Lately I have noticed that I live entire parts of my life in total delusion and fantasy, and yet I can't seem to discern which parts. I can't tell if the man I am spending time with is as lovely as he seems, or if I am not actually seeing him clearly. I can't figure out if I'm moving forward in my life or if I'm completely stagnant. This tension and confusion around discerning reality from dreams are the realms of Saturn and Neptune.
It has been a little over a week since Neptune and Saturn had their most recent exact square on June 17 (the next one is September 10, 2016). This energy can manifest in many ways, but facing reality in our lives may be one. It may also feel there are huge barriers or slowing down getting to our dreams or we may be faced with creating boundaries or routine around our ambitions.
In my case it has also been understanding more of where I seem unwilling to to come out of fantasy. Facing my internal, somewhat naïve, little girl and confronting the places she needs to mature. I can feel the part of myself that doesn't want to wake up, who would rather stay in fantasy and delusion rather than face the harshness of "real world." I know all too well the me who wants to chase pleasure, adventure, and the ideal partner/job/life to avoid my own pain.
I have felt much older the past several months, seeing visible signs of aging on my face (and a secret obsession with facial creams in reaction to it) and feeling a heaviness I haven’t felt since my Saturn Return. It frightened me at first feeling Saturn, the Lord of Karma, keeper of time and age knocking at my door again inviting me into more adulthood—reminding me that I am ready to move more into maturity than I was before. Now, I welcome more initiation into my sovereign, wise woman who has access to her playful spirit. I want to visit Neverland, but not live there the majority of the time. I want to commit to people and things without feeling trapped or fantasizing an escape route. I'm tired of chasing after fellow free spirits who are emotionally immature and afraid of commitment.
Neptune rules Neverland and the fantasy worlds where the archetypal eternal child, or puer (masculine) and puella (feminine) live. We all know one, or are one, and they are characterized as being a free spirit, youthful, and adventurous. The eternal child mentality dislikes authority, rules, or being "tied down." Perhaps one of the most recognizable elements of a puella/puer is their love of illusion and fantasy and avoidance of responsibility and reality. The puer’s main pursuit in life is ecstasy and pleasure, many times at the expense of everything else. Today a lot of puers and puellas can be found in ashrams seeking a religious experience or using drugs or alcohol to escape reality. They can be engaging, creative, and spontaneous though emotionally young and ungrounded.
Some of the other major signposts of puellas