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Mother as Patriarch: Redeeming the Parents as the Healing of Oneself by Marion Woodman
“DADDY’S LITTLE PRINCESS” is her father’s chosen child. Blessed by his love, she may be cursed by his love.
Her special place in his dynasty sets her on a throne too remote for most princes to reach.
Her throne is carved in ice far from the nourishing warmth of Mother Earth.
A father’s daughter whose lifeline is to her dad may try to dismiss what is not there for her in her mother.
Dad has always been her cherishing mother and father. Why bother with what never was?
If she decides to go into analysis, she will almost surely seek a male analyst because she respects men more than women
and her energy is more vibrant with them.
She may occasionally dream of her mother hidden in a mysterious room, but her own earth energy is so far from consciousness that it rarely manifests even in dreams.
Moreover, her attempts to free herself from her father’s castle are so demanding and so intriguing that all her energy is focused on the prince who will release her.
Too often the analyst becomes the prince whose castle is no less foreboding than the king’s; and, too often, if great care is not taken, the analyst may exploit his foreboding precincts for reasons he does not claim as his own.
Sporadic dreams may tell her that there is real trouble in her basement, that she must go down there and clean out the swamp.
If she follows that direction, she may be obliged to go to a female analyst who will constellate the mother.
Then she faces the deeper problem: the bedrock of her feminine being is not present except as an inchoate flow of lava.
The loving mother who carries her unborn child in her warm, dark womb for nine months was not there to reassure her, nor was she there to welcome her into life.
Instead, her months in utero were charged with Vesuvius-like fear or anger; her birth was a battle, her presence on earth a dubious gift.
A mother who cannot welcome her baby girl into the world leaves her daughter groundless.
Similarly, the mother’s mother and grandmother were probably without the deep roots that connect a woman’s body to earth.
Whatever the cause, her own instinctual life is unavailable to her, and, disempowered as a woman, she runs her household as she runs herself-with shoulds, oughts, and have tos that add up to power.
Life is not fed from the waters of love but from willpower that demands perfection, frozen perfection.
Meanwhile Dad may, in fact, not be king but prince consort, and Dad and daughter are then bonded against a tyrant queen-the mother as patriarch.
Jaffa was born into such a family. In her mid-twenties she realized she was in deep trouble.
Unlike many fathers’ daughters who avoid going to a male analyst because they know they will “fall in love with him,” she chose a female analyst because she knew she needed a woman.
She has been in analysis and body work for over five years.
Together we have chosen a few dreams out of hundreds that pinpoint her path from victimization to approaching freedom,
dreams that illustrate transformation that is always in process at the archetypal level. Only at that depth does real healing take place.
There the Self protects the ego, tearing away the veils of illusion as the ego gradually assimilates the truth.
It daily balances and rebalances the maturing masculine and feminine energies by slowly releasing them from the parental complexes in which they are imprisoned.
The inner partnership, as it moves toward a liberated creative dynamic, is constantly in flux.
While the images may at first seem extreme, they are the language of the unconscious, the language of fairytales and myth.
Jaffa’s mother, in the village in which she lived, was respected as a very civilized, cultured woman, a responsible and good mother.
To her young daughter she was an evil witch.
Jaffa’s father was an -artist whose exquisite hand had never held a hammer.”- His gentleness created a loving, sensitive space to which his daughter her.
Jaffa’s mother was also an artist, without incorporating into daily living any of the refinement that the love of beauty may bring -if that beauty does not mask a tyrant.
“I see my mother wearing ugly clothes,” says Jaffa.
“She is leaning over the kitchen table, her huge breasts hanging down. She has brought home excellent food. She is gobbling it down, shoveling it in. Her cheeks are full like a hamster’s. She is talking, always talking-or whistling. She eats two-thirds of everything she has brought and leaves one-third for my sister and me to share. She seems to be eating me.”
“At sixteen I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t eat.
There was no space in me for anything. I was closed with no opening. I was ready to explode. For days I ate only dry bread.
I began smoking and went out after school for martinis.
I just wanted to die. I needed to be as unconscious as possible in order to survive. I collapsed one day.
I couldn’t understand why the doctor said there was nothing wrong with me.
I found out afterward that my mother told him I was only simulating sickness, that I had eaten chalk.
That compulsion to chew and drink comes over me even now when I am anxious.”
Jaffa’s mother lived in Europe during the Second World War.
Like many people who have lived through war, she was quite silent about her experience. She wanted to forget.
While Jaffa rarely heard a war story, her unconscious picked up the brutality and deprivation that her mother had experienced.
Deprivation is brutality in perhaps its subtlest form. Both manifest in her dreams.
