If the Owl Calls Again


May 10, 2017 at 2:43pm PDT / 9:43pm UT

Moon and Sun opposed at 20°24' Scorpio/Taurus

So long as you do not die and rise again, you are a stranger to the dark earth.

— Goethe

picI few years ago, I had one of the those wild, vivid dreams. The kind of dream that, even while it is happening, you realize it's important, that some extraordinary message is being conveyed and you need to take notice. I'm not exactly sure what sets these dreams apart. It's not only what happens in the dream, but also the quality of the projection screen: the light seems clearer and brighter, and every facet, down to the smallest detail, is in sharp focus.

At the crazy culminating point of the dream, I woke suddenly, sat straight up in bed, and glanced around the room to get my bearings. I remember looking at the clock and it was exactly 3 am. I took the time to review the dream in my mind, and then went back to sleep. The next morning I wrote it down as I remembered it.

In the dream, it was late night and I was standing outside a small rustic house that stood at one end of a forest clearing. My husband was with me and we were both leaning against the front bumper of a parked car looking up at the night sky. A younger man was with us, whom neither of us knew. A perfect full moon was shining directly overhead, and it was a warm, calm night. As we stood there quietly taking in a beautiful night, an owl flew from the woods into the clearing, swooped past us, and landed on the roof of the house. Perched on the top of the front gable, he looked down at us. For what seemed like a very long time, we stood watching each other, picnot moving, not making a sound, until the owl opened his wings, hopped up and off the roof, and slowly, as if defying gravity, drifted down to the ground in front of us. As he descended, his body morphed from owl to man, dressed, nonetheless, in a beautifully-tailored tuxedo — exactly the kind of getup Bond might wear for a night of gaming in Monaco.

All three of us stood there awestruck, and then the owl-man started to move in a mesmerizingly sensual dance. The young man who was with us, started moving towards the owl as if he were being pulled by a tractor beam, his body rigid, not moving not of his own volition. When he reached the owl, they started to dance. It was wildly sexual, yet the man's movements were marionette-like: stiff, awkward and clumsy — a disturbing danse macabre. After a while, the man seemed to snap out of his hypnotic state and began to struggle. After some time, he was finally able to break free, and fell to the ground, out of breath.

Then the owl-man turned and looked at me. Immediately I felt myself being pulled towards him. I heard my husband say something like, "No, it's dangerous!" But I wasn't able to stop, I didn't want to stop. The owl took my hand and I remember feeling the hardness of his claws against my hand. Then he started to dance. Exhilarating at first, he soon started to spin faster and faster and I began to panic. I struggled to free myself just as the young man did. Then I saw we were moving towards a cliff that fell steeply down to a river far below. Finally, just as he was about to fling me over the cliff, I broke free of his grip and fell to the ground.

And that's when I woke up.

* * *

I was born with the Sun, Mars, Juno and Neptune all in the Pluto-ruled sign of Scorpio. Dark Scorpio also rules the cusp of my 7th house, the house of marriage and partnerships, which symbolizes our "significant others" in life. The 7th house is also the house of projection and mirrors, for so often the partners we seek out embody what we feel we lack — or deny — in ourselves. Scorpio's well known shadow is the misuse of sexual energy to manipulate and gain power over others, and when I woke up from that dream, and began to ponder just what on Earth it meant, I thought of all these Scorpio issues as a possible interpretation. Since I knew the time of the dream, I was able to draw up a chart which revealed some pretty remarkable connections/coincidences with my own natal chart that strongly related thematically to the dream.

The dream contained many obvious Scorpionic themes: standing on the edge of the abyss, the facing of death, the mesmerizing power and lure of sexuality. There was also the aspect of merging with this other creature, which Jung might have said represented my inner male or animus, as well as symbolizing shadow material that needed integration. What might have happened had I let the owl fling me over the abyss? I could have sprouted wings on the way down and then soared off to the heights. It was a dream after all. Why didn't I do that?I am not a depth psychologist and I do not want to over analyze, but it is a dream in which I am still mining, even now years later, for interpretive gold. What might have happened had I let the owl fling me over the abyss? I could have sprouted wings on the way down and then soared off to the heights. It was a dream after all. Why didn't I do that?

Or is the dream a warning of my becoming self-destructive and foolish in the face of certain dangers or temptations? or was it a message from the "shadow" about facing fears and facing this darker aspect of myself — a very Scorpionic theme of finding the inner gold by mining the dark matter.

"Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." But Jung also believed that "in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness" — or perhaps because of this — "the shadow is the seat of creativity" — the source of riches. But how does this work? How do we get to these riches without succumbing to the darkness itself? without being flung to our deaths? And what does it mean exactly to have a shadow?

Because myths, fairy and folktales all stem from that same deep pool of the collective unconscious, they can sometimes offer up the best and clearest insights, if we are willing to dive into the deeper waters of their meaning. Different aspects of the "shadow" are personified in the giants and monsters, ghosts, and demons, evil kings and wicked witches that populate these old tales. They illuminate too how the shadow manifests differently in men and women, and how sometimes our behaviors and attitudes actually invite treachery into our lives.

THERE IS AN OLD TALE about a farmer who is working his fields in the spring for planting, and his plow suddenly gets snagged on something. Digging into the earth, he discovers his plowshare has been hooked by a large iron ring. So he digs deeper and discovers the ring is attached to a large flat stone. After some work, the farmer uncovers the stone and lifts the ring which reveals the entrance to a deep underground cave filled with treasure. The story's message has two important parts, one obvious and one not so: our best treasure lies hidden deep and it takes work to reveal it, and that it is often the unpleasant, unfortunate events in life, events that seem to hinder our progress, that ironically often provide the key to unlocking this hidden treasure.

