleased to be asked. If I were to write such a letter now I’d have to say that nothing has prepared me for the power of change. It’s archetypal, like going through puberty, or becoming a mother.

And then it occurs to me: no wonder I’m fantasizing about Sappho. It’s not just that she’s a priestess of Aphrodite; she’s a priestess who facilitates archetypal change, and she does it in the voice of a woman-centered woman. As Judy Grahn says, when we lose access to our ceremonial stories “we fall out of history . . . out of mythic time . . . out of poetry except as the objects of it . . . out of meaning into a kind of slavery, a no-world, a no-place . . . ” How then can we make sense of female initiation, profound bodily changes? We need Sappho. We need her to teach us the lore of the body, the creative process, the invocation of the divine.

And I say to myself, why not try to invoke Sappho? What would it hurt? At worst she won’t come. At best, we’ll have an experience of the imagination.

The Tenth Muse

Imagine that we knew Sappho when we were young. Imagine that we can remember the island in the middle of the blue Aegean, near Turkey as it was 2600 years ago, a landscape of olive trees and apple orchards. The scholar of Greek lyric poetry, C.M. Bowra, describes it thus: “an abundance of natural springs fills the valleys with plane trees and lush grass; in the spring the ground is covered with anemones, orchids and wild tulips.”(6) The poet Alcaeus, a contemporary of Sappho, describes her as: “violet-tressed, holy, sweetly smiling Sappho . . .” (7)


invocation

tell me, Sappho,
whose delicate fingers
wove the violets into your hair?
whose soft seashell ears burned
at your song?

and would you take her back
after the years
she forgot you

opened her body
to his song

would you come to the tip
of her tongue
leap
to her image making
mind?

would you send for her
the very chariot
that carried the goddess
she of the doves
and the smile that is
evening star?

lady of Lesbos
we gather
pieces of you
out of the mouths
of buried vases

i wish it were mine
to remember
how we danced
around the altar in full
moonlight
our tender young women feet
crushing the grass

holy Sappho
make a place for me now
the moon is waning
we whom the tides
have released
long for a fragment
of you— (8)

She’s come. Can you see her? She is so vivid, as though she’s always been here, just under the surface, energetic, curious, intense, showing off her dark skin in bright clothing. She’s wearing the purple and yellow outfit she described in a poem. Listen to her beloved Atthis:

Sappho, if you will not get
up and let us look at you
I shall never love you again!

Get up, unleash your suppleness,
lift off your Chian nightdress
and, like a lily leaning into

a spring, bathe in the water.
Cleis is bringing your best
purple frock and the yellow

tunic down from the clothes chest;
you will have a cloak thrown over
you and flowers crowning your hair… (9)

She stands before a white temple, the blue Aegean glowing behind her. She’s smiling at us. Sappho, speak to us!

You wonder where I’ve been. I say, where have you been? I’ve been here all along, the old voice of female poetry, glad to be released at last from all those tiresome, bookish discussions about me. You’ve read all that nonsense. Was I short and dark? Did I die for love? Was I married to a man called Kerkylas, a wealthy merchant, or was this an obscene pun in an Attic comedy, because Kerkylas can mean “prick from the Isle of Man”(10) Was I a love priestess? Did I have jealous fights with my rivals for love or for power? Finally you stopped reading all that scholarship that just chops me up into smaller fragments, fits me into small categories that break up my wholeness. How can you separate body from love from soul from ritual from poetry? It is only in what’s left of my work that you can know me, and in the imagination of poets. There are those in your time who know me. H.D. knows me, as:


an island, a country, a continent, a planet, a world of emotion, differing entirely from any present day imaginable world of emotion…
A song, a spirit, a white star that moves across the heaven to mark the end of a world epoch or to presage some coming glory.
Yet she is embodied–terribly a human being, a woman, a personality as the most impersonal become when they confront their fellow beings.


