Suzanne Rath's Posts (3)

Sort by

Gretel finds her power

I've been dealing with the parental wound lately; the lack of mother love. It's funny but what the ups and downs of my relationship issues have been leading me to is not my animus but my Mother. I've come to realize that the great, big, gaping hole in me - the one that howls like a starving, half-crazed wolf - is Mother Hunger, hunger for love and nourishment, acceptance. Hunger for Home.

So I poked around the internet and, while there's surprisingly little on the internet about this specific form of negative mother complex, I did manage to stumble on this site which contains author and analyst Jules Cashford's amazing essays (I've only read the one referenced in this post - there are many more to savor once I finish this post!) including a relevant piece studying the story of Hansel and Gretel. 

One thing that struck me was the motif of the devouring mother, or the hungry mouth (the Evil Witch in the story.) I never thought of myself with a devouring mother, quite the opposite in fact as I had an absent mother, the lack of a mother. But, it seems, when the Mother archetype is wounded, she becomesthe hungry maw that seeks only it's ever elusive satisfaction.

So what to do? For many years I thought that nothing could be done about it; certain wounds could never be healed, just managed. But the very fact that I've been lead here must mean something. So I poked around and found Cashford's essay. The whole process of transforming the Devouring Mother into the inner source of nurturing appears to be a long and complex one, but does seem possible. I guess it's important to remember that Jung said that we never solve our problems, we just outgrowthem.

Continuing with Cashford's essay let's take a look at what that might look like. First off, there's the relationship between Logos and Eros, the mind and the heart. Originally, it's the mind that keeps us safe, but at some point we must rely on our feelings and instinct. The mind helps us deal with things. It's the mind that schemes and helps us avoid being truly thrown "to the wolves." Of course, the problem is that Hansel - the mind - can only bring us back to the problem, never lead the way forward. For that we need the white bird, the symbol of the Self. It's only when we follow the bird that we finally break free of the endless cycle of suffering. Of course, originally it's to more intense suffering, but it's our legitimate suffering. Unlike the neuroses that we escape to - and are trapped in - when we try to avoid our problem, this suffering is ours. It belongsto us, as ugly and as horrible as it is.

When Cashford gets to the resolution I get lost; everything up to the point where Gretel shoves the witch into the oven makes sense to me. Part of it may be that I'm still pretty early in the process (basically I'm exploring the nature of the witch), but part of it is Cashford's explanation doesn't resonate with me. My own feeling is that Gretel pushing the witch into her own fire represents "burning" the witch - the hunger and desire - in it's own "fire." In other words, cooking in one's own juices. This is, in fact, the dragon's fire that I wrote about in an earlier post on snake symbolism:

"[It] is hard to accept: the fire has to burn the fire, one just has to burn in the emotion till the fire dies down and becomes balanced. That is something which unfortunately cannot be evaded. The burning of the fire, of the emotion, cannot be tricked out of one’s system; there is no recipe for getting rid of it, it has to be endured. The fire has to burn until the last unclean element has been consumed, which is what all alchemical texts say in different variations and we have not found any other way either. It cannot be hindered but only suffered till what is mortal or corruptible, or, as our text says so beautifully, till the corruptible humidity, the unconsciousness, has been burnt up. That is the meaning, it is the acceptance of suffering."

(Marie-Louise von Franz, Alchemy.)

So, the way I'd interpret it is that Eros (Gretel) draws us to those situations in which we have to cook in our juices. While our mind may tell us to stay safe, our heart keeps dragging us into just those situations where the witch is tossed into her own fire. Again, early days but this seems to be the more likely interpretation of the fairy tale, at least for me.


(Later on I re-read what I had written and had some more thoughts)

The house is a spun sugar fantasy of a relationship. It's not a real house, it's a fantastical house. When we've been driven from "home" (nurturing) by a mother who cannot give us the mother-love we need, we end up lost in the woods. And what we come upon is this faux house; it's not only not a real house, it's pure temptation. It's everything we thought we wanted, we are fed after we've starved for years (the years of famine.) But inside the house is the witch, the demonic caricature of the murderous stepmother. Something else to consider is that it's the Self itself that brings us to this deadly situation, because this is exactly what we need in order to truly resolve the problem at home. It's in the witch's house itself that the treasures of the Self reside.