Two years before she began analysis, Jaffa had nightmares of wild dogs ripping off her limbs.
The following is a major dream in a series of dreams about not having her own body.
“Arm or leg?” bodiless voices are calling out. My limbs are being roasted on my live body. Someone wants a piece of thigh and cuts it off with a knife. I myself have to eat a piece. Roasted flesh hangs off my bones, but I feel no physical pain. I am to hook a rug ( a wall hanging), but I can’t do it since I don’t have arms or legs. Someone is starting it for me. Part of the left side is finished in a pattern of daisies in white, silver and pastel blue. I hope to finish it myself one day and to be able to use it. Right now I can’t because my arms and legs are “out of order.”
Jaffa’s father left his wife and two daughters when Jaffa was fifteen months old.
Because she was her father’s favorite, her mother was vicious with Jaffa and fervent in her attention to Lara, Jaffa’s sister.
Her cannibalistic attitude toward her older daughter is clear in this dream.
The arms with which Jaffa should reach out to grasp reality, the legs on which she should take her standpoint are being
roasted, perhaps in the rage that exists between mother and child.
Even in this nightmare, however, the possibility of healing is suggested. She must eat a piece of her own flesh, must incorporate (literally, take into her own body) her own power.
She must, that is, give birth to herself, which is what the analytical process is all about.
Moreover, she is to hook a rug, which on a symbolic level means her task is to assimilate the pattern of her life.
The rug in the dream is a wall hanging-not yet a place to stand-but already
it incorporates an image of hope, her favorite wildflowers. “I had
no standpoint then,” said Jaffa, “but lots of float points-like the
rug on the wall.” Part of the left side, which is related to the unconscious, is finished, suggesting that while the ego cannot consciously do anything to establish a standpoint, the unconscious is hooking whatever bits of life it finds into a recognizable pattern.
All is not chaos.
Seven years later in a contrasting dream, Jaffa was walking through a meadow and found plenty of long threads in glorious earth colors with gold and silver spun threads that could be woven.
Now instead of having her life hooked with little bits of threads, she could take responsibility and weave the long threads
It was extremely important that she found these threads because, given her artistic environment, in which dismemberment
masqueraded as nourishment, she was tempted to turn her own fragmented existence into a work of art to be hung on a wall.
A hooked rug offered itself in her earlier dream as an obvious hook for her projections.
What might at first appear as a healing image could easily become, and indeed was at the time in danger of becoming, a reification of her illness.
One aspect of Jaffa’s struggle, which she was consciously slow to recognize, was to overcome the temptation to reify her life into a work of art, a reification that would make her forever the “still unravished bride” of her artist father.
The violent bodily dismemberments
repeated in many of her dreams reveal the ceaseless fight in the unconscious to release her from the dangers of her conscious
The father who would save her from her mother’s brutality was at the same time her jailer.
This opposition between jailer and savior found its counterpart in the contrary roles of the mother at the conscious and unconscious levels.
Consciously experienced as a tyrant, the mother in Jaffa’s dreams appeared as the savage energy struggling to release her from the deadly aesthetic grip of her father.
The dismemberment of her body in dreams was an attempt on the part of her unconscious to release her from the beautiful frieze her body was becoming under the steady aesthetic gaze of her apparently loving father.
Thus in a later dream an image of bodily dismemberment is transformed into a fish she has prepared for her and her father to eat together:
I am sitting on a bench with my sister. In front of us a body is roasting in an outdoor oven. Macabre! Then I am with my father on a country estate. I had prepared a fish which we were eating together. My father urges me to take some sauce; I stay with only fish. Eating fish images the assimilation of suffering, an assimilation related to the myth of the slow descent of an eternal soul into the prison house of the body.
In Jaffa’s case, the eternal soul is her father’s essentially disembodied vision of his daughter, a vision that cut her off from her own bodily energies, whose repression was mirrored in her mother’s physical brutality.
In eating the fish, Jaffa is attempting to recognize and absorb the energy of her own abandoned body roasting in an outdoor oven, a roasting mythically experienced in her mother’s treatment of her.
The father, for whom she has prepared the fish so that they can eat it together, would further hide from her the psychic meaning of her action by urging her to add some sauce.
Jaffa, however, stays with the fish, a sign that her unconscious sees through the aesthetic screen to what her own real bodily needs are.
Jaffa is beginning, though still at an unconscious level, to recognize that she needs to assimilate and thereby transform her
mother’s raw energy by making it creatively her own.
The shift in her masculine and feminine energies has unconsciously begun, though they are still largely trapped in the parental complexes to which, from the beginning of her life in utero, they were relentlessly bound.
