Mining the Jungian Archetypes

Edwina Peterson Cross


Edwina Peterson Cross

I have had deep, paralyzing claustrophobia as long as I can remember. Even the thought of a small, narrow space is enough to start my heart hammering, my blood jumping sickly and trigger a full blown panic attack. There are things I can not think about. And yet . . .

In a sort of inside out, yin/yang magnetism, I am fascinated by the idea of underground labyrinths, secret passage ways, hidden staircases, sequestered lands. One of my favorite stories is the tale of The Seven Dancing Princesses who go each night down a dark, secret stair to dance the night away and wear out their shoes. One of my favorite books is the second of Ursula LeGuin’s “Earthsea Trilogy,” The Tombs of Atuan which tells of the High Priestess Arha, the eaten one and the rituals and traditions of the Darkness in a phenomenal underground labyrinth. My favorite Narnian book is The Silver Chair, much of which takes place underground and Oh! I am mesmerized by the land of Bism where salamanders dance in the fire and you can squeeze yourself some fresh juice from a ruby or a diamond. This upside down fascination seems strange and mystifying, but perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps we are always a little fascinated by our own fears.

My Great-grandfather was a miner, one who was said to have the ‘Golden Touch’ and be able to intuit where minerals ran below the surface. He was very successful and struck gold several times. If he hadn’t happen to own all the banks in the city when the Great Depression struck, I might have grown up a lot more spoiled than I did. As it was, my family still owned a mine when I was young and it became a sort of familial Wishing-rock when I was a little girl. “When we sell the mine . . .” was something we said when wishing for those things that there is no use wishing for because they are too far out of reach. In the same way I hear people say, “When I win the lottery . . .” There was always plenty of room in our lives for wishes of all dimensions and stratifications of wildness because somewhere over the crest of Cedar Mountain, up past Navajo Lake there existed: “The Mine.” Obviously, I never went even a little ways down into the mine, though my brother and sister did. I didn’t need to go inside the mine, I knew what was in there. I knew it was an endless cave of stunning wonders. It held everything material I had ever wanted and a good deal more. It was filled with the scintillating magic of possibility, the enticing enchantment of potential. It held ‘The Wish’ and was brim full of dreams. We were gifted with the ability to make that wish again and again in a million different ways all because a dark hole in the side of the mountain was ours and ‘someday’ we were going to sell it.

They are powerful words: Possibility. Potential. The inherent capacity for coming into being. Capability of existing or happening or being true. Opportunity. Choice. Opening. Expectation. This study and collection begins with possibility and potential; where two other synonyms meet at a cross roads: Prospect and Theory. It began when I saw the opening to the Alluvial mine at Soul Food Café and began to wonder about prospecting with a theory.

I had already begun the mining. Before the opening of this Alluvial mine, I had already begun to dig. In the beginning I didn’t know what I was digging for. Though I would not call it a “Golden-touch,” like my Great-grandfather, I sometimes have the ability to put my hand down and intuit when and where something is running below the surface. In this instance I put my hand against my own heart and knew that despite my claustrophobia, my panic and my fear, the time had come for me to go down into the mine, because there was work down there that had to be done.

At the opening of the mine shaft I would build a Descansos. brought me to the Descansos process as described by Jungian writer Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She writes that there is a time in a woman’s life, usually in midlife, when she has to make a decision - possibly the most the important psychic decision of her future life - about whether to be bitter or not. Estés goes on to explain that women reach the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they've had it. Dreams of the twenties may be lying in a crumple. There are broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises. To cleanse oneself Estés suggests making descansos. To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths and the big deaths have taken place. There were places in that dark, terror filled mine where old wounds were spewing out toxic poison gases, doors I had slammed shut on pain and tried to forget that were now leaking black, acrid fumes that were beginning to choke me. Bitter indeed. Dr. Estés had been describing me. This is where I began. This is where I entered the mine and went down into the dark.

