Sometimes healing sucks: Chiron rising, the problem with progress, and Inanna in the underworld

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Collage by Stephanie Wild

The problem with the idea of healing is that the narrative of progress does not always fit well with reality. Life is both a process of growth and of entropy, and many many other things. I find myself, amidst this life, focusing always on getting better – on progress, healing, renewal.

Chiron, the asteroid symbolising the wounded healer, was rising at the time of my birth. It sits in my 12th house, in Gemini. Chiron conjuncts my North Node, linking it closely with my learning in this life. I still have a lot of unpacking to do around understanding these prominent aspects of my chart but I can tell you what it resonates with so far in my life.

Chiron rising conjunct my North Node for me coincides with a life focusses around healing and teaching. As a young child I felt a deep hopelessness at my atheist upbringing. I developed a paralysing phobia of death due to phychological abuse from about age six. Around that age I also had a kind of spiritual epiphany – a vision of connectivity – of people holding hands over the world – a sudden deep understanding of empathy. These are all very 12th house themes. My childhood trauma seems to coicide with early Pluto transits – adding to the death themes. Around the age of 12 I developed depression which I spent many years working through – with counselling, shamanic work and various kinds of paganism (in my teens), and then meditation, copious affirmations, hypnotherapy, energy healing, more counselling and writing (in my 20s). I have done so much healing: food/nutrition based healing, yoga, journalling… basically every kind of healing I came across that resonated in order to try to deal with chronic illness and chronic fatigue. A huge thread through my life story has been healing in one form of another.

By now, in my early 30s, I would expect to be really good at it. I have a couple of decades of actively seeking out, learning and participating in healing processes – and teaching them as well. But life is full of challenges – difficult transits like Chiron squaring my natal Neptune and also (simultaneously) Neptune squaring my natal Chiron. Going through journeys of losing faith and re-growing it, the pain of psychological dying giving way to the pain of psychological rebirth. So much healing.

Healing for me has taken on a very different process, in recent years. It is no longer about crystals and guided visualisations as it was in my teens, or about re-programming my mind with beneficial thoughts and tracing back my past life lessons as it often was in my 20s. Post Saturn return, my healing process is mostly about journalling and paying attention – cultivating my ability to listen to deep intuition, and also every form of self-care that makes sense to me. Astrology, a language I began to learn in my early 20s, has been very useful to me in understanding the learning that I am currently going through – every transit is surprisingly relevant to my life, and the knowledge of the transit’s lessons, challenges and opportunity helps me to get the most out of the difficulties.

Sometimes healing sucks. Probably, most of the time. It is hard. it is painful. It often requires trying multiple things that don’t work before, hopefully, we find something that does. I like to use metaphors for the psyche based on biology and ecological systems: some wounds require intervention in order to heal – we must clean out the pus and muck, untangle and separate ourselves from the things we are caught up in, remove psychic splinters. Other wounds need to be rested in order to heal – too often we think of ourselves as we think of doctors – as active agents of healing, however the real healing is not an active process, just as doctors themselves do not heal. In order to heal, we must remove all obstacles to the healing process which is a natural process.

When I am going through painful healing processes my main coping strategies for this kind of thing are going for walks and journaling. Also – doing all the things I know that help me to take care of myself – which are not always the things that are easy and comfortable. When I am going through a difficult time I want to stay in bed and eat junk food but that leads to feeling worse! The problem with knowing all about healing is that you have high expectations for yourself and want to feel like you are progressing. The processes of healing often don’t feel like that. It can feel hopeless and hard – a big struggle with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes healing sucks because it doesn’t feel like we are making progress at all – and we feel like we should already know how to deal with this shit by now! Sometime the fixation I have with progress – with always getting better – just makes me feel worse. Awareness of this allows me the opportunity to release my grasp on the fixation with progress. I do not need to be always getting better. Life is a process that will always lead to death – ageing and entropy are inevitable if we life long enough. There is still so much to accept here. These topics can be terrifying psychological terrain to tread. When we do stumble upon them the dread sets in, we have stepped towards the shadow, across the boundaries of light and into the underworld.

