Monday, March 3, 2008

Grandmother Spider

As I’ve said before, and written many times, I believe we come into this life with a purpose, and that purpose might be revealed if we look closely at the challenges we were born to. Those challenges might be called our “wound”. The wound, whether its focus is karmic, spiritual, physical or emotional, is an interconnected thing, and its unfolding mystery drags us, however unintentionally, through psychological doorways. For those of us who are spiritually minded, this journey might be conscious, and eAsach of those doorways is like passing through the Divine Mother’s transformational fire. They may open on different preferences, views, and energies in our lives, which evolve and change over time, but those energies are telling. They are called archetypes.

“The term Archetype began with Carl Jung. In Jung’s terms, ‘archetype’ is defined as the first original model of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are merely derivative, copied, patterned or emulated. These patterns derive from a universal collective consciousness which in metaphysics is called the Grids, Akashic Records, Sea of Consciousness, that which creates our reality. In this context, archetypes are innate prototypes for ideas, which may subsequently become involved in the interpretation of observed phenomena.” (author unknown)

Archetypes are visual symbols or energetic imprints that exist in our psyche, and if we pay close attention, they can often convey messages or hints as to where we are in our personal journey.

Here is an example of visual symbols from ancient Egypt ...

egyptian symbols

We become aware of our personal archetypes in meditation, dreaming, or when we create. Feeling that archetypical energy, we might consciously or unconsciously give it form by embodying it through the mainstream media. Popular film, fiction, drama, and even the world’s religion and mythology are just a few of the places we draw from when defining our archetypes. We see our archetypes reflected in the symbols we are attracted to in jewelry, as well, or in the posters we hung on our bedroom wall when we were teenagers, or in the comic books we read. Archetypes also manifest auditorily in the music or lyrics we most enjoy. What song spoke to you the most as a teenager? Which speaks to you now? How about the little boy you saw at the market, who is draped in his Superman cape with the enormous, red S on his chest? This is the Halloween costume he hasn’t taken off in weeks! Our daughter, Elizabeth, saw Cathy Rigby in the road show musical “Peter Pan” just before her fourth birthday, and she fell in love with it. Elizabeth named her favorite baby doll Cathy Rigby, because it had hair like Rigby did in the musical, and she begged me to make her a “Peter Pan” costume. She wore that costume at her fourth birthday party, and the entire time embodied the energy of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. This is an archetype. These embodied archetypes, when viewed retrospectively or in sequence, become the colorful tapestry of our personal mythos, or, quite simply, our personal story.

I’ve had archetypes for years, for as long as I can remember, really, but this is the first time that I’ve felt on top my game enough to seek what an archetype is communicating, rather than let its modern manifestation define me. That’s why I’m writing about it. This is an exciting discovery for me!

When I was a child, I was into the Spiderwoman comic book. This was its first iteration in the seventies, and there was a comic book store I’d frequent in Milford Center. Collecting Spiderwoman was an obsession that happened before my life was sidetracked. I wasn’t able to stay with it, but I never forgot Spiderwoman, and in my obsessive collection of action figures over the last 20 years, I’ve sought out the Spiderwoman figure, which has made a comeback, quite zealously. Very cool stuff.

Spider Woman

In high school, I felt most attracted to strong female types on television and in movies. Strangely enough, most of the strong female types that existed out there, other than Jamie Sommers, the Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman, that is, were portrayed in the modern media as evil. You know, they were your average Disney Villainess like Cruella de Vil, Malificient, or the Evil Queen in Snow White. While these women were all depicted as the epitome of evil, deep down inside, I felt they were misunderstood anti-heroines of sorts or women who just got hung up one thing (like, a spotted fur coat or eternal youth, for example) and couldn’t move on. I saw a tv movie in the late 70’s called “Dr. Strange” which was a take on a comic book, by the way, and in that movie the villainess was Morgan Le Fey … yes, the Morgan Le Fey of King Arthur fame … who, until Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon”, was thought of as a manipulative witch, rather than a daughter of the Goddess. While Morgan didn’t make many appearances in those days, this one captured my attention raptly. In fact, there was a full costume Halloween party in my freshman year of high school and my mother actually made me the most fantastic Morgan Le Fey costume. I looked like a supreme teenaged sorceress and remember playing the role to the hilt, including the dramatic facilitation of wide, sweeping arcs with my cape. That costume empowered me just like Elizabeth was empowered by her Peter Pan costume. I had more than one relationship in high school that seemed strangely defined by this character, not so much in truth, but in a karmic or fantastical manner, which was no doubt fueled by intense imagination and teenage angst. As simple energy patterns, archetypes are often neutral. However, the subjectivity of our personal experience and the way we are perceived by others, and how those two perspectives interact, interpret those archetypes and how they manifest in both light and shadow aspects in our lives. I am not debating good versus evil here, for in my opinion, evil in mankind is often defined by intent, which is a conscious assertion, and not a state of nature or the divine.