In life, Jaffa had married twice. Both husbands treated her with the same violence that characterized her mother’s behavior.
She, however, was unaware of the degree to which her own chaste bonding with her father had evoked violence in her husbands.
That is, in both marriages she was still unable and unprepared to deal creatively with her own repressed energy.
Her marriages failed partly because they were largely contained in the parental complexes she brought to them.
At the time of the following dream she was in deep depression, recognizing the chasm that was developing between her husband and herself, a chasm exacerbated by the early bonding to her life-denying father.
She could no longer endure her husband’s sexual demands, nor could she make him understand what relationship in life and sexuality could be, at least as she then understood it.
What she considered the repeated betrayal of herself she was determined to end.
The following dream enacts a further step toward the release she yearned for.
My sister and I are walking on a muddy path through a forest. Walking is extremely difficult. Suddenly the trees look more
luxuriant. We are approaching a very different part of the forest. I am relieved and breathe deeply. Suddenly the path becomes a wild, dangerous river. We turn around immediately to survive. On the way back, there is a hospital in front of which a man moves. My sister notices that his index finger is missing. Farther down we pass a hospital or apartment building.
Behind one of the windows a woman (East Indian?) is pointing a gun. Quickly I run out of sight.
Jaffa and her sister-the two sides of the one mother-are together, walking now in a forest that Jaffa associated with her
own life. “Not my mother’s or my father’s-my own.”
No sooner are they in the welcoming world of their own instinctual energy than their lives are threatened by a raging torrent.
Ego and shadow sister are in danger of being consumed by the ferocity of their instincts, particularly since, in her waking life, those instincts are still largely imaged for Jaffa in her mother’s violence.
Jaffa, in life, was beginning to touch into her own repressed instincts.
As they. travel back, they see a male patient in front of a hospital.
In real life, Jaffa was attempting to stand firm to her own truth and put her own masculinity into action in organizing a study course for herself.
While her masculine energy is still in the hospital, at least that index finger that has tyrannized her life is gone. It reappears, however, as a pointing gun held in the hand of a dark (an unknown part of herself) woman.
T he evil energy that is, energy destructive to life-once personified in her personal mother is now beginning to manifest as impersonal, unknown energy closer to the archetypal level.
As the struggle for soul survival intensifies, the ego becomes stronger, but so do the forces ranged against it.
Archetypal energy, whether positive or negative, carries awesome magnetic power.
The unknown woman represents a hitherto unacknowledged feminine energy in Jaffa, an energy that will at first manifest with considerable rage (gun).
The unknown woman is the mother’s energy released from the complex and becoming at last Jaffa’s own.
The release thus announces itself in a shift from the personal to the archetypal mother.
Seven years after her dream of her roasting body without arms or legs, Jaffa hears a powerful voice in a dream saying, “Arms for all-embracing, legs for all-moving.”
The dream is releasing her body from the frieze of her father by filling it with the energy which she had once identified with her mother’s rage.
Her soul is at last being given its own proper body, granting it a standpoint in the world, a hold on reality.
The Self, that is, is giving her new strength to counteract the once negative forces.
Her arms are ready for “all-embracing,” and her legs are strong enough for “all-moving.”
This voice affirmed Jaffa’s dedication to her inner work and opened her to a new level of trust in the healing process taking
As the energy was released from the complexes, it became available to her ego and Jaffa was aware of capacities in herself
that she had never recognized before.
Such a strong voice from the Self often opens the way into the deeper secrets of the psyche.
Once the ego is strong enough to endure the naked truth, the dreams move into the heart of darkness. Within the darkness lies the light that can set the soul free.
I “escape” into a bed with a woman to whom I am attracted and want to be loved by. I ask her whether that is okay with
She says, “Actually, I am only comfortable with my friend Jeffrey.” I accept it. Now we are friends with more distance.
I am sitting beside my mother now. She offers me some underpants that I try on and then take off again. There is a
feeling of shame because I am wearing only underpants. My mother points to a crow, which seems to be tame, and calls the bird toward her. There is a cat there, and I shudder, thinking it might catch the crow. The crow comes forward, and the cat lovingly licks the bird’s wing feathers. This dream further clarifies Jaffa’s problem with her mother.
In the first section, when she yearns to make love to the woman, the woman replies that she is only comfortable with her friend Jeffrey.
Jeffrey was her mother’s maiden name. In associating with the dream, Jaffa said that her mother was never really married, never bonded to her father. Her idea of relating was to make Jaffa, Lara and their father responsible for her misery.
When Jaffa was a child, her chief goal in life was to be loved and accepted by her mother.
The love/hate bond that existed between them was an incestuous love.