In Sumerian mythology, Inanna’s descent into the underworld provides a wonderful metaphor for the suffering and pain of such a journey. The goddess Inanna is often archetypal linked to Venus, the divine feminine aspect, the goddess self. Inanna journeys into the underworld to meet her sister Ereshkigal. To prepare for the journey she dresses elaborately, with lapiz lazuli, her garments represent her power, but along the journey, each of the seven gates she passes through force her to remove her garments and jewelery,  piece by piece stripping her of her power. These are the snags along the dark path we tread into our own shadows. When she reaches Ereshkigal, the dark feminine archetype, Inanna is naked. Ereskigal and the seven judges shout at Inanna and murder her. She is hung on a hook. Three days and three nights pass before the god Enki helps to resurrect Inanna. She is reborn, just as we may be when we emerge from deep painful healing, cutting away the deadwood of our lives, clearing space to make way for new life to grow.

We are good at celebrating the light and success – we also need to learn to honour death, to sit with pain, understand anguish, to embrace struggle, and to accept the inevitable, when it arrives.

 

 

 

 

Chiron Rising: empathy, connectedness and metamorphosis

Chiron Rising: empathy, connectedness and metamorphosis

Lately I have been feeling unsettled… actually this has been going on for quite a while. We have moved four times in the last year, living in different temporary places, without having enough information to make decisions or plan out what to do next.  A few months ago I gave away all the furniture I still owned, and most of my other possessions and packed my little car with the things my daughter and I need (mostly clothes). We drove to Wellington, stopping on the way to visit my step sister and to play in the snow on the mountain. I have been doing my best to be guided by intuition. The uncertainty has been so challenging. I’m leaning into my fear and vulnerability, and letting go… and letting go.

In my natal chart Chiron, often called the wounded-healer archetype is ‘rising’ in my twelfth house, in Gemini. My life has had a massive focus on emotional and spiritual healing, both for myself and for other people… and for society and the planet (at least in terms of intention if not effect). This call has dominated my narrative and my life, but it has changed a lot over the years.

For a long time I felt broken. I felt I needed to fix myself. But the emotional woundedness and the healing were all part of the same cycle, the same archetypal pattern, much like the victim/rescuer complex. It took me until my Saturn return to really restructure this patterning, and I am grateful, every day, for the stability I have built over this time.

The vulnerability I have been processing recently has been more to do with myself in the world. The process is also one of healing in a different way, because it it one of growing, and growing always involves healing as we push through our own boundaries. In this way I have felt a lot like a seed, sprouting. The hard shell of protection has softened and now I am trying to break through, out of the dark, into the light… perhaps up until now I was planted in the dark soil, learning these subconscious lessons. Perhaps as a child I was a delicate blossom, easily damaged, which became a fruit, which was eaten by the bird of adolescence which took me to such a dark place (to extend the metaphor out too far).

It is a similar metamorphosis to that of moths and butterflies… it is the process of fighting its way out of the chrysalis that pumps vital blood into the butterflies wings. Human beings undergo similar metamorphoses. We are phoenixing beings. We must die to the past to remain in the present. Like Inana’s descent into the under-world, in this journey of deep soul alchemy, we much let our riches be torn away. We must let go of everything… in order to gain everything. It is a painful process. I understand why many people avoid it… and it is not for everyone. We all have different meandering paths through this chaotic social wilderness.

Chiron is not just about woundedness, and not just about healing. It is about empathy. Suffering is something that unites us all, and when we can process past the self-isolation and absorption of the wound, when we can untangle these knots and allow them to heal, that scar tissue remains as a connecting point. Chiron can connect us to the whole, in much the same way Neptune can. Chiron can feel like all the sadness in the world, which is a heavy emotional burden, but Chiron can also blossom into exquisite empathy. I have been feeling this empathy well up in me, as well as a deepening sense of holistic connectedness. I have let go my old life, over and over, mourned the past, and been reborn into the present.

