Archive for the ‘Netzach to Chesed – 21st Path’ Category

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The Tea-lady of an Evolving Soul

September 2, 2011

Echo

Image Credit: Violet Hour Muse

For many Mars-Pluto individuals the “Apple Pie” life at home is not what they have experienced and “family” is a place filled with anger, yelling, insults, sexual violence, beatings, and even killings. ~ Julie Rimner

Last night I was musing over my Fistful of Yod (or Why OD) of  natal Mars/Orcus/Lucifer sextile Pluto/North Node pointing the boney-M at Orpheus in Aquarius, and, no flies on my guides, today I am led to an article about the darker side of Mars-Pluto aspects. That is after I had rescued a few soul fragments that were still tripping the light fantastic in the Disco-dungeon of the late-70s. I trust I will no longer sink into a beige cardigan funk the next time I hear rah-rah-Rasputin…….

I digress.

Other five-finger discount aspects at play with this Fistful of Yod are: Pluto sextile Neptune; Mars trine Neptune, square Moon; Moon sextile Orpheus which squares Neptune; Neptune trines Chiron conjunct Orpheus.  Don’t get me started on the Vigintiles, Tredeciles, Quintiles and Sesquiquadrates………I’m still sussing them out.

Cutting through the astro blah-blah, what this means, for moi, is that I grew up with the embedded belief that I was lucky to have been raised in an abusive home environment in which no information was disseminated about the nuts and bolts of my mother’s manic-depression, and I had to pretend that everything was okay.  Happy families.  The Sabian Symbol for my natal Mars/Orcus nails this dynamic to the floor: Cancer 8 Rabbits dressed in clothes and on parade.

I had also absorbed the behavioural patterns of both my parents and studying the concepts of Early Childhood Development has very much contributed to my understanding of when certain messages are imprinted; providing a map for my Shaman squirrel to find the cache of nuts.  As an adult, I have been more than a little horrified to download the full ramifications of how this embedded belief has reverberated through my energy bodies, and the impact on my Throat Chakra.  Years and years ago, I used to have quite awful dreams about trying to speak to somebody, yet my mouth was glued up with chewing-gum. I would try to remove the chewing-gum, yet there would be more and more of it and I could never talk.  I didn’t have a voice because I had been censored with these rules:

  • Don’t talk to people about what goes on at home.
  • Don’t talk back.
  • Don’t say things like that.
  • Don’t talk while the news is on.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Don’t talk about your problems, I’ve got enough of my own.
  • Don’t talk in class.
  • Don’t talk through your arse!
  • Say that again and I’ll knock your block off.
  • Keep your mouth shut.

Despite all the odds stacked up against me, I emerged from the subtle and not-so-subtle abuses in the dynamics of my family life and those of my working-class disadvantaged background, with enough commonsense to not descend into the obvious traps of substance-abuse, alcoholism, gambling, reckless behaviour, acting-out, self-harm and a few other behaviour patterns that I was at risk of developing. Surprisingly, I never considering running away from home, although I was told I made a bolt for it when I was 3 years old!

Definitely, in my younger years I ticked all the boxes with going from one bad relationship to another, selecting troubled abusively controlling men that were too fond of the booze. I was 18-21, got that over and done fairly early in the piece.  Or so I thought.  The last encounter in 2009, ended with me getting a court-served Intervention Order and ~ boy ~ was that whole experience a massive wake-up call for me to dig a lot deeper as to why I was still attracting this pattern of relationship in which my personal boundaries were being violated.  Relationships in which I felt psychically raped.

The outcome  of that rather epiphanous relationship was that I learned howI could not have chosen more appropriate partners; not coming from the loveless home environment in which I was parboiled, observing that adult relationships = belittling insults, thinly-concealed and not-so-concealed contempt, daily arguments, constant complaining on my mother’s part when my father was at work, and having to tiptoe around my father’s moody silences, as well as his sleep-patterns being a shiftworker.

Most of the time, in my adolescence, my parents communicated to each other through me: 

  •  Ask your father if he wants a cup of tea. 
  • Tell your mother to wash this fork, it stinks. 

