Fascinating Mythical Creatures: Proteus

An amazing blog has come within my radar and I feel moved to share just one of the many fascinating posts from ‘Symbol Reader’. Capturing the depth of insight and inspiration that is possible when the symbolic aspects of life are delved into, this post on protean fluidity is particularly mesmerising. I hope you enjoy it and get as much out of it as I have. Thank you Symbol Reader 🙂

symbolreader

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image via http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/244344135?view_mode=2

Proteus was a wise Greek sea god, a shape changer and a prophet. Pictured as fish-tailed, he was able to change himself into a lion, a serpent, a panther, a wild boar, a tree and flowing water. In order to get answers from him concerning the future, it was necessary to wrestle him and bind him, then wait patiently through all the transformations for the voice of prophecy. He is an image of something elusive, flickering and ineffable that wriggles shakes and transforms many times before it stabilizes as an image that can be comprehended by consciousness.

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Proteus is a great metaphor of working with archetypes and symbols. They are creatures of the deep ocean of the collective unconscious and this is where they feel best. They do not fare well in the world of hard matter or clear-cut mental distinctions. Out of water they may get…

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Delving Deep: Meanings and Metaphors from Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

artist's impression of a big marlin leaping from the sea with the old man in the skiff in the distance

The Old Man and the Sea – Santiago hooks a giant marlin

Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1951 to tremendous acclaim. Read as a symbolic novel with overtones of religion, identity, life and death, I feel it has a much richer set of meaning layers and can usefully be read through the lens of depth psychology as an individuation narrative, a Hero Myth.

The Jungian concept of individuation entails a process of gradual and lifelong connecting with the unconscious at ever deeper layers, ultimately with the collective unconscious which is hard to define but in some ways can be understood as nature itself. This process of connecting with and owning all our archetypal aspects, energies or identities leads to greater wholeness and a lesser tendency for unconscious acting out of destructive complexes. In essence it is a maturation journey, full of struggles and epiphanies. It is also an existential task, to come to terms with death as inevitable and therefore to adopt a meaning-based attitude towards life.

Symbolic Meaning in The Old Man and the Sea

Several layers of symbolic meaning are to be noted and Hemingway builds these gradually by setting out the relationship between the old man Santiago and the boy Manolin. Much mutual trust and affection is evident and this may be read as the dependent and intertwined nature of the archetypes of the ‘puer’ full of energy and freshness, and of the ‘wise old man’ full of wisdom and intuition. The boy will become the old man one day and has much to learn from him; at the same time the old man sees himself in the boy and remembers the happiness of his youth – the cyclical regeneration of human life and the transmission of culture. Santiago dreams of lion cubs on the beach, a sight he marvelled at in his youth when working on fishing boats going to Africa. While he knows he has much intelligence and experience, he is also mindful of his poverty and ageing body. This insight is worn with the idea that humility ‘carries no loss of true pride’ however; he is as valid a part of life as anyone else and indeed so is the noble marlin.

The Sea of Unconsciousness

But the greatest symbolism is in the sea itself which I see as the unconscious, and the search for the ‘big fish’ is a delving into the unconscious for its gifts of wisdom and a connection with the wild creativity (and destruction) of life and nature – for the Self. It is a metaphor for the searching life, as Santiago says to himself  ‘My big fish must be somewhere’. He identifies with the fish and the turtles, seeing in them both the dignity and the vulnerability of his own self. During the fight, he feels sorry for the fish, as well as for his own suffering holding the lines with bleeding hands and an aching back. In the end he tows it towards the shore, exhausted and fighting off sharks, and says, ‘I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work’, as he harnesses the trade winds to set sail for home. He has learned all his life how to suffer and to make meaning from it, then to enjoy the rewards when they arrive. Living so close to nature and struggling for every piece of sustenance, there are lessons to be learned and truths to be remembered from the old man Santiago and his apprentice Manolin. I was carried away by it and truelly uplifted.

The Old Man and the Sea

citation for introductory image: creative commons for use with citation: http://www.bluemarlin3.com/tbf/hemmingway.php

More Fountains

Hi Everyone. Apologies for being off the radar for a while, I have been overcoming a health problem and taking some wordpress tutorials as well (check out @wptrain on twitter), as I was still feeling pretty bewildered when trying to finalise some of my posts and add tags etc. Not sure I’m any better at it now but here goes! (And by the way apologies for all those late comment approvals – they had gone into the spam folder and I was not sure how to deal with them until recently).

Well, in June I took a short trip to Nice with my husband and got some really lovely photos of a couple of the spectacular fountains there. The day after our return, I then went to Ballycastle on the North Antrim coast with my mum and daughters, took more lovely photos, then promptly dropped my iphone in the water! It burned itself out before my very eyes and I lost all my photographs – which felt like more of a tragedy than losing the phone itself. So I have compensated here by using images I found through google. They are wonderful images, they look so organic and alive, I’m sure you’ll agree. Tumbling water really does have its own special magic.

The first frame just embodies so much energy and movement you can nearly feel as if you are there. The second picture looks like a dandelion clock, I think. How the little sections work together to create a living sculpture in water is mesmerising. Both pictures are from a website called Amazing Fountains of the World http://eamazings.com/index.php/eamazings/amazing-fountains-of-the-world-17022010.html Worth a look 🙂

On Fountains

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Picture 1. The Tazza Fountain, Italian Garden, Kensington Gardens, London.

There is something about a fountain that enlivens and refreshes. The physicality and coolness of gushing water seems to seep into the mind and spirit via the bodily sensation of just standing there watching, witnessing, hearing, absorbing and breathing in the fresh, cool, spray-filled air.

On a recent trip to London with my husband Fintan, we enjoyed an afternoon’s walk in Kensington Gardens, discovering the newly re-furbished Italian Garden in the process. The Tazza fountain held a particular fascination for me and its magnetic attraction kept me there for ages, feeling almost hypnotised.

But it was the sculpture itself that also set me thinking along a symbolic thread. Tazza derives from the Italian trend for bowl fountains, often supported by putti caryatids, which actually looked more like mermaids to my mind. It seemed as if there was an energy rising up from their tails and through to the Tazza’s gurglings, outpourings and water tumbles, full of light, energy and life.

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Picture 2.  Another view. Both photographs by Fintan McDonnell.

I was minded of a recent dream series where I dreamt of mermaids for several nights in a row. The final dream contained a particularly intriguing set of images and the mermaids had transformed into a merman:

I was standing by a lake, watching a man swim towards me. When he reached the shore, he rose out of the water and I ‘realised’ he was a merman, not with a fish tail but with webbed hands and feet and fins on his back and on the backs of his legs. He lay down on his side by the lake’s edge. I sat down beside him, ‘knowing’ he had been sent to me ‘with a special message’. He told me he was ‘the man from Atlantis’ and though unspoken, I perceived his communication that he had ‘brought me a gift’.

I ‘knew’ it was a gift of knowledge of some sort, which I now interpret as an unveiling of self-knowledge, a connection with the unconscious well of the universal soul perhaps. I am not a trained Jungian, but have delved far and wide into Jung’s writings and those of many Jungian scholars, most recently Jean Raffa’s blog at  http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/ and sense there are more meanings in this dream, meanings which I wonder might take a lifetime to unearth?

But the feeling of motivation, uplift and renewed purpose has stayed with me, even though I don’t really understand the dream’s content and I think it was this that re-awakened on encountering the fountain, and all fountains since. So my love affair with water continues, and an obsession with fountains has just begun! Thanks for visiting, and slaínte 🙂

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