Thus both of Jaffa’s husbands were very much like her mother’s power-driven animus.
When Jaffa recognized how narcissistic her mother was, she also recognized that she and her sister were used merely to mirror their mother and fulfill, however inadequately, their mother’s needs; hence began their profound lack of self-esteem.
Because the child was expected to mirror the parent, instead of the parent mirroring the child, the young potential was stifled.
The “intimacy” with her mother is broken in the second section of the dream.
Associating with the underpants, Jaffa remembered the horrid long woolen underwear her mother bought for her daughters.
Jaffa used to stop in the woods on her way to school, step out of the long brown pants, leave the small white ones on and stuff the big ones in her briefcase.
As an adult, she could never allow herself the luxury of delicate lingerie-until she broke the power of her mother complex.
In the dream, the transition begins when the mother offers her white underpants (which she never did in real life), but Jaffa cannot receive them from her.
All she can feel is the shame of being partially naked.
This echoes her early childhood fears of being naked in front of her mother.
Even then she sensed the violence in her mother’s sexuality and knew that her nakedness and Lara’s excited her mother.
The last section of the dream, the lysis, points the direction in which the energy wants to move.
Here, Jaffa’s strong Celtic roots are echoed in Odin’s bird, the crow.
The spiritual energy symbolized in the crow is balanced by the instinctual energy symbolized in the cat.
Jaffa expects them to be natural enemies. But the cat lovingly licks the crow.
Transformation of the incest bond that links sexuality and violence between mother and daughter has begun in this dream.
When that shift reaches consciousness, a new relationship is possible between spirit and instinct.
Instead of being enemies, the two energies can find a natural harmony; far from destroying each other they can relate.
Spirituality and sexuality are like the two snakes in the caduceus of Asclepius, separating and uniting, each with its own strength, one harmoniously balancing the other.
Though Jaffa remained unaware of this larger archetypal action of the unconscious, she nevertheless received in the dream a
glimpse of herself as her own person inhabiting her own creative energies.
She saw herself free of the triangulated structure to which she had all her life been bound.
In this glimpse of a lost or repressed instinctual life, she recognized an energy that her intellect could no longer rationalize or contain.
She dreamed of a circle of fire; her whole body became fire.
Reflecting on the circle of fire, she remembered that Wagner’s Ring had always fascinated her.
In the opera, Siegfried kept covered by a leaf his vulnerable spot in the center of his back.
The evil one, Hagen, tricked him, and when Siegfried lost his gentle green armor, he was vulnerable. Jaffa was suffering intense pain caused by vertebra behind her heart.
So long as she didn’t breathe too deeply, didn’t take in too much life, it didn’t hurt too much.
She was beginning to realize through her body pain the depth of the cutting that was going on.
“I can’t carry the weight of my head anymore,” she said. “It’s too heavy. For so long I have intellectualized my suffering.
I see intellectualizing now as an excuse. I was so stuck in my head and spirit that I smiled a smooth, secret smile and said, ‘I’m grateful for my suffering. This is how I’ve learned. This is my maturing.’ Head stuff! Totally ignoring my body!
This is such a grand stand I’ve taken. Quite arrogant really! Let her suffer! Let her burn in the fire! I didn’t know what real suffering was. I had gone through everything with my body closed down. I didn’t want to look at anything, didn’t want to suffer. Now I see what it really was. My life before was just headlines, no substance. All I wanted was coziness for everybody. I accommodated to everything for peace. Now I want freedom to live my life.”
The transformative fire brought up associations with Wagner’s Brunhilde. Brunnhilde, favorite daughter of Wotan, saw what
human love could be and turned against the perfectionist values of her father god, Wotan, in favor of the human hero. Her enraged father put her on a rock forever.
But Brunnhilde persuaded him to encircle her with a ring of fire (passion), a ring which only a hero could break through to release her.
Wotan agreed but with a price:
if a man dared to come through the fire to awaken her, she would no longer be a Goddess. She would become a human being.
The Brunnhilde image is evoking not only Jaffa’s mature feminine consciousness but her focused, assertive masculinity as well.
Having achieved a temporary plateau in the development of her feminine side, the Self now guides her to growth in her masculinity.
I walk through my home town on a badly lit road. I could have reached my goal on a different road with more traffic, but I
chose a back alley. I sense danger. A man fallows me, becoming even more creepy when he calls out my name. He must know me and have observed me for a long time! He must have planned his attack cleverly! An accomplice of his is now approaching
me from the front. I remain conscious of the danger but don’t panic. The first man now grabs me around my ribs in
a sweet-sour way. I don’t fight, don’t run, but know I must protect myself. I see a car parked with three women inside and
slowly walk toward it. The men allow me to go to the women. I guess they must after all be harmless. I ask the women
whisperingly to secure my protection. All three agree silently. Later, at the three women’s house, two of their fathers are visiting.