For roughly the last sixteen months, as a person with acute claustrophobia, both real and psychic, I have gone deep into the darkest mines of my soul and fought suffocating fears, terrors of the dark, panic at what I might find there, horror at what I might not find. I have moved a lot of slag and downed brace-timber, cracked open long sealed shafts until my fingernails bled and walked into breathless, choked tunnels amid the specter of ghosts.

One of the most important things I have learned is this: An artist cannot create with selected pieces of their being. You cannot reach inside for the power that moves and say, ‘this I cannot touch’ or ‘here I will not go.’ The seals had to be pried off the doors, the slag mined away before a vein of gold would appear or uncut diamonds burst like sparks of white fire from the dark. But more importantly the closed, choked rooms of phantoms had to be opened so the air could flow through, so the gusts could blow the dust from walls and floor, leaving me, not a deep, dark, dirty mine, but a hallowed, hollow cave of washing wind.

I am a writer. Before I walked through the doors of the Soul Food Café two and half years ago, I was a totally blocked writer; I was not writing at all. Within these walls I relearned my skill, regained my craft, recovered my art. Within these halls I called to my Muse and she came; she has never left me since that day. Now I believe that this is attributable to one of the most arcane, mystical and hidden secrets of the Soul Food Café. Within this mansion of many doors there is such a huge wealth of material that this secret could be hidden anywhere and it would be very difficult to find. The mastermind behind the operation is so clever, however, that the greatest secret of all is hidden in the place no one would ever think to look. Since you’ve made it this far with me, I will now share this secret with you. It’s hidden in plain sight.Right in the top of the front page, dead center. Cunning, yes?

When I went down into the dark, I knew exactly what tools that I would need. I began to write.

For more than a year I worked in the darkness, with one faithful, patient witness holding a single lantern. I moved most of a mountain. I kept finding new, deeper and more intricate shafts. I began to think about supplemental tools and I began to paint as well. Then I came to that significant cross roads of Prospect and Theory. Once again it was Clarissa Pinkola Estés who pointed me down the path toward the tools. I followed her to her source and began to study the archetypes of C.G. Jung.

In a poem I have written:

I am no Jungerian scholar
I comprehend his thoughts in mist and metaphor
His concepts in analogy and image
I met him in the Dreamtime, walking

This is exactly the case. Here I have brought some of the theories of Carl Jung to my painting and my writing. I do so as an artist and not a scholar or clinician, for what has emerged is based on image and metaphor, idea and extrapolation and not the letter of his thesis. I have used Jung’s ideas as they revealed themselves to me in image and word. My goal has been development of greater self awareness, creative expression and psychological insight, both personal and in universal.

In the end, I hope to come up into the world again having passed that balance point C.P. Estés speaks of; no longer suffering from that bitterness that can rise up like black-lung from the poison vapors of unexamined wounds. The bitterness that can strangle a person’s soul and silence an artist’s voice.

I will come back into the mountain air carrying gems and precious minerals; paintings, poems, stories, as Hamlet said: “Words. Words. Words.” They will come from the bottom of the mines, they will come washed in my blood and when I hold them to the sun, some of them may be spiked with veins of gold or the milky glow of uncut crystal.

I hope to come back to the surface closer to conscious. In the end, each of us is responsible for our self and the long painful work of becoming conscious is, in truth, our only hope in a world that approaches a phase of human history where everything hangs in the balance; where the capacity for destruction may be weighed precisely against our archetypal soul’s capacity for compassion and love.

I hope to arise from the dust and find the canary in the cage is still singing.
©Edwina Peterson Cross January 21, 2005

(This collection is dedicated to T. E. Watson, who held the light unwavering, donned the blue robe with generous sensitivity, made it all possible.)

Alluvial Mining Claim

Mining the Jungian Archetypes by Edwina Peterson Cross


The Alluvial Mine is the property of Heather Blakey and Miners who have generously shared their work. Please do not replicate any part of this mine without written permission.