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February 7th, 2022
The Enchanted Forest of the Mind: Archetypes of the Dark Forest
“And into the forest, I go...to lose my self, and find my soul”
The quote, often misattributed to John Muir, was in actuality a strong statement written in November of 2014...by a witch named Mariah Danu.
It was her personal feelings in a moment of time, as expressed through our modern storytelling and means of communication: social media.
Like many other things in this world, someone saw it, stole it, and attributed it to a man that died back in 1914, most likely for the sole
purpose of exploiting it for financial gain.
It does indeed sound like something John Muir would've said, but he didn't. Mariah did; and it is quite possibly, my favorite of all quotes.
What the quote means to me, may not be exactly what it meant for her, and that's how stories go, isn't it? Stories, or in this case, a quote,
is a work of art; meant to express, perhaps to inspire, and like all art, translated by our own psyche into meaning and purpose.
Ultimately, all great things evolve, taking up a life of their own.
In 2008, I did, as many other folks have done...I left the city behind. I traded my house for a forest, and just as Mariah so beautifully expressed,
I lost my mind...but found my soul. It was a very long process; One laden in enchanted forests, deep psychology, and majik.
I was raised on the bay and in the forest...and as I grew up I saw those places cut down and polluted by progress.
When the walls got too high, the cost too ridiculous, and my spirit too heavy, I embarked on a journey to reclaim that "forest child"
...many years later, returning as a forest witch.
Nature is within us, and as we get further from our nature, the more fearful, isolated, and disconnected we become.
The forest calls us back to our roots. Our blood remembers.
The dark forest is enchanted. It's full of beauty and the natural rhythms of life.
Early morning mushrooms push up through moss in the most beautiful of circles, while dewdrops form like little crystal balls on fern leaves.
The smell of decay, as damp leaves and dirt, mix with the scent of pine and peppermint, confusing and filling the senses with wonder.
The forest beckons us to explore the deeper shadows, the curious sounds, and the noticeably worn footpath through thorns and overgrowth,
under the canopy of branches that frame the morning twilight. It's as seductive as it is terrifying and as safe as it is dangerous.
Within that hypnotic rhythm, we find strange familiarity. A memory, a sense of knowing, something in our nature...remembers...
but something else lies beneath and within the blood: the fear of getting lost.
The dark forest as an archetype is a metaphor for the unknown.
The forest can be seen as a scary place because it is so big, and at times...very, very dark.
We know all manner of critters live in the forest, many of which are nocturnal. On one hand, we know the forest as a place of comfort and great
natural beauty, on the other hand, it can be a place of sheer terror for those who lose their way.
On February 4th in my blog "There and Back Again: The Archetype of Spooky in a Land of Not-So-Far Away", I discuss the metaphors of hero,
wanderer, and the lost within the characters in folk stories and fairytales, especially in regard to Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf,
and Forest Witches as archetypes. I ended the blog with a thought to ponder: "how do we avoid getting lost as we travel through the dark forest?
By realizing that we are...the forest itself. It is within us that live the metaphors, "big bads", shadows, and lurking fears."
Once upon a time, we lived very closely with nature. We lived in the forests, where spooky sounds permeated our nights, with the fear of what
hungry wolf or otherwordly creature may be lurking in the shadows to snatch us or our loved ones as a meal. That was a very real fear and
something that needed to be expressed to the young folks as a means in which they would remember. Folk tales, especially the original versions,
with their murder, dismemberment, and cannibalism communicated those fears successfully.
The real experiences and fears of our ancestors grew superstitions. Those fears were sensationalized and propagandized by others, further
ingraining and immortalizing the dark forest and its inhabitants as archetypes.
Archetypes are universal, inborn models of people, behaviors, or personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior.
They were introduced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who suggested that these archetypes were archaic forms of innate human
knowledge inherited from our ancestors. In Jungian psychology, the archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part
of what he called "the collective unconscious"; which represent basic human personality, motivation, and value.
