World citizen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For millennia, humans have discovered and created symbols and stories of how the world works that protect and nurture us. Sometimes the symbols were called Gods and Goddesses, sometimes they were enchanted figures. Never has humankind had more access to more universal symbols than we do now, and maybe that is part of the challenge we face moving forward.
Perhaps, we need to choose more carefully the symbols we individually and collectively allow to guide our lives and art.
Many spiritual practices involve focusing on the good in life through prayer, or repeating a mantra or contemplating a sacred icon. Unfortunately, the pace of modern life often pulls us away from the very symbols that refresh our spirits, and we settle for a focus on stories of fear instead.
The Power of Symbols of Fear
Choose me a film! (Photo credit: Pip)
Symbols have an energy about them, whether they are dark or light.
Yesterday, in America, we saw the worst case of the tying together of a dystopic movie about Batman with a horrible real life image of death and destruction. Some people blame Hollywood for creating visions and using symbols of violence and being able to spread them to us in ways that earlier humans never could have experienced.
Scientists say that humans pay much more attention to dark events and symbols of doom than we do to happier events because of how our brain works. The fear center in our brain is always on alert to protect us, so we are naturally looking out for danger and how a tragic event might happen to us. And of course the media and Hollywood play up to these fears, as does much of mythology and religion.
If we look back thousands of years, the fear center has dominated our mythology, particularly in our focus on mythical Gods of War and real life ones as well. Every spiritual master has taught us that we must move beyond fear, but that’s tough to do when you’re surrounded by messages and symbols of fear.
More and more people are recognizing that we can’t keep living out of that fear center in our brains and hope to create a better world, despite the fact that as human beings we are fragile creatures and can easily get hurt in the world. That’s why it matters what symbols we give our attention and focus.
Healing with Enchanted Symbols
The Education in Geography of the young Achilles by the Centaur Chiron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What then is a practical alternative to dealing with the constant bombardment in our daily lives with negative messages and symbols?
First of all, I believe that religious symbols generally speaking have an enchanted quality inherent in their being that heals us. Almost every religion talks about miracles and our power to create them in our own lives through compassion and love. So focusing on religious stories, symbols and ideas is a way to heal with symbols for many people.
There are other types of symbols that can be healing and those are the ones we find in our stories and novels and movies. If you had to come up with a fictional enchanted symbol which is the antidote to modern fear, what would it be for you? How do you manage the symbols and stories that bombard you every day?
One of the ways I counter fear is to look for stories with a positive vision of the future, another is to look for ones from the past that contained wisdom we can still use. The third is to write my own stories. Two of my favorite enchanted symbols are the centaur and mermaids, and both of these figures are modified in my novel, in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily recognize the original symbol.
A centaur is a symbol of the capacity for both wildness and wisdom in man. The centaur Chiron was said to the be the teacher of Achilles, and for astrologers the planetoid Chiron is seen as a healing force in the sky. It interesting to see how we interpret symbols differently in different times of history. If you watched the Harry Potter movies, you saw centaurs running wild in the forest, mostly as symbols of wild freedom. This interpretation seems fitting for what we see in society now, because in some ways we have lost touch with the healing part of our animal nature.
Mermaids to me are connected with the healing power of water and our oceans, and are generally seen as gentle creatures that often rescue humans from shipwrecks and danger. The exerpt of my novel that I shared a while back included genetically modified whales, that in many ways serve as mermaids in my story.
Finding Your Own Healing Enchanted Symbols
Joseph Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We are living through a time when the conditions of human existence are changing so quickly, and we don’t have enough of a collective utopic or even positive future vision to offset the dystopic and life destroying symbols that are abounding in the world and our stories now. The creatures of enchantment that collectively have fascinated us in recent years have been werewolves and vampires, and dark knights.
For those of us who are writer, artists, thought leaders, societal change experts and healers, we need to be aware of our own symbols. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t create dark characters or symbols or stories. I just wonder if the world could use some different kinds of symbols and stories that uplift our hearts and minds. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell said we needed new myths for this new time in history.
This is one of the major challenges that writers and creative types of our time in history must address. If we want a better future, we need to be purveyors of new symbols or a new empowerment of old symbols with energies of peace and freedom and social justice that have laid dormant for too long. There is a need to create masterful new stories that go beyond violence, conquest and fear. Yet, we have to also to tell the truth of our fearful and violent times as well.
Here’s a few questions to consider:
- Are there enchanted symbols that keep appearing in your life and stories?
- If you had to choose a favorite enchanted symbol what would it be?
- What period of history might it come from?
- How might that symbol inspire others to view life differently?
- What are the most powerful symbols in the world today?
Tomorrow, I’m going to complete this brief exploration of enchanted symbols by talking about what I believe have become the most powerful symbols and stories of enchantment in the world, and they might surprise you.