Emblem 060: Ouroboros

You’ve met him before, the snake with his tail in his mouth. He comes to us from alchemy. There he stands for the circulatio, a process that continues itself. The material on which you work in its closed container, responding to gentle persistent heat, sublimes and rises, condenses and falls. Repeat as necessary.

There are matters in our lives in such process. “Why is this bothering me again? I thought I already dealt with it,” we think. We’re right, we did. But it needs more work. When we’re the material the work takes a lifetime.

Alchemy isn’t about being done with things. It’s about change. Each time the material cycles it incorporates all of your previous hard-won insights into itself. Gradually it transforms. Look at the image of the ouroboros. As he changes, so does his diet. As his diet changes, so does he. He’s neither what he was nor what he’ll be. He’s traveling.


Emblem 028: Lion with his paws cut off

In this image taken from alchemy there’s no blood spilled, nor does the lion suffer. He’s certainly puzzled at first, though.

We call the lion king of the beasts because of his masterful way in the world. He scans the environment for what he wants. When it appears he takes off after it, seizes it with his claws and brings it down, devouring it and making it his own. Making it himself. This is a good image for experience getting assimilated to the ego, which grows stronger and more integrated in response. This is mine; this is me. Behavior like this is highly effective and serves us well when we’re in school, looking for a partner, establishing ourselves in a career, engaging in activism or volunteer work.

There are times though when the work that needs doing is interior. In such times the world can be a distraction, and the extraverted functions not so helpful. With no paws the lion can’t grasp things and take ownership of them, but has to sit with them instead. Perhaps he goes hungry for a while. He doesn’t get around out in the world the way he used to. All that energy previously used in the hunt now begins to pour inward. Other kinds of change become possible.


Emblem 037: Through no fault of your own

Here’s what Maleva, the old gypsy woman in The Wolf Man, says: “Don’t oppose it and don’t run away from it. Don’t try to fix it and don’t encourage it. Don’t blame it and don’t praise it. Don’t refuse to know it and don’t rush towards it with your arms open. Tell it the way it walks is thorny through no fault of its own.”

Sympathy means to suffer with. Part of that is the willingness to suffer. The other part is the willingness to sit with something just the way it is.

Acceptance is often the first step of change. If this seems strange, watch the old movie again. Notice how each time Maleva recites her blessing the terrible wolf man changes into a human being.