Nataraj Express

Journey to the Self

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The Moon 

Athanasius Kircher, Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (Rome: Scheus, 1646): ‘The Selenic Shadowdial or the Process of the Lunation’.

We have all read and heard many myths and stories about the Moon. We even know many archetypes associated with her, Gods and Goddeses of East and West that also represent deeper parts and meanings of our individual and collective psyche (Artemis, Kali, Hecate, all the Dark Goddesses, Chandra, etc.).

We also know how the Moon relates to time, to cycles, to transformation, to birth and death, and rebirth and resurrection. We know of her presence and power through the movement of our oceans, of our tides, waning and waxing through eternity. She is the matron of all sea creatures, and as Queen of the Night, she is also matron of night creatures.

She is the other side of the pendulum. In one side the Sun, light, and in the other the Moon, darkness, balancing existence. Reflecting the light back at us.

She relates to our own physical cycles, especially with women and menstruation. In yoga and other ancient philosophies she is associated with energy channels in our subtle bodies: pingala (sun) and ida (moon) channels. The dance of polarities always maintaining balance: masculine/feminine, yang/yin, shiva/shakti.

In more practical terms, the moon represents fertility, resurrection, occult power, immortality and intuition.

Traditionally, the alchemy planet symbols were depicted as seven in number. This is significant as this number corresponds to the seven major organs of the human body, the seven energy centers of the body (chakras), and most interestingly, the seven major metals in alchemy.

In this case, the moon represents one of those metals: Silver, Lesser Work. It reaches its stronger potential when joined with the sun, or Gold in the Greater Work. The moon is a feminine property and alchemists would incorporate it with the sun (gold) to assure balance and equilibrium.

In alchemy, the moon is a facet of silver and silver is symbolic of clarity, purity, and brilliance. Silver is one of the three foundational metals of the Prima Materia and so the silver-personified moon is prominently placed upon the triune throne of transformation.

Silver holds philosophical traits of the feminine persuasion as well as attributes of intuition, inner wisdom, and contemplation.

Silver is a symbol for clarity and strength because this metal withstands abuse, weathering, and even heat.  Nevertheless, it can still be molded into desired forms.

Silver had feminine names or was associated with feminine Goddesses: Nanna for the Chaldeans, Artemis (Greek mythology) for the Rosicrucian alchemists, Diana (Roman mythology) for the Reinassance alchemists and the Arabic alchemists called it Manat when working with silver as an alchemical symbol.

In essence, the moon and silver are the representation of feminine energy, intuition, inner wisdom, reflection, cycles, clarity, strength, the occult, mystery, transformation and balance. Fluid energy, ever changing, ever transformed.

Happy last New Moon of this 2017. May we all plant the seeds of future transformation with awareness and love.

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Labyrinth – Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 291, detail of f. 170v. Rabanus Maurus, De rerum naturis. 1425

Labyrinths are one of many ancient symbols that has evolved in its meaning. You will certainly be able to search and find a lot of different explanations related to many fields of knowledge.

In essence, the labyrinth represents a journey. It is a winding path to the centre of our beings, and a path back out into the world.

For me, it represents life itself; no matter which path we choose, we always have to come to ourselves, know ourselves, before we can integrate all lessons and adapt them into the exterior reality.

The labyrinth can also be a symbol of the unconscious. The path we take and the monsters we fight in our minds. The fears we have to confront. And learn from. In some mythologies, labyrinths were built with the purpose of luring devils or monsters into them so that they might never escape, or as guardians and protectors of the centre and truth. The Minotaur, the symbol of our deepest fears, of our hidden demons, guarding the labyrinth. The only way out is through the centre. The only way out is by lifting the veil and killing the Minotaur. The only way out is to see clearly.

Labyrinths are also cosmogonic references to the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Real labyrinths are used as a tool or initiation into a spiritual practice. In other words, it is another tool we can use to go deeper into the depths of our own psyches. Walking a labyrinth can be a wonderful experience. Slowly, step after step the mind might find a way for distraction, but we bring it back to the present by fully embodying the movement through it. Step by step, moving inwards into the centre, physically and mentally. Breathing. Giving an intention and a purpose to our walking action. That is how meaning is found in every moment; by giving it through our thoughts and actions.

A labyrinth has no dead-ends as a maze does. It is one path continuously changing perspective. To get out we must always continue forward, ever present to the twists and turns of our journeys to ourselves. Once we have reached the centre, we integrate all lessons and take them out into the world.

