myth and poetry

Mythopoetics/ Air ings

For The Love of a Womanwinter
by stephanie pope

Part 1: January Moon

My sister Debbie and I share a secret love for the full moon in the night sky and this love is generated by the one we both have had for the same woman now deceased. The woman’s name is Maggie. Yet, wherever Maggie and she and I had a particularly satisfying mythopoetic conversation regarding the psyche of culture within the nature of psyche’s psyche, I would call her My Maggie Moon.
As many know, my colleague died suddenly in 2006 just after completing her doctoral dissertation regarding the round image of body which she called the ‘fat’ body. It is this image of body that’s got me thinking again this January three years later about the round archetype as an image ‘twin’ or body double. Moreover, I am thinking of a specifically androgynous psychic double in the same gender cast neither as shadow nor anima nor animus but from within its own myth of roundness.

That brings me to the first round moon of January called Wolf Moon. The name suggests to me the moon as Artemis and twin of Apollo, the sun, whom the Greeks call ‘wolfish’. And it brings to mind another, a third, the double.  Since my thoughts begin in a reflection and reminiscing for the love of a woman and these reflections are shared throughout my long life with my special sister-pal, Debbie, and to which a secret happiness of moons entwines, I would like to dedicate this next series of mythopoetic essays to my sister Debbie and to our mutual soulmate and friend, Maggie.

                            .................................. Life is wild flesh opening down in endless joy!
                                                             ............ -The Twin, stephanie pope
...............................................................................©2004 Like A Woman Falling

The Moon of Many Names Is Twin
January MoonThere is a certain feel that overtakes one in January. It is for the first, luminous and perfect moon of the turning year. Throughout January’s psyche there is a kind of sensing into a depth where a ravenous soul-figure dwells. It is a figure like a sister and like a friend but a figure containing another kind of indescribable desire hiding when in view.  

Not this but like this, the soul figure seems to twin the archetypal nature of the metaphoric ‘first moon’ of menstruation. 1  Thusly, the Greeks call the moon goddess Artemis, the Huntress to which Karl Kerényi understands and ascribes a sense he likens unto an eternal nature pressed to the form of girlhood.

More largely, the season suggests a need for deepening into a reflection that imagines a sensuous and feminine sexuality on the one hand and which inscribes and transcends in earthy, concrete counterpoint a divine and feminine spirituality on the other. Menstruation and menopause would claim both sides of the woman’s experiences as feminine being and the full moon in ‘first moon’ could manifest along its imaginal boundary what joins and separates in it a girlhood that is forever. Not merely her physical sex, not only motherhood, not just the love in love for the world family, not just love for others and of lovers, imaginal experiences will move between menstruation and menopause and mark this threshold experience that is ‘feminine’ and ‘female.’

The notion of femininity now seems to me to hold more than our current, trendy, pop-cultural image of the divine feminine as merely receptivity and passivity in primary spiritual characteristic. It is my suggestion the primary characteristic implied in femininity is that of dyad or ‘twoness’ and without which there is no awareness of the many things coming into being in anything. There is no awareness for the sense-making images which make up the body that is no body to be seen. There is no awareness for an in-visible incarnating life within the monad of a third in material imagination busy making in excess of the literal and rational life in a man and a woman’s psyche something worth really having lived. In short, without the notion of ‘twoness’ there is no third developing aesthetic sense for how to translate the objective psyche’s poetizing language of images.

The first full moon of January is an old moon some say. Its other name is Wolf. This double naming recalls a time when animals lose their fat and the great trees live broken-limbed and heavy-snowed. The first full moon belongs to a sol/soul-scape where the sun has not warmth enough to thaw the world and psychic life howls like spirits in the wind day and night. It suggests the titanic and impersonal or chthonic sphere in which soul life roams and hunts and hungers with an organic sympathy for a lost god’s life that is its delight. The sense this brings to mind reveals that the soul knows its own longing and is not cut off from the archÄ“ and the nous even here where the world is three times darkened.

The spiritual call heard is noble and the call itself, wild. It begins in absence and is felt in the mind of winter as if it were like divinity napping deep in the womb of life. The mythical line suggests an imagistic arrival from and a return to the north and remembers more than or other than the correspondence contradistinct the east-west vanishing and return of sun that separates and joins light and dark, day and night.

The Wolf Moon remembers Apollo who is god not of each day but of the archetypal year and not just each year but memory’s season of years in whose mythical dimension is reflected, to quote Kerényi, a movement “by which as the nights grew longer the god of light vanished in the direction of the longest winter nights.” “In so doing," Kerényi furthers, “this light attains its own realm.” (209)

I can think of Euripides, play, The Bacchae telling of the god, Dionysus dwelling in the aither on Mt Parnassus. The word ‘aither’ means both the home of the gods and the heavenly fire. One peak of Parnassus is sacred to Dionysus, the other, Apollo. In The Bacchae the Bacchant runs, waving a wand with a flame, rousing the wandering dancers and raising Bacchanalian cries while tossing luxuriant hair in the aither. (145) Teiresias further declares: "You will see him on the rocks of Delphi, and leaping with torches over the twin-headed mountain, striking and shaking the Bacchic branch."(306)

It is the moment the dark light of the god, ravenous with desire, overtakes our conscious form to swallow it up. In ancient Greece, the followers of Dionysus were alleged to have revealed this ‘beast in man’ during such ecstatic rites, and to have donned a wolf mask during the hunt through a forest. There is also the ancient Greek legend of Lykaeon, a man Zeus changed into a wolf as punishment for killing a child. The term lycanthropy forms from here the notion that human psyche evolves in the nonhuman realm between the beastly and the divine. From here numerous werewolf tales are spun.2

The account given of the birth of Dionysus is twin. The story is like the story of Osiris in Egypt. The Orphic telling has it the god is the son of Zagreus, a son of Zeus and Persephone and that he is torn to pieces in a sparagmos by Titans, who attempt to eat his limbs. Athene rescues his heart, and a new Dionysus is made from it. In the story gods eat god and this divine cannibalism is the original sin we inherit. Also, Zagreus is another name for Zeus Katachthonios or subterranean Zeus. The name means 'Great Hunter ' and ‘chthon’ refers to the invisible realm of the dead.  Kata means down. So the sparagmos of the god is a down going into chthon to realize the many makings which go into our reflections and which re-turn a world’s soul-making light.