Against the one wall the first of the two attackers sits and paints! I am astounded, for I thought he was a criminal! The other father is sitting at the table gobbling down food like a madman. I think it is a pity to gobble and not to enjoy. Hot hunger! The women now tell me that the first father is quite harmless and known for that. I think I should look him in his face and de-harm him for myself, best upside down. I imagine how either I myself, or he, would hang on the balcony railing and how we would, in this way, look into each other’s eyes and recognize one another.
Slowly, inevitably, this dream drives the sword home.
Having chosen to leave the collective road, the dreamer is moving through the back alley where she meets her assailant and his accomplice, who know her well.
When she is grabbed in “a sweet-sour way,” she experiences the attack exactly as she experienced the hands of her husband-cold, intrusive, violent in the sexual act.
The assailants either hold the power, or she projects her own power on them.
As the violence closes in, there is danger of violence, but she does not fight or panic.
Instead she slowly moves toward the protection of women in the nearby car. The assailants allow this.
This moment of transformed action-where the ego stands firm, doesn’t panic, faces the rapists head on and realizes they are
now “harmless”-can only come after months or years of hard work.
In the early months of analysis, the weak container would try to run from the danger or fight it, thus setting up the very
dynamic that would end in violence.
When soul and body are in harmony, the body supports the ego, the ego can face the assailant.
The face we turn to the unconscious is the face that is reflected back to us.
So long as we keep running, it chases us and sometimes trips us.
When we turn around and face it, its monumental terrors can be dealt with, detail by small detail.
In the protective presence of her feminine energies, Jaffa faces the power drives she has been running away from all her life.
While she does not have a chronic eating disorder, she does under stress gobble food, smoke cigarettes, rush from one thing into another and then fly out for more books.
The “other father,” gobbling his food like a madman, personifies the unconscious wolf energy that does not know what it wants but consumes everything in a crazed desire to be filled with something.
Undermined by powerlessness and emptiness, it blindly lashes out, gobbling, not digesting anything.
This father resonates with Jaffa’s early memories of her mother gobbling at the kitchen table, eating her up.
The negative animus is the addict that consumes the feminine. The other father is painting.
The dreamer is astounded that he is not a criminal as she imagined. Here is the core of what Jaffa will deal with.
Both her father and mother were artists when they married.
Her mother’s creative powers, without a strong ego to protect them, were swallowed by the madman gobbler whose negative
energy, fired by the misappropriated creativity, became totally destructive.
The two sides of that _creative fire are also juxtaposed in the criminal artist.
Now Jaffa has to face the fact that her beloved father may not be blameless.
His perfectionist standards in his own work and his support of everything she does rob her of her own creative fire.
She is paralyzed when she begins to paint, even as her mother, as artist, was paralyzed in her marriage, her own creative energy gobbled up in rage.
It is thus her mother’s rage she must redeem by recognizing that rage in herself. In the last section of the dream, the dream ego realizes Jaffa must look this situation squarely in the eye but upside down.
This image is related to The Hanged Man in the Tarot pack, who augurs the need for a voluntary sacrifice for the purpose of acquiring something of greater value.
This might be the sacrifice of an external thing which has previously provided security in the hope that some potential can be given room to develop.
Or it can be the sacrifice of a cherished attitude, such as intellectual superiority, or unforgiving hatred, or a stubborn pursuit of some unobtainable fantasy. 1
Jaffa is now faced with an image that suggests that her idealized father was neither the God she imagined nor the criminal. She imagines either him or herself suspended, as indeed her life is now suspended, without the perfection of her father at the center.
As Jaffa looks into the father’s eyes, she will see her own masculinity, her own creativity, her own capacity for action, like her mother’s, hung, feet in the air, upside down.
The situation cannot be faced directly yet, for to face it directly would be to short-circuit the soul process, and to short-circuit the soul process is to be electrocuted.
This is a soul problem, not a behavioral one.
One of the tragedies of human relationships is that very often one partner cannot respect the soul process of the other.
What is rape for Jaffa is not rape for her husband because he does not have her trauma.
Ripping aside the veils is rape when one partner is not ready.
Jaffa is being called to make a sacrifice. What the sacrifice is she does not know. It has to do with what is most sacred to her. It has to do with making herself vulnerable to the new possibilities life may bring.
It has to do with forgiving the enemy mother who in psychic reality mirrored, in her violence, Jaffa’s repression of herself.
Release from repression, that is, is less a slaying of the evil witch than a transformation of her negative energy through creative assimilation.