Morgan Le Fey

My Morgan Le Fey archetype, which transformed ultimately into Morgaine, a daughter of the Goddess, was dominant within me through a large part of my adult life. As I dabbled with various forms of spirituality she was present, and she was reflected back to me in the eyes of some of my closest and longest relationships. I seemed powerless against the tide of my life at the time, just like Morgaine seemed powerless against the rise of Christianity against the old, matriarchial ways of Goddess worship. And so for a while, this archetype seemed to define me in ways that I was unable to define myself.

Le Fey

Just before the time that Elizabeth was born, I entered my “Wicked Witch of the West” phase. This is when writing emerged as a form of creative expression for me, and it was right around the time I met Amma, my spiritual mother. I never really related to the witch in “The Wizard of Oz”, but then I read “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory McGuire. McGuire redefined the witch and made her a rich, well rounded character. Elphalba, the Witch, was dedicated to a righteous cause in Oz. She was a rebel. When the love of her life was killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, her heart was broken. She simply could not recover from it, and so succumbed to what the people of Oz projected upon her … wickedness.

After meeting Amma, I went through a transformation of sorts. I’m describing this transformation more on my blog,, but the short of it is that my spiritual transformation did a number on my ego (which is what it was supposed to do), and before I learned to accept these changes and learn from them, rather than fight them, I felt like I was melting. As my ego was melted, it changed the way I perceived the world, and consequently, it changed the way the world perceived me. In my ego’s place, my higher self, my true self, began to emerge, and surprisingly people around me either were drawn to it or were confused by the change and so resented it. People who were able to use me and manipulate me no longer could. I am most fortunate that my immediate family, Leslie and Elizabeth, whose relationships with me are based on love, were not afraid of these changes. Several close personal relationships dissolved, however, and these were relationships that I had habitually assessed myself thru. In fact, one of them, a deeply cherished and timeless friendship that went back as far as high school and my original discovery of Morgan Le Fey, came apart with such rage that I not only had to define myself, but I was forced to check and recheck my intentions, inner character, and right action. No longer could I seek my definition in external archetypes or through the eyes or another. Over a period of about seven years, I was forced to define myself, for myself. One song from the musical soundtrack of the Broadway Show “Wicked” put my feelings into lyrics perfectly!

Defying Gravity

Something has changed within me.
Something is not the same.
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.
Too late for second-guessing.
Too late to go back to sleep!
It's time to trust my instincts.
Close my eyes, and leap!
It's time to try defying gravity.
I think I'll try defying gravity,
and you can't pull me down!
I'm through with accepting limits,
'Cuz someone says they're so!
Some things I cannot change,
but 'till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of loosing love, I guess I've lost!
Well, if that’s love,
it comes at much to high a cost!
I'd sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye!
I'm defying gravity,
and you can't pull me down!
So if you care to find me Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I'm flying solo,
At least I'm flying free.
To those who'd ground me,
Take a message back from me:
Tell them how I am Defying gravity!
I'm flying high, Defying gravity!
And soon I'll match them in renown.
And nobody in, all of Oz.
No Wizard that there is or was.
Is ever gonna bring me down!

No Good Deed (the spell)

My Wicked Witch of the West archetype played a very important role in my spiritual and personal independence. But rather than submit to the perceptions of others, as the witch Elphalba did, I was growing and changing for the better. Still, there were people in my life, people that I loved dearly, who wanted me to stay as I was or more, wanted me to do things their way, and fought me. I experienced a new confidence in the work place, as well, which left me feeling repressed and fenced in, as old working relationships were no longer healthy or beneficial. As I emerged from living out of fear and into my own place in the world, Morgaine faded into the background. She wasn’t me. She was a reflection of what others saw in me.

