Symbols of transformation and writing personal myth.
Today I’m exploring the concept of personal myth and the power of personal and archetypal symbols to transform our lives. I was reading some material by Jungian writer Marie-Louise von Franz on the images of the tower and the stone as archetypal symbols of the Self.
Reading about these symbols I re-membered my own imaginal life in a tower, and my fascination for stones, especially perfectly round stones, which I’ve collected for many years. I began to write a personal myth for the part of my journey that included towers and stones, and some other metaphorical transformations, leading to my experience of an archetypal Self.
Jung described the image of the tower as a symbol of the Self that could be either negative or positive. In many myths and fairy tales there is a woman locked in a tower and the story relates her individuation into life beyond the tower. Towers may also be symbolic sanctuaries or holy places representative of the wholeness of the Self archetype. Jung built his Bollingen tower in his later years, representing and creating his ongoing Self realisation. Saints and mystics have often lived in towers or similar enclosed places.
Symbolically, there is something about holy enclosure that is a potent vessel for our soul’s development through life. Holy simply refers to wholeness, which is the attribute of the Self archetype, and something we strive towards in our becoming: our authentic selves. At times, this holy enclosure can feel like a dungeon as we get lost and locked inside our own pain and withdraw into a limiting self narrative. Leaning into this with kindness we can free what is trapped.
The stone is a vessel of containment and mystery, an ancient archetypal symbol of the mystery of our inner life. In alchemy, the philosopher’s stone is the metaphorical transformation of our prima materia – our life circumstances, our pain and suffering, and our protective strategies that shape our personality – through its containment in the potentising vessel of our inner work. As we look inward, willing to witness our truths and work with them, we transform what is traumatic into something more whole. We heal through releasing the metaphorical gold trapped within the original substance that we have to work with.
Writing is an alchemical medium for personal transformation. Through writing our stories, our images, and letting them speak to us as well as through us, something transforms. This is healing work, seeing ourselves in myths, and seeing the myths in our lives. Healing takes us deeper into our wholeness. And touching into our wholeness we find peace and meaning for our lives.
My book Haunted: The Death Mother Archetype is a complex telling of a personal myth. One that has encompassed a whole life. Whereas the story I recently wrote in response to the symbols of the tower and the stone illuminates a smaller piece of a greater whole. Myths show us how we are transformed in our lives, whether we like it or not. We can be brutally changed by life, or we can be willing to learn the alchemy and art of personal transformation through our inner work. In my upcoming course on healing the wounds of the Sacred Feminine, I’ll be exploring more about the alchemical goddess, another aspect of the Sacred Feminine, whose essence is love and transformation.
If you would like to know more about writing personal myth, you can read the story I wrote about the tower and the stone (read here). To explore your own personal myths and symbols, take some time to reflect on the images you relate to in your own life. Are there fairy tales or myths you resonate with? Things you collect or are drawn to – like stones, feathers, teapots, paintings, cars or dolls? Write about what these things mean to you. Be willing to go deeper than what you first discover. Write about images that move you in art and in life. Is there particular music that touches you? Stories that make your heart leap? All these things resonate with you in some symbolic way, as well as in your personal life story.
Writing about these things and seeing how they become storied is soul work. If you prefer, you can paint or draw or walk or sing or dance them. Self-expression is soul-expression. And this helps us transform the prima materia of our life. Be willing to let the story write itself and write you. Be willing to see what unfolds. Later you can write about how it has informed you, and how it is transforming you.
There are many other ways writing can ignite personal transformation. I look forward to sharing more of them with you. Let me know your experiences with discovering your personal myth. I always appreciate you sharing your thoughts or your questions.
With you on the journey. – Violet