For my creative project I learned to spin and knit. I expected this to be straightforward. However, just as in fairy tales, these apparently simple tasks took me on an unexpected journey into the mysteries of life, death, and rebirth. All over the world, the act of spinning thread is interwoven with myth, fairy tales, and the sacred; Godwin sees the age-old path of esoteric wisdom in its myriad manifestations as a single ‘golden thread’ (Godwin 2007: xi). However, in contrast to our usual perceptions of Western mysteries, most of whose prophets and proponents are male, textile arts historically have been the domain of the female, and thus may offer insight into the particular nature of women’s wisdom. Just as one thread is formed from many small fibres, my creative project is a synthesis of different aspects. In this review I look at three main strands. First, spinning in history and mythology, particularly as women’s work; second, practical techniques; and third, my experience of spinning as a labyrinthine pathway to self-knowledge, through an encounter with death and a glimpse of the healing potential of spinning.
The creative project offered me a chance to enter the academic realm with a topic which sparks joy and enthusiasm in my heart (comic books) but also allowed me to explore some themes which interest me on an intellectual level – myths, and how myth is involved in shaping the landscape of belief, on a personal and cultural level. Through my interest in comic books the role of the hero is especially interesting for me, because it is in the struggles, adventures, victories and realisations of the hero that the morals and rules of a society are transmitted. After all, the hero is held up to society as a paragon of virtue and morality, the hero is the standard against which all others are measured. Furthermore, the idea that superheroes and their stories could be interpreted in the secular sense as new mythologies for our modern era was an exciting discovery, as I had never given much thought to the deeper meanings within the comics and heroes I love so much.
I had originally intended to write a series of poems on the larger landscape of Buchan in the North East of Scotland, incorporating an alchemical theme. However, returning to this small spot on the shore of my birthplace seemed like a call, I felt strongly that the house wanted to make itself known to me again, as well as the immediate environment. In this sense, I could see this small ‘spot of time’ of my own as a symbol for potential re/birth or transformation in the poems, via communion with my immediate surroundings, as a microcosm of that larger macrocosm. And the closer I examined my surroundings, the smaller the microcosms became, these were world within worlds. This sense of ‘home,’ notions of Eden, or Paradise, were visceral. Gaston Bachelard has said that the first house we inhabit ‘is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.’ [Bachelard 1994, p.4] The traces of my ancestors were certainly everywhere, from the enormous blooming fuchsia I believe my grandmother may have planted in its infancy (I knew this was her favourite flower) to the flakes of green paint on an ageing shed door. Moving around the exterior of the house became a kind of circumambulation, a circling of a sacred object. Bachelard states ‘that over and beyond our memories, the house we were born in is physically inscribed in us. It is a group of organic habits. … The feel of the tiniest latch has remained in our hands’. [ibid, pp.14-15] And I did feel that there was something deeply intimate taking place for me here, as if I was being greeted by a very personal, primal force. James Hillman, referring to Plotinus’ statement that we elect the body, parents, place and circumstances that suit our soul, reminds us that Plato said that in preserving this myth ‘we may better preserve ourselves and prosper’, that the myth has a redemptive psychological function which leads to a practical move, ‘then, the myth implies we must attend very carefully to childhood to catch early glimpses of the daimon in action, to grasp its intentions and not block its way.’ [Hillman 1996, p.8] This was, then, for me, my daimon in action. I did not want to block its way. The image of the house and the desk would become a container for creative reverie, the topology of land and the sea the elements to be explored in it. The shore at Phingask would provide the ‘prima materia’ which was to be, symbolically, transformed into the poems.
The Jupiter project was set up to experientially investigate the symbolism of the astrological Jupiter by connecting myself in different ways to this planet. To this end a range of creative, imaginal, symbolical and cognitive activities was carried out. In my essay the background, set up and main results of the project are described. The results are theoretically reviewed, and the dynamic between Jupiter and Saturn is discussed in the light of Jung’s concept of enantiodromia. The nature of the connection to Jupiter is discussed, particularly the role of transpersonal consciousness in experiencing the symbolism coming to life. Spangler’s ideas on personal and pure (soul) will are used to explain the different ways in which the connection is established. It is concluded that pure will opens up the possibility of a vivid connection to the symbolism. Personal will seems to work in the opposite direction: it closes the gateway to this experience.
This presentation, called Messages in Bottles – Drifting Treasure, was made to an open group of Cosmology M.A. students and tutors during a research day, 13 December 2015, in Canterbury Priory. Lasting half an hour, it took the form of a spoken and illustrated personal narrative. It re-created aspects of a meditative walk taken along the Thames foreshore – a literal path, looking out for messages in bottles, but also a metaphorical and mythopoetic path, asking the self and the cosmos questions along the way, and acting upon the answers received.
My creative project title arose from an exploration of two approaches to dance movement. Approach one explores dance movement in a meditative state of presence, which I called Being. Approach two explores the intention ‘pretending to Be’ through dance movement. The terms ‘Be’, ‘Being’ and ‘pretending to Be’ in relation to approaches one and two I will using throughout this essay. The primary intention for my project is approach one, to explore dance movement that arises from a state of presence and meditation, Being. I created approach two, so I had a counter opposing reference to approach one for greater clarity, for instance, one cannot comprehend black if they do not know white. I am using the terms ‘Being’ and ‘pretending to be’ instead of authentic and inauthentic, as authentic would suggest I am trying to be authentic, when I am only trying to Be.