I found myself at a crossroads, and when I didn't heed the winds of change quickly enough, it quickly manifested physical symptoms. My family and I left California to revisit the past in Connecticut. Of course, we didn’t know that was why we were being drawn to the East Coast. It just felt like a good idea to sell our house and realize the profit before the real estate market took a turn for the worse, which it did immediately thereafter. We felt drawn to Connecticut as if by magic, much the same way I felt drawn to Leslie on the West Coast when I first met her 23 years ago. It was a powerful urge. Spiritually, my time in Connecticut has been about transformation and discovery, and discarding old baggage from the past.

Astrologically, we are at a very intense place in time and space. I’m not an astrologer by any means, but I have discovered a wonderful astrologer by the name of Robert Wilkinson. His website “Aquarius Papers” at puts all of these mysteries into understandable terms and has helped me understand what astrology means in my life and to me. As we approach a solar eclipse on February 6-7, while surfing an intense mercury retrograde (which usually signifies more visits from the past, and which it certainly did for me), we are also contending with what Robert appropriately refers to as “The Grand Irrationality” (you’ve got to read up on it to appreciate it). It’s astrological short hand for “anything strange and random can and will happen”.

About one month ago, I received a letter in the mail, and it was stamped with the U.S. Postal Service’s salute to the stars of Marvel comics. It was a Spiderwoman stamp! It was one of my favorite pictures from one of the earliest issues from the late 70’s. I couldn’t throw it away and put it in my wallet.

Spiderwoman Stamp

Shortly thereafter, Leslie found an enormous white spider in the laundry room. She wouldn’t touch it, of course, and hollered at me until I went in there and found this spider staring up at me from a pile of clean clothes. Hello!

Over the last month, as well, I’ve struggled with the latest article for my blog, When Isis Rises, after wrapping one article entitled “Animal Signposts”. Writing about animals as spiritual markers and the way it integrated with my next, more difficult article really had my brain spinning. I’ve tried writing and rewriting it, and ended up revisiting our family’s animal totems and archetypes as a result. I focused on Leslie’s animal totem, the bear, and found a beautiful semi-precious bear fetish that I immediately bought for her. I did a lot of on-line research about some of our other totems such as the Great Blue Heron, swans, eagles, and parrots. It isn’t a coincidence that these are all birds, as much of my life lies in the intellect, which is represented by air.

Then, when doing more research just the other day, I ran into a photo on-line of some remarkable photographs just taken of the planet Mercury. I’ll quote from Nasa’s website, as follows:

After a journey of more than 2 billion miles and three and a half years, NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft made its first flyby on Jan. 14. MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to our sun. The spacecraft's cameras and other sophisticated, high-technology instruments collected more than 1,200 images and made other science observations. Data included the first up-close measurements of Mercury since the Mariner 10 spacecraft's third and final flyby on March 16, 1975 … Unlike the moon, MESSENGER showed that Mercury has huge cliffs with structures snaking up hundreds of miles across the planet's face. These cliffs preserve a record of patterns of fault activity from early in the planet's history. The spacecraft also revealed impact craters that appear very different from lunar craters. Instruments provided a topographic profile of craters and other geological features on the night side of Mercury. The spacecraft also discovered a unique feature that scientists dubbed "The Spider." This formation never has been seen on Mercury before and nothing like it has been observed on the moon. It lies in the middle of a large impact crater called the Caloris basin and consists of more than one hundred narrow, flat-floored troughs radiating from a complex central region.

Spider on Mercury

A spider.

On planet Mercury.

Shortly after that, just last week, in fact, I was trolling the internet when I found this 30 year old comic book picture of Morgan Le Fey and Spiderwoman having a stand off.

Spider's Ascension

This picture, which I immediately posted in Flickr, had all the other cogs falling into place for me. Suddenly, I got the message. -- the spider in the laundry room, the stamp, the fact that Elizabeth was a Spider Queen for Halloween, and let’s not forget the enormous spider that made its web last year right at the front door! All of these tiny hints finally clicked for me, confirming that Morgaine’s time is past, as they pointed me toward my most recent archetype and animal totem – Grandmother Spider.


