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Part 4: The hero/heroine’s journey - no cauldron, no alchemy

(Continued from previous blog posts, Part 1, 2 and 3)

My story:

Life in the forest on the farm continued peacefully for me up until the point where we, as a community, hosted a Learning Clan event, consisting of ceremony, festivities, dancing, and workshops as well as talks surrounding sustainable- and –off-grid living in current times. Preparing for the event, with the erection and decoration of stretch tents and other spaces, was much fun, and I was so much looking forward to meeting again with old kindred folk, as well as making new connections. However, once the people started arriving and pitching their camps, with a considerable influx of movement and activity into what I unconsciously considered to be “our space”, it almost felt like an intrusion of some kind, and I found myself quickly starting to feel scattered and overwhelmed.

In hindsight, and after having spoken with other empaths in our community, I now realise that we, as community members, needed to have created a safe container prior to the people arriving, for us to function as an intact cohort - a space of “coming home” to and of dominion, and which we could have returned to whenever we felt that our sense of containment and unity consciousness were being disrupted, or when boundaries were overstepped. Then we could come into containment of our energy as a unit again, as well as revisit our intentions which we fostered for the gathering. This feeling of losing ground and centeredness was especially accentuated by the fact that we as community have attuned to the land and entrained with Nature, which is in contrast to the energy of the city, now being brought by those attending. The lack of a safe energetic container was also apparent during and after the mushroom ceremony of the first evening, where, again, no prior consensus was reached among us community members as to the intentions of the ceremony, and hence its course throughout the evening. In addition to the great success of the event, these caveats were all discussed and addressed in a community meeting after the event, appropriately so, as we are all learning - the Learning Clan event did indeed live up to its name in a number of ways …

Without going into any detail about the content and experience of the event itself, which also brought so much beauty to my life and all those attending, it is the aftermath of the gathering which I would like to focus on here. There was a marked change in my energy levels before versus after the event: where I was once running around from site to site on the farm, deriving much energy from the earthing process in being bare feet twenty-four-seven, I now had to drag myself around.

By now I have also, for the first time since I reached menarche, not had my moon time (menses) for two months. I was still graced with a beautiful flow shortly after I arrived on the farm, where I performed the customary and also traditional offering of moon blood back to Mother Earth, based on rituals performed by various indigenous cultures all around the world. This was worrisome and disconcerting, to say the least, as it obviously pointed towards a hormonal imbalance, the harmonisation of which I offer to women as part of the work I do: here I am, following dietary and life-style regulations based on the four phases of the menstrual cycle, so as to keep my female reproductive architecture healthy, and which I also teach women to embrace, but I am experiencing challenges with my moon time, for the first time in my life, along with the sadness of not having any blood as an offering in ceremony. I reluctantly accepted this as part of a deepening and yet another initiation into my life’s work and my calling.

I then also started noticing the feeling of being “tired but wired” especially at bed time, with subsequent impeded sleep. I realised that a) along with the notion that for the first time since I was an adolescent, I have no man to lean/rely on any longer, bringing to light the necessity to fend and care for myself and the associated stress with having to stand on my own two feet, b) I am becoming increasingly sensitive to others’ energy and “stuff”, due to my Shakti (kundalini) having been awakened. Being still a novice in protecting my energy field, especially within the context of community life, the ultimate test to being a guardian and a steward of my life force energy arrived in the form of an unwelcome resident on our land.

In a very condensed nut shell, this was troubled, yet charming young man, a man who sought healing in the wrong setting, whom we all gave multiple chances in allowing to continue staying on on the land, even though he was not invited, and did not contribute much to the community other than paying rent, and who displayed unruly behaviour to the point of harassing almost every single member of the community. Things spiraled out of hand after an intimate encounter which I had with him, resulting in us having to ask him to leave, and in me ending up with a pain in my spine which pointed towards a block in the kundalini energy flow, somewhere between my sacral and solar plexus chakras. By month three of no moon time, I decided that I needed to consult my go-to wisdom plant when the womb and embodied feminine is concerned - Father San Pedro.

Under the guidance of our resident medicine man, well acquainted with and accomplished in the use of the medicine of mescaline, and while spending time at the mountain stream, I was led to the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, and in particular, one of the tasks Psyche had to perform, in filing a crystal flask with water from a forbidden stream with the aid of an eagle. In short, this denotes the ability to use the eagle’s approach and perspective in a trying situation - to see the land (a situation) from a distant perspective and to not get emotionally caught up in it, and where the stream represents the cyclical flow of life in the form of cycles. This theme around cycles and the element of water was also emphasised by the card I pulled during some divination along the medicine journey: Yemanja, the Santerían goddess of water, guardian of the cycles of life and the womb waters, she indeed reigns over fertility, in general. Little did I know how much impact the element of water would have on my life, not many days after this plant journey, in quite a literal way….

Initiatory themes:

Some themes during this time are very evident, that being lessons around my own moon (menstrual) cycle and the vessel which is my womb, the larger vessel which is my physical body, and the alchemy needing to take place within an intact cauldron, for a successful initiation into my power as a steward of my life force energy.

In the context of spiritual alchemy, one’s body can be considered to be the alchemical cauldron, housing/containing one’s precious life force energy, which also happenes to be imbued with Spirit/soul. For more on the element of fire in alchemy, as well as some related stories and myth, please refer back to Part 3. For me, with over a decade of performing daily yoga practices, and with my recent shaktipat (kundalini awakening), this notion of tending to one’s vessel (body) became all the more relevant and crucial, as this kundalini energy is a force to be reckoned with, especially when the heat is turned on – when the alchemical fire is present in the form of challenging circumstances. If the vessel is compromised, so is the alchemical process.