Diodorus Siculus, 1st century B. C. will refer to this god as born of Zeus and Semele and writes of an old Dionysus with a beard, who joined in an attack on Kronos, and a young Dionysus, shaven and effeminate. It is the moment when the old ‘eats’ the new to take on its spiritual life in the son and can be likened to the moment the Gnostic nous sinks into the embrace of physical nature. The senses of death express a completion of spiritual descent into matter. This is the second birth story told about Dionysus.

But, this is also to say Dionysus in this second story is a ‘twice born’ kind of son, having entered the world through a door in Zeus' thigh, a dios thura, which means ‘door of Zeus.’ This second story tells how Zeus saves the child in the womb of Semele from being destroyed when Semele goes up in smoke and ash. Pindar calls her ‘long-haired’ which makes that quite a torch she carried for the god whose fire destroys her. (Olym II, 26)

It seems clear the light of the Wolf Moon reflects zoë. Zoë is life out of death and death out of life encompassing the indestructible feminine repetition itself that Zoë is. (200) Zoë is a repetitious movement which deepens periodicities in an individual nature’s psyche as likewise is reflected throughout the psyche of all nature. Zoë honors the indestructible life of soul’s making movements with its power to re-vision in images psyche’s limitless nature throughout time. Zoë, itself, is timeless light reflecting throughout all psyche.

Here in Arizona where one seldom sees a snowflake throughout the Valley of the Sun each winter, the first full moon of the year appears at dusk like does the frost on everyone’s rooftops each morning. Catherine Kerr’s blog on the January full moon has, in fact complied a long list for the many names of this ancient recognition of ‘first moon’. These combine images of divine nobility and the savage, devouring soul in psyche’s material imagination. One can suppose this psyche already paints in aesthetic portraiture the archival recesses within the psyche of the human nature’s wilderness fantasy. One can imagine, too, the wolf moon fantasy marks a thetic breach or break or boundary in psyche’s psyche where, in the experiences of all women throughout all times girls turn into women but also human life turns back upon the animal or beastly image on the one hand and the nonhuman or divine on the other. It is where in materializing images a ‘first moon’ in a first menstruation is beheld. To hear the wild call where women run with the wolf is to mark the boundary of a spiritual freedom from whence the old moon returns to first moon and the archetypal figure of a double is felt.

Duality of Feeling

One of C.G. Jung’s great works is his volume, Psychology and Alchemy. In it Jung, in his prefatory note, suggests that he is taking alchemy as an example of symbol-formation and, linking it to the symbol-formation in dream, he subjects the alchemical images to intense examination to show his hypothesis of the collective or objective or ‘unconscious’ psyche as scientifically established. Jung already understands the lopsided devalued value given the image-making soul likewise transferred to the felt nature of individual experiences in re-visioning psyche not to mention the image revised and revived one will have beheld of psyche’s psyche.

Moreover, Jung’s work with the unconscious activity of symbol-formation such as dreaming mind will activate in reverie, recollection and remembrance suggests the unconscious and objectivity of the inner, concrete and earthy (but not yet earthly) activity within a human psyche. The sleeping soul is busy making something, something which is feminine and, more than a woman —not even a woman! It is an image closer to the animal instinct of the wolf and the heavenly and celestial female form of the young virgin. It is a logos-principle no less the woman but not quite and it shall bring to sense-making her own sense for what engenders her. I can imagine it working for the love of a woman deeply contained in the spiritual opus of an individual and human be-ing.

Being Round: a myth of round bodies

In closing, I would like to leave you, my reader with an image in roundness. It is told through Aristophanes's Speech from Plato's Symposium about a third that twins psyche’s eros in the image psyche reflects through the experience it has with divinity. It is the nature of this nature to come into being through something else. The something else rounds our edges of experience and suggests the archetypal ‘double’ not unlike my metaphoric ‘first and luminous perfect moon of many names.’

The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else. Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' is preserved, and that as a term of reproach.

In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round because they resembled their parents….

Note: For the speech in its entirety click title link in the body of the first paragraph under the final subtitle above.


1"In many languages, words for moon, month and menstruation are identical," Jules Cashford notes in The Moon: Myth and Image. "For instance, Greek: mene, moon; katamenia, menstruation. Latin: mensis, month; menses, menstruation, while menstruum meant both monthly payment or term of office, and in plural, mestrua, the blood of the menses." (pp.163-64)

2Lord Byron said, "Lycanthropy I comprehend, for without transformation men become wolves on any slight occasion!" (Hennes, 59)

Work Cited

Aristophanes's Speech from Plato's Symposium. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Collected Works of Plato, 4th Edition, Oxford U. Press, 1953.

Cashford, Jules. The Moon: Myth and Image. Basic Books, 2003.

Hennes, Donna. The Moon Watcher's Companion: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About The Moon And More. New York: Marlowe, 2002.

Jung, C.G.. Psychology and Alchemy CW vol 12. trans. R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen: Princeton, 1993.

Kerényi, Carl. Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Bollingen: Princeton, 1976.

Pope, Stephanie. Like A Woman Falling: Selected Poems. “The Twin” pp48-49. Mythic Artist Press: Scottsdale, 2004.

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