It’s Time to Bring Out the Silver

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I love these silver droplets of water in the silver-gray underside of this leaf. They remind me of mercury and ice!

“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.

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23 Responses

  1. What a wonderful story, Jean. Three things struck chords to resonate:

    “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.”

    It stands out as opening into a personal Beauty and the Beast, with one’s own Inner Beastie… to which I often express, make besties with your Beasties, daily. And, I love the long-form process of ‘Time to Bring Out the Silver’ coming into being.

    Though, your plot thickened, and you brought in Mercurius and Artemis. Well, almost. 🙂 It was interesting to me that you went into a little about Hermès, though after her name was mentioned, Artemis was no more, like that little dark side in the corner, like you were your own Zeus. She was one of those see what is not there qualities, much like that ‘good’ girl’s Pallas-Athena (Minerva) Master Strategist relegating that dark one to the corner, like Zeus attempted with Artemis (more below). The Silence of Artemis not being spoken of after her name being mentioned is almost deafening, one of those wonderful omissions that build the story through imagination, though I feel to directly bring the feminine character to bear in regards to how I bring out the Silver to respond to that question, though given another forms by your story.

    That wonderful omission of who Artemis was/is connected the circle of the story for me back to the little one whom you relegated to the corner, who now Brings Out The Silver.

    It feels like that little dark one was akin to Artemis’ protector, Argus, the 100-eyed giant. Zeus sent Hermès to slay the giant as Argus was the protector of Io in the form of a white bull — brahma bull, female Brahmana priestess mistress. Once slayed, which is another story — the version I like is, will look for citation — Artemis wept over Argus deep in grief. The love in her tears drenched him which resurrected him as the peacock where she magically places his eyes in the tail feathers. Zeus could not kill the peacock as it had been made with Artemis’ love. And, a peacock’s opening tail fanning up and open full of loving and magical eyes as protection feels to be the dark girl in the corner becoming the parent of the woman who is now bringing the silver.

    A 100-eyed beast as a secret best friend, that is also and has become not an Inner Mistress Sibling… that… has become The One That Brings the Silver.

    In a more casual moment, the peacock might just stick it’s tongue out at both Zeus and Hera. Not much they could do about it… well, unless they would like to bring more lineage silver.

    1. Wow. That’s a fascinating take on this story, Jordan. It’s interesting that you noticed the lack of more information about Artemis. I did not connect her with the cowering little girl, yet I think you’re really on to something. She’s always been a favorite of mine and I included her in The Soul’s Twins as the virgin goddess, an example of the Queen archetype. That chapter opens with the image of a painting I own of her.

      I thought of mentioning her silver arrows here, and how while, according to one story, she used them to kill, she killed with such compassion that her victim never felt the pain, in contrast to her twin brother Apollo’s golden arrows which did the job brutally. The reason I didn’t mention that was because I was trying to keep the story under 1,000 words!! Well, that was my conscious reason. 🙂 Thanks to your comment, I now see that she belongs in it too. Thank you for that, and for the story of Argus and the peacock. I read that many years ago and had forgotten all about it. A hundred-eyed beast as a secret best friend that has become The One That Brings the Silver. I love that!

      And in line with Brian’s comment below, your comment about how the peacock who could not be killed might just stick out its tongue at her persecutors Zeus and Hera, suggests the little girl’s maturing role as the trickster, Hermes/Mercurious, The One That Brings the Silver. I have a statue of Hermes standing to my right here as I write at my desk. Again, wow.

      Thank you!

      1. Glad to be able to contribute to the beautiful fluidity of your post. Full-on understood the conscious reason to keep a post un 1k words.

        I appreciate the depth of your response. Glad to catalyze the humor. Love your image of the burgeoning trickster sticking her tongue out. Dense levity there that she could pull off.

        You are most welcome. I full-on dig when a post inspires me to depths in commenting. Yours certainly did that.

  2. Brian! Hermes, the trickster!! Thank you. How could I have forgotten that? Of course! These associations you and Jordan (see above) are making to my little story are blowing my mind this morning. It’s reminding me that there’s still a vast store of wealth in my unconscious waiting for me to unearth it. I think it’s time to get my mythology books out and start digging. There’s so much more to learn. Where’s my shovel….. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing the memory of your 4 year old (hiding behind your need to explore) and your 35 yr old dream Jeanie. And for Jordan’s further exploration, fleshing your post out even more. Hermes the Trickster .. that brings back a memory of when our Johannesburg Jungian group many years ago, under the aegis of Patrick, a visiting Jungian analyst from Cape Town, had broken us into 4 or 5 groups of 4 or 5 each. My/0ur group of 4 had to enact Psyche and Eros on the stage. I was wearing a gold mask, which caused a few in the audience (of the others in their groups still to enact their stories), two people giggled, which caused Colin on stage to stifle a giggle, which caused Barbara to forget her words, which caused me to choke, and the 4th to burst out laughing. We 4 collapsed on the floor laughing hysterically and ran off the stage as soon as we could get up. Patrick (may his dear soul rest in Peace) accused me of being the Trickster wanting unconsciously to bring about this drama. I still don’t know if this was the case – maybe it was … but, I’m thinking as I write, that it would be beneficial to me to be more aware of Hermes, and his trickster ways. He is an agent of change …

    1. Hi, Susan. I love your story of how Hermes the Trickster manifested in your re-enactment of the Psyche and Eros myth in that particular setting. I remember that our Jungian study group met for five years and we were usually very serious and left-brained and bent on thinking deep thoughts and understanding complex concepts. We did laugh sometimes, of course, and enjoyed each other very much, but our studies were far more serious than playful. As I think back, I see that we could have used more Hermes energy. Maybe he could have helped change us and the dynamics of the group in wonderful ways we couldn’t foresee.