It is releasing Pegasus buried in Medusa.
The father hanging upside down so that she can look him in the eye contains the potential recognition that her upside-down father is what in part her mother is.
Two months later, after immense efforts to change her standpoint, Jaffa dreams that her suitcases are packed but still in her
father’s apartment, exactly as the apartment was twenty-five years ago.
As the dream develops, the reason for no immediate radical change becomes clear.
My sister, as a baby, chatters uninterruptedly. My mother talks of “putting the Kleenex away” after having made love to me in
order to keep it secret from my little sister. I am strangely aware of her assumption of “intimacy” between us. Then one word-AGAMEMNON.
Again the collusion of mother and father complexes is apparent.
Obviously, father is happy to have Jaffa stay in his house (power) forever. “The suitcases are my soul that I put down in my father’s apartment and left there,” Jaffa said.
The second part of the dream stunned Jaffa. Whether physical incest actually took place or not she does not know.
The dream at least suggests that Jaffa’s youthful psyche experienced her mother’s attitude toward her as an intrusion, a deviation from a healthy mother-daughter relationship.
The baby sister who “chatters uninterruptedly” is that unconscious, innocent part of the child that cannot believe the violation is happening.
Denial is the only defense the child has against the impossible truth.
Jaffa’s strongest initial reaction to the dream was an all-consuming resentment of her mother’s assumption that her daughter would make love to her.
Her “absolutely not” in response to the dream contained all the energy that blocked out the act, an act that would consciously require far more processing before its creative possibilities could be absorbed.
Those creative possibilities lay not in any actual relationship between Jaffa and her mother but in Jaffa’s learning to mother herself.
When one being is invaded by another-whether it is body or soul that is raped, or both-the symbolic language of the dream is the same.
The inner world is so devastated that the trauma may be split off, isolated in the unconscious, while an unaffected part of
the psyche chatters incessantly, camouflaging the truth.
That truth, however, resides not in the trauma of incest or rape but in the final recognition that energy repressed will first explode in unacceptable ways before it finds the channel of its positive creative flow.
As Jaffa worked on this dream over the next few months, she realized that there had indeed been an incestuous overtone to the beatings.
The mother would become so excited and strike so hard on the child’s buttocks that the imprint of the hot hand remained on her, in her, all day.
Then the one word, “Agamemnon,” delivered a blow even deeper than the incest section of the dream.
When she looked up the story in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she found that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, and years later was killed himself by his wife’s lover.
The words that Jaffa underlined were “a mother’s love for a daughter killed by her own father.” 2
She took “Agamemnon” as a command, as if her psyche were to say, “Look at me. There’s more here than spirit. Demystify spirit.”
Incest energy with the mother had to be understood as the constellation of that energy which, when absorbed, would release her from the killing love of the father.
Jaffa realized that, by making her his queen, her father had not allowed her to live.
In fact, he had talked Jaffa into giving up the man she loved and staying with the man she first married.
“If I had gone off with my lover,” she said, “Father would have been threatened. ‘Come to me,’ he says, ‘Come to me.’
He sacrifices the woman I am-to-his-image of-the perfect woman-for his-salvation. I became a willing victim to the extent that I sacrificed my body. What father did to me, I did to my body.”
Jaffa’s growing understanding is redeeming the negative mother at work in herself.
There is that other factor that must be kept in mind in working with this dream: Jaffa is an artist and her creativity is grounded in the matrix of her being. So long as Jaffa needed to abreact her anger, I left the matrix alone so that it would not be contaminated.
Jaffa, in the immediate sense, is the product of her accidental life circumstances, as are we all.
These accidental circumstances must, therefore, first be dealt with in order to make a clearing in which the archetypal or creative matrix of her being can appear.
There is always some danger at the purely personal level that she could be trapped in the chattering child, imaged in her sister, who can only deny the experience of incest instead of moving into the adult who seeks the meaning and gives it form in her art.
When Jaffa began to take full responsibility for her own life, she worked patiently at finding a new home for herself and making time for her studies.
She relied on her own sense of discipline and willpower.
Something, however, was missing as is clear in the following dream:
The Queen Mother is in a wheelchair. At a castle ruin: I am walking toward a kind of jacuzzi (old bathtub, round, made of wood). I hesitate when I see my father in the tub with a woman. Then I feel an urge to find out more about the woman. I had somehow been aware of her having a son about fifteen years old. Now she seems to totally ignore the fact that she is apparently sitting on top of her son in the water. I cannot do anything but am alarmed and extremely concerned. Finally she stands up, completely unconscious, feelingless. Now I can see that indeed she had been holding her son under water all that time. He has shrunk to the size of a fifteen-year-old baby. He seems without any life, even though soft (not dead but stiff). It is a horrible sight. I cannot help. I walk away slowly. Should I call for help?
