(Continued from previous blog posts, Part 1 and 2)
Then, at the end of February 2021, I suffered another loss in the form of an additional “break-up”, this time from a sister relationship of many years, where I felt betrayed and with the situation scarring my trust in women, in general (fortunately only temporarily). With lots of drama centered around car problems (which, turned out to be a recurring theme in the months to come, each time I intended on moving location), and with the intention of being away for only a month, I packed up my “detoxed life” in my Golf 4 and headed off on the beaten track to the semi off-grid and self-sustainable community, almost three hour’s drive from Cape Town. After bidding fairy well to the ocean, the mountain and Newlands Forest, as well as my dance classes, I arrived in one piece at the Forest of Dreams, and pursued a life of predominantly embracing the archetype of the Greek Goddess Artemis, interspersed with times when the Goddess Aphrodite hijacked the moment…. (for a more detailed account of this time and for more pictures on what community life entailed, please see HERE and HERE.
In practically every sense of the word, living in community was a dream come true. I completely immersed myself in the experience, and essentially cut myself off from my “past life”, perhaps also conveniently so, due to having had very limited access to internet on the farm. I remained in contact only with some clients and collaborators, and my family. Without going into detail, life consisted of a range of expansive experiences, from communal activities, to forging interesting relationships with both sisters and brothers, to mushroom foraging, to platting each other’s hair, to dancing, gardening, working with plant medicines, hosting events, singing medicine songs and partaking in ecstatic dance, hiking, swimming and undergoing with the other community members, a massive trial and error period of what it means to live in community, for which there is no manual.
If I have to highlight some moments and experiences which bore much enjoyment and meaning, it would firstly be the forging of such a close and intimate relationship with Mother Nature and working, for all practical purposes and intents, with the four elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water on a daily basis, while conducting the tasks of chopping wood and fetching water, in both its literal and metaphorical sense. In fact, I sustained permanent cracks on my fingertips, which were stained brown from the tannins in the river water, from making fire each day, in addition to my feet turning into “hobbit feet” from walking around bare footed every day.
Secondly, I derived much enjoyment, satisfaction and pride from making a homestead, supplementing what I could fit into my car, which included my one canvas tent for sleeping and my canvas dining shelter for a kitchen space, with materials I found in my surroundings: wooden branches and recycled plastic for a tarp shelter, rocks and tree stumps for a fire place outside, tree stumps fashioned into tables, chairs and a couch, pine needles for a floor, wine bottles for candle holders, and proteas, fern leaves, moss and pine cones for decoration. There is something very appealing to using what nature provides and creating a beautiful and organic-looking dwelling and call it your own home. A shelter which is essentially and extension from the surrounding forest, with a back yard containing a stretch of forest, including a stream, to wake up to every morning and to enjoy a cup of tea in….also to be able to build it myself, woman alone (on rare occasion with the help of another community member close by). Others in the community made homesteads also from wood, which were equally appealing, if not more – the options are inexhaustible and curtailed only in terms of the homestead needing to be a removable structure and for it to comply with one’s personal needs and preferences for comfort and safeguard from the elements.
Life in the forest, continued for four months. I did not leave the forest, except for heading out to town once a week (an hour’s drive away) for the purpose of buying supplies we could not grow, make or create ourselves and to do online sessions, working from a small room at the back of an organic-products and –produce shop. The process of growing back my hands was thus far a joyous occasion, but soon to take a turn for the worse…
After having been stripped of most of my belongings and two long-term relationships, and with having had to deal with car problems testing my resolve to leave, I finally embarked on my heroine’s alchemical quest, which, as all hero’s journeys require, had to be a journey walked by myself. In a metaphorical sense, what is required for the alchemical process is a cauldron or vessel - one’s body - containing the materials or poison to be transmuted, transformed and transfigured – one’s soul – , as well as the element of fire to provide just enough heat for the alchemical process to be initiated and sustained. The latter can be provided in the form of trials, tribulations and ordeals the initiate encounters on the journey, as well as his/her soul’s (feminine aspect to the personality) commitment and marriage to his/her spirit (masculine aspect to the personality). We can witness the tension of these polar opposite currents in the form of the feminine and masculine principles play out in countless myths/stories.
In all these myths, folklore stories, legends, fairy tales, and stories from religious texts, the initiate/hero/heroine undertakes and undergoes a descent journey, but only once he/she has crossed paths with their destined beloved, and has partaken in the consummation of their love in the form of marriage. Then, the initiate is called away to travel alone and only once the initiate has completed his/her arduous solo journey, displaying great levels of courage and perseverance, and coming face-to-face with death, can he/she be resurrected/transformed into a more glorious version of the Self, and be reunited with the beloved husband/wife, with their union acknowledged and honoured as the true heiros gamous or sacred marriage.