Another thing is Gretel; this whole experience with the evil stepmother makes her completely helpless. When we are denied this mother-love our feelings can't function; we feel like we can't let ourselves feel, like it's all too much for us, leading us to rely on logic and reason. This can keep us out of trouble for a while but by itself it's incapable of finding a way out of the situation. The problem is that Gretel - our feelings - can't find her power until we're actually in the witch's house, i.e. the middle of our tumultuous emotional drama.

What does this mean? Is it that being in the situation with the witch puts the mind under lock and key forces us to rely on our feelings? Or is it that being in this situation allows us to bring some of the witch into us (Gretel doing to the witch what the witch had planned to do to her)? In either case the empowerment of feeling is part of the healing process as Gretel becomes more active, until at the end she tells Hansel they can't both ride on the white duck.

Gretel, as the female child, is the renewal of the feminine instincts. In the stepmother and the witch, and the presence of the famine in the land, the female instincts (emotion, instinct) are wrong, turning them into the opposite of the nurturing mother, into the destroyer. But, as with many stories of "evil" older women, their actions instigate the confrontation and change needed for renewal. The white dove is a symbol of the Goddess, and the white duck at the end is also female; with one hand the Mother Goddess drives us to wholeness with her terrifying side, and with the other she lures us to the same with her angelic side. All of this is in the service of pushing the young feminine, represented by Gretel, into her own power.

This reminds me of significant dreams I've had about the young girl in me (breaking and entering , the girl with long white hair) - is she the Gretel in me? The tender, connected emotional part? The part that the tough, intellectual surface me has always protected, the way Hansel protected Gretel? This seems to be the case, but I'm still not quite certain what she needs to do now. I know that I've been in the witch's house with my continuing relationship issues (the sugar spun fantasy of love with the raging, hungry witch inside.) What exactly is that Gretel's supposed to be doing?

In my life right now Hansel has been jailed. Gretel is suffering (the whole thing with G is the pain of her Cindarella suffering - loving and loving, but with no reward.) But what is the thing with tricking the witch with the bone, and with Gretel pushing her into her own oven? How can I empower my inner Gretel to find her power? From my dream I've started by rescuring the trapped little animal, but later the girl was blind (a weakness) and she ran away. Do I need to keep my emotions present - keep Gretel from running away - when all I want to do is stop feeling for him? I need to ponder this some more...

Read more…


It's been a while since I posted; there was that thing with having to pay, and although I knew it would be easy to figure out I just didn't have the energy/feel it was time for me to do much here. Lately, tho, I've been feeling and itch to get back involved in the community. And, as I figured, it was a piece of cake to pay a bit of money and get back into things.

I've been posting on my own blog regularly. I kept thinking to myself "I really should post this on the Alliance's website" with this post or that. This is something that recently came to me - I thought it was a good way to get back into the swing of things. Although there was also a fun post I did on Freud vs. Jung. Maybe next time.



Re-reading this post has made me realize that it could be hurtful for some people so I'm adding a caveat. At the same time, when I started this blog I decided I had to be brutally honest... about my own ugliness and pettiness. Otherwise it doesn't really have much meaning. This is supposed to be one person's journey into their Underworld; it's bound to be personally embarrassing at times. That being said, I'd like to be clear that I strongly believe that any prejudice, whether based on age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, whatever, is wrong. Period, point blank.

... Which is why this recent development makes me so happy!


I'm noticing that my perception of older people is changing. Whereas before I was very resistant to growing old - and, quite honestly, found older people unattractive - that feeling has evaporated somewhere along the line.

Over the weekend I was watching a documentary (Between the Folds, an amazing and beautiful documentary on the art and science of origami.) And I suddenly noticed that I found the older people interesting rather than faintly unattractive. This seems to be part of the whole first half/second half of life issue: in the first half, you're concerned (rightly) with success, and that includes sexual success. But in the second half, we start to see the reality of life. We stop caring about this world and "success" and more about depth of life, and the beauty of life.

