Astrology, Dreams and Animal Totems
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Going into A Deeper Underground Pool of Meaning and Resonance
In the first two posts in this series, I have been exploring the premise that interpretation of the symbolism of a birthchart from the traditional standpoint is really only the point of departure for an astropoetic exploration that goes much deeper than that. The exploration begins by identifying sensory and emotional correlates to the experience of a given transit to the natal chart – in this case, a natal Mercury-Mars square being triggered by transiting Mars conjunct natal Mercury and square natal Mars. It then extends to the identification of a pattern, which can be tracked through a cyclical history of similar transits. The pattern, however, is only the conscious portal to a deeper underground pool of meaning and resonance.
In this post, we will wade into this pool to see what else we can discover.
Exploring the Unconscious Dimensions of Soul Space
Quoting again from the original presentation of this material in my book, The Seven Gates of Soul: Reclaiming the Poetry of Everyday Life (pp 364-366):
"Now it is time to go back into the same cyclical history for additional clues that are less obvious to the conscious mind, but somehow still resonant within the context of this pattern. Just as Freud, Jung and many other psychologists have used dreams as a point of entry into soul space, so too can dreams correlated with a given cyclical history be used as a point of entry into a deeper understanding of the pattern. In June, 1998, as Mars was opposed by Mercury, I had a dream that an airplane lands in a clearing next to my house, crashing its wing through my roof. I tell the pilot, "You can't park here," but he ignores me, so we get into a fist fight. Meanwhile, people are starting to move in and out of my house, looting my possessions. Eventually the plane leaves, but not before my house is trashed. Although the particulars are unlike anything experienced in waking life, it should still be easy to see the familiar themes at work: I am broadsided by the plane crashing into my house; my emotional state shifts from relative tranquility to vulnerability to anger; and I am challenged by a crisis in communication. Here we have the same pattern, rendered in the dream language of the unconscious.
This dream reminds me of another I had in September, 1986. In this second dream, I am walking home in semi-darkness, being followed by, and sometimes following, a gray wolf with red eyes. I manage to elude him and get inside my house (which reminds me of the house in which I lived, right after I was born), when I notice that a door on the second floor is open. In trying to secure the door, I inadvertently knock down the entire wall, and can only surrender myself to the inevitable encounter with the wolf that I know is coming.
As it happened, this second dream took place on the opening night of an annual gathering in the New Mexico desert to celebrate the turning of the seasons. The gatherings are loosely structured around Native American ceremonies, and attended by people from all walks of life who find the ceremonies a meaningful way to mark the passage of soul time. Among these traditions is the practice of forming a more conscious relationship with one or more animal spirits, called totems, with which one feels a sense of resonance. Once such a relationship is identified, the qualities and ways of being associated with the animal often serve as a pivot point around which important life lessons are absorbed. In the Native American traditions in which totems are a central feature, individuals often adopt or are given names – called medicine names – that reflect the relationship with their totem animal, and perhaps with some quality in particular, possessed by the totem animal that they wish to more consciously embody. Choosing a totem animal and a medicine name is often not a rational decision, but rather a process of opening to a sense of resonance in a moment of synchronicity. My dream felt like such a moment and in its wake, I felt inspired to adopt the medicine name, Redwolf.
At the time, the name seemed to embody the masculine side of my nature, an energy I felt compelled to call on more intentionally, as an antidote to my vulnerability. I chose the color red, in part, because in my dream the wolf’s eyes were red, but also because red is associated with Mars, traditionally understood to be the archetypal embodiment of masculine energy. Sitting at the apex of a major pattern in my chart . . . Mars represents an area in my psyche I consider to be most in need of healing and integration. My adoption of this name in the wake of this dream was in part, a conscious nod to this ongoing healing process.
There was much more to the adoption of this name, however, than my conscious mind could possibly assimilate, and by choosing it, I also unwittingly opened a door to soul space that I did not previously know was there. This became evident to me immediately, for the morning after I had this dream and assumed this name, I felt great sadness. I went off into the desert and cried. My sadness stemmed in part from a lingering sense of vulnerability from the dream, but my vulnerability also had a deeper source that seemed to belong to the embodied world and everything in it. In that moment, I cried not just for myself, but also for all the suffering that filled the world. This sense of the world as a vulnerable place of suffering, and my emotional response to it, was the essence of the image that I was projecting into the world at that time, and accessing that essence was an intensely powerful experience.
At the time that I had this dream, transiting Mars was not at one of the cardinal points of its cycle with Mercury, though it was exactly semi-sextile (an aspect of 30 degrees) Mars and quincunx (an aspect of 150 degrees) Mercury, while four other planets (Sun, Moon, Jupiter and Uranus) were within orb (range) of an exact hard aspect to both natal planets. It was, in fact, the night of a full Moon, which itself was opposed natal Mars and square Mercury. Given this powerful convergence of astrological factors simultaneously triggering my natal Mars-Mercury square, I feel safe in assuming this experience was part of this same resonant pattern I have been discussing in relation to these planets.
Though astrological patterns can be helpful as a point of entry into the unconscious dimensions of a given resonant pattern, the farther in we go, the less rigidly attached to astrological correlates it behooves us to be. Traditional astrologers, in fact would not necessarily recognize the wolf as a symbol for Mars, nor does this particular symbolic equation necessarily mean anything in a generic sense. It does, however, evoke a powerful sense of resonance within the context of my subjective soul space, so for me, it is a fitting image of Mars through which I am able to project that aspect of my soul into the world.
I worked through a great deal of vulnerability with this medicine name over the course of the next ten years or so, as I asserted myself into situations that initially felt beyond my control. Instead of being a victim of circumstances, I learned to access a place of deeper strength and resourcefulness within my self – symbolized by the wolf, and to work with it, to create a space in which something positive could happen. One might say I was learning, in the context of this resonant pattern, to function more effectively in the face of situations that could potentially broadside me. I learned to think on my feet, respond to the unexpected in the moment, and flow with whatever was happening in the here and now. I still often call on this energy – which is now a part of me – whenever I feel I need the strength of my wolf totem in situations of great vulnerability."
The next post in this series is Animal Symbiosis as a Model for Approaching Difficult Astrological Aspects.
To read more blog posts, go here.