Divinity is in its omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun, nor ended - Hildegard von Bingen
The Alchemical Journey puts our inner Soul Story into visual symbols and images, complete with smells, colours and texture. A hidden journey made visible and thus given meaning : the Great Work of turning the lead of the personality into a golden Union - a mystical marriage, a hieros gamos, between the goddess and god within.
Alchemy is a powerful tool for transformation. By understanding the numinous archetypes within yourself and all of creation, you can access and harness your inner power and allow transformation to take place. The journey of transformation is filled with obstacles and challenges; intense emotion and dark fears; hidden shadows, delusion, illusion, joy and confusion.
Maria Hebraea or the Divine Maria was the first woman to practise alchemy in Alexandria. She was also called the Prophetess or Mary of the Jews. Her methods have been incorporated by great philosophers and the principles can be seen in Tantra Yoga and the Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism, as well as sacred geometry. She was also known as Moses' sister and even Jesus' helper - the mythical importance of her work highlighted in these titles.
The alchemical voyage is not linear. It meanders, at random, between alchemy's five stages and seven operations. The Philosopher's stone is the illusive 'third' way, hidden and encoded in the ancient alchemical codes and always present is the Great Trickster, Hermes, the messenger and trickster of the gods, later appearing as Hermes Trismegistus, the patriarch of Alchemy.
The alchemical journey is hidden in mysticism, steeped in secrecy and only shared with dedicated students. Part of the confusion and mystery of this ancient way, is the inclusion of the sexual union - symbolically between spirit and nature and given form through existence.
The most difficult stage is the first stage, the Nigredo, or blackness. This is when your inner world turns black. Sometimes without any visible reason; at other times because things around you change without your instigation. The Nigredo calls for change and that is the part that the personality fears the most. Without change there can be no transformation. Change calls for a letting go, a sacrifice, a surrender, a giving up and often entering what feels like great suffering or crucifixion. In Nigredo we meet our shadow - our dark opponent - our hidden flaws, habits and inner weaknesses. Feelings of inertia and lethary overcome us and all our energy seems to disappear. When the solution does not come quickly enough, we turn to solutions outside of ourselves : shopping trips, romantic flings and so on, but none of these bring a lasting solution.
This is the time that we need to be brave and courageous and dare to look in the mirror of truth.
Here we are faced with mortal shame and mortification as we realise who we truly are and as a part of ourselves is revealed. The blackness becomes darker and we realise the depth of its pits. And thus we start digging into the nature of our personality and begin to uncover the extent of the false self, its positive and negative shadows.
This is the time to dive deeply into our prime matter. This is the time when you start to uncover 'what is the matter' and what really matters to you. Denial will appear very tempting and so will escapism, but it is to stay focused and aware, without self-rejection and self-blame or punishment. It is to dig deep into your heart and allow yourself to find the memories of where this pain originated from. It is the time to use the darkness to kindle the fire of burning off the shadows within.
In my blog article HOW MANY SEEDS OF THE SACRED POMEGRANATE DID YOU INGEST? I discuss the Nigredo stage in depth through the discussion of the myth of Persephone :
The story of individual transformation through the birth, death and re-birth of the personal ego, is beautifully depicted in all its complexity and depths, in the story of the Rape of Persephone. Persephone was known as the maiden goddess Kore, before her abduction by Hades. After her trials and stay in the Underworld, she was reborn as Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. But their is a juicy twist to the tale : before she left the underworld, Hades tricked her into eating four or six or more (depending on the version of the mythic tale that you read) seeds of the sacred pomegranate. Or did he trick her? Did she choose to eat the sacred pomegranate seeds, knowing that for each seed that she eats, she will have to spend a month in the Underworld as the bride of Hades? Was he her daimon* lover, did she secretly succumb to his seductions and fall in love with the darkness itself?
*(daimon is the Greek word for spirit, divine, god or fate. It means a deity who holds complete knowledge)
On her return from the Underworld as Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, Kore steps into her own secret, seemingly dark power. Why is it regarded as her dark power and why has it been kept a secret? The secret of Persephone's success is the beauty of the Queen of the Underworld - a secret that women who have been too terrified to go there, would kill to possess! The secret of Persephone's beauty, her experience of Hades, cannot be shared. It has to be experienced and then, with insight into the personal daimon/suppressed divine masculine/shadow, these gifts can be unearthed and re-birth into more of the authentic self is possible.
