Sunday, July 1, 2012
The Mantle of Furs: Our Bodies, OurSelves
The Mantle of Furs
The mantle of furs is very different from the three dresses. It represents the very thing that the old cultural dominant lacks. When the Father king falls in love with his daughter, everyone is horrified and they tell him it goes against God's will. In Robin McKinley’s version of the story, the father rapes his daughter. She is brought abruptly and cruelly into an awareness of her womanly body, and all she experiences is pain and terror. She is lost to herself, for the father has ravished her. Men have ravished women for long centuries, and some of them are still at it today. When women are ravished, we lose our voices and no longer have the capability to share our wisdom.
The patriarchal, dominator mindset has turned sexuality, the most sacred act between men and women, into a weapon of torture, humiliation and pain for some women. (Women and children are still being sold into sexual slavery as you read this!) Whether the rape is physical, or if it is ‘only’ mental and emotional, women have to escape into our instinctual nature if we are ever to be healed of these wounds to our spirit. Sometimes the psychic incest is worse for a woman, because the wounds are invisible and we doubt ourselves and do not understand why or how we were wounded. But the wounds are there in all of us, because they are part of our soul history as well as part of our genetic inheritance.
The problem with this cultural dominant (the father king) is the confusion between instinct and spirit. Our culture has lost our connection to our instinctual nature, for we have come to believe that it is evil and unworthy of the human spirit. But the Native peoples knew that we learn about life through our 'animal' nature. Chief Letakots-Lesa of the Pawnee tribe says that
"In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals; for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beasts, and that from them, and from the stars, and the sun and the moon, man should learn. Tirawa spoke to man through his works."22
We have lost the wisdom of our instincts, and of Earth’s laws, and so we distrust them. The king's promise makes him fall in love with his daughter, and this twists the natural instincts. This promise is what keeps a woman split off from her true nature and purpose. In reality, the king has married his daughter now for many centuries.
Patriarchal societies have forced women into stereotyped roles: the understanding, virtuous, and self-sacrificing woman, or the passionate, seductive, and frightening woman. Both feminine images are controlled through the body’s appearance, attitudes, gestures, and movements. These categories tear up a woman and rob her of her strength. She has to be very careful not to be misunderstood. To be respected and taken seriously, she tries to hide her femininity and constrict her body into an emotional corset. Split into saints and witches, women were at once put above and beneath the reality of life; either way, they were robbed of all real participation in the development and the shaping of society. They were supposed to derive happiness and satisfaction from a peripheral existence, supposedly in harmony with their “natural” role, namely self-sacrifice and submission. 23
On a cultural level, the king wanting to marry his daughter is comparable to companies like DuPont Chemical getting environmental awards for having invented something safer than CFC's, safer meaning that these new chemicals will destroy the ozone layer slower than the old chemicals did. The king trying to marry his daughter occurs when the old order tries to make use of the new feeling life that is arising in the collective. U.S. citizens put the environment at the top of their list of concerns, and so the very companies that have caused the environmental problems in the first place are scrambling to prove how environmentally conscious they are; they do this not by really working out new manufacturing techniques to eliminate the use of pollutants but by manipulating public fears and sentiments into believing they are trying to be the 'good guys'. This old energy was behind President George W. Bush calling the lowering of air standards the Clear Skies Initiative or selling off our national forests to lumber companies and calling it the Healthy Forest Act. And we are so far from our instinctual common sense that many people believe them. On an individual level, humans have become so cut off from our instincts that most people did not perceive the danger of the receding waters of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 until it was too late. Reports that animals and the Native tribal people sought out higher ground confirm that there is wisdom in the body’s instincts! And death when we are cut off from them.
So the princess' task, for herself and for her kingdom, is to make a connection to her own instinctual life, and she does this by wearing the mantle of furs. She clothes herself in the instinctual, natural life that the forest animals represent. Once again, Matthew Fox says that our search for wisdom must start with the Earth. “Wisdom is of the Mother Earth, for nature contains the oldest wisdom in the universe.” When we are lost, when we have no mother (either literally or emotionally) to teach us the ways of being a woman, we can always return to our mother, the Earth. When we go out into nature, in our gardens or in the wilderness, the wisdom is still there to be found. We just have to make ourselves available to it. We have to don our mantle of furs and learn.
A young woman came into analysis because of relationship issues. She is smart, energetic, artistic and witty. But she doesn’t have a good sense of her feminine gifts. She had lots of men friends but few lovers. She was in love with a man who chose to stay with a woman he didn’t love because she was pregnant with his daughter. My client couldn’t understand how a man could choose to be miserable with another woman when he was clearly infatuated with her. But being the good father’s daughter that she is, she always gave him an out: by being understanding and by supporting his decisions even though it hurt her. As she started to get in touch with her deeper instincts of self-preservation and self-love, she began to have dreams in which animals tried to speak with her.