We’d all be sitting in the same room together as this was going on. Each of us at our own table, facing the TV. I have no memory of us every sitting down at the one table to share a meal; not even Christmas dinner. I knew this was weird at the time because I would watch TV and see those families all sitting down at the same table to share a meal and talk about things.  My cousin who is three years older than me, had a similar crazy upbringing with his parents and told me once that he would watch “Leave it to Beaver” and cry, wondering why his family wasn’t like the Cleavers.  I never did that, didn’t make those comparisons.

My father enjoyed watching British comedies like “On The Buses”, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Them” and “Love Thy Neighbour”, which all had the same them of abusive, insulting, bigoted, miserable family life.  And my mother watched American day-time soap operas in which everybody was arguing and engaged in emotional conflicts.   

In my home, nothing was voiced that could have led to breaking the trance my parents were under, yet I was always aware of a subtext going on.  As a child I wasn’t permitted to ask questions that made my parents uncomfortable. Certain subjects were taboo, like when my paternal grandfather died in 1970, my mother told me to not say anything to my father. He was upset.  When my mother’s uncle died, of whom she always spoke, the day she got the news on the telephone, she sat in her chair and began to cry. I went over, sat next to her and put my arm around her.  She pushed me away, screaming Don’t touch me! 

Over the years, I learned to not voice my distress over being bullied at school and 100 other matters. Learned that my parents didn’t want to be burdened with meeting my emotional needs or even to give in instruction in necessary lifeskills. They taught me that I couldn’t go to them for guidance or support.  My mother once said that they raised me to be independent and self-reliant, yet I feel that was her way of denying the truth of their ambivalence about parenting.  

My mother also believed that my difficulties with learning math was the result of the change to decimal currency.  That happened in 1966.  When I was five. 

My difficulties in math were not at all related, in her mind, to  the many times I was pulled out of primary school and fostered out when she was hospitalized and my father couldn’t cope with looking after me, or chaotic traumatic confusion that reigned during those times.  I missed a lot of school and fell behind in maths.  I learned a couple of years ago that I have a sort of dysplasia with maths ~ that went unnoticed.  I still have difficulty with basic math skills such as adding up, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in my head ~ I have to write it down.   Remembering how my mother blamed the switch to decimal currency for my inability to understand math, when I was far too young to have even been affected by that ~ I don’t even remember pre-decimal currency ~ exposed the depth of my mother’s self-deception and the extent to which she lived in a fantasy world that bore no relation to the realities of her life; our life. 

Growing up in such a house of subtexted silence meant that we were all “voiceless” and asteroid 60 Echo addresses the issue of voicelessness on the evolutionary level. I understand the common interpretation of Echo is to enter into the Narcissus mythology, of unrequited love, yet Hera’s curse that meant Echo could only speak the last words of oter people after she had heard them, speaks to the way in which as children we parrot the beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours of those we perceive as having authority, and within an abusive home, experience voicelessness, not from losing our voice, but from never having been encouraged to develop a voice in the first place that sings with the qualities of self-worth, identity, and love.  The unrequited love is the Soul’s longing for you to hear its voice, to begin a conversation that will tell you everything you need to know, when you are ready and not a moment before.  Echo asks:

Did my parents (teachers,peers,partners, employers or insert antagonist of your choice) respect and value what I said, see myself as independent from them in a positive way, and demonstrate that my thoughts and feelings were as important as theirs?

and the core question:

Do I respect and value what I say, see my Self as independent from others in a positive way, and feel that my thoughts and feelings are as important as theirs?

Having encountered the stories of other adult women (and men) who grew up with a mentally-ill parent, my experiences have found a less nebulous context in which I could work through the trauma memories from the perspective of the Child Protection Practitioner archetype.  Approaching the work from the distance of an advocate for my inner child, I didn’t get dragged back (well, not for long), into the Void of invisibility and voicelessness.

I recalled two things my parents each would say to me that turned Chiron’s key and unlocked a profound insight:

  • Father: You’re just like your mother
  • Mother: You’re just like your father.