This containment being breeched was the case for me, as I was losing my power in the presence of others and I was starting to develop adrenal burnout from chronically raised stress levels, despite all the things I was doing to keep myself healthy. If one is operating predominantly from a catabolic (breaking down) state, with excess sympathetic nervous system activation, at the expense of an anabolic (building up) state where the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system allows for rest and rejuvenation to take place, hormonal imbalances ensue, of which gonadal hormones form part (hence my experience of amenorrhea). Adrenal fatigue or burnout can take place even when one is “living healthily”: it is the state that one is in which matters, and tending to one’s vessel (body) with subsequent resilience to life’s stressors, also includes working with the energetic principles of containment.

Coming into containment of one’s energy, is different from a state of contraction – it involves a call to align with the natural law of ebbing within the cycles of ebb and flow, with this wisdom stream running underneath all the chaos we may face in our daily lives. It is the river beneath the river. It can be as simple as a movement of coming back and in, and dropping down into the body like a stone in water, which is counter to the conditioned, auto-pilot way of being and doing - of being up, out and over, in wanting to control the external world. Also, by choosing again and again, to stay aware of one’s energetic periphery and filling ones energy field with one’s own essence and with the beauty contained in every single moment, regardless of circumstance, one tends to the crucible/vessel in "keeping oneself in". Only then can the initiate place just the right amount of materials to be alchemised into the vessel, and adjust the heat to just the right amount of fire, so that he/she does not become the poison itself which is in need of being transformed, or be poisoned by the process. With an intact vessel, such is person is directed by his/her feelings and/or feeling tones, and derives clarity, discernment and discriminatory power via feeling, rather than logic.

Turning to mythology: If the cauldron/vessel represents the body, and the fire our challenges, then what is it that the vessel holds as container for it to be alchemised? As we have seen in the previous post, the theme of marriage surfaces in so many archetypal stories. More specifically, in Mythology, the heroine represents the individual soul, invisible to the outside world, and the hero represents the spirit, which interfaces with the outside world through inspiring the initiate in carrying out the initiatory tasks and the actions required. In the story of Psyche and Eros, Psyche directly translates to “breath” and the meaning derived is that of “soul“– Psyche also later on became Goddess of the Soul. In Speech of the Grail, storyteller and ceremonialist Linda Sussman described Condwiramurs to represent the soul’s nature of inner reflection and the ability to companion oneself, to coach oneself as a form of resource which sustains Parzival, as the initiate who, having left childhood and the fostering care of mentors, ventures on the lonely road towards individuation. Condiwiramurs’ name means to conduct, to serve, to guide love (all forms of love)”.

We can ask how this then translates to life as we know it, where, as Wolfram von Eschenbach states in his twelfth century epic poem, Parzival, that life is both bliss and sorrow, implying that life prompts the heart onward while at the same time testing its perseverance to the utmost. If the initiate truly seeks to serve life, to “win” life’s love (with these archetypal stories inviting us to participate in the eternal love affair between soul and spirit), the initiate will be severely tested, so that he/she is also able to create and give life. In the event where we identify with a male protagonist in a story, such as that of Parzifal and his grail quest, this test then involves the ability of the masculine principle within (spirit) to win the love of the feminine principle within (soul), and to choose her time and time again, ESPECIALLY when she presents herself with her “ugly appearance” in the form of soul-incarnated-in-trying-circumstance.

The distillation of this alchemical brew can taste very bitter, and only a true king has the substance to rise to the occasion. The distillation, as the ancient alchemists knew, is the process through which his identity as king is made manifest. Accordingly, in ancient Ireland, for example, the king’s initiation culminated in a marriage, and his bride was associated with the land, named “Sovereignty”. In these old stories, the bride-to-be would first appear as an old hag, unsightly and grotesque and who demands from the king-to-be his love and service. When he has proved himself strong and courageous enough to accept her on her terms, i.e., for the initiate to see beyond the ugly appearances of life’s severe challenges, and to not reject her loathly look, the wedding ensues, after which she transforms into a beautiful queen: Sovereignty is a bride, the server of an elixir, and the drink itself.

Similarly, the Greek philosopher Plato expressed that Eros can help the soul to "remember" beauty in its pure form, and the purpose of using erotic energy as a vehicle for the transformation of consciousness, and union with the Divine. Jung's concept of Eros is not dissimilar to this view where Eros translates to “Love as relatedness” and refers, ultimately, to the desire for wholeness. Although it may take the form of passionate love in some cases, it is more truly a desire for "psychic relatedness", a desire for interconnection and interaction with other sentient beings, and with ALL of life.

Accordingly, this type of love (Eros), involves the struggling and suffering inevitably accompanying initiatory tests. In fact, considering the etymology of the words “relate” and “suffer”, in Latin, “relate” originates form refero and “suffer” from suffero – both share the root fero, which includes among its meanings “to bear”, “to carry”, “to endure”, “to put up with”. When the initiate draws on the principle of Eros, he/she regards the world, and everything in it, as “alive” and interacts with the world as if he/she can see the living being within each creature or thing.

The substance then to be alchemised is soul, through its union with spirit. For this process to be potent, an intact vessel is required – not one where energy is being drained, and potentially the very substance to be transmuted/transformed/transfigured. These stories then illustrate that the sovereignty of the soul is earned through protection, honour and acknowledgement thereof, by means of the cultivation of a relationship with it (the soul), through wavelike rhythm in life’s cycles and seasons. It is the soul’s heart the initiate must win via the spirit, and for the two to marry before the quest can begin in earnest. This marriage represents and refers to the inner marriage, or coniunctio (meaning “joining” in Latin), a concept developed by C.G. Jung as the union of opposites in the psyche which leads to wholeness.

To be continued in the next post… Blessed be

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