These themes consistently come to light, in the following respective stories:
In the case of Persephone: she was a young and naïve maiden when she unwillingly undertook her solo descent journey, with Hades, Lord of the underworld kidnapping her to be his bride. At first she despised life and the underworld, however, over time, she learned to like it there, and eventually she even became Queen of the Underworld, guiding the wandering souls. Upon her eventual ascent back up to the topside world, because she chose to evolve from her co-dependent relationship with her mother, Demeter, and because she was un-admittedly in love with her underworld husband, she ate the pomegranate seeds he offered before reconciliation with her mother. This ensured that she would always be re-united with her husband for part of the year, in a cyclical fashion.
In the story of The Handless Maiden: Due to bargaining with the devil, her hands were chopped off and she chose to leave her parent’s home, marry a king and give birth to their child. While her husband was called away to serve in a battle, in order to save the life of her baby, the now young queen undertook her solo descent journey, willingly, when she fled into the uncharted territory of the underground forest, with her baby strapped to her bosom. Not much of this seven-year initiatory journey is known to us, other than the queen slowly but surely having grown her hands back, with the support of the inn and inn-keepers where she was housed, and her baby growing up as well. Because of true love for his queen and child, the king also undertook a seven-year long solo initiatory journey, wandering the forest looking for his family. At the end of the story they were all three united, with all three characters being more evolved versions of themselves, in comparison to the time prior to the wild forest journey.
In the myth of Psyche and Eros: Psyche, a beautiful and pregnant mortal woman went on her descent journey after her husband, Eros, God of love, abandoned her subsequent to her breaking an agreement they had. Her initiatory quest involved much courage, determination and competency, in that she had to complete four “impossible” tasks, requested by Aphrodite, who happened to be Eros’s mother, if she ever were to be reconciled with Eros. After proving her love for Eros during her solo quest, the couple was reunited and their marriage honoured, so much so, that Psyche was offered ambrosia, which allowed her to be turned into a Goddess. Psyche gave birth to their daughter, who bore the name Hedone, Goddess of Pleasure.
In the story of the knight Parzival: He went on his initiatory descent journey and quest to find the Grail and the Grail castle, after marrying Condwiramur. They were only reunited years later, and Parzival earned the status of Grain King, after ascending from his solo descent journey of alienation from God, of much wandering and loneliness and through his yearning for the grail and for Condwiramurs, as well as after having learned about the hidden meaning of life and the true meaning of the Grail.
In the story of Inanna: She, being Queen of the heavens and consort of the Shepard king Dumuzi, willingly undertook her solo descent journey when she chose to visit her grieving sister Ereshkigal in the underworld. After being stripped of all of her worldly regalia at the various gates of the underworld, she literally died and her corpse was hung on a hook. As a result of her handmaiden’s intervention, Innana was resurrected and gathered each of her rightful adornment items, to restore her reign in the upperworld. Accordingly, she was also reunited with Dumuzi, albeit not as a joyous occasion as is the case with the other four stories above, in that it came to light that Dumuzi did not mourn her disappearance – on her demand, he was thus condemned to spending part of the year in the underworld, also in a cyclical fashion as was the case in Persephone’s myth.
From the above stories, and perhaps with the exception of Inanna’s love for Dumuzid which did not quite blossom into the typical fairy tale ending, it is evident that the universal and central theme is one of love between a man and a woman, where both the driving force and the outcome of the life/death/life cycle is that of the hieros gamos: the balance between the masculine and feminine currents within must be unified, in which case the notion of hieros gamos does not always presuppose literal sexual intercourse in ritual, but in a symbolic or mythological context, refers to the alchemical process.
In all of these stories, the symbolic or metaphysical significance around the theme of romantic love within the sacred container of a committed relationship, and the deepening thereof through the process of initiation, centers around the tension in the form of a yearning/hankering created between the feminine and masculine within. This is because the marriage of yearning and determination creates the conditions, in the form of the right amount of fire, for the alchemical initiatory quest. Born from this union is an individuation-aimed mannequin – someone not yet quite fully human, stumbling along, being motivated by his/her yearning and determination, but not very aware or concerned about what is going on around him/her.
For me personally, the commitment to the union of feminine and masculine within the inner sanctum of my psyche was significantly tested during the events to come on the farm… to be continued in the next blog post…
For those who are interested in joining this particular community, based in South Africa, in the Western Cape, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch with the appropriate channels for application. Blessed be!