They didn’t see ME.  They only saw what they hated in each other.  If they didn’t see me, then they didn’t “damage” me, and all I needed to do was eject the messages they had embedded in my psyche. Deprogram myself.  Then after a while, I reached a sweet place where I had a lovely vision of the two people who were my parents. We were all 16 years old. We met in an open field of flowers and I said to them:  I am the friend you never had. I am the daughter you never knew. I am the Soul you never saw.

No blame and no need to forgive.  If I take the approach they did nothing to me, then I cannot allocate blame ~ only accountability. They were the parents. I was the child.  It was incumbent on them to create a harmonious healthy home for me. They didn’t because they didn’t know how. 

The voice of Christ on the cross: Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.  I really get that now. I really feel the essence of that message.  I see the healing energy it contains.

In the world of the children who had a parent with a mental illness, I am quite ordinary and normal.  Just another person that was trapped in the hell of my parent’s suffering. It was damaging and isolating and without extended family or a support network to balance the chaos, to provide an objective reasonable perspective, or an insight into what a regular ‘normal’ family really looked like, it follows that I didn’t receive a healthy template of relationship or family upon which to go out into the world and build my own life upon. Like most people, I learned the hard way.  Several times.

I am not at all certain that I have a healthy template now or if I have turned-off that damn signal that attracts abusive controlling men into my life. I guess I’ll find out, if I can be bothered. Which I’m not.

From the annals of my lived experience, the Mars-Pluto aspect is a finely nuanced and complex one, embracing the concept of psychic rape,and issues of  Power-Over that Starhawk writes about.  All prime Sacral Chakra territory.  Not surprisingly, the majority of my physical health issues have been below the belt, starting from when I was 14 with a mysterious ailment, that twenty years later I would understand to have been a rogue ovarian cyst. Being the age that I was, the doctors focused on fitting my symptoms into a diagnosis of appendicitis. 

I still have my appendix. Never given me any trouble.  

Currently this T-Square is rocking for me, for you and the things that we do.  Make a cup of tea and contemplate what has been sown and is ready to reap, if you can see the angel that desires liberation from the marble, and if the people in your life demonstrate that they respect what you have to say.  

  Ceres Pisces 27: A harvest moon 

Echo Sagittarius 27: A sculptor 

Lucifer Virgo 25: Flag at half-mast

Further Resources

Bipolar Caregivers.org

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What the Frock?

August 24, 2011

Guinevere (Vanessa Redgrave)

Image Credit: Bettman/CORBIS March 15, 1967

Take me back home
There is nothin’ fair in this world
There is nothin’ safe in this world
And there’s nothin’ sure in this world
And there’s nothin’ pure in this world
Look for something left in this world
Start again
Come on

It’s a nice day for a white wedding
It’s a nice day to start again.

~ lyrics Billy Idol

The White Wedding Dress presents the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding dresses from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s superb collection. Every woman wants to look beautiful for her wedding and today the traditional, Western European white wedding dress is the garment of choice for brides across countries and cultures. This exhibition asks why and how this has happened.

All dressed up for the big day – A new exhibition of historic and famous wedding dresses at the Bendigo Art Gallery [click here for video]


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The Bee’s Experience

June 26, 2011
“The Bee Tree”

KU Natural History Museum

Do not believe everything you hear or are taught. Not everyone who is a beekeeper is an expert, though they may sound like one. Be careful to always take opinions with a grain of salt. When in doubt rely upon proven assays. There is so much wrong information out there, so keep bees based on good information.

~ Basic Beekeeping Lessons, Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

 

Taurus 3: Steps leading up to a lawn blooming in clover

Amber, gold, cloves, clover…

 The first series of Taurus symbols is anything but boring. We start with a clear mountain stream… nicely flowing… then to an electrical storm, the equivalent of a plunging waterfall… then to gradual steps leading up to clover. 

 Just taking these three symbols together indicates quite a ride!

Taurus 3 does suggests a slow gradual path. It is linked with other fixed sign 3rd degree symbols by way of ‘rolling up one’s sleeves and getting to work’. The work may involve healing, convalescence, repair of some kind, or just the gradual process of constructively moving forward. 