Judy Grahn knows me, and traces her lesbian poetic lineage through H.D. and Emily Dickinson straight back to me. (11)


You can know me, not only as a particular poet of 6th c. B.C. Greece, but as the fragmented voice of woman, the ghost of the wholeness of woman that’s been ripped into shreds. What woman has written straight out of her body, her feeling, since I did, until now, in your time? My voice is the passion of woman for woman, the passion for the goddess. Every woman needs to know this passion, whether she sleeps with women or with men. Then she can express for herself what Freud found so mysterious: what a woman wants.


Why do you suppose you’ve been so consumed by poetry recently? It hasn’t occurred to you that I might have had something to do with that? For two millenia I was a sleepy spirit. But I’ve been right under the surface, waiting to be invoked. I have not been forgotten, but my poems, what has become of my poems? I wrote them down. I wanted them to last forever. It looked like they would. The Alexandrians published me a few centuries after my death. My work survived for a thousand years. I was known as the tenth muse, first among lyric poets, the queen of poetry. Once, everyone knew my poetry by heart. My words were ripe fruit on the tongue of every cultivated person. Now, all that’s left are fragments.


Don’t think because I’m a shade, I don’t mourn the loss of my work. Don’t think it doesn’t humiliate me, even in death, that my voice got torn to shreds of papyrus, that handwritten copies of my work were used to stuff a coffin, mummify a crocodile. Why did my books disappear? I have not been forgotten, but my poems are lost. I have not been forgotten, but for two thousand years who has written in my tradition? I have been quoted but the whole shape and luster of my work has been lost. Who has invoked me intimately, as I did Aphrodite, as you just did me? Why has it taken you so long? I’ve been knocking at the door of your consciousness most of your little life!


Dead poets long to be read. We long for our living audience, for the poets we influence, the poems that carry on our tradition, bring it into new territory. Suddenly your time is full of women poets, as though a fire swept through old woods releasing seeds that haven’t sprouted for 2600 years! You’re waking me up, exciting me, calling on me to return.


Now you want me to help you in this second rite of passage, in the Lesbos of your imagination. But I need your help. Events keep tearing you away from me. Important meetings. Conferences. Telephone calls. I say: come to Lesbos; make time for solitude; be alone with me. Imagine yourself in the grove of apple trees. The apples are reddening, growing ripe. The breeze in the trees has more to say to you than any group of colleagues. What do they know of your essence, your struggle to release your spirit from other people’s purposes? If I am to help you find the self you left behind, I need your full attention, your ear to my voice, your mind to the flow of images. Most of all I need your body!

You want my body?

No, I’m not propositioning you, not in the usual sense. I’m a ghost, a spirit. What I want is words for your body’s experience, your desire, your longing. When young women came to me on Lesbos I prepared them for the changing of the gods in their bodies. I called down Aphrodite. I taught them the pleasure of their bodies, what flowers to wear in their hair, what would make the blood run hot under their soft skin. Here they were, young and so lovely, breasts just blossoming. How could I not fall in love? I who was teaching them to cultivate the goddess of love, to make her incarnate in their own flesh, was cultivating my own body of love.


I brought girls from childhood to womanhood, teaching them to sing and to dance, to cultivate the subtle play of blood and fire in their loins, the connection to their feet, to know what colors to wear, how a dress should drape.


If I had known you when you were young, you would have known your own beauty. You would have learned to express your own passion, in words. No matter how overcome with passion a woman may be, if she can make a poem of her experience—she retains herself—has made a vessel for herself. I did this time and again.

He is a god in my eyes
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you—he
who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing
laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast… (12)

Can you imagine how it is to love a young woman, train her in the erotic arts, and then have to officiate at her marriage? Making poems held me together, as making poems has been holding you together in the change of life. What you need is some of our ancient Greek love for our bodies. We did not suffer from that post Christian fear of the body which has caused the fragmentation of my voice. Nor had we any desire to “rise above” our bodies. We knew what you need to remember: the body is where the gods speak to us. Your body is speaking to you, in hot flashes, in memory lapses, in a deep disorientation from the moon. You need me to help you in this change of the gods. I need you to give poetic voice to the change.