The best, meatiest descriptions of animal totems can be found in Indian spirituality. Not Indian, as in Hindu, but rather Indian, as in Native American. This has never been a comfortable spiritual realm for me, mostly because the people I know who practice animal medicine are accusatory, judgmental, and downright mean. I know this is an unfair assessment of an old, highly spiritual path, but my experience hasn't been good. Grandmother spider is too insistent to ignore, however, so I’m going to get over it and move on through this journey. After all, even the Mayans predicted the presence of a great web over the world. Grandmother Spider’s contribution to the World Wide Web certainly cannot be overlooked, and the Goddess only knows how much time we’ve all spent there. Also, the word "grandmother" resonates to my own grandmother, Thelma, who once wove the family web that my relatives carelessly traversed. I tried to restring that web when I got here, but soon discovered that my extended family is not interested in healthy, postive relationships. Truth to tell, they don't know what they are, and when I tried to communicate with them, they wouldn't have it. The web I tried to weave here in Connecticut, for the sake of my daughter, was repeatedly broken by their careless negligence and selfish insinuations -- none of which I could tolerate without paying too high a personal cost, which is in direct conflict with where I am right now. And so, these people fell from my family web like dead things. First, there was my father, who fell long before I left California. Then, my mother toppled off, followed shortly thereafter by my brother, Curtis, and my Aunt Barbara Jean for various reasons. Then, brother Donald jumped off the web in a huff, and believe it or not, even my Aunt Edwina who I felt a kindred spirit with for years, let go, even though she would rather believe it was I who pushed. No more. All of these people, my extended family, have no place in my life, which is a sad thing. I rarely, if ever, speak with them.

Spider Woman Speaks ...

Spiders differ from insects in having eight legs rather than six and in having the body divided into two parts rather than three. The number eight laid on its side is the symbol for infinity. The number two implies the union of two forces joined together. Together they equal ten. Drop the zero and you are back to the starting point of one. The hidden message of spider is unity. The study of numerology is beneficial for those who hold this medicine (internet author unknown).

When the spider crawls into our awareness, it is asking us to rebuild the web of our life in accordance with the Divine Mother’s design. This is very appropriate at this point and time in my life, particularly now that I find myself at the end of a two year cycle , no longer burdened by the past, and looking to new horizons with my family. She also builds bridges, which serve as links tying all things together. She reminds us of our interconnectedness to life, and particularly reminds me of my interconnectedness to the Goddess and the Goddess as She resides in all things. Grandmother spider shows us that the past, present and the future are all interwoven. This is most clear to me, particularly over the last several weeks wherein issues from the past have re-emerged specifically to highlight this emphatically. If you see a spider in its web, or creating a new one, pay attention. It symbolizes where you are in the weaving of your own destiny.

Orb Weaver Spider

Spiders are actually very delicate and embody the energy of gentleness. They usually aren’t aggressive unless they are defending their lives or loved ones. Gentle strength is a skill that I am still learning, and so I pay heed to these retrograde lessons, being careful not to react hastily to recent strange, mercuric occurrences, but rather wait and respond. However, the bite of a poisonous spider symbolizes the death, rebirth process reminding us that when neurotoxin (or "venom" from another individual) enters the system, the body either transmutes it or falls victim. This reminds us to remain flexible to the Divine Mother’s fire of transformation, and be ever vigilant to recognizing the patterns of illusion. It also embodies female energy, or shakti, the creative force of life.

Last, but certainly not least, Grandmother Spider says that those who weave magic with the written word, those who write, usually have this totem. This is evident in the web she weaves and the primordial symbols that are inherent in the transluscent but strongly attached lines (not unlike those lines or silver cords that run between souls). Those ancient symbols are themselves the most basic of sacred and ancient visual archetypes. When Grandmother Spider weaves her web, she is weaving the fabric of our lives, and linking us to one another with symbols in pictures and archetypical energy. Don’t you think this is most appropriate on the world wide web, where we can communicate with pictorial archetypes on Flickr or participate in e-commerce, and write the chapters of our changing spirituality in blogs --- the internet is where anyone can have a voice!

During this mercury retrograde, I am reminded that the web we weave is the reality we experience. I say farewell to old archetypes, as one of the most powerful and present archetypes of my childhood emerges once again.

I find myself emboldened to reclaim it.


Morgaine is Calling

Morgaine, my love, are you calling me?
From beyond the lusty, soulful seas
Of retrograde calamity!

Supreme, you once reigned over me;
When distractions outweighed reality,
A glorious mistress named Destiny.

Yes, She tests us all again and again;
And as planets come ‘round,
doubts may set in, but …
Lo! New pathways illumed are ripe to begin!

Morgaine, my heart, your day is done!
No karmic bondage, no smoking gun;
For tenets once binding are long since unsung.

But know this …

You are my moral compass,
My lamplight in the black;
You are what keeps me straight & true,
Though your call harkens me back.


I look fondly on the past,
But seek refuge in the present.
Even though …

Morgaine is calling.

© January 29, 2008
Mercury Retrograde,
Inferior Conjunction
By Donna L. Faber

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