The mother complex is now crippled.
As the old queen crumbles, it is natural that the castle (the authority) of the complex would be in ruins. In that ruin, however, is an old alchemical bathtub, a feminine container, wooden and round, which is the creative feminine at the core of the mother complex.
Yet, in that creative place are the father and the unknown woman who sits feelingless on top of her fifteen-year-old son who has shrunk to the size of a baby. He is not dead although he seems to be.
Fifteen years earlier, Jaffa, at her father’s request, said goodbye to a man she loved, a man whom she associated with her creativity.
“It was a time of death,” she said. “Everything around me died. I could concentrate on nothing.” Her father’s anima, his soul, who loved painting, had been sitting on top of Jaffa’s creativity for fifteen years.
Everything about the tub-old, wooden, round, holding water-suggests the creative matrix, but Jaffa is not in the tub and her creative masculine is being held down in the unconscious by an unknown woman.
Here is a very different kind of patriarchal woman-more subtle but no less destructive.
“I love you so much, I know what is best for you” is her message, and it has nearly drowned Jaffa’s creative spirit.
Thus, although the mother complex is in ruins, rage reduced to the impotency of a wheelchair, the father complex remains.
Jaffa still needs the energy locked up in the mother complex to release her from her father complex.
The Queen Mother in a wheelchair, now understood as Jaffa’s own crippled energy, needs that energy, creatively transformed, in order to release herself from her father’s anima. Not surprisingly, therefore, in the dream she is
still trapped, not knowing what to do: “I cannot help. I walk away slowly. Should I call for help?”
In this dream, the dream ego is so shocked it does not ask for help.
The following dream suggests that Jaffa is seeking help in the wrong place.
My son is sitting on the couch of my father’s living room. In front of him, on the floor, a white (!)Negro doll (size of a two year-
old child) is standing. She can talk. My son says to her, “I am not your grandmother!”
Her young masculine energy is now in her father’s living room.
Her young femininity (deficient in instinct-Negro doll, but white), which was crippled into a doll-like puppet by the age of
two, is able to talk, but the boy rebukes her.
Perhaps she was looking to him for understanding, for nourishment, for all that she needs to look for in the Great Mother.
This would be the old pattern repeating itself: the starved, ungrounded feminine projecting strength and caring on the masculine.
Then the masculine grows fat while the feminine remains anorexic (which was precisely what was happening between two of Jaffa’s children).
The dream seems to be warning Jaffa not to make her son into her loving mother in real life and not to indulge herself in a doll-like femininity that would feed on her creative masculinity.
It needs all its own strength to mature.
In the following dream a vibrant creative energy is beginning to manifest.
My husband has taken his car apart. At a lake: I see some people on a strange kind of lift, just jumping off onto a platform and from there onto land. They are older people. Then I find myself high above the lake lying flat on my stomach on a small flat lift. I am lying quite still and do not get dizzy. I am spiraling downward and land safely. Unexpectedly, I walk through a village in which all the inhabitants are participating in a funeral or memorial ceremony. Everyone is dressed in black. People have camels and cows with them; I am trying to squeeze through. Egypt seems to have a deep importance. I am conscious of the presence of magic: first in the form of a man and/or his voice which enables me to figure skate, even though normally only my sister can do that. Then the magic seems to come from a cat. I return from a hike with my fat her to the center of town. He
steps into an empty bus. I want to follow him. As quick as a wink the doors shut, the bus takes off, and I am furious!
A car is a metaphor for the way our energy moves through life. Our body is our most immediate means of locomotion.
As patriarchal rigidity is dismantled in the musculature of Jaffa’s body, the shifting of the energy patterns is at times excruciating. In part two of the dream, the lift is like a crane holding a platform that comes spiraling and safely down, first over the lake, then over the land. It reminds Jaffa of joining hands with her sister and swirling like two dervishes until they found the still point at the center and spirale4 around the outside without becoming dizzy.
As T. S. Eliot puts it, Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.3
At the still point, spirit embraces soul. Soul is in time, in matter.
Spirit penetrates soul, bringing meaning to what might otherwise be endless, meaningless time.
Their union creates the dance that is a celebration of all that lives.
Jaffa in the dream is being released from the complexes characteristic of a triangulated child through an influx of archetypal energy that breaks the chains of the personal.
The dance of celebration is further developed in the third part of the dream.
Something has died but something new is being born-and the dream ego is “trying to squeeze through.”