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Chrysalis by Stephanie Wild http://www.stephanie.me.uk/

The dark moon: regeneration and cradling the self

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

In a world where we are constantly encouraged to shine, to compete, to perform, to do more, there is not much emphasis put on the other side of the cycle: on rest and renewal. When we find ourselves producing less, doing less, we tend to ask “what’s wrong?”. We tend to medicalise ourselves, and seek help for this problem of not being absolutely amazing all the time. Actually, the downswing of the cycle is just as beautiful as the expansion of growth, it is just quieter.

The dark moon is a time for reflection and regeneration. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés tells a story about an old man who struggles through the dark forest towards the light of a small lamp in a hut. When he reaches the hut a kind woman takes him in her arms and rocks him… and rocks him… and rocks him… and just before morning he is a young man with golden hair, and she continues to rock him, until the very beginnings of breaking dawn, when she plucks three hair from his head and throws them to the half, and the man, now a little golden-haired baby, runs out the door, jumps into the sky and becomes the sun.

Even in the chaotic hectic lives that we find ourselves in, there is always be a corner of the psyche where that kind woman sits in her rocking chair. There is always time where we can visit her, even just for a moment, even just with a resting thought, a hot bath or shower, a hot drink, a solitary walk, a pausing glance toward the horizon, the minutes before sleep, where we are as cradled as we possibly can be. We need to rest. We need to heal. We need to consciously nurture the self.Do you hear yourself coming up with explanations and excuses of why you cannot possibly rest? That is normal, the mind wants to say busy, to reap reward. There are a million things that you would possibly do… go go go. But even one moment of dropping the pressures of the mind, of letting the world slip away and falling into deeper awareness is precious gold for the inner self… and every step towards deeper intuition is a step towards looking at things a different way, of shifting and dissolving tensions, of solving the problem from a deeper level than the one in which is was created.

This is a lesson in self-care and regeneration. It is not always the time to perform or shine. Our dreams and ideas and hopes need nurturing too, they need to be rocked sometimes. Take this dark moon, and the next and the next… take the two or three day before the new moon every month, to sit quietly at any possible moment, to walk quietly, to rock gently… to be in that space of nurturing. Take this sacred time to honor and cradle the self in whatever way possible. Take this time to heal, because healing is a natural part of growth, of life. When everything is moving so fast, stillness is powerfully transformative.

Eating death: Pluto, the underworld, and petroleum based pesticides

Because of my research on food sovereignty, I have thought a lot about pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. People talk a lot about ‘organic’ food, but this mostly means food that hasn’t been grown with petroleum based products. These products are designed to either kill insects, bacteria and fungi, or to add nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous to the soil to compensate for the depletion caused by intensive agriculture. It’s obviously not very sustainable, but it has become ‘normal’.

On a symbolic level this is interesting because for several reasons. The first is that pesticides were primarily developed during World War II for purposes of chemical warfare (Mars/Aries)… so the obvious thing to do, after the war was to put this stuff on our food, and eat it, right? The intense driven energy and economic activity had to be channeled somewhere after the war, and it tended to veer towards the domestic sphere (Cancer/4th house), into more advanced home appliances and into the ‘green-revolution’ of industrialised mono-cultural agriculture. Women became the main consumers, along with the rise of the middle-classes, and the modern ‘traditional’ housewife was born. Meanwhile our food has become more uniform, ‘cheap’ in comparison to the energy expended to attain sustenance at any other time in history, and imminently more toxic.

The second reason it is interesting symbolically is related to petroleum itself, which is connected to Pluto, Hades and the underworld. Fossil fuels are exactly that – the fossilised remains of an old dead world. It it the world’s stored energy and it’s intensely powerful. We are extracting it, burning it up and making all kinds of useful things out of it (plastic, for example), in order to ‘advance’ (Uranus) at unprecedented levels. I have a feeling that we have no idea what we are really doing here, but it doesn’t seem very wise. In putting petroleum based pesticides and fertilisers into our food we are symbolically eating death. Thoughts?