      Things go so much easier when I simply expect the Trickster to show up and laugh when, sure enough, it does. I don’t always remember to do that, but Jordan’s wonderful comment and this discussion are bringing it to the forefront of my awareness. I woke up this morning fretting about preparations I need to make for a book signing on Saturday afternoon, and worrying about the possibility of rain. And now I realize, yes, it will rain. It rains all the time here. We’re in a rain forest for heaven’s sake. In fact, I just checked the Saturday weather report and there’s an 80% chance of rain. And there’s nothing I can do about it and we will get through it and laugh about it. So lighten up, Jeanie! And thank you, Susan. 🙂

    2. Susan, I love the breaking down on stage. As I was reading your comment, it felt like the script transformed into full boat tricksters performing, and then you said as much. Serendipity taking over to dose everyone with the trickster. I bet the performance was a wholly original laugh-ad-lobbed hoot.

  4. Dear Jeanie,

    Oh, what merriment it was to read your tale of playing with mercury as a young girl! It was as though the playful trickster spirit of Mercurius had himself leapt into you. Jordan’s reply, well I don’t know where to begin, suffice to say, I’ll be paying a visit to his blog later. I’ve written “make besties with your beasties!” on a sticky note and have stuck it atop my dream diary.

    In pure synchronicity your title “It’s Time to Bring Out the Silver” has really caught my eye and my imagination today following a dream I had a few nights ago. Hmm, perhaps it’s time to pick up poetry’s pen as I can feel a “croning” metamorphosis of sorts coming on, what with being laid up here with my broken ankle these past three weeks with much time on my hands.

    If you’d like to move into a deeper, richer relationship with Mercurius and haven’t already read the alchemical novel “Mercurius: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth” by Patrick Halpur, I can highly recommend it! It’s a long read with over 500+ pages but worth the read as it’s totally engaging and overflows with alchemy, wisdom and what I call the “secret” knowledge.

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah,

      I, too, loved Jordan’s reply. In all these years it has never occurred to me that my lively curiosity in those days was a manifestation of Trickster! It makes so much sense now.

      I clearly see that my 11-year old ego turned my back on that energy after my parents divorced and my father died. Life became a very serious matter of life and death for me after that. Over the years, people have often remarked on how serious they thought I was until they got to know me and saw my lighter, playful side. Thank goodness, that little Trickster never left for good, and I can feel myself bringing out her silver more and more.

      I just had a thought….Maybe the early onset of silver in my hair has been a message from Hermes (and my Crone) all along: “Lighten up. It’s time to bring out the silver!!”

      Wow. I’m loving making all these connections. Thank you, Deborah, and everyone else who’s commented here. And thank you for the book recommendation. I haven’t read the alchemical novel “Mercurius: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth”. I’m going to order it the moment I finish this.

      Thank you, Deborah, for bringing more love and light into my life!

      Love and light back to you, Jeanie

  5. I love your little outcast–curious trickster girl so curious about mercury and clever about lying. And your mom who knew but didn’t make a big deal of it. I searched my dream journal and found a 2019 dream about wearing silver shoes in India, but I wasn’t sure they were mine and I was upset that I might have stolen someone else’s shoes. I dig for silver in dreamwork.

    My house is being painted which means my back porch Monarch nursery is now in my office. The butterflies take much attending this time of year when they’re at egg laying peak (little pearly domes under milkweed leaves), but I’m raising them and writing about the process. I wonder what I’ll discover about this mania, but I think of the winged goddess Psyche and soul.

    May you have a beautiful August in the mountains.

  6. I love the way you describe my little outcast: with such gentleness and forgiveness. I have honestly never thought of her that way. And thanks for sharing your dream of worrying you’d stolen someone’s silver shoes. My waking life and your dream seem to suggest the same theme: females feeling guilt about bringing out the silver of consciousness hidden in the unconscious? I can’t quite remember if my dream ego felt guilt about pulling the silver coins out of the dirt, but I think I may have had some concern about whether it was right for me to keep the silver coins. What if they belonged to someone else? Yet I decided to take it anyway. Finders keepers! Yes, I’m pretty sure there was some guilt about that decision. So is this a feminine thing? Are we afraid to do what it takes to become conscious? Do we feel guilty if we do? Or does everyone on the individuation journey feel the same way at some point? I know I did. Several other dreams in my late forties and early fifties spelled that out plainly. Interesting.

    Yes, we both dig for silver in dreamwork. Lately I also find I am digging for silver more often by way of my senses. It’s so cool and beautiful here that I go for long walks with Izzy, and find much pleasure in the sights, smells, physical sensations, and sounds of nature. Your associations of Psyche and soul with your butterfly mania sound promising. I look forward to reading what silver you find in that!

    August is starting out beautifully. My book talk and signing last night was very successful and brought me so much joy and pleasure. Aren’t Joy and Pleasure the two translations usually given for the Greek name for Psyche and Eros’s baby daughter? I want to wrap those feelings up in silver paper and ribbons like a birthday gift I can return to whenever I feel down or self-critical.

    May your August be beautiful too.

  7. Eros and Psyche’s daughter is named Voluptas meaning “pleasure” or “delight.” It always felt to me that the spiritual marriage produced delight right down to our fingers and toes. I need to get some silver ribbon. And may there be many beautiful walks.

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