Kore, later known as Persephone, the young Greek maiden goddess, through her ravishing beauty, attracted the attention of Hades, ruler of the Underworld. He sought her father, the god Zeus' permission for Kore to become his bride. Zeus gave his permission and one bright morning, at dawn, while Kore was playing in the meadows, a crack in the earth opened and Hades emerged from underneath the crust of the earth and dragged the maiden down into the darkness below.
In the underworld, Hades tried his utmost to seduce the innocent Kore. Her mother, Demeter, Goddess of the harvest and corn, was distraught at the abduction of her daughter. As she mourned and searched the earth for Kore, the earth became barren and the crops withered and died. Eventually Zeus, forced by the famine of his people, demanded that Hades return Kore to the light of the upper world.
However, before she leaves the Underworld, she eats seeds from the sacred pomegranate fruit. For each seed that she ate, she has to return as the bride of Hades and live for one month in the Underworld. In some versions of the myth she ate four and in some she ate six seeds - therefore having to spend half the year below, in darkness.
In order to know our authentic selves, it is necessary to spend a certain amount of time in darkness in our own underworld. During these times of trial and difficulty, we will be taken into a deep sleep-like state, such as told in the stories of Psyche and Sleeping Beauty. Those for whom the task has been too gruelling, may lose heart or fall into despair and self-blame during these dark times. Learning from personal experience is often painful, self-revelatory and embarassing; it may initially feel like an admission of failure to face the reality of a relationship founded upon projection or to discover that what you thought was one of your personal attributes was in fact non-existent. These are just some of the many masks worn by the inner daimon.
The inner daimon is a divine messenger from the divine beloved, the purusha, the divine soul mate, who appears to women in various stages of awakening in their lives. The daimon lover first appears in the sexual awakening of the maiden and when these experiences are not validated or recognised, the dance of suppression of her true authentic self starts. The daimon is not an incarnate man, but the representative of Love Itself in the spirit of the divine and inspirational masculine. The daimon in women is the true inner divine masculine, without the masks of the masculine self.
The daimon lover, who can only be known through marriage in the underworld, will provide us with the light, motivation, purpose, guidance and great passion to undertake and complete the Great Work of birth, death and re-birth. It will rescue us from the chaos of the unbalanced feminine and the power of unrecognised sexuality and creativity. By the light of our authentic selves we will be able to recognise the negative that runs rampant in the garden within, without the structure and focus of the inner masculine. We will be able to recognise the distorted masculine self which acts with self-judgement; that is driven through the need for recognition, power and dictatorial authority; self-criticism and extreme self-control and living in accordance with the image of the 'eternal pure virgin'.
Naked desire of the human soul is the desire for wholeness and for the complete and total experience of Love Itself. This desire in every soul is encoded and clothed in a certain image or imprint. This image is what will call you and seemingly seduce you, to enter the dreaded Underworld and the realm of Hades. But in hindsight, you will look back, and understand that you never had any choice. That indeed, as in the words of Jung, the darkness conceals the gold. And i would like to go one step further and state that the darkness is the Beloved and that all shadow behaviour is in fact the Light acting as emmissary of Love Itself.
Our shadow holds the same vibration as our authentic soul self. These are often referred to as 'twin flames'. We have to work with both the Light and the shadow to uncover the true self. The constellation of conditioning and the projection of others and the personality, can only be dismantled when we are open and receptive to the spirit messenger, to the one that bridges this world and the divine world. We have to pay attention to our dreams, poems and visions, and we have to TRUST the guidance that come from within and through these resources and innately feminine talents and gifts. We can only do this successfully through our own authentic selves, uncovered through direct personal experience. When we rely on other's theories, opinions and knowledge, we lose our opportunity to unearth the divine wisdom of the true self. True masters teach that there is no wisdom in religion, tradition or spiritual paths. It is only someone else's say-so and subjective belief. True wisdom is only possible through direct knowing - it then becomes Knowledge.
extracted from the blog www.shaman-shewhoknowsblogspot.com Shaman She-Who Knows.
Everything that happens to you is your Teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it. - Polly B Berends
When you allow yourself to truly enter the grief of the Nigredo, you will find your true voice and you will come to know and understand what it is that you have to overcome : the demands of the White Lady!! From Nigredo we move into the Blue Lapiz stage.
Reference : The secret doctrine of the Kabbalah - Dr Leonora Leet
The Alchemical Woman - Dr Ramona Rubio and Dr Catherine Davidson