One thing that stood out was that invariably, as these origami artists grew in themselves and their art, they found themselves simplifying things. When they were younger, they wanted to make the biggest, most complex, most realistic origami. As they grew older, they wanted to simplify, to say more with less. When you're younger, you want to be better, to do better. As you grow older, you care more about the beauty of a thing.

If recently I've come to realize that the purpose of life is to die well, then this experience is showing me that aging well is about seeing the beauty of life. I feel like I'm finally beginning to understand that.


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

~ Leonardo da Vinci


Edit: 6/25/12 pm

It's tonight and it's still happening; this feeling of seeing older people, really seeing them. There's a feeling of almost being two different species, with two different goals. It reminds me of a book by Sheri Tepper, Grass, set on an alien planet in which the species has two completely different phases. The older is gentle and wise, the younger predatory, preying on and killing the older. They're so different they look like completely different species. It's as if caterpillars killed and ate butterflies.

Knowing Tepper this is exactly what she was writing about, I just never got it before. I look at younger people and I realize that all they're interested in, all they judge others on, is sexual attractiveness. Other things are there but at the base of it sex is the most important. Fundamentally I don't see a real problem with this, but our problem is that everyone seems to hold the younger view; that is, that people have no value unless they're sexually attractive to others. We have a society of people in which we only grow older on the outside, not the inside. And we end up hating ourselves. Inside of us is Tepper's planet, with the young animals feeding on and killing the older, wise, gentle and beautiful creatures.

One of the symbols of the Self is the beautiful young woman or man. This is the image that we as a society have become trapped in, even when it no longer serves us but actually harms us. We've forgotten the Wise Old Woman or Man. We've lost the wisdom and grace that growing older brings, deepening in the second half of life until we return to the beginning, but with a lifetime of experience and wisdom. The Child is also a symbol of the Self, but to stay in it and refuse to grow up is a disease. It's no different with trying to stay in the young woman or man.

The physical decline we suffer from, sometimes severe, isn't a natural part of aging but the consequences of an unnatural and harmful diet and lifestyle. Natural and proper aging, although with some decline in pure power and physicality, isn't about becoming weak and frail, it's about turning inward. Each stage of life has it's own grace. Each stage has it's own image of the Self, if we live our lives deeply. It's a rather amazing experience, shedding another layer of the false paradigm we've been hypnotized by. To be able to see the real person, neither as a power player nor as a sexual object, but to see the real, unique, individual person that they are. It really does feel like grace.


Edit 6/26/12

I think I may have it! Aging definitely is an "owl" to youth; they only undersand it with fear and loathing. But aging has many gifts that, unless youth die to it's youth, we will die without ever having understood.

That's what my dreams were telling me; that my sexuality (the cat) and youth (the child) were harming what was spiritual and wise in me (the praying mantis and owl.) And how that I'm caring for them, I've started receiving their gifts.

Read more…

Who is the animus/anima?

I always thought the animus (or anima, if you're a man) was some random archetype of the opposite sex that you expressed the most. Now I wonder...


I figured my animus was Hermes because I have several Hermes-like traits, even though I feel nothing for him and he never appears in any active visualizations. By contrast, I have done a LOT of work with my inner Hades (who has a deep connection to my archetype, Persephone). So now I'm thinking... maybe our animus is actually the archetype, or archetypes, that our own archetype matches with romantically? Which would make sense, as those are the people with whom we can do the most spiritual work, and grow the most with. Perhaps we seek a romantic partner who is a manifestation of that inner animus to carry on the work with on a different level.


It just doesn't make sense that our animus would be so completely non-existent in our inner world, the way Hermes has been for me… And, now that I think of it, the stories that I find the most compelling are those about diffuse, lost women and chthonic men. So, like everything else in our lives, our reading (and movie watching) habits can help us understand what's going on inside us.


Also, if I'm right about this, then gay people might be "double souled;" that is they’d have both a male and female archetype... and matching animus/anima's. Which makes sense – in non-patriarchal societies gay people are generally considered special, sacred, like shamen. By living outside of the ordinary, day to day concerns of family they could work on larger issues. Having all those people inside them would certainly help with that!


Link: Archetypal relationships - Hades/Persephone

Read more…