Honey, cloves, clover, worker bees, things golden and amber, sweet and uplifting are associated with Taurus 3.

~ harvested from Blain Bovee ~ Sabian Symbologist

~ Click here for June Sabian Symbols

"Pollinate" by Mike Holtzinger

Image Sourced: The Honeybee Conservancy

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.

~ Emily Dickinson

Pray for the Bees ~ Alkemie + Bee Rosary Necklace

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Quest: She says, he says….

June 16, 2011

The Golden Fleece Dream ~ William Prosser

In the Odyssey, Homer refers to ‘celebrated Argo‘ which managed to evade the Wandering Rocks when ‘homeward bound from Aeetes coast’. And in the Iliad he wrote of Euneos, Jason’s son by Queen Hypsipyle on Lemnos. As Homer is our oldest surviving source of Greek mythology, this means that the ancestry of the Argonaut story is established as far back as records exist. Quite how far back that ancestry goes, we have no way of knowing, but it is evident from Homer’s poetry that he expected his audience to be thoroughly familiar with at least the story of the Lemnian women, the visit to King Aeetes’ country, and of course the existence of Argo herself.

Homer’s near-contemporary, the Boeotian poet Hesiod who lived in the late 8th century BC, must have known the Argonaut story because in his writings he mentions Jason’s visit to King Aeetes, his meeting with Princess Medea, and his return to Iolcos with ‘the bright-eyed damsel whom he made his loving wife’. In a group of texts known as ‘Hesiodic’, once attributed to Hesiod himself but now believed to have been written by other authors, there are also references to Phrixus, to Jason’s youth, and to the adventure with Phineas and the Harpies.

Image Fleeced From: Gurney Journey

In the following century, the 7th BC, Minnermus, another Greek poet specifically mentions the Golden Fleece as the object of Jason’s voyage, and a Corinthian poet, Eumelos, claims that Jason went to live in Corinth, not Iolcos, after his return from Colchis. As more and more fragments of early Greek writing survive, so the extra details emerge, although not all of them are consistent with one another: Simonides in the 6th century BC confirms the passage of the Clashing Rocks but says that the Fleece was not gold but dyed with sea-purple.

Purple sheep graze next to the M8 motorway in Bathgate, Scotland.

Image Sourced: Telegraph.co.uk

In the 5th century BC there was a great flowering of the legend when Jason’s story became a favourite theme for poets and dramatists. Aeschylus wrote no less than six plays based on various Argonaut themes, and although most of the plays themselves have been lost, we know that there were a Phineas, a Lemnian Woman, a Hypsipyle, and a Kabeirii. Sophocles wrote plays on Phrixus’ father Athamas, on Phrixus, the Colchidians, Phineas, the fight with King Amycus, and three plays which touched on events during the return voyage of Argo.

Hypsipyle

Masks by Vasiliki Psarrou

In total, no less than eight tragic poets tackled various Argonautic themes, but the one to survive and most influence modern perception was Euripides’ Medea. As it was virtually impossible for any early historian or geographer to treat of the Black Sea without some reference to Argo, their writings are sprinkled with mentions of peoples and places visited by the Argonauts. The most famous of the early historians, Herodotus, put forward the interesting notion that Argo was blown down to the North African coast on the outward leg of her epic journey.

Thus, by the time Apollonius of Rhodes came to compose his epic, the main events of the Argonaut saga were well set. We do not know what sources Apollonius used for his major version of the tale, but his version of the attack on the Argonauts by the monsters of Bear Mountain is very similar to a passage in Homer’s Odyssey when Ulysses’ squadron is attacked by the Laestrygonians. It is possible that Apollonius also had other – now lost – Homeric material available to him because the geographer Strabo says that Homer wrote about ‘the places round Propontis and the Euxine as far as Colchis, the bourne of Jason’s expedition’.

Greek Mythology Stamp

Greek Mythology Stamps

From a very early stage, people were intrigued as to whether or not the story was true. Strabo was convinced it was. The saga of the Argonauts, he firmly stated, showed that ‘the ancients made longer journeys, both by land and by sea, than have men of later time’. It was Strabo who identified the possibility that the Colchian technique of gold-gathering, using sheepskins, could have some connection with the legend of the Golden Fleece. But the more commentators thought about the tale, the wilder and more far-fetched became their interpretations of the events.

