The Alchemical Moment: Nigredo and COVID-19
This a rambling post. But I have to get my thoughts out.
On Wednesday night, after I celebrated my birthday with my parents, my consciousness shifted; I suddenly felt heavy. I realized that I was feeling all of the grief and pain of the collective in this particular moment. My birthday ceremony earlier in the day was the catalyst for this new sensitivity. In the course of the ceremony, I reconnected with all of my helpers. Since I was no longer solitary in a spiritual sense, they were deconstructing the emotional barriers I had built up over the years. I was strong enough to feel the suffering of the world.
I've been thinking a lot about Charlotte du Cann's viral essay from 2016, "The Reveal." which attempts to understand the political developments of that year with the framework of alchemy. She writes that as a society, we are entering nigredo, which is the first stage pf alchemy; nigredo brings to light the darkness that needs to be transformed. In our case, the darkness is the rage of generations of dispossessed individuals who were told that their lives were worthless. She writes:
"This alchemical moment has nothing to do with social justice, or environmentalism or any of the grassrootsy stuff I have found myself advocating during the last decade. There are initiatives and networks around the world focussing on these worthy things, but none of this transforms anything if we are the same people inside, if we haven’t dealt with our stuff – as we used to say in the ’90s – if we haven’t uncivilised ourselves, made contact with the layers of dead under our feet, in the sky, in the rivers. If we haven’t stood with the Lakota, or with the yew trees, with the rainbow serpent, with the glacier, with the tawny owl. If we haven’t found a way to dismantle the belief systems that keep us trapped in the cycles of history, if we haven’t dealt with our insatiable desire for power and attention and found ways to live more lightly on the planet, we are not going to make it through this stage.
"We don’t need a grand vision, another story right now, we need to get through the nigredo, the seismic shaking of the jar, and allow the seeds we hold inside us to break open their coats.
"Afterwards will come the albedo, the deep memory of water, and the rubedo, the solarising forces, the warmth and light of the sun. We will unfurl ourselves then. All is good, all is return, all is regeneration in alchemy. We just have to have the stomach for the work. We have to trust that whatever happens in our small lives, whatever move we make to undo the unkindness of centuries will affect the whole picture, that we are not on our own."
I think the COVID-19 pandemic can be the final stage of our collective nigredo, the maelstrom that leads us to cast off our old patterns of behavior and thought so that we can finally create the more beautiful world our hearts yearn for.
But to do that we at least have to acknowledge the receptivity and truth that resides in darkness. That is the nature of the Dark Mother. Over the next 2 months, most of us in the industrialized West are going to be profoundly wounded in one way or another by the coronavirus and its attendant economic shock. In the words of Vera de Chalambert, I want to "lay heart to the ground...and feel intimately all that is being unravelled here." By becoming familiar with the contours of that cultural pain, I will also start learning how to turn our collective lead to gold. I will begin my healing work.
So I'll be taking a hiatus from this forum for at least the next few weeks. In order to tune my senses to the unravelling, I have to filter out a many voices as I can. I will be meditating, journalling, incorporating rituals and ceremonies into my days, talking a lot more to my guides. In many ways, I will be continuing the work I left off on three years ago when we first entered the nigredo and I tried to take my life. But this time around, I have called on my spirit helpers. With them, I possess the stamina for the task.
I'm mostly referring to my personal situation because i don't want anyone to think they have a duty to fully embrace the darkness. The particulars of my recent experiences have readied me for this job, but I can't speak for anyone else. I do think there's wisdom, though, in making some space for the Dark Mother in your life. There will be a time for collective celebration, when we will all exhale with relief. But for now, making ourselves comfortable with discomfort can at least prepare us for personal emergencies. At most, attending to the darkness is the mythic key that can disintegrate thousands of years of illusion. I'll finish off with a quote from the amazing British folklorist Martin Shaw:
"When we are frightened it can feel like we are trapped under water, under ice. The mythic directive in such a moment is unusual. It says this: go deeper. Attend to the Goddess underneath the unfolding...Ironically, only by diving deeper can the ice melt.
"When you swim down to Sedna you are in the business of alchemy: the tributary of your own fears meets the ocean of your artfulness and suddenly you are giving a gift, not seduced by your own wound."
I have been seeing the word nigredo float up in my mind all week...thank you for posting this. You described how I have been feeling, on and off, for months. I just re-read everything. You said nigredo started three years ago, I felt that way around that time as well. It sounds like you were a lot deeper in it and I am sorry you suffered. Today was very heavy and your post made sense and brought some clarity on things. Thank you <3
Blessings for your journey, Coyote!