Jung believed that these archetypes are passed down through our DNA, similar to the way we inherit instinctive patterns of behavior,
with our human minds retaining unconscious, fundamental aspects throughout time. These "primordial images," serve as kind of a
"genetic instruction manual" on how it is to maintain the thing we are, as humans. Jung explains how these "blood memories" may be the
reason for the various and seemingly irrational fears and social phobias we encounter in ourselves and as a society.
The most frequent examples of the archetypes are those relating to structures of family, relationships, and states of development.
Birth, death, and rebirth, the mother and child, the self, powers and heroism. These primordials may not only evolve in our psyche but may
also overlap or combine at any given time. In his book "The Structure of the Psyche." Jung states: "All of the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes." Jung believed that the human psyche was composed of three aspects: the ego or conscious mind...shaped by personal experiences, the personal
unconscious which contains memories both realized and suppressed, and the collective unconscious -which he believed was genetically inherited,
expressing itself as mythological and cultural images that evolve or mutate with our own modern and current situations.
Archetypes are expressed as our persona -the "self" that we show to the world, as the animus, which is our inner and private self often
ascribed to societal roles, the shadow, which are the unseen and repressed things we keep inside. The shadow is the feelings having to do
with weakness, desire, and anger, as well as our perceptions of morals, value, and virtues; and the self - the unified unconscious
and conscious parts of our brain, in which the various aspects of our personality are stirred together, like potatoes and carrots
in a big mental soup-pot. Some research is even showing that this genetic memory isn't just encoded into our brains or blood, but within some
of our onboard bacteria as well, because they contain neuroactive compounds.
We quite literally are the forest. An entire ecosystem, with each tiny part dependant on the others. It's beautiful.
So, here we are, with our instinctual behaviors and archetypes, showing us how to behave, what circumstances are scary, and all strapped up with
the chemicals we need to fight or flight from some big bad beastie. Which is/was all well and good...if there was some real predator, like wolves
lurking about. Nowadays, the predators are in our own minds, manifesting in our unease about political issues, environmental issues, and whether
or not we can afford food and shelter. This is compounded by our past experiences, lurking and pushed down deep within our psyche.
The only way to protect from the big bad is to understand it. We need to see how it got in, how it moves, and why it taunts. We need to see what
its base interests, needs, and desires are. We have to be able to understand how our ancestors reacted in the past and what remnants of the past are
active in our psyche today because it was so damn powerful that it became instinct.
We need to reevaluate the old folk stories to see what aspects of those are lessons in morality, and if so...whose?
Do we share those values?
We need to reevaluate what fears are present within them, what and who changed them, and why? How much of those stories are propaganda?
Where do the folk tales intersect with cultural norms and religion?
How has society regurgitated the same stories over and over in new and different ways?
What is the main storyline, who are the characters and why do they act the way they do?
We have to go deep within the shadows of our own forest, to seek out the big bad wolf. This requires meditation, contemplation, and quite literally,
seeing the forest through trees. It takes introspection and heavy doses of honesty. We need to be more aware and mindful of where we are, what we feel,
what we really desire. If we are unhappy with our lives, we need to be honest about what we don't like, how stifled, uninspired, or sad we feel about it.
If we feel as though we have drifted off the path of our true nature: the people, places, and activities that give us joy, then why have we done this?
Were there big bad wolves that scared us into running for dear lives in another direction?
Did we get lost along the way?
This is the majik of the forest. The tales, legends, and lore. This is what inspires us, as well as freaking us out enough to run away without paying
attention to where we were going. We are the forest, and we're in the forest. We are the big bad from time to time, as well as feeling as though we're
being hunted by it. The only way out is in. Understanding how these aspects within us can empower or disempower is a light in the darkness.
We hear the spooky sounds, and can cower in the corner speculating and hiding, or face these monsters for what they really are.
We can be victims or not. Knowing how the majik is REAL from a psychological and scientific point of view -and how to employ those understandings
to manifest the changes we desire- is the goal of the Veshigi tradition of Appalachian Hexerei. We are clothed in the blood and memories of our ancestors.
We are the eyes of the forest. We are as beautiful as the early morning twilight as well as the formidable shadows all dark and scary within it.
Welcome to the enchanted forest. While you lose your mind, may you find your soul.
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