The Golden Fleece became a parchment illuminated with golden writing, or even a document which contained the alchemists’ secret of how to turn dross into gold. By the nineteenth century folklorists were putting forward theories that the fleece was a symbol of the sun, or it was a raincloud, depending on your choice. If it was a sun symbol, the the sunlight came from King Aeetes who was a child of the sun according to mythology, the ram was the setting sun returning to the east, and Medea was the red glow of dawn and dusk.

For those who favoured the raincloud interpretation, the fleece was the purple of a thundercloud, and in Greece the clouds could be seen heading east in summer towards Colchis, and returning in spring and autumn, bearing rain. According to this idea, it was significant that many of the Argonauts were descended from watery spirits such as water nymphs, river gods, and Poseidon himself. Other ideas put forward to explain the Golden Fleece were that it symbolized the ripened corn of the Black Sea coastlands rippling in the wind or that it was a rough sea gilded by sunlight.

The Sting in the Tale

It was left to a Cambridge don, Janet Brown, to impose some discipline on all these ideas in her study The Voyage of the Argonauts (Methuen, 1925) which remains a standard word. After reviewing the evidence Janet Brown reached the conclusion that ‘long before Homer voyages were made to Colchis for gold; a voyage was made by Jason. Jason was a Minyan of Thessaly; by Minyan race he was connected to Phrixus who had been saved by a golden ram and fled eastward’. Jason’s voyalge, she felt, was ‘a real quest for real gold’.

Reference Material:

The Jason Voyage: The Quest for the Golden Fleece – Tim Severin, 1985

5th-6th Century C.E. From ancient Colchis (Georgia).

Dropping a Stone in the Pond

The Ancient Colchidians were renowned for their skill in metallurgy and the main reason for the arrival of the lonians (Greeks) in Colchis (Russian Georgia)  in the middle of the 6th century BC was the area’s richness in metals. The involvement of the Greeks in iron metallurgy is a matter of which, so far, we know nothing. Nevertheless, the Greeks, trying to adapt their art to the tastes of the local rulers, established in Colchis in the 5th century BC schools of gold- and silver-smiths, as well as the production of metal seals and engraved gems.

One of the methods of metal-working developed in Colchis, was the casting of bronze swords within a stone mold.  The sword-in-the-stone of Arthurian Legend.

Further Reading:

Bronze Age Craft ~ Bronze Sword Casting

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Medea’s Choice

June 14, 2011

Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don’t you know that no one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Baby, sometimes I’m so carefree
With a joy that’s hard to hide
And sometimes it seems that all I have do is worry
Then you’re bound to see my other side
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

If I seem edgy I want you to know
That I never mean to take it out on you
Life has it’s problems and I get my share
And that’s one thing I never meant to do
Because I love you

Oh, Oh baby don’t you know I’m human
Have thoughts like any other one
Sometimes I find myself long regretting
Some foolish thing some little simple thing I’ve done

But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Yes, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
~ Lyrics The Animals

Golden Fleece petrol logo, Australia, 1978

Medea, the Goddess Who Killed Her Children

Of all the ancient Greek goddesses, Medea remains one of the most popular despite her diabolical act of infanticide. The following transcript sourced at The Ark ~ ABC Radio National, a program that ended production in January 2009.

Dr Rachael Kohn was the host of this intriguing program about stories of belief, myth and magic.

Rachael Kohn:  Medea was beautiful, she married the man she loved, and then, she killed their children!

Hello, this is The Ark on ABC Radio National, with me, Rachael Kohn. Medea is a figure from ancient Greece, who’s had a lively reputation in Western literature and art. She was a symbol of evil, but also of power, a sorceress, and a goddess. Today she’s most interesting to feminists, and she regularly appears with the abortion issue.

Emma Griffiths is a lecturer in Classics at the University of Manchester, and for 15 years she’s been researching and reflecting on this troublesome female, Medea.