Egypt is very important to Jaffa because as a child she escaped from her depressed personal world by entering the archetypal world of the museum where Egypt lived in her imagination.
She loved the ancient beauty, the power of the pyramids, the regal faces, the majestic forms.
She loved the jewelry, the whole milieu of sun energy that brought her close to the divine.
As she reconnected with that archetypal world of her childhood, she developed a love for belly-dance music, which evoked a sensuous, sacred energy that brought her into touch with the feminine power in her body.
Isis, the Black Madonna, is in that energy. The powerful Black Madonna energy finds a partner in the next section of the dream.
Masculine energy in the form of “a man and/ or his voice” infiltrates the atmosphere with magic, and Jaffa is able to figure skate. “I love to watch figure skating,” she said. “It is embodied spirit moving.”
All the lightness, the magic, the grace she once projected on her sister she is now claiming in herself.
And with that thought, the magic she associated with a man seems to come from the feminine energy associated with a cat. Light enters matter.
Where does the energy want to go? The lysis makes that clear.
The energy that is personified in the father gets into a bus, and the ego still wants-to-follow.-“Quick as-a-wink-,~ -the-unconscious shuts the door between them.
The ego, furious at being left alone, has to accept the cut she has not the conscious strength to make.
Father, of course, will sometimes return, but right now, Jaffa has to allow her own masculinity to grow without projecting on her father or modeling herself on him.
This episode is a splendid example of “the fullness of time” having arrived and the unconscious taking the action which the dream ego is not yet able to take.
Jaffa in the dream is being released from both parental complexes through an infusion of archetypal energy.
Thus she is discovering her own center, that still point around which her own creative dynamics revolve in harmony.
She is released from the artists in her parents which blocked the artist in herself.
In a later dream, Jaffa and a male friend are visiting a married couple who are preparing dinner for the four to share.
The husband is mixing spaghetti with the chicken his wife is cutting up.
Jaffa likes Italian men because “they are not threatened in their masculinity. They can do what they need to do and work with a woman doing what she needs to do.”
In the dream each is independent, sharing without burdening the other.
The dinner the four ill eat together has feminine and masculine components blended but each defined.
This dream, simple as it is, points to uncontaminated masculine and feminine energies uniting while holding their uniqueness.
Life has moved in many directions since Jaffa had these dreams.
Covering a span of seven years, they make clear the dark foundations that have to be renovated in order to create a secure base for the new structure.
While that structure is taking shape, the dark incubation period of healing requires a temenos, a sacred inner space.
The depth and breadth and height of the process can only be suggested. Each of us travels his/her own path, but recognizable patterns emerge.
Reviewing her dreams, some of which are recorded here, Jaffa said, “I see a gaping wound with a thread of healing going right through.”
Jaffa’s “gaping wound,” commonly called the “healing wound,” is the wound through which the God or Goddess enters.
It is the place made vulnerable, made open, to the infusion of archetypal energy.
Through the interaction of conscious and unconscious, Jaffa is shaping her own creative dynamics toward the equilibrium
which is conferring upon her an identity of her own rather than a false identity borrowed from her unhappy parents.
Far from slaying the dragon-mother, she is, in fact, redeeming her.
Her struggle, it would appear, was (and still remains) less with the father than with the mother.
Even as the puer, in James Hillman’s rendering, is understood in relation to the senex, so also the puella (“Daddy’s little princess”) must be understood in relation to the mother, whom she is struggling to surpass.
In struggling to redeem her mother, she thereby releases in herself what in the mother remained dark and hidden.
Essential to a creative resolution of the conflict is a recognition of the parents’ interaction on a psychic level.
They have imposed an unconscious pattern of negative bonding on the child.
In Jaffa’s case, the bonding between the parents was presumably broken by divorce.
That bonding, far from broken, becomes all the stronger in the child whose own life has for its destined task the healing within of what was broken without.
In the ongoing healing of the parental image at the archetypal level lies the wholeness which is the goal of the individuation
Surrender to the archetypal parents, “father-mother of all higher consciousness”4 is, Jung writes, “a confession of man’s subjection, his imperfection, and his dependence; but at the same time a testimony to his freedom to choose between truth
That surrender, reached by Jung at the end of his life, remains for Jaffa a far-off goal propelling her in ways that she does
and does not understand. ~Marion Woodman, Mothers-Fathers, Mother as Patriarch, Page 70-88
- J. Sharman-Burke and L. Greene, The Mythic Tarot (New York: Methuen, 1986), p. 59.
- E. Hamilton, Mythology (New York: NAL Penguin, Inc., 1969), p. 240.
- T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton,” lines 66-67.
- C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London: Collins, 1963), p. 386.