There is something I don’t understand. Do you not know about the change? Didn’t women of your time live past menopause?

Of course. Women have always known about menopause. In the ancient world we had our secret rituals, we knew the herbal remedies, all the lore of the wise blood. But none of this was valued, or written down. And as the men took over, and women’s spiritual practices were deemed dangerous, witchcraft, you forgot what we once knew. It got lost, like the poems of the poets before me, lost like the mysteries of Eleusis, like the many forms of the goddess.

The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way
The previous article is an excerpt from
The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way
by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky


Naomi Lowinsky is the author of The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, The Motherline: Every Woman's Journey to Find Her Female Roots, and the just published book of poems, Adagio and Lamentation. She has authored numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. Her two previous poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and is the recent recipient of the Obama Millennium Poetry awarded for "Madelyn Dunham, Passing On.” Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice, poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives.

Naomi’s publications are available from:
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Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US and Canada, International +1-831-238-7799.

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(1) Sappho, Barnard trans., fragment #64.
(2) Judy Grahn, The Highest Apple : Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition, p. 7.
(3) Sappho, fragment #8.
(4) Hilda.Doolittle. (H.D.), Notes on Thought and Vision and The Wise Sappho, pp. 57-58.
(5) Sappho, fragment #37.
(6) C.M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry, p. 130.
(7) Alcaeus, Greek Lyric Poetry, p. 239.
(8) Lowinsky, unpublished poem.
(9) Sappho, fragment #43.
(10) Sappho, The Poems and Fragments of Sappho, translated by Jim Powell, p. 33.
(11) H.D., The Wise Sappho, pp. 58-59.
(12) Sappho, fragment #39.


Copyright 2010 © Fisher King Press - Permission to reprint is granted.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

News Release: New Publication by San Francisco Bay Area Poet, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky


Advance Press Release for July 1, 2010

With great pleasure, Fisher King Press presents a new il piccolo edition:

Adagio and Lamentation
Poems by
By Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
ISBN 9781926715056, 112 pages, July 2010

Naomi’s words and images meander through shadows and light, between demons and angels, yet the poetry is always accessible.  In this moving collection, she often goes back in time, to the days when her family lived in (and escaped from) Hitler’s Europe.  The journey helps inform who she is today, including the indelible scar worn by anyone whose family has borne witness to genocide.
—Stewart Florsheim, author of The Short Fall from Grace.

“(W)e are all/each other’s/raw/material” writes Naomi Ruth Lowinsky in her wise and moving book Adagio & Lamentation, the “we” born not only of others but histories and places, all of this inspiring our very human connection over time to vitality and imagination.  Lowinsky’s music is poignant and haunting, moving the listeners and readers of her poems with the miracle of arrival that is all new life and the celebration of thriving.
—Forrest Hammer, author of Call and Response, Middle Ear, and Rift.

Naomi Lowinsky’s poetry is both fierce and tender, political yet intimate; and, for her, the political is personal.  Lowinsky’s poems “voices from the ashes” and “great lake of my mother” are particularly moving. Her work is deeply lyrical and transformative.  It makes you think and feel.  It makes you wish you’d written these poems.  Adagio & Lamentation is a stunning and memorable book.
—Susan Terris, author of Contrariwise, Natural Defenses, and Fire is Favorable to the Dreamer.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky was the first child born in the New World to a family of German Jewish refugees from the Shoah. Many in her family were lost in the death camps. It has been the subject and the gift of her poetry and prose—to write herself out of the terror, into life.