Emma Griffiths: Well she begins as part of somebody else’s story. The Greek hero, Jason, is sent on an apparently impossible mission to capture the Golden Fleece, and when he gets to Colchis he finds,Medea, who’s the princess, who falls desperately in love with him. She is the person who helps him to accomplish his mission to steal the Golden Fleece, and she leaves with him, supposedly to live happily ever after. They’re going to get married, and that we hope, is going to be the end of the story.

Unfortunately, when they get back to Greece, they have a number of other problems and Medea helps Jason in other situations, not least by causing the death of a number of characters in Greece.

The story, as it becomes most famous, takes place in Corinth, when Jason and Medea have settled there with their children, and Jason decides for whatever reason, that he’s going to have another wife. Medea is understandably somewhat unhappy about this, and ends up killing their children, to take revenge. She then flees and the story continues but it becomes rather less interesting for ancient audiences. The main focus is the fact that she kills her own children to take revenge for Jason’s infidelity.

Rachael Kohn:And that of course is how she is probably most remembered. But can you tell me, is Medea actually a goddess? She seems to be very human, apart from the fact that she kills her children, does she in fact have divine lineage?

Emma Griffiths:Absolutely. This is one of the most interesting aspects of her character, but as you say, her behaviour can often be seen as very human. But perhaps the extremity that she goes to, and certainly the methodology that she employs, owes a lot to her divine heritage. And in fact she is generally portrayed as being the granddaughter of the sun god, Helius, so in many of the stories she’s able to use Helius’ chariot, so borrowing the parents’ car sort of thing, and she’s related to one of the most famous sorcerers in Greek mythology, this is Circe, who captures the hero Odysseus.

So Medea does have that very strong divine background, and how far we see her as a goddess or as a mortal woman is where a lot of the interest in these stories comes from.

Still from "Medea", (Lars von Trier 1988)

Rachael Kohn:Now you mentioned sorcery, and that’s certainly part of her story. She seems to be a sorceress of sorts.

Emma Griffiths:Absolutely, yes. She used to have links to the very earliest traditions of magic in the ancient world, particularly in the Greek Mediterranean.

A lot of these skills, which today we would think of as medicinal, were seen in the ancient world as magical. She has knowledge of how to use medicinal herbs and so on. But she’s also connected with a lot of the primal forces of life and death. She’s shown as being able to bring people actually back to life, and rejuvenate them. So there are some very powerful forces involved in her story.

Rachael Kohn:And very contradictory themes there. On the one hand, killing her children, but also able to bring people to life.

Emma Griffiths:I think that that is one of the fundamental issues in her story, that she encompasses both aspects of life and death in one character. And it’s constantly trying to find a balance between the two when we’re interpreting her story.

Rachael Kohn:And are there other Greek goddesses, or Roman goddesses who kill their children? Are there other characters I guess in Greek and Roman mythology that do this?

Emma Griffiths:Well yes. She isn’t without parallel. The difficulty is that the majority of characters in Greek and Roman mythology who do kill their children, either do it when they’re mad, or they do it by accident, and such is the case of the Greek hero, Heracles, who’s driven mad and kills his children as part of that.

The only figure who is really parallel to Medea in terms of taking a deliberate decision to kill her children, would be Procne, and what’s interesting about this is that again, this is in a situation where a man is unfaithful.

In the story of Procne, her husband Tereus rapes Procne’s own sister, Philomela, and in revenge for this, Procne kills the child that she has with Tereus, and then it gets even worse, because she actually serves it up to him as a meal. So there are parallels for Medea’s extreme actions, that she is very much the one figure who seems to have caught the imagination of people in Greece and Rome and obviously in later centuries.

Rachael Kohn:One of the things you point out in your book about Medea is that she was never punished for her active infanticide.

Emma Griffiths:Yes, and that is particularly disturbing for modern audiences. It’s part of a pattern as well, that every time Medea commits some terrible atrocity, starting with the killing of her own brother, she manages to escape from it, and I think that that was part of the attraction for the ancient audience, that this was a character who seemed to be outside the general rules of natural justice.