Forgive life: Neptune squares my natal Chiron


I don’t quite know how this one snuck up on me, although it does make sense considering Neptune is so elusive and my natal Chiron is in the 12th house of hidden and subconscious things. Perhaps I should have noticed when the stability I had been enjoying since my Saturn Return seemingly morphed into what feels like several months of PMS. I was feeling SO emotional, but couldn’t cry. I even resorted to watching the sad parts of kids movies and Thai life insurance ads (the saddest ever) just to force the tears to flow.

Neptune in a difficult aspect is a lot like a big dissolving/yearning/dream/delusion/spell which can feel impossible to live through and chiron is all about being wounded and healing, so there are some obvious emotional ramification here, but because this transit surprised me, I googled it to see what else the internets could tell me: not very much and came across a Saturn Rising post of an interpretation except (not sure where from) that resonates deeply:

The deeper meaning underlying the depressed emotional state
you are likely to experience is a need to face, understand, and
let go of the pain of the past. You may be clinging to hurtful
experiences in ways you have not realized, storing them up
and nursing an unconscious sense of grievance and mistrust
which may be secretly affecting many of your decisions and
responses to other people. It is not that your past experiences
are unimportant, or that your unhappiness is or was unreal.
But right now you are being challenged to find the capacity to
forgive life for not meeting your expectations. If you can see
where your idealization or unrealistic expectations might have
led you into disappointment, you could go a long way toward
healing these past wounds. Also, you may need to learn to
accept life as it is, rather than as you wish it could be. The
proverbial choice of perceiving a glass of water as either half-empty
or half-full applies to you now. If you see life only in
terms of its unfairness, you will become bitter, cynical and
martyred. If you see it only as wonderful, or maintain spiritual
convictions which are too simplistic or naive, you will be
disillusioned when life turns out to be more complex than you
thought. But if you see it as a mixture of dark and light, and
can be flexible enough to accept both, you will be able to find
the resources to cope with the dark while enjoying the light.

Despite being a glass-half-full person already, I could make some more ground with forgiving life. Faith is something I found, as a child, out of desperation. I was raised as an atheist, and got lost in the forest when I was eleven and prayed to every god I had ever heard of. I found Jesus at camp a few months later and converted to Christianity, then dropped it in favor of polytheistic paganism in my teens when I needed magic the most. Gradually, I let that go too, as I found my own power and needed gods and goddesses less and less. My spirituality evolved into an experiential one, moment to moment, interconnected with everything. The beliefs I have now, I am less attached to, they are lenses: tools for gaining clarity, wisdom and understanding… and yet, over the past few months I have felt this tugging absence of faith.

Feeling confused about my life, anxious about not knowing what the hell I’m doing, I have been intellectualising too much – trying to think my way out of feelings of powerlessness. Feeling frustrated with Uranus on my Midheaven, squaring Pluto in my seventh house, I have been going around in circles into brick walls trying to figure out what to do about my ambitions and relationships… I have been getting stuck on “how?” – the impossible question, when one is walking in the dark. I have been willing myself to have faith. I have been trying… but I don’t think I can find faith in desperation anymore… I think I have to find it in letting go… in forgiving life.

When I was fourteen I chose to write my school speech about forgiveness. It seemed like an important thing at the time, I remember a quote I found in my youth bible: “resentment is like a hot coal in the palm of your hand – the longer and tighter it is held, the deeper the burn, bitterness will leave a scar than even time cannot heal.” – That was when I was learning that forgiveness isn’t about letting someone/thing off the hook, it’s about releasing yourself from pain. I have been progressively seeking out and releasing pain from old wounds, releasing myself from depression, working towards forgiving specific people, but I haven’t yet framed it in terms of ‘forgiving life’. Life is hard and often painful; it’s complex and beautiful and joyful; it can be agonising. Life is full of injustices and unfairness, of vulnerability and betrayal, of being hurt, of fear and powerlessness. Life is a big thing to forgive.

