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September 29, 2011

Shamanic and Jungian Perspectives on Sacred Geometry, Serpentine/DNA Symbolism

Several months before the move from my house in Florida to California where I now live, I’d been wondering about the symbolic meaning of a black snake in my yard. It had been there since we moved in to the house, but mostly showed-up during times of transition in my husband’s and my life. In 2008, the year my husband died, Snaked presented itself by lying across the steps at both the front and back doors at different times, then, disappeared. It began showing up again before my move to California.

Four months before the move, I Felt drawn to a beautiful mandala that I’ve included here, titled “Serpentine Fire” by Jean Raffa. I copied it from Jean's blog “Matrignosis” in the post titled “Dream Symbols of the Beloved,” June 12, 2010.
Later in the same day I’d found the Serpentine mandala, I opened at random Alchemy of Nine Dimensions by Barbara Hand Clow and Gerry Clow to an Australian aboriginal painting of “The Cosmic Serpent.” Underneath the picture, the caption compares the serpents with double helixes and DNA.
Below that, the Clows write how “Shamans often see serpentine images, especially double ones, which resemble the DNA double helix. The DNA molecule is a single long chain made of two interwoven ribbons connected by four bases: DNA is both single and double, just like mythical serpents. Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent, pp. 78, 80) concludes that DNA is the origin of shamanic knowledge.”
A few days later, working with my Medicine Cards (1988, Jamie Sands and David Carson) I shuffled and picked one at random, as was my custom, to give me a focus for the day. I pulled #34 Grouse ”of the sacred spiral, leading us on to reach the everlasting heights, where we live as one.”
Also, copied from the text: “…If you have Grouse medicine in your cards, undertake a meditation on the various qualities of movement within your world. Begin by visualizing the sun as one member of a huge group of stars swirling in the massive pinwheel shape of the Milky Way. Then draw yourself out of this pinwheel of light into the spiraling of your own DNA’s double helix, an arrangement similar to a rope ladder coiled like a corkscrew…contemplate if
your own movement is compatible with your greatest desires and goals…Grouse medicine is an invitation to the dance, and offers this dance to you as a gift. You can spend a lifetime learning Grouse’s lesson on how to harmonize your dance with Mother Earth’s cycles, and how to offer the dance as creation of selfless beauty.”
I was beginning to feel like there was an important message here for me in the DNA double helix! Perhaps, Jean Raffa would have more information for me.
So, that afternoon, I commented on the “Dream Symbols of the Beloved” post and told Jeanie about the meaningful coincidences I’d experienced and had recorded in my synchronicity journal about Snake, the Clows’ passage, and the Medicine card I'd chosen, and how they all seemed to point to the double helix symbol and its meaning.
Jeanie’s reply:
Dear Jenna, Welcome to my garden! It’s so good to hear from you. I love your synchronicity journal and wish I’d been keeping one all these years. Here’s another synchronicity you can add to it: I just came to my computer moments ago and as I was waiting for my mail to open up, I picked up my copy of Aion (Jung’s collected works, Volume 9, ii) and opened it to a place I marked some time ago to have another look at what Jung says about Self symbols. I was thinking I need to write another post about this topic because it’s been so popular and there’s so much more I could say. The paragraph I was most interested in (#356) is the one where Jung says that the Self also has animal symbolism; among these is, you guessed it, the snake. A few pages later he says that the snake symbol brings us to the images of Paradise, tree, and earth; together these symbolize creation, our origins. This brings to mind the idea that the original unity had to be split up into the multiplicity of the visible world and that our job is to reunite our separate parts (in the inorganic realm) into a whole, unified being. So after I read that, I opened your comment. I think snake is talking to us both. I need to get busy writing that post! Much love, Jeanie
Our comments continued:
Jenna Says:
Oops, forgot to put the title of my synchronicity journal entry in my last post: Synchronicity: June 14, 2010 Sacred Geometry/Serpentine/DNA
jeanraffa Says:
Dear Jenna, Of course. At the beginning of the chapter in Aion I just told you about, Jung reviews the facts that led psychologists to conjecture an archetype of wholeness, i.e., the Self, and says, “These are in the first place dreams and visions; in the second place, products of active imagination in which symbols of wholeness appear. The most important of these are geometrical structures containing elements of the circle and quaternity…” Jeanie
Jenna Says:
Thank you for sharing your synchronicity, too, Jeanie. What fun! I bet there are others of your readers who have their own events of synchronicity to share around these discussions. It has been my experience that when an archetypal subject comes up in group, many in the conversation experience a synchronicity which highlights their own personal meaning(s) around it.
By the way, do you mind if I share this exchange in my thesis/book, using your name and referencing your blog? If you would prefer that I do not, please don’t hesitate to say so. I always ask, before using anyone’s ideas or words.
Can’t wait for your next posts…
jeanraffa Says:
Jenna, Of course you may share this exchange and any others we may have in the future. I already know of at least one other synchronicity occurring around this same topic. A few days ago a Jungian friend sent me a dream featuring an elephant and asked for any thoughts I may have. I sent a few, then two days later picked up Aion and turned to the page I cited in my previous comment about the animals that represent the Self in dreams. The elephant was the first one mentioned. When I wrote that to her she responded that she had done a meditation and active imagination with her dream elephant and its message to her had been about how much it loved her. Nothing could point more strongly to the Self than that.