Naomi had a special tie with her only surviving grandparent, the painter Emma Hoffman, whom she called “Oma.” Oma showed her that making art can be a way to transmute grief, a way to bear the unbearable. The cover of Adagio & Lamentation is a watercolor by Emma Hoffman—an interior view of the Berkeley home where Naomi visited her often as a teenager. Oma tried her best to make a painter of her, but Naomi was no good at it. Poetry was to be her vehicle.

Adagio & Lamentation is Naomi’s offering to her ancestors, a handing back in gratitude and love. It is also her way of bringing them news of their legacy—the cycle of life has survived all they suffered—Naomi has been blessed by many grandchildren.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky is the author of The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way and The Motherline: Every Woman’s Journey to Find Her Female Roots and numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. Her two poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. She has had poetry published in many literary magazines and anthologies, among them After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, Weber Studies, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Tiferet and Asheville Poetry Review.

Naomi has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and is the recipient of the 2009 Obama Millennium Poetry award for "Madelyn Dunham, Passing On.” Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives, and a grandmother many times over.

Place your order for Adagio & Lamentation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.
Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US and Canada, International +1-831-238-7799.



 

Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922 

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Sun and the Sword, The Moon and the Mirror

The Sun and the Sword,
The Moon and the Mirror

article by Erel Shalit

Besides the more commonly accounted for masculine, solar aspect of the hero’s journey, we may refer to a feminine, lunar attribute as well. They represent different attitudes vis-à-vis the unconscious.

The sun-hero has a dual relationship to the Great Mother, as exemplified by Heracles; his name means Glory of Hera, yet the goddess drives him to madness. He sets out on the mission to break free from the bonds of the Great Mother, to face her magnitude, ready to draw his sword in combat with her however awesome she seems to be, and to enhance his ego-consciousness. The sun-hero, while not always able to fulfill the entire mission of his journey, works towards replacing id and the unconscious with ego. He must abandon the comfort and the security of the kingdom of childhood, about which Jung writes:
For him who looks backwards the whole world, even the starry sky, becomes the mother who bends over him and enfolds him on all sides ... As such a condition must be terminated, and as it is at the same time an object of regressive longing, it must be sacrificed in order that discriminated entities - i.e., conscious contents - may come into being.(1)
On his way to consciousness the hero encounters monstrous and malicious obstacles that, as Jung says, rise in his path and hamper his ascent, wearing “the shadowy features of the Terrible Mother, who saps his strength with the poison of secret doubt and retrospective longing.”(2) He risks being devoured by the Earth Mother, destroyed by the gods, to burn in the flames of passion set afire by the nymphs, or die in battle with his competing Martian warriors. His world is patriarchal, goal-directed and lawful, thus he may lose direction and plunge into unconsciousness, teased and tantalized by the feminine seductress intruding from afar, as became the tragic fate of Samson.

It is the sun-hero’s undertaking to break away, to free himself from the archetypal world. Simultaneously, as part of his mission, he must gather the strength required to bring the very same archetypal energy into the ego and human consciousness. Thus, the hero has one foot in divinity, one in the world of mortals. It is the hero’s task to dismember the archetypal energies and transpose them as increasingly human complexes into the personal world and the realm of the ego. This is what Prometheus does when he brings fire to man. His name means forethinker; the Promethean fire is the capacity to plan the use of that natural transformative energy, fire, for the benefit of mankind, to create consciousness and acculturation, heating and cooking, creating new materials and fresh ideas.(3) But also when the complex has become autonomous, split-off from consciousness and detracting energy from the ego, the hero is called for. The man who compulsively clung to a job far below his capabilities because of his fear of losing it was constantly threatened by dismissal until he gathered his strength to fight the complex that nearly destroyed him.

The sun-hero may be the obstinate two-year-old who repeatedly says no and no to being dressed, “I dress.” Or the five-year-old who pulls the hero’s phallic sword with which he fights the beasts within—as they are projected upon the little kindergarten-brutes of the real world without. The sun-hero is unmistakably masculine, a He, whether a boy or a girl.

Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's PathThe solar hero brings something new, something formerly unknown into the consciousness of the individual or that of society. By means of the adventures of the sun-hero, man has, for instance, accomplished scientific achievements and expanded geographical boundaries. The solar aspect of the hero pertains to patriarchal consciousness. With his sword, the hero cuts and divides, which is structurally essential for the establishment and expansion of consciousness.

But there is a lunar aspect or phase of the hero’s journey as well, which may likewise unfold when the hero abandons the conventions of the royal throne and the safe rule of ego, when he stands up against and turns away from collective consciousness. This is the case, for instance, with Buddha, whose way is enlightened by reflection rather than by the splendor of the sword. It pertains to conceiving, rather than “deliberate doing,” and, says Neumann, “time must ripen, and with it, like the seeds sown in the earth, knowledge matures.”(4)

This is the moon-hero. He, or in fact She, because it pertains rather to the feminine, whether in man or woman, ventures into the dangerous paths, the forests and the rivers, the hills and the valleys, the labyrinths and the netherworlds, the pandemonium, the chaos and the torment outside the boundaries of collective consciousness, beyond norms and conventions. She is maybe not the skillful goal-directed archer Apollo, but rather his twin sister Artemis, the hunter goddess roaming in the wilderness and the forest, armed with silver bow and arrows. This may be the sense of drifting around the outskirts of town, sneaking into backyards, to hike around in foreign places in the geography of the world or in the psychography of the soul, learning “how to observe nature, the way it grows and changes.”(5) It is dangerous; as happens to Artemis, by mistake, you may kill your loved one, or if you come too close you may be transformed into a stag, because it is an oscillating journey between death and rebirth, waxing and waning, appearance and disappearance, love and disaster, reflection and deflection, healing and wounding. The ground easily quakes, and on winding roads and behind thorny bushes the forces of love and madness, pain and desire, despair and anticipation struggle with savage ferocity. The lunar hero pertains to relationship and unification, but breakup and falling apart, as well.

The hero’s lunar quality refers to the mirror and reflection, rather than the sword and division. As we shall see later, Perseus is equipped with both.

In its lunar aspect, the hero does not attack the unconscious. It entails a conscious turning towards the unconscious, quietly and humbly awaiting what in the course of time arises and unfolds in the hero’s reflective mirror. As Campbell says:
The mirror, reflecting the goddess and drawing her forth from the august repose of her divine non-manifestation, is symbolic of the world, the field of the reflected image. Therein divinity is pleased to regard its own glory, and this pleasure is itself inducement to the act of manifestation or “creation.”(6)
The following is the dream of a sixty-year-old man, slowly finding his way home to himself after having “been away” for a long time, during an extraverted career:
I feel an urge to return home. I have been away for a long time. As I get home, I see that a man sits on a chair in the attic, watching the dark sky through a telescope—there is a big opening in the roof. He calls me to look, and I try to look carefully through the telescope, but I see nothing. I turn and turn the telescope, yet, I can’t see anything. He shouts and yells at me and I feel very embarrassed, and he tells me angrily to go and sit and wait next to a little girl who sits on a bench. She looks like she is in a dream state, just looking up at the sky. First I look at her, and then I lose the focus, and like her I just look at the dark sky, and then, suddenly, a very bright star shines far far away but very very clearly, and then I see the moon, so close, almost as if I could touch it.
Naturally, the lunar aspect of the hero is closely related to matriarchal consciousness, as elaborated in depth by Erich Neumann.(7) Queen Jocasta, Shining Moon, as representative of the feminine side of consciousness, has been discussed elsewhere.(8) However, Neumann is mainly concerned with matriarchal or moon-consciousness as something preceding patriarchal consciousness, pertaining to “enchantment and magic, ... inspiration and prophecy” rather than “its recurrence in the psychology of individuation, which is a reappearance at a higher level, as is always the case where, in the course of normal development, we again encounter something already experienced.”(9) I believe the lunar and the solar elements constitute complementary aspects of the hero and his/her journey, even if the one may precede or dominate the other.