Rachael Kohn:Well Emma, we’re talking there about mythology, but Medea appears in the writings of Greek authors such as Euripides who wrote a play about her in the 5th century BC. Was he just depicting a bad woman in the war of the sexes?

Emma Griffiths:Yes, well, it is sometimes interpreted like that, but the play itself is a lot more complicated, not least because we start off with a very strong statement of how difficult life can be for women, which is why some modern audiences have taken up Medea as a feminist icon.

As the play develops, however, we discover that a range of different characters all have different perspectives, and so the isn’t a single good character-bad character divide. Many of our sympathies are with Medea at the start of the play when we discover that Jason’s been unfaithful, and as the play moves on, and we discover exactly what she’s planning to do to take revenge, our sympathies shift away from her.

So I think that what Euripides is presenting is an examination of a difficult situation, if you like. He’s not really presenting us with a black and white set of answers. And that is one of the reasons why the play in particular, has been so influential, because it invites us to consider issues rather than simply saying Well this is the answer.

Rachael Kohn:The Stoic philosopher, Seneca wrote about Medea; how does his version compare to Euripides’?

Emma Griffiths:Well yes, there’s a long historical gap between Euripides and Seneca. Seneca’s writing in the early period of the Roman Empire, but Seneca’s Medea is in many ways different from Euripides’, because the Romans were far more interested in the spectacle that a witch could present, whereas Euripides’ heroine is a psychological figure, and we perhaps think about the situation she’s in, and how did she get into that.

In Seneca’s play the interest is far more in how does Medea act as a witch, what are the spells she uses, what are the charms that she uses. And so it’s in many ways a less subtle portrayal, which influences future audiences far more than Euripides does, because it’s so dramatic.

Rachael Kohn:Is Seneca then responsible for the way Medea is represented when Christianity gains dominance?

Emma Griffiths:I think that he certainly has an important part in this. There’s a long tradition of writers and artists throughout the Greek and Roman world who look at Medea, and throughout the Roman world she is presented very much as this terrifying witch figure. What’s interesting, when Christianity becomes the dominant force in the world, is that we would expect that Medea would disappear, that she would be impossible to fit into a Christian world view. But interestingly, St Augustine, whose writing of the late 4th century AD, actually mentions that when he was a young man, he sang something called ‘The Flying Medea’, as part of the competition, so people were still interested in her.

And one of the ways that I think she was fitted into a Christian world view, is as part of the demonisation of female sexuality, that she is the absolute exemplar of what happens when female sexuality is not controlled. So she was allowed to survive more as an anti-example, rather than being incorporated fully into the Christian world view.

Rachael Kohn:Yes, I can imagine her being contrasted to the Virgin Mary, for example.

Emma Griffiths:Absolutely. Yes. And she’s almost the negative image there.

Rachael Kohn:Emma, you also mention in your book, several examples of the way Medea enters western art and literature. She seems to have kind of had a revival in the 19th century.

Emma Griffiths:Absolutely, yes. And that’s due to a range of different reasons. One is the visual possibilities offered by this dramatic witch figure, she’s presented as very beautiful, but equally surrounded by this air of mystery. And I think for a lot of the visual artists in the 19th and early 20th century, that’s what catches their attention. But she’s also very important figure in the theatre.

If we think about Shakespeare’s plays, the interest that’s shown there in witchcraft and sorcery, owes a lot to ancient portrayals of Medea. I’m thinking particularly in The Tempest and obviously in Macbeth with the witches, and Lady Macbeth herself owe a lot to ancient ideas of Medea.

The most interesting aspect if we’re looking at Medea in terms of gender relations is really in the 19th century in relation to the British Divorce Act, which was mid-19th century, and Medea is often shown then in serious and comic plays, as though her story is really about the difficulties of divorce and the iniquities that women suffer, so I think Euripides would have been quite amused to see his story being used in that context.

Rachael Kohn:Well you mentioned feminist writers earlier on, and I wonder how do they treat this figure, who after all did kill her children. Have there been sort of revisionist or apologetic versions of the Medea story?

