“The word ‘feminine,’ as I understand it, has very little to do with gender, nor is woman the custodian of femininity. Both men and women are searching for their pregnant virgin. She is the part of us who is outcast, the part who comes to consciousness through going into darkness, mining our leaden darkness, until we bring her silver out.” ― Marion Woodman, The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation, 1985
I’ve always had a thing for silver. I can trace this fascination to one of my earliest memories. When I was four years old, I was sick, perhaps with an earache, so my mother, a nurse, brought out a thermometer to take my temperature. I’d never seen one before, so I asked her to show me how it worked.
Patiently she explained about the thin black line that moved up the glass cylinder from the little bulb on the end that was filled with something called mercury. This mysterious substance was not as hard as a ball or as runny as water, yet it acted like both. It could be broken apart into numerous little silver balls or united into one big, soft, silver ball. You could rub some on a dime and it would become shiny, slippery, and silvery. The mercury was what expanded as it got warmer and made the little line move up the thermometer. Then she took my temperature and showed me how to read the results.
I was fascinated. Could I play with it for a while? I asked. Well, I could hold it for a minute, but I must be very careful because it could break easily and then the mercury would spill out. Oh, I would be careful I promised. Since I was not prone to making messes or having accidents, my mother decided to trust me and left the room while I pondered the mysteries of this fascinating new treasure.
When she left I walked about the room making my mind blank, refusing to think about the deed that a darker, unknown part of myself was contemplating. As I walked, I allowed my grip on the thermometer to loosen and the hand holding it to go limp as I “accidentally” tripped on the edge of the throw rug, a rug that had always been in the exact same place, a rug I had never tripped on before.
“Oh, dear!’ I said aloud, and my hands flew to cover my mouth in feigned surprise and dismay as the thermometer shattered on the floor beside the rug. My mother found me on my hands and knees searching for the little balls of mercury to roll together to make a bigger ball.
“It was an accident,” I said, believing my lie completely. “I tripped on the rug and it fell out of my hand and broke.” Wasn’t this the truth? Hadn’t I indeed tripped on the rug?
My mother seemed disinclined to believe me and I was shocked. “It’s the truth,” I swore. A wise woman with an aversion to forcing people into corners over small matters, she let the subject drop. We picked up the shattered pieces of the thermometer, tossed them into the trash basket, then rolled the droplets of mercury into a ball and rubbed it on a dime to see how it would shine.
Deep within, a tiny, devious creature crouched in the dark corner to which it had been banished by the conscious, “good” little girl I believed myself to be. I could not acknowledge the presence of this “bad” girl for I was afraid of being punished. So I began to build a wall in front of her so neither I nor anyone else would see her. Soon she no longer existed for me.
Unlike my mother, the Self could not let this issue drop. It saw my soul’s need for openness and light, even if my ego could not. Around the age of 35 I became aware of new feelings of discontentment, but had no idea why. Then I was given this recurring dream.
I’m walking along a path with earth and grass on either side. A sparkle of light on the ground catches my eye, and I bend down to see what it is. It’s the grooved edge of a silver coin that’s mostly buried in the dark earth. I dig away the dirt and pick it up, only to see more beside and behind it, tightly packed together like a dense colony of coquina clams on the shore of the Atlantic ocean. Feeling rich, I start pulling them out until my hands are full.
The dream said my riches lay in the dark underground of the unconscious. In alchemy, quicksilver is associated with the fleet-footed Roman god Mercurius (Greek Hermes) and the moon goddess, Artemis. He was the transforming, light-bringing messenger of the gods and the world-creating spirit imprisoned in matter. She was the protectress of women, children, and the wilderness, and a huntress whose silver arrows killed her prey quickly and painlessly. Symbolically, silver represents the balance between black and white. Psychologically, the alchemical work is digging into the wilderness of the dark unconscious until we release the light of consciousness and are transformed by the marriage of the masculine (conscious)-feminine (unconscious) duality in our psyches. While invisible to others, the rewards are richly self-affirming and self-validating to the miner.
With help from dreamwork and writing, I’m bringing my pregnant virgin’s silver out. I can see my little outcast and usually accept her flaws. She’s only human. And my seeing and accepting are transforming her secretiveness and defensiveness into silver.
How about you? How do you bring out your silver?
Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning book, Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Her new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to Jean Raffa’s newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.