Remything Our Lives With Our Own Symbols


The symbols and themes of dreams, legends, fairy tales and myths address realities that the soul understands, even if the conscious mind does not. For example, the legend of King Arthur features a walled city. We might be tempted to think that Camelot’s walls are nothing more than an incidental detail. So what if Camelot was surrounded by walls?  Lots of ancient cities were fortified by walls.  But as I’ve said before: Everything has meaning. Our symbols are clues to sacred mysteries.
If we look at the walled city as an important clue, we find the underlying meaning of Arthur’s story as it applied to the souls of those who lived in the place and time when it was written.  Cirlot’s Dictionary of symbols says, “Jung sees the city as a mother symbol and as a symbol of the feminine principle in general:  that is, he interprets the City as a woman who shelters her inhabitants as if they were her children…”
In the Old Testament of the Bible, cities are often spoken of as women, and in the Middle Ages, a city was one way of representing the Virgin Mary in art and architecture.  The walls that encircled cities were seen to have magical powers to protect the citizens in the same way that a mother’s womb protects her child or the enfolding branches of a tree protect a baby bear.
The walled city is no mere incidental detail in King Arthur’s story, and it ended in the only way it could.  The destruction of Camelot’s protective walls was inevitable given that this story emerged within a culture which, after a few hundred years of Roman rule, had begun to fear and scorn the Great Mother. Here is the symbolic message of this story: Not even the wisest and most benevolent King that any story teller could ever imagine could save a civilization that was systematically demolishing its feminine spiritual roots!
The negative elements of public and private myths speak to negative realities within the collective and individual psyche. What is the antidote to these powerful poisons? In his book The Mythic Imagination, psychotherapist Stephen Larsen says that conscious mythmaking is healthy and healing because it helps our egos relate to unconscious aspects of ourselves.
I think of the Wisewoman archetype as the part of us who knows when old stories that once worked for us have gone on too long, and who sends us new symbols that can ease us through the transition of change. But all the symbols in the world cannot help us if we will not help ourselves. It is up to us to notice symbols and themes that resonate, and to reshape them into new myths that will support and sustain the necessary changes. As theologian Matthew Fox has said: “Healthy people base their lives on healing, authentic stories.  Empowerment comes through the process of telling those stories.”
We cannot live the fullest meaning of our life by basing it on someone else’s story about who we are or what we should be.  Only our experiences, only our choices, only our own imagination and symbols have transforming power for us. To that end you might ask yourself these questions:  What stories have I lived by? How have they had a negative influence on me?  How have they been positive? What new symbols and themes is the Wisewoman sending my way? What emerging strengths would I want to feature in my new myth? What images might best symbolize these strengths?

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0 Responses

  1. As always your words mean a great deal to me.
    I’m hoping to order a book today, about women’s mysteries by Dartmoor artist, writer and musician Carolyn Hillyer.
    I’d like to find my own myth. But it takes some focus I don’t seem to have right now.

    1. So glad this was meaningful for you. I think you are already remything your life. I thought I saw parts of you in your wonderful book, Strangers and Pilgrims. For example, the universal theme of searching for the fresh spring of living waters (an archetypal symbol if there ever was one) surely addresses the heroic quest for health, spiritual healing, and hope for a meaningful life with a positive outcome. And of course, the symbol of King Arthur in that story spoke to a powerful desire to bless the land with fairness, unity, justice and equality. Finally, the impending union between Ginny, the young woman who rebelled against her greedy and heartless father (a symbol of the negative aspects of patriarchy) and Alex, the Arthurian scholar? A promise of the archetypal Sacred Marriage if I ever saw one. Yes, you’re most definitely deeply involved in remything your life with your own symbols. Keep it up. This is healing work.
      My blessings,

      1. I shall do my best.
        It’s incredibly heartening to see your thoughts on my book, and its symbolism.
        I’ve been struggling so much lately.
        I have begun a follow-up (sequel?) to Strangers and Pilgrims but it has run adrift as a result of my inner turmoil.
        Thank you.

  2. Timely, Jeanie, Thank you for another lovely morsel of wisdom. I passed this along to our Elder Women Circle because our next meeting we are working with approaches to writing about our lives. This will spark some good ideas to work with.
    I also loved your Easter sunrise picture. It reminded me of the beach along Jupiter Island, which in 1980, became a life-saving sanctuary for me as I sought healing and discernment for my life. It was also from the pre-dawn sky over the ocean that I had my second synchronistic epiphany with the morning star. Yes, symbols have been my life’s soul food!
    Our connection and your blog feeds my soul also. Gratefully, Julie

    1. Thank you, Julie. If God is in all creation, then when the ocean or a morning star or sunrise or any other image speaks to your soul in a powerful way, you’re having a conversation with God. Blessings, Jeanie

  3. This blog reminded me of a theologian that was addressing the fundamentalist outcry of heresy concerning those who would demythologize the Bible. His admonition was that demythologizing the Bible was not the problem, nor the whole answer. He said we need to remythologize humans! Spoken from his Wise Man archetype I would say!

  4. Jeanie,
    Today is a day of finding golden treasures – another one of your blog posts. Thank you for this. I am in the middle of creating a new myth for my life. Reading your blog post feels like an arm of support. I am piecing together my new myth with one stitch and one small piece of inner knowing at a time. I sit in the dark. I wait – wondering, listening and seeing. I gratefully receive each new part from my unconscious, via dreams, conversations, books, and blogs/fb and from happy accidents. Your writing has given me several pieces and much warm and insightful support…thank you! Blessings to you Jeanie!

    1. Hi Sandy, I’m so glad to know my writing is of value to you. That’s what it’s all about for me. Thank you for making my day! Jeanie

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