Sunday, May 22, 2011

BHJ: The Ordeal Begins

Dear Birth Peeps,
We almost never know the day our Preparation Phase is complete, and we are never as prepared as we would like to be. There is a notion rooted in wishful thinking that if we are "prepared," we will know the Way, we will not get lost or suffer too much.... If we waited until we were "ready" and fully prepared, we would never make the plunge or take risks (and there are those who live their lives like this, waiting for some imaginary moment of readiness or perfection).

The image that came to me was a dolphin and a pregnant woman diving into the Ocean. I did not "plan" to have the underworld represented by the Ocean, but of course it works because the Sea or Ocean is a symbol of the Great Mother, the Great or Dark Feminine in its depth, fluidity, formless potential, unceasing movement. And "diving" into the Unknown, the a rich, ambiguous symbol of Innocence and Trust, Courage, and Determination in the face of risk and danger.

I painted the image as it came to me, wondering why the dolphin? Friend of humans, an Ally? I looked "dolphin" up in a book of symbols: "a widespread symbol of salvation, transformation and Cretan and Etruscan mythology, the dolphin carries gods, saves heroes from drowning or carries souls to the island of the Blessed...Entwining an anchor, the dolphin may be a symbol of prudence (speed restrained).(1)

Ahhh yes! "Prudence (speed restrained)" ... The dolphin becomes the perfect messanger and symbol of the Ordeal where we are compelled to keep going, slowly feeling our way, even in the midst of periodic exhaustion and collapse...the dolphin buoying us up when needed. The dolphins Heart and Spirit is represented in red

The etymology of the word dolphin is derived from Greek word delphis, and delphys which means "womb." Perhaps the symbol of leaping dolphins once represented sexuality or the promise of regeneration.(2)

In the Underworld, things are not as they seem; nothing is certain; ideas and things come apart. And so I instinctively began to paint in dots... then was reminded of the powerful Aboriginal paintings I saw in I brought in a pathway of dots I remembered from one of the Aboriginal paintings.

When the Childbearing Year is a Hero's Journey, the Ordeal can occur at any time. We tend to think of labor as the Ordeal, however, keeping with the ambiguous rule of this "map," it can occur in pregnancy, or postpartum, or even during more than one period.

When the Ordeal begins, one way to go is to embrace it, to dive in. Another way is to wait, to dip your toe in the water to test the water... or wade in slowly.

Initiates can cautiously wait, wade, or dive in. Who decides? At what moment do we know...? What influences determine how we cross this Threshold from planning, comfort, and "knowing" into the Unknown, the Ordeal that will forever change us, inform us, and initiate us.

Contemplating this journey and these questions, and for sure living through it, grows wisdom and compassion. This journey takes us far from certainty and knowing and drops us on the doorstep of Humility and Love.



1. Tresidder, Jack (2000). Symbols and Their Meanings. London: Duncan Baird Publishers. p 67

2. Barnes, Craig S. (2006). In Search of the Lost Feminine: Decoding the myths that radically reshaped civilization. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing.

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