Welcome to Transformative Healing Dolls BLOG
More or less monthly posts about Transformative Healing Dolls
Living a Life Attuned....
The end of the year is a time of reflection and so are the years of mid to late life (for some.) In preparing for an upcoming course, entitled Maiden, Mother Crone, Death, I added the word Death, because it seemed to fit with the others, but I had no idea what I was going to say about death. However, in the months, and honestly years (two) that I have been mulling about ideas for this course, I have also been given the opportunity to reflect more on death and what it means. Mostly what I am coming to is the sense of a reclaiming of death as a part of life, and a release of the fears that make it so easy to push any thoughts of death off to the side. Several years ago, a close friend of mine who is very spiritually minded and who has never had this distance from thoughts of death (she had meditated often on her own death in a corpse meditation) recommended an app called “We Croak.” This app reminds us that we are going to die someday, with five times a day messages-not morbid and often not specifically about death itself, but more about life, the idea of how precious life is. For instance, I just got this message on the app:
Even when the plum has wilted and the winter has reached its deepest cold, do not let your body be numb or your mind absent. Dōgen Zenji.
Our Culture’s Negative View of Death as the “Grim Reaper”
When you think about death, do those scary archetypes in our culture come to mind? If you ever watched a horror movie, or even if you have paid any attention to popular culture, you would have come across the archetype of death as the “Grim Reaper.” There is an older, Celtic, version of this scary character, occurring also in other cultures, a horrifying-looking monster with a black cape and carrying a scythe, and called “Ankou.” “Ankou,” the lord of death, ferries people who have died to their life beyond. He has sometimes a cart and his eyes are holes filled with fire. He is terrifying and yet he serves primarily as a guide and messenger, not someone who is here to punish you for your sins in life. A general word for these two representatives of death is psychopomp.
What is a psychopomp?
The definition of psychopomp in Wikipedia is, “creatures, spirits, angels or deities in many religions, whose responsibility is to guide newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but to guide them.” This definition goes on to describe a list of male deities from various cultures and religions whose roles may be seen as psychopomps. These include: Egyptian Anubis, Hindu Yama, Greek ferryman Charon, and the god Hermes, Roman God, Mercury. In Christianity, Saint Peter, Archangel Michael and Jesus can be seen as psychopomps.
Psychopomps aren't only Men...
The only feminine versions given were the Norse Valkyries and the Slavic Goddess, Morana, who is said to correspond to the Greek Goddess Hecate. Mention is made of the Grim Reaper as a modern-day psychopomp, with again a negative and frightening association, corresponding with our culture’s fear of death, instead of reverence.
Divine feminine Psychopomps
What if the psychopomp, instead of being a terrifying dark monster holding a scythe were someone who holds our hand, what if she were a guide? Maybe she is one of the lesser-known feminine psychopomps. First of all, there is Hecate, who I discussed in another blog post and who is known for guiding women at crucial life crossroads, certainly death is one of these. She also guided in the Roman mythology, Demeter to find her daughter, Persephone in the underworld. Mary, from the Catholic church (but truly represented in many more world religions, especially in her guise as the Black Madonna-more about that in a later post) has a guise as the Queen of the Underworld. In this role, she is deeply connected to the earth, to the soil, to the cycles of life. Rather than a punishing and terrifying monster, the feminine divine psychopomp is a companion and guide in our journey towards just one stage in the many stages of the cycles of life. And this isn’t to say that some of the male psychopomps weren’t also guides. It is more about the feminine principle of connectedness that underlies how we think about the more welcoming guides.
Living a Life Attuned to All Our Dimensions
Another possible psychopomp is the Egyptian Ishtar/Ianna who descends to the underworld to reunite with her lover, Dumuzi. An interesting dimension to her story is that she has to shed a layer at each stage of the journey to the underworld. The layers that she removes are, in order, crown, earrings, breast decorations, girdle, skirt, and not sure of the last one. These outer adornments correspond to various chakras from the crown chakra, on down the body to the sacral chakra. In this way, her journey represents the journey to the underworld as a metaphor for a deepening of spiritual awareness. No matter what you believe about what happens after you die, it is this vision of death as yet another dimension of our spiritual development that again connects death to the full spectrum of existence.
Delving into Our Inner Dimensions
In the realm of psychology, Jung describes the psychopomp as the mediator between conscious and unconscious. The connection here is between the formlessness of death and the formlessness of the inner life of dreams and the imagination. Just as we need a guide to assist us in our final journey, we also need a guide to assist us in navigating the threshold between our imagination and our waking lives. In living fully, we are healthiest when we have a balance of the two. Jung saw our psyche as divided into a consciousness above the line and the unconscious below, and in that unconscious were all kinds of collective archetypes, symbolic representations of various spiritual and emotional aspects of who we are collectively as human beings. His definition of healthy aging had to do with an integration, a coming together of all those disparate parts. And in order to do that, we need a guide to help us navigate between these worlds. We can find this inner guide in dreams, in the creative process (writing, art, poetry) and in living creatively and fully.
How does this matter in our daily lives?
Questions that come up when we reflect on these ideas are many. How do we mediate our own unconscious worlds, our own psyches? What happens when we embrace the feminine archetypes for psychopomps, rather than the often ferocious or warlike male figures? I've been hearing more often lately about people who are living a "normal" life but who suddenly experience a spiritual awakening. What's this about? Does this say something about a sea change in the way people are navigating their lives? It feels like the veil that used to separate our "average" day-to-day life from what's bubbling underneath is getting thinner. Things are changing fast and in a way that isn't a moment too soon. Our crazy world needs us to be connected to all of what is available to us, to our inner lives, to our spiritual lives, to nature and to our ancestors, in order to meet the challenges that are facing us today. It behooves us to tune into and welcome a more integrated view of the full spectrum of human existence, one which integrates the whole spectrum of life and death and rebirth and one that also welcomes our awakening spirituality. No matter where you are in terms of your beliefs about these things, I hope that this article piqued your imagination for further exploration.
Books to read:
Here are a few books to explore some of these ideas further…
The Heroine with 1,001 Faces, Maria Tatar
Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, China Galland
The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power by Barbara G. Walker
Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser
And I’m really looking forward to this one coming out soon: Hagitude: Reimagining the Second Half of Life, Sharon Blackie
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!