Some studies associate labyrinths to the stars and planets. They portray them as diagrams of the macrocosmos, diagrams of heaven, of the apparent motions of the astral bodies. The terrestrial labyrinth is capable of mirroring the celestial labyrinth. Again we come back to the Hermetic teaching of “as above, so below; as within, so without”, only this time there is an action inherent to the statement as we are the ones who must walk in and through the spiraling path of the labyrinth.

In the Middle Ages, tracing through the labyrinthic path of a mosaic patterned on the ground was considered a symbolic substitute for a spiritual and holy pilgrimage. That’s why we find them many times in cathedrals.

For Mircea Eliade and others, the labyrinth’s true purpose is the protection of the centre, which was an initiation into sanctity, immortality and absolute reality, and as such, equivalent to other trials, or mythical symbolisms like the fight with the dragon.

Labyrinths allude to the neoplatonic idea of “the fall”, the loss of spirit in the process of creation, and the consequent need to seek out the Way through the centre, back to the spirit. In the end, the ultimate goal is union, within oneself, and between oneself and all existence.

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Shells have a long history of meanings, symbolism and magical uses. As they are born from the ocean, they are related to water, to our emotions and deeper longings, and therefore also to the Moon, whose energy is always moving the tides. Both the water and the moon give shells a feminine quality to them, a nurturing, soft form of energies.

In Buddhism, shells represent hearing, listening. For Chinese Buddhism it is one of the 8 emblems of good luck. It is a symbol of light. It accompanies many of the sea deities, like Triton.

In Christianity it represents salvation, and were used to sprinkle baptismal waters.  They are also worn by Christians to indicate the completion of the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Galicia, Spain, originally the shrine of the Goddess Bridgette, the Celtic version of Aphrodite.

The scallop shell is associated with the goddess Venus (“born of the sea”) as she was carried to shore by shell in some of the versions of the myth. In Hindu mythology, the version of Aphrodite is associated to the goddess Lakshmi (“born from the churning of the ocean”), consort of Vishnu, and who represented beauty and good fortune.

There are therefore many associated symbols to the shell. The feminine. The moon. The tides. Cycles of change. Gods and Goddesses of the ocean, of beauty, of joy. Intuition. Deep search. Diving in the subconscious. Knowing. Wisdom.

To listen to the sound of the ocean through a shell, or blow a conch shell and listen to the sound, are some of the best experiences to connect with all these deeper meanings. Shells are created by the creatures that inhabit them, and then left behind when no longer needed. This intrinsic wisdom of letting go, of getting rid of the weight that doesn’t serve us in our paths. Nature.

If you don’t know, taking shells affects the ocean. It can damage the environment and destroy ecosystems. They might serve a purpose there. I always encourage everyone I meet in any beach anywhere to leave everything as they found it or better (by collecting trash), to not take a piece of Nature with them. Everything in Her has meaning and reason to exist within Her. So please, maybe next time think about it before you take shells with you home. Every single action CAN be done with awareness.

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Art: ‘Not To Be Reproduced’  by René Magritte

A mirror’s ultimate purpose is to reflect. It’s existence is based merely on what it reflects. It IS what it’s reflection is. Until it’s gone. And then it is a mirror. The essence of mirrors is to be a surface for reflection; the one of looking, and the one of thinking.

Mirrors for me have always been a doorway to another world. Like the Moon reflects the light of the Sun, so do mirrors reflect our essence. I feel they contain the past, they keep the memory of consciousness protected and hidden, until someone is ready to ‘see’.

I was going to write a post about Mirrors but I couldn’t resist sharing Cirlot’s explanation of them in ‘A Dictionary of Symbols’:

Mirror As a symbol, it has the same characteristics as the mirror in fact; the temporal and existential variety of its function provides the explanation of its significance and at the same time the diversity of its meaningful associations. It has been said that it is a symbol of the imagination—or of consciousness—in its capacity to reflect the formal reality of the visible world. It has also been related to thought, in so far as thought—for Scheler and other philosophers—is the instrument of self-contemplation as well as the reflection of the universe. This links mirror-symbolism with water as a reflector and with the Narcissus myth: the cosmos appears as a huge Narcissus regarding his own reflections in the human consciousness. Now, the world, as a state of discontinuity affected by the laws of change and substitution, is the agent which projects this quasinegative, kaleidoscopic image of appearance and disappearance reflected in the mirror. From the earliest times, the mirror has been thought of as ambivalent. It is a surface which reproduces images and in a way contains and absorbs them. In legend and folklore, it is frequently invested with a magic quality—a mere hypertrophic version of its fundamental meaning. In this way it serves to invoke apparitions by conjuring up again the images which it has received at some time in the past, or by annihilating distances when it reflects what was once an object facing it and now is far removed. This fluctuation between the ‘absent’ mirror and the ‘peopled* mirror lends it a kind of phasing, feminine in implication, and hence —like the fan—it is related to moon-symbolism. Further evidence that the mirror is lunar is afforded by its reflecting and passive characteristics, for it receives images as the moon receives the light of the sun. Again, its close relationship to the moon is demonstrated by the fact that among the primitives it was seen as a symbol of the multiplicity of the soul: of its mobility and its ability to adapt itself to those objects which ‘visit’ it and retain its ‘interest’. At times, it takes the mythic form of a door through which the soul may free itself ‘passing’ to the other side: this is an idea reproduced by Lewis Carroll in Alice Through the Looking Glass. This alone is sufficient explanation of the custom of covering up mirrors or turning them to face the wall on certain occasions, in particular when someone in the house dies. All that we have said so far by no means exhausts the complex symbolism of the mirror: like the echo, it stands for twins (thesis and antithesis), and specifically for the sea of flames (or life as an infirmity). For Loeffler, mirrors are magic symbols for unconscious memories (comparable with crystal palaces). Hand-mirrors, in particular, are emblems of truth, and in China they are supposed to have an allegorical function as aids to conjugal happiness as well as a protection against diabolical influences. Some Chinese legends tell of ‘the animals in the mirror’. 

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The Siren myth is one of the oldest and indestructible of all myths. Among some marine people, it has survived even to this day.

Sirens take two mythical forms: as a bird-woman or as a fish-woman.

In Greek mythology, sirens were the daughters of the river Achelous and nymph Calliope, later on turned into birds by the Goddess Ceres. They inhabited mountainous places and were attributed a song of such sweetness they could attract anyone, only to devour them later.

According to Ovid, the Sirens were the companions of young Persephone. They were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted.

The myth arouse later of Sirens with fish tails who hunted in rocky islands and cliffs and behaved in the same manner their sisters inhabiting the element of air did.

Sirens with fish tails were normally represented with a double tail in ancient myths. Being the ocean a symbol of our subconscious minds, the tails might allude to the duality of existence in the watery depths of our psyche.

Later on, especially in artistic creations, Sirens stop appearing as ugly and dangerous creatures to give way to the depiction of the young seductress. Young women whose purpose is to seduce and lure the sailors towards them and their islands.

What all of these myths have in common is a sweet voice or song attracting humans toward it, only to die. For me, this represents the way expectations and desires work. How we feel attracted towards a perfect ideal, only to realise perfection is an illusion.

There isn’t a right or wrong interpretation of any legend or myth, as it depends on the perspective of the interpreter. Sirens may very well be representations of the inferior forces in woman, or women as inferior, according to our patriarchal history and interpretation; or they could also be symbolic of the corrupt imagination towards the primitive; or of the torment of desire leading to our own self-destruction.

It seems that they are symbols of “temptations” in the vast path of life, the ocean where we navigate. They want us to stay on the “island” with them, attracting us towards an ideal, causing us to “die”, in other words, causing us to seek the comfort of the stationary instead of the growth we find in change.

Oswald Wirth maintains that the siren is quite simply a symbol of woman, and that woman is a true incarnation of the spirit of the earth, as opposed to man, who is the son of heaven. He expresses his concept of transmigration as follows:

“Life entices the souls of those deprived of it. Why does the other world not retain once and for all those spiritual entities that aspire towards reincarnation? The daughters of men ensnare the sons of heaven with their beauty, dragging them irresistibly down. The spell thus cast is attributed to the siren whose song so captivates the listener that he falls into the ocean teeming with multitudinous life. This temptress owes her powers to the changing forms governed by the moon, the crescent of which shines upon her forehead”.

Sirens appear in many myths, legends, paintings and stories. Maybe one of the most famous one is in the epic poem The Odyssey by Homer, where Ulysses/Odysseus had his crew tie him up to the mast of the ship, while they covered their ears with beeswax so as to not fall under the sweet and deadly song of the Sirens.

There are many more legends, and also, many more symbolic interpretations of these mythical creatures. Psychologically we can relate to them as that voice that sometimes lures us into making the wrong turns and choices. Although in the end, nothing is good or bad ‘per se’, but as good or as bad as we perceive it and use the lessons extracted from the experiences.

Personally, I love Sirens. I think they speak to a much deeper part of our psyches. Maybe a part of ourselves that has been ignored for too long, and the only way it knows how to make it’s appearance is by using pain as a sign.

Art: The Siren by John William Waterhouse.