In the first two dreams, she is confronted by bears, which represent the primal mothering power that will defend us from danger. The bear teaches us how to combine intuition with instinct. In the third dream, she goes back to her father’s house and reclaims the feminine powers of love and sexuality and rescues a kitten from drowning.
I am in the basement of my Mom’s house going through boxes looking for something. All of a sudden this great big brown bear is there. Its lips are moving like it is talking but I cannot remember what it was saying. I think it is mad at me and wants to eat me! So I run all over the house trying to get away. But it keeps pursuing me. Every time I think I’ve gotten away, there it is, back again. I run out of the house and around the back. I manage to slip back into the house and lock her outside. She is banging at the door to get in. I turn to run, but there she is in front of me. Her lips are moving but I cannot make out what she is saying. I get really scared and wake up.
I find myself outside this house in my old neighborhood. I remember thinking “I always wanted to see the inside of this house”. The next thing I know, I’m inside. There are a bunch of women around the kitchen table, looks like many generations of the family: grandmother, mother, daughter. I tell them I’m sorry to intrude, but I always wanted to see the house. The “mother” says it’s OK, I can look around as much as I want to. I look around and stop at this door. I open it, and there is a stairway leading down. As I go down, a man riding a brown bear crosses by the bottom of the stairs. He is riding it like a horse. Then they come back to the stairs. The bear throws the man off and comes up the stairs after me. She is trying to talk to me. But I get scared and run back up the stairs. I have no idea what she was trying to say.
I am crossing the street near my grandmother’s house. I am quite thin and very scantily dressed and blonde. Next thing I know, I am in my dad’s house. I think the goal was to get it ready for my sister and her husband. I remember being in the front bedroom. It is painted a golden yellow.
. . . I go next door to my Mom’s house. On the way in, I decided to check the mail. The mailbox is stuffed - there are all these cards. Christmas cards I think, in natural/tan colored envelopes. Some are ones I have sent out and others are ones addressed to me. There is an endless supply of them. The mailbox remains stuffed no matter how many I pull out. Like they keep replenishing themselves.
Next, I am in a white bathroom (not one I recognize) and the shower is running. I am in a white tank top and undies. I hear this little voice coming from the shower. When I pull the curtain back, there is a small gray cat/kitten in there. The poor thing is soaked. It is asking me to help it out of the shower because it can’t seem to get out on its own. I help it out and it thanks me. Then I wake up.
This young woman is in the process of reclaiming her feminine power as she gets back into her body and her sexuality. She must go to both the inner mother and inner father to reclaim them, and it is there that her instincts speak to her. She has learned to stay true to herself and accept her needs and desires, and in standing up for herself, she is finding the self-confidence to ask for the love she so richly deserves. These archetypal energies are available to take us through our personal transformations if we are willing to do the hard work of becoming conscious and working with them.
In wearing the mantle of furs, Allerleirauh follows the demands of her role as princess and future queen. We often think that being a princess entails nothing more than the rank and privilege and prestige of being royal. True princesses have to learn their duty to their people. They have the responsibility and duty to live their lives for their people, to heal the land and to solve the pressing problems of the culture. To be royal means that one is the mediator between the people of the tribe or country and God or Great Spirit. The king and queen are the channels of life for the land. If they do not fulfill their function, the land dies. Since we live in a democracy, that prerogative now becomes the responsibility of each person, for on a spiritual level we each have the potential to live out our 'royal' nature.
To wear the mantle of furs, then, is the princess’ task, and she has to reclaim on an instinctual level the wisdom of the body and what it has to say about being human and knowing our place in the cosmos. Psychologically, it is through what Jung calls our inferior function that we begin to connect with our new potentials. Jung distinguished four different functions: thinking and feeling, sensation and intuition. Usually, people favor and develop one function more than the others. Jung felt that it was possible to develop three of the main functions fairly well. The fourth function, called the inferior function, remains outside the ego's total control, and it is this more undeveloped, child-like quality that allows spirit to become the bridge for new potentials and promises of new life.24
The fur mantle is that part of life which has been repressed, rejected, or just undeveloped, but which can bring new life into a situation, a culture, or an individual life. We can say the same about our re-awakening awareness of our bodies. Through yoga techniques, holistic healing, and natural herbal remedies, as well as new attitudes towards health and sexuality, we are beginning to reclaim a knowledge of our bodies that was lost to us for many centuries. As we work hard to reconnect with our own bodies and our instinctual life, it is like living in this fur mantle.
Listening to our body and sorting out its messages can take a while. Instead of worrying about some part of your body that isn’t ‘feeling’ right, go into that part of your body and ask it for an image. This image can help you understand what is really going on. Perhaps you need to get up and move and stretch. The body wants you to listen.