I have someplace I’d like to go, and I hope you’ll come with me. This will be a long journey, but if you stick with me until the end, I think each of us will discover treasures and have adventures that we can’t even imagine now, as we begin. I don’t even know quite where we’re going, but I have a compass and a rucksack, and a heart full of intentions.
What I hope to do is complete my series of essays about the Quest, the Monomyth, the Heroic Journey of every hero (and the non-journey of every anti-hero), flesh them out and do a good job of it, so that from now on, whenever you read a story or see a movie, or hear a tale, you’ll say, “Aha! That’s quest mythology. . . I see it! There’s that archetypal figure she said would appear to guide the hero!”
An excellent example of the sort of myth I’m writing about is found in the mythical figure of Venus, or Aphrodite. I’ve meant to study her myths (there are two) and Boticelli’s paintings of Venus for some time now. I’ve learned some fascinating things that I think will surprise and fascinate you, too. For example, Boticelli painted The Birth of Venus in the late 1400s during a time when much secular work arising out of pagan myths, such as his painting, was being burned or destroyed by some nutjobs from the Roman Catholic Church. Boticelli had the Medici family as his patrons, and they protected him and his work, which is how this amazing painting survived.
Many people don’t know that The Birth of Venus was one of two paintings that were meant to hang together. After painting The Birth of Venus, Boticelli painted another large piece called Spring. It depicts Venus after she’s come up out of the sea on the clam shell. She’s fully clothed and her head is covered; she’s quite regal and queenly, as a mature woman ought to be. The same dark woods serve as the backdrop for the scene of her fulfillment, and she is surrounded by even more mythological creatures.
I’ve never studied the myth of Venus or Boticelli’s two paintings before, so this will be an adventure for me, too. You’ll get to see me work and reach for symbols and meanings that have been part of this art and these myths for thousands of years.
Boticelli researched his painting before he ever painted it; and we’ll research it, too, by reading the myth and thinking about the archetype of wholeness: the Bride and Groom, the Divine Couple, the Syzygy (Jung’s funny word indicating an integrated wholeness, from the Greek σύζυγος (syzygos), meaning “yoked together”).
My intention in starting this blog has been to write about myths and symbols of wholeness and individuation with a view to the ultimate in being “yoked together,” which is the wedding supper of the Lamb of God. You don’t have to be a Christian to have this imagery; the Divine Marriage exists in every culture in every time among every single people who has ever lived on the planet, as far as we know. There is always a hero; there is always a quest; there is always a shadow type; always a trickster, always a Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman, always an anima and animus, and always, at the end, a death and a resurrection, a treasure or elixir, and a Divine Marriage and wedding feast.
It’s as inescapable as death, and so we might as well write and talk and think about it.