Medea ~ Bernard Safran

The Art of Bernard Safran

Emma Griffiths:Yes, it’s a difficult question, because in some ways Medea is the standard bearer for women standing up for their rights and not accepting being treated as badly as Medea feels she’s been, but as you say, it’s quite difficult to identify with a figure who kills her own children.

Some feminist writers have approached this and said, Well actually, when the circumstances are so extreme, you have to take extreme measures, but I think that that’s a viewpoint that most women today would find quite uncomfortable. And there have been other readings, more revisionist readings, would say that the way the story is presented, basically isn’t fair to Medea, and Christa Wolf’s novel in 1996, plays around with the story and says, Well basically, Medea was in a corner. She had her back against the wall, and she did what she did to survive. And Wolf’s explanation plays around with lots of ideas about ethnic identity, things that are relevant to human individuals, if you like, rather than just the idea of the woman killing her children.

So I think her story can be broadened out, so that it’s not simply about a woman taking revenge on an unfaithful husband, it can be seen as an examination of the problems that the individual faces trying to fit into society. And so she can be rehabilitated like that, but it doesn’t get us away from the basic problem that she does kill her children.

Rachael Kohn:Yes, well in Australia we’re currently engaged in the very public debate about an abortion pill, and I wonder whether Medea would be an appropriate figure to appear in cartoons in newspapers at the moment.

Emma Griffiths:Yes, right, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’d certainly be interested to see how she’s interpreted. It’s obviously a very difficult issue, whether the mother actually has the ultimate control of the life of her children whether that’s before or after birth. I suspect that what we’ll see is very much a cartoon black and white version of Medea. The demonised woman, rather than the more complicated psychological picture that we see in some versions.

Rachael Kohn:Yes, well cartoons have a way of doing that. Emma, how did you relate to Medea yourself?

Emma Griffiths:For me, the meaning of the message at the moment is more to do with how women in the modern world define ourselves. Do we want to fight against injustices in our career, in our relationships and so on, or are there situations where to fight against something beyond a certain point, is going to result in a complete catastrophe. And perhaps what we need to do is take a step back and define ourselves in our own terms, rather than letting ourselves be categorised as mothers, wives, partners, and so on.

Rachael Kohn: Emma Griffiths lectures in the thriving Classics Department at the University of Manchester. Her book, Medea is part of the Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World series published by Routledge. And you can find book details on our website.

Medea is no two-dimensional allegory. Like a tunnel full of mirrors, it both reflects and echoes. The question it asks the reader, through many voices and in many different ways, is: What would you be willing to believe, to accept, to conceal, to do, to save your own skin, or simply to stay close to power? Who would you be willing to sacrifice? Hard questions, but the posing of them is the troubling yet essential task of this tough, ingenious, brilliant and necessary book. ~ Essay by Margaret Atwood on Medea

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The Culture of Peep

May 3, 2011

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret

Now more than ever we live in an era of illusion: the illusion that we’re in control, the illusion that we have (or should want to have) privacy, the illusion that we’re smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of Peep.

If there’s one thing I now know, it’s the value of not knowing. Our pragmatic, bureaucratic society sees it differently, of course. But so much of the mystery of life, so much of its inherent unquantifiable worth, comes from that which remains a mystery. It’s not knowing that makes us fall in love, that allows us to appreciate beauty, that permits us to revel in the moment despite the indisputable fact that one day we will be sick, and that one day we will be dead.

As for us right now, well, we’re busy frantically trying to know everything and anything, no matter how garish, invasive, or better left alone it may be. We’re frantic about filling the void. But a void is a vacuum – it sucks everything into it, it’s never full, and it’s never satisfied. Peep is bad when it exists to feed the allknowing void. And at the risk of getting all chicken-soup-for-the-grown-up-daughter here, Peep is good when it feeds that which is uniquely human: our capacity to care without needing to know why.

~ Extract from The Peep Diaries, by Hal Niedzviecki

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Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored

February 14, 2011

Image Credit: NaufragioBella

Clutter may not be about the way we hide things from ourselves

 but the way we make ourselves look for things.

~ Adam Phillips

Further Reading:

Discussion with Adam Phillips about Monogamy: Tough Love