A couple of years ago I had one of those painful and humiliating experiences of betrayal which, in retrospect, has been my own plowshare snagging that iron ring. A friend, whom I had known for some time and trusted, repeated something I had shared with her in confidence. It had to do with a problem I was having with a mutual acquaintance of ours; and because we live in a smallish community with about "two degrees of separation" between people, it did not take long before the subject of my venting session knew I had been talking about her. I discovered the security breach had occurred when the phone rang one afternoon and I was blindsided by the livid woman who was understandably angry as a hornet. When I later confronted my friend about it, her explanation was that after having too many drinks, it had unfortunately "slipped out." Problem was it "slipped out" to someone who happened to be pretty close to the woman about whom I was talking, her husband's secretary! But my friend seemed sincerely remorseful, apologized, and I forgave her. But I then did something very foolish, I continued to confide in her despite the extremely large red flag that was now flying between us. As you can guess, I got burned again, and the second burn was even worse than the first.

"Fool me once...

So why had I been so incautious, even after pretty good evidence my friend could not be completely trusted? I have asked myself this question and the best answer I can come up with is that I had not considered the possibility she would betray my confidence again, even after that first incident. picI thought she had been sincerely remorseful, and you know, we all make mistakes! But the fact that I did not adopt more Scorpionic wariness and self-restraint with her was supremely stupid, as stupid as Snow White accepting that poison apple, or Red Riding Hood telling the wolf her destination was Grandma's House. And so I had to face an embarrassing fact about myself: that even at the mature age of fifty — even with a group of planets in perceptive, cautious Scorpio — I was still operating like a naïve child, stubbornly wanting the world to be different than it is, wanting to deny the fact that people can sometimes be quite treacherous indeed, or at the very least, callously indifferent to the potential "collateral damage" they can cause. I also had to acknowledge that the itch to gossip, to share some juicy tidbit, is just too great a temptation at times — with or without a drink. And even though, like all of us, I had plenty of other experiences with betrayal and disloyalty in my life — including my own such acts — for some reason, it hadn't really sunk in. I was unwilling to accept it and the result of this was a big vulnerable blindspot that left me too open and unprotected.

"If as a woman, you know about your own jealousy, you can look at another woman and catch the flicker of jealousy in her eye, and then know you have to be careful with that woman, that it would be wiser to keep out of her way. But if you do not know what jealousy is, and have never seen your own jealous side, you cannot protect yourself and may do something silly where the other can take advantage of you."

— Marie-Louise Von Franz, The Feminine in Fairy Tales

In her book, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, Marie-Louise Von Franz, a Swiss Jungian psychologist and scholar who worked with Carl Jung, wrote that to face and accept a quality that we do not like in ourselves, and we have chosen to repress for many years, is a very important heroic act of courage — but a necessary act because if we do not accept this quality, it will most certainly function behind our backs, undermining us. She pointed out that every rule of behavior that we can learn about the unconscious through fairy tales and dreams usually comes in the form of a paradox, which can make the process of teasing out meaning very tricky. Sometimes we must face the Giant directly, other times we defeat through a contest of wits, in another case beating a fast retreat is the wisest approach. But the universal message, Von Franz points out, is the importance of relying on one's central, authentic core — the innermost Self. Trusting this and letting this alone guide us is the key. When we face our own inner hag, jealous queen, nasty giant, when we accept that we too have these capacities, then we can transcend beyond this struggle between the opposites of good and evil, which is the greatest paradox of all: that we are lead to our brightest light by navigating through our deepest darkness.

Facing that foolish, naïve side of myself that so stubbornly resisted accepting my own potential for treachery and betrayal, jealousy and vindictiveness, wanting too much to be so "Snow White" good resulting in this blindspot of vulnerable openness, was the painful lesson that enabled me to finally get some traction on this problem in my life. And as for that dream, well that happened right before I started studying astrology, and in many ways I think it represented that: claiming something for myself, something I loved and desired, and something, like the owl-man, mysterious and beautiful, yet nevertheless considered dark and evil by some. It is this and more. I am still working with my owl man in discovering the hidden riches that I have buried deep in the vast inner space of memory. And I've found that the more I do this, shine this light in the dark, the more my owl becomes less frightening and more helpful. More like an equal partner, more like a friend.

picIf the Owl Calls Again by John Haines

at dusk from the island in the river, and it's not too cold, I'll wait for the moon to rise, then take wing and glide to meet him. We will not speak, but hooded against the frost soar above the alder flats, searching with tawny eyes. And then we'll sit in the shadowy spruce and pick the bones of careless mice, while the long moon drifts toward Asia and the river mutters in its icy bed. And when the morning climbs the limbs we'll part without a sound, fulfilled, floating homeward as the cold world awakens.



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The illustrations in this article: "Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baba Yaga" and the cottage in the woods are by Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942), a Russian illustrator and set designer. The illustrations were created by Bilibin for a volume of Russian Fairytales.

The illustration of the evil stepmother is from the Disney movie Snow White.

Marie-Louise Von Franz founded the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich and wrote over 20 volumes on analytical psychology, most notably on fairy tales as they relate to Archetypal or Depth Psychology. In Memoriam: Marie-Louse Von Franz, an article written in memory of Von Franz by a patient-friend-colleague, contains interesting biographical material.

"Although the landscape of Alaska, where he was a homesteader for 20 years, is always present in his poetry, Haines is not a "nature" poet in the usual sense. His treatment of the natural is more expressionistic than narrative, more metaphysical than pragmatic." — Publishers Weekly review of John Haines book of collected poems, The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer. Here is a biography of John Haines at Poets.org

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