In fact, as regards the lunar aspect of the hero’s journey, he naturally ventures into darkness only as the sun sets, rather than at dawn. Yet, the hero needs to be equipped with some of the day’s light to withstand the night’s depressive darkness, and with summer’s warmth for the cold loneliness of winter not to overwhelm him.

He travels at night-time, west to east, in the reflective light of the moon rather than in the unambiguous light of day. “The alchemical work starts with the descent into darkness (nigredo), i.e., the unconscious” says Jung.(10) Only thereafter “one arrives at the east and the newborn sun,” says Edinger.(11) Ayala, a forty-year-old woman, dreams:
It is midnight, midsummer night. I am barefoot, walking from the sea eastward, on a thorny field. My feet hurt, I am bleeding. Then, suddenly, a path opens up, crossing the field in the centre, dividing it in two, lit up by the light of the moon. As I walk along, still feeling the pain in my feet, a man suddenly appears from the dark and blocks my way. He is religious, completely shrouded in his Tallith [the prayer shawl], even his head is covered. He barely notices me, and he does not move to let me pass. I have to stop and wait, and listen to him reciting a prayer. I look at him as he prays, and very quietly he looks at me, in a warm and kind way. I feel his quiet prayer fills me up within, and he then blows the shofar [the ram’s horn], and I feel a wave of excitement.
While the dream was experienced during an afternoon nap, it takes place during summer’s brief night. The dreamer is guided along her path by the moon. The peripeteia occurs when her road is blocked, but she need not actively struggle with her adversary. Rather, this woman, who had experienced a deep narcissistic wound due to lack of adequate mirroring in early childhood, allows herself in the dream to be mirrored by the religious man’s chanting prayer. Jung says:
Christ, or the self, is a “mirror”: on the one hand it reflects the subjective consciousness of the disciple, making it visible to him, and on the other hand it “knows” Christ, that is to say it does not merely reflect the empirical man, it also shows him as a (transcendental) whole.(12)
The dream-ego, the I in our dreams, is our recurrent nightly hero, our messenger who ventures into dreamland, and returns home with a letter from the Self.(13) In the above dream, Ayala encounters her adversary who emerges from the shadow, not as an enemy to be fought, but as a mirroring or reflecting other. This is the hero’s lunar rather than solar attribute. It may even be that the dream ego will not really bring anything new into consciousness, but her soul becomes inspired and excited, i.e., setting the breath of life in motion. From the lunar perspective, the event, such as in this dream, needs less to be interpreted, but rather be libidinized by the moisture of the Self.

(1) C.G. Jung, CW 5, par. 646.
(2)“The Dual Mother,” CW 5, par. 611.
(3) Shalit, The Hero and His Shadow, p. 151.
(4) Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, pp. 92, 94.
(5) Verena Kast, The Mermaid in the Pond, p. 55.
(6) The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 213.
(7) ‘The Moon and Matriarchal Consciousness,’ in The Fear of the Feminine, pp. 64-118.
(8) Shalit, The Complex, p. 55.
(9) The Fear of the Feminine, pp. 74, 92.
(10) CW 9ii., par. 231.
(11) Edward Edinger, The Aion Lectures, p. 116.
(12) CW 11, par. 427.
(13) The Talmudic dictum says: “A dream not interpreted is like a letter not read.”

This article by Erel Shalit is an excerpt from Enemy, Cripple, Beggar: Shadows in the Hero’s Path.

Erel Shalit is a Jungian psychoanalyst in Ra'anana, Israel. He is a training and supervising analyst, and past president of the Israel Society of Analytical Psychology (ISAP). He is the author of the recently published novella, Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, and several other publications, including The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel and The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego.

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