Jean Raffa's
newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World, will be issued from Larson Publications in June of 2012.

September 15, 2011

One Man’s Life: Tempered Like the Perfect Blade

Awhile back, I commented in an email to my friend “E” about how amazing it is to me that he has been able to look beyond the difficulties of his life to the overall integrity and beauty of the larger picture (he experienced a brutal upbringing in many ways). I also chose, in my communique, to compare E’s journey to the process of firing and tempering steel that occurs before the creation of the perfect blade of a sword. That analogy just popped into my mind with no pre-thought as to what I was going to write - my not being really big on swords or blades. A few hours after sending that email, I picked up the novel I had purchased in the airport while waiting for a delayed flight. Soon, I came to this passage:

The steel arrives in my workshop and I have to transform it into parts for cars, agricultural machinery, kitchen utensils...First, I heat the metal until it's red-hot, then I beat it mercilessly with my heaviest hammer until the metal takes on the form I need. Then I plunge it into a bucket of cold water and the whole workshop is filled with the roar of steam while the metal sizzles and crackles in response to the sudden change in temperature. I have to keep repeating that process until the object I'm making is perfect: once is not enough. Sometimes the steel I get simply can't withstand such treatment. The heat, the hammer blows, the cold water cause it to crack. And I know that I'll never be able to make it into a good plowshare or an engine shaft. Then I throw it on the pile of scrap metal at the entrance to my forge. I know that God is putting me through the fire of afflictions. I've accepted the blows that life has dealt me, and sometimes I feel as cold and indifferent as the water that inflicts such pain on the steel. But my one prayer is this: Please, God, my Mother, don't give up until I've taken on the shape that you wish for me. Do this by whatever means you think best, for as long as you like, but never ever throw me on the scrap heap of souls. Paulo Coehlo in “The Witch of Portobello”

“Wow!” I thought, “That was a quick confirmation of what I just wrote to E!” So, I sent the above passage to him along with some of the background information in the book leading up to it. I later found out that the words held more meaning for E than I even knew when I sent the passage - for a couple of reasons. The obvious reason being that I had just compared his own difficult life-journey to the forging of steel. But, I was surprised to also find out that for some time E had held in mind the vision of a power symbol for his life: a perfect Samaria sword. Added to these synchronicities, was the fact that the person doing the talking in the passage had a spiritual mentor whom he called the Protector,, and E informed me that he, too, has a spiritual guide who appeared to him for the first time in a vision when he was 10 years old. This guide calls himself – you guessed it! - the Protector. And as if that wasn’t enough meaningful coincidences for me to process, E revealed that, like the person in the book, who eventually changed his profession from one that brought him no joy to the fulfilling art of blacksmithing, he had also wanted to try his hand at blacksmithing for quite some time!

So, where has all this synchronicity work led us? For me it leads to the joy of knowing that the universe is continually providing support for me and through me in a myriad of ways, and that it is always a choice whether or not to open to such gifts of grace as they are given. I remember in the airport that something convinced me to choose that particular book even though I rarely read fiction and have turned down opportunities in the past to read Coelho’s more popular book. Also, why did I say “sword” instead of tool or utensil when writing about tempering steel in the first email I sent? For E, our exchange was meaningful because he was supported in his inner knowing that what has happened in his life has a deeper meaning and has contributed to making him strong like the Samaria blade of his vision. It also supports him in continuing to live his life in ways that preclude succumbing to the bitterness that might “crack” his spirit.

That’s all the confirmation I need to continue to pursue the meaningful symbols and metaphors this  life continually offers up to my own eager spirit!