Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Archetype of the Unicorn
THE UNICORN: ARCHETYPE OF FEMININE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER
The power of the archetypes to initiate transformation comes to us through the symbols of the Collective Unconscious, which are accessed by our lunar consciousness. Of all the many images that have re-appeared within collective consciousness in the past few decades, there is one that represents the process of transformation itself, a symbol of this lunar consciousness. Our longing for renewal is reflected in the figure of the Unicorn. The Unicorn is another image of the earthy masculine spirit that finds Allerleirauh in the forest of her imagination – the masculine spirit of possibilities that is only attracted to a woman who is virginal, a woman who is whole and complete in herself.
Of all the legendary animals, the unicorn22 speaks to our spirit of the possibility of an imagination that might be real - our desire for an imaginary being to really exist. The fact that the unicorn is once again appearing in modern dreams and fantasies, as well as in various art forms and popular artifacts, points to its role as a mediating symbol of the energy and power generated by the movement and development of the archetypes. The unicorn, combining aspects of spirit and nature, calls on us to use our imaginations to bring about transformation in the world.
The unicorn has always inhabited the distant edges of the known world. In ancient times, there was always a mixture of fantasy and reality regarding it. It had been sighted in India, Persia, or Tibet, or some other exotic land that was particularly inaccessible. No on knew if it really existed, but everyone was willing to believe that it did. In the same way, most of us hope that there is more to life than what we see around us - a greater power than our modern consciousness will admit to. The unicorn established its place in Western culture through its inclusion in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, and through a bestiary compiled in the early centuries of Christianity. Within Christianity itself, the unicorn became more than just a magical, extraordinary being. It became a symbol of Christ, who showed us the Way of transformation of our humanity to our divinity. This symbol initiates our search for Lady Wisdom, for only a whole person have the capacity to listen for her voice.
The unicorn is fierce and wild, and it cannot be captured by force. It will only come willingly to a virgin. In the Middle Ages, the virgin came to be associated with chastity, although now we see that a very different kind of virginity really attracts it. If the unicorn is an image of the wild, instinctual energy that comes from contact with the archetypes, the only attitude that can tame it is a strong stance of being-in-oneself. The unicorn is intimately associated with the virginal feminine because it can only work through a feminine attitude of openness and acceptance of the new thing that wants to be made conscious. This type of virginity - a completeness which is open and receptive - calls the Unicorn to itself. If this is truly the case, then in the Middle Ages, that wild spirit was either put into captivity or else destroyed by the masculine spirit. We have only to look at the famous Unicorn Hunt tapestries to see how this was accomplished. It seems that women were lead to betray this wild spirit in themselves for the sake of their lovers (or more probably, for the safety of their lives), for the tapestries depict women calling the unicorn to themselves, only to betray it. The ultimate act of betrayal of a Father's Daughter. Ironically, we can also see how the transformative spirit of Christ, which the unicorn symbolized, was itself destroyed by the rigid, one-sided masculine attitude of the Church.
We also find that the unicorn has strong erotic connotations, often appearing as the lover of the virgin, which brings us back to the original meaning of virgin being a woman who belongs to herself. As I mentioned before, the power and force of the archetypes are connected to the instincts, and when any transformation takes place, it is felt in the body. Carnal knowledge is not necessarily understood only as sexual knowledge; rather, it means the knowledge of the body. We have to integrate knowledge in our bodies before the transformation is truly complete. This is why Allerleirauh must toil in her mantle of furs in the kitchen. The body never lies. Any new consciousness of necessity must shine through the body. The unicorn is a beast, and the spirit it represents is the beauty and truth of the spirit in nature, the realm of the Goddess. The unicorn symbolizes that transformation which arises out of the very nature of our humanity. When a new spirit is discovered within, one desires it as if it were a lover.
In the following dream, these elements are present, along with the wild, and seemingly destructive, power of the unicorn. We must remember that the power of the unconscious is dangerous to our ego consciousness, for when it sees the necessity of change it is ruthless in bringing it about. But there is always danger to be faced, and the hero and heroine know that destruction and new life come of it. It is interesting that the dreamer begins to be afraid only after her father, who like the old king represents an old masculine attitude, appears in the dream. At this point, she loses her virginal stance and can no longer accept what is happening.
I am outside at night, looking up at the stars. I see a very bright constellation of stars that reminds me of the unicorn's horn on my shoulder. I look closely and see a small group of stars in the bigger pattern which are also on my shoulder. As I watch, the stars seem to flow together, and as they disappear in the heavens, I feel a force, like a strong wind, go right through me.
Whatever has happened, it disrupts things on earth. Some kind of futuristic scientific complex is especially disrupted. I am walking around, trying to find out what is happening, when I meet some people who are connected with the unicorn constellation and the disruption. Their leader is a very powerful woman. I tell her that I have the unicorn's horn on my shoulder, and ask if I am part of this conspiracy. She says that I am.
Then I am with three people from this group, a very handsome man and two beautiful women. We are in a room full of other people, and the three of them kill everyone in the room. This does not bother me at the time, for I can feel that it is necessary. But suddenly, my father comes into the room and I start telling him about what these people did. Now I start to be afraid. I try to get them out of the house. When they leave, one of my sons locks the door, but another one unbolts it again. I tell them to stop it, and suddenly see the three people looking in the window at me. Now they look evil to me and I'm afraid. I go outside and tell them to go away. I know that they'll be back, because I really am one of them. Later, the man comes back and taunts me, trying to make me go with him. I think I try to hurt him.
This woman felt the awesome power of transformation as something to be desired. There was a beauty and truth to it that sustained her through the death of her old way of being. But at some point, an old attitude that feared the changes that her life was going through made her step back into an old perspective. Now she was afraid of the very energies that she had aligned herself with earlier. Once she came to understand what was happening, she decided to do an active imagination with the dream images. Jung discovered that you could work with the images of the unconscious by meeting them as equals; that is, ego consciousness allowed that these fantasy images were 'real' and engaged in conscious contact with them. This technique is similar to, but not the same as, most creative visualization techniques. In active imagination, the images arise from the mundus imaginalis, the imaginal realm between pure spirit and earthly life, and ego consciousness observes and interacts with them. The images are not imposed from without, but rather arise from within. This woman went back to the point in the dream when she hurt the man and told him that she was afraid and asked him what she needed to do. He told her that she must see his beauty and his truth and then he would be healed. She accepted his challenge and he was healed. The wild power of transformation is destructive to old ways and habits, to the attitudes and values that need to die. It kills out of necessity, so that new life can come into being. One can only accept this necessity through seeing with the objective eyes of the Goddess. Otherwise, from the old standpoint, it is too scary!
The horn of the unicorn, which shares the qualities of the phallus, is potent as a charm for health and new life. There is a legend that the unicorn, merely by dipping its horn into the water, is able to purify and rid it of the deadly venom of the snake so that the other animals can drink of it. As mentioned earlier, the snake belongs to the ancient Goddess, representing Her power and wisdom, as well as Her healing. The serpent power is connected with the life energies called the kundalini, and in the West, came to be associated with the Devil and with evil. Hopefully, our relationship to this most ancient and sacred symbol will be changing in the future, so that we may have access to its healing powers.