Neptune is all about dissolving, and combined with Chiron there is a great opportunity to both dissolve into pain and woundedness and to dissolve from it – to release it. Towards the end of my last Neptune transit I started writing a poetic journal: “The art of dissolving.” I think I will go back to that now, especially as Neptune is also opposing my Venus and I need a positive creative channel to avoid getting lost in a lower-Neptuanian ocean of spaced-out yearning. In these moments of unreasonable despair I will allow this emotion to come up and affirm the thought that is bringing in light and space right now: forgive life.

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I haven’t been living in the forest for a while…

The Forest

‘Living in the forest’ is a metaphor that I drew from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés‘ monumental book ‘Women who Run With the Wolves’. The final story of the Handless Maiden is a journey of deep and total transformation, the healing part of this takes place over seven years of living in a forest. When I began this blog I was living in a forest and I was undergoing deep transformation and healing, so it seemed an appropriate title. The last two years (at least) have been overwhelmed by thorough psychological restructuring: Saturn in Scorpio, for me, especially by a very long Saturn return before it squared my Sun. It’s now right on top of my natal Mars.

For the past six months I have been sporadic with blogging. I’m trying to write my doctoral thesis, and I moved out of the forest and into the small coastal township nearby because I had been struggling to focus living where I was. To some extent I’m still ‘living in the forest’ in the self-work that I’m doing: in the processing and journalling, but in some ways I always have been doing this work.

I don’t know where I will live next or what I will do. Part of my recent processing has been about coming to terms with uncertainty and change – which are actually the only constants in life. For a long time I clung to the prospects of security – of owning property, of safety, of regular income… but while these things can be nice, they are not actually security or certainty, because that’s not a real-life thing, it’s a fantasy. Over the past two years everything has changed. I don’t want the same things and it surprises me. I don’t know why I want the things I do want, or why I’m drawn to the places that now seem so appealing. Even more surprising is my sense of stability and the noticeable absence of emotional trauma from my daily lived experience. I suppose these are some of the rewards of Saturn in Scorpio work. Anyway, I will continue to blog (more) regularly, because these sacred, private things are important to share, and because that seems to be a part of my journey.

The state, the market and astrological politics of the 4th and 10th houses

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I have been reading anarchist democratic theory for my thesis and the parallels between the 4th and 10th houses and the state and market keep coming back to me. Neoliberals want the market (10th, father) to rule – conservatives want this too but it is the other side of the 10th that appeals to them (control, structure). Neoliberals want a society of competition and progress (there is a Mars/1st element here too), conservatives want a society of rules and order.  Together these two political ideologies create a tyranny of corporate control, social inequality and suffering for most of the population. 

Socialists, on the other hand, want the 4th (mother/home) to rule. They want a more caring, fair society, where things are more equally distributed. Unfortunately, when instituted in a paradoxically top-down way (10th house), this can be equally tyrannical and disempowering for most people.

I wonder if these political ideologies translate to personal childhood experience. I suspect so. If we could just make sure our political class were thoroughly psychologically analysed for mummy/daddy issues we might well avoid all these messes and grow up politically. After all, market/state is a false dichotomy; they are two sides of the same coin. Even if they are involved in power struggles, they co-create each other.

Personally, I have a distrust of daddy/market and a longing for a nurturing mother/state. I’m also aware that the state isn’t as I’d like it to be, it is quite disconnected and covertly violent. We are all probably better off without passive aggressive mother and psychopathic controlling fathers as rulers, don’t you think? It would be nice to see more of a focus on humanitarian/Uranian/11th house politics: a politics that is more aware of what it is actually creating in the long-term, that is inclusive of diversity and seeks to resolve problems through democratic process, not just use the political stage as a contest. This is where contemporary anarchist (no-ruler) democratic process sits.