I've also been feeling the "dark mother" spirit, although I liken that to the crone figure, my favorite being An Cailleach. The timing of your post and your use of that term feels like a synchronicity for me because just yesterday I was mulling over a sense of how what is happening now feels like the return of the Cailleach. She's commonly associated with the harsh cold and seeming lifelessness of winter, but she's more than that. Some stories have her in a role that protects nature from human interference: one Scottish story has her punishing a hunter for taking too many hinds. She is the opposite of the sedate & soporific consciousness which emanates from the material comforts and illusion of security of this era of consumerism, and she will cast her staff to the earth to shake us out of complacency. The wave of fear and dread is sweeping over the world, and many fear the crone (think also Baba Yaga), but she is not motivated by cruelty but love, just like when we as mothers, set limits to help guide our children toward right ways of being in the world.
@coyote, thank you for all you have brought us during your quest. Blessings to you on the next leg of your journey.
I resonate with Charlotte du Cann's words completely--thank you for bringing them here.
Although I knew this time would be transformative, I couldn't know how it would shake me. I was scared about it because I knew that if the events of 2020 were going to truly shift our world upside down and bring us to a new paradigm, then there had to be a lot of pain.
I also feel I'm just beginning to approach a new awareness when fear rises up in me. Then the lives of slaves flashing in my mind, people who lived here for centuries and never ever were free except through death. I especially see the 1700's as one of the worst times for so many of the oppressed, including natives, and so many others,including the earth herself and the animals we use like products. When Jaquim Phoenix made his statement at the oscars -- proclaiming his own guilt and the pain of a mother cow separated from her calf so we can have creme in our coffee, again, I felt my eyes being forced to see my darkness and I shuttered at the enormity of the journey you speak of.
The Art card on the Thoth Tarot is about the alchemical process we go through in connecting with all of our parts, including the dark. For years I couldn't look at that card.
Blessings to you while you continue on the needed focus during your journey. I will miss you but know that another day will come when you return. In the meantime I will think of you and send you love and light. 😘 😇
@coyote Wishing you vision, clarity and understanding as you journey into other dimensions of being.
Oh brilliant one, it takes the brave to enter the darkened cave. Please know that you do not journey alone. You are held and protected by all of us. Godspeed! We all are waiting with anticipation what insights you will share. We are all one and the same, for we are that too!
We will miss your presence here, but understand your need to follow where Spirit leads. May this be a time of revelation for you and may you recognize the protection that shelters you wherever you go, whatever you see. Be well, dear friend.
Heartfelt greetings to all the beautiful souls here at the Forum, and especially to you Coyote with much gratitude for your profound insight and courage! You truly are an ancient soul and a torch bearer ...🔥💛💛
As the mighty Jupiter is exactly conjuncting Pluto and Pallas Athena today, your post is perfect in soulful synchronicity! Chiron (the great healer) is in Aries as well, offering you guidance and protection on your journey .....
The Phoenix is rising, and we can all look forward to the alchemy of the transformation on this soul path to union, and loving abundance ...
The full 'Pink' super moon is coming around again on April 7th.... in Libra!
PEACE my friends... 💛
i want echo what everyone has said here so far - blessings on your journey, wisdom, protection and gratitude for sharing what you share with us. We look forward to your return. I can’t help but see parallels in some ways that you are posting about the deep dive into the darkness as we approach Holy Week in Catholicism today, starting the descent to Good Friday. Looking forward to your rising in the light. Be well!
Holding space for you as you take this part of Journey.... Love and Light .
Price gauging in the Trumpian age of Covid. https://www.propublica.org/article/a-company-promised-cheap-ventilators-to-the-government-never-delivered-and-is-now-charging-quadruple-the-price-for-the-new-ones
Propublica.org is a non profit staffed with solid investigative reporting.
As many have spoken here about THIS MOMENT IN TIME, I am reminded that WE are feeling THE PAIN OF THE WORLD. We are feeling this because we are EMPATHS. It is a heavy burden. I cry daily for the WORLD. It is a journey WE HAVE CHOSEN BECAUSE OF OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER. We see the world as worthy. WE ARE NEVER ALONE. WE ARE LOVED.
I'm going to use this thread to post some of my more spiritual musings about the virus. Tonight, I want to talk about the language we use when engaging with the pandemic.
Ever since March, when most of the industrialized world (beyond China and Korea) woke up to the public health crisis we're facing, I've been bothered by the use of militaristic terms to describe the pandemic: the "battle" against the virus; "defeating" the virus; being "at war" with the virus. We're 10,000 years deep into the Age of Separation and its attendant mentality of war, though, so it's not surprising we've reflexively resorted to these antagonistic memes.
Martial memes bother me because I've come to understand that every biological illness is the result of an imbalance in the wider collective, be it a family, a town, a nation, or the global whole. Thus, illnesses have their own spirits, and when we declare ourselves to be at war with an illness, we're repudiating potential lessons about spiritual imbalance. One of the practices that has helped me begin to heal from my own medical condition (NF2) has been linguistic reframing. As with cancer patients and their families, it's common for people in the NF community to talk about "fighting" their affliction. But for the past three years, I've been thinking about my NF2 as something that can be healed (not subdued) via integration, and that process has helped me remember that my higher self chose to be born into a body with NF2 so that I could understand how the separation of human souls from each other and from nature leads to systemic global crises.
Anyways, we're already discussing on this forum how the novel coronavirus is the result of a global imbalance where humans no longer engage in dialogue with other-than-human nature. So if we're declaring war on the virus, then we're also declaring war on ourselves. So potent is human language and storytelling when it comes to altering the quantum field of reality, the virus will also respond to a collective narrative of war by behaving like a true wartime enemy: it will ambush us again and again, it will gather "intel" so that it eludes all of our offenses. It's better, I think, to talk about "taming" the coronavirus. There's nothing militaristic about taming, plus taming an illness still allows room for integration. From integration we can move on to healing.
By all accounts, emergency rooms in regions hit hardest by the pandemic resemble war zones, and medical workers there are being forced to make decisions that were once relegated to battlefields. But CoVid-19 has become so rampant through a combination of governmental ineptitude plus an unwillingness of the global elite to slow down our late capitalist economic engine (there was hardly a murmur of calling off Milan Fashion Week, even after it was confirmed that the virus had a toehold in northern Italy).
A letter to the editor published in the New York Times on March 31st captures the inappropriateness of military language in this situation, at least from a doctor's perspective:
"Military rhetoric in this and other articles is clouding the public’s understanding of what it is like to work in a hospital right now. Medical staff are not soldiers “fighting a war,” and we are not “in the trenches” or “on the front lines.” We did not sign up for this; unlike the military, medicine is not a career for which we ever expected to die.
"Medical staff are being forced to work in extremely unsafe conditions. Furthermore, the burden of care often falls on the lowest-ranked workers. Resident physicians, for example, work 80 hours a week with one day off. Opportunities for residents are scarce outside of hospitals, so we cling to our jobs to avoid ruin.
"Medical workers have already died in the United States, and more deaths are coming. We will be called “heroes” to hide the truth: We were killed on dangerous job sites."
Yes this is a great framing of semantics- how we talk about this matters if we are going to see it as an opportunity instead of a problem to be fixed so that we can ‘go back to normal’. I love that you wrote this as I’ve seen this militaristic language being challenged in other ways over other things and how often we use these terms and then reframe the issue in ways that disable us from seeing the real opportunity in a struggle. Struggles are presented on our path as a learning opportunity but in order to learn we must see it for what it is.
you use the word taming but I also like acceptance- we have tamed the wilderness and we have caused climate change- through another lens this is a rebalancing of man v nature. We can see that when we pull things to far one way and things become unbalanced nature will right themselves and this we need to see and accept if we are collectively going to change things. We have adopted enough measures to see that our behavioral changes have had amazing effects on pollution and emissions - all of which will be lost if/when we go ‘back to normal’.
anyway, in 20 years of thinking about semantics this is one of the most critical areas it matters.
I like "acceptance" too on the individual level. But we're a long way off from any elected officials or public health authorities giving speeches about how we must accept the novel coronavirus.
I've been thinking about how you saw the virus embodied in the form of an enraged feral cat, a reptilian monster, and then as an impoverished peasant woman. Perhaps you were seeing how our cultural meta-narratives will determine the behavior of the virus: if we declare all out war on it, then it will mirror back our antagonism and wreak havoc like Godzilla. I think the peasant woman (crone) is the true spirit of Covid-19. She might be unsightly, but the lessons she has come to instill are motivated by a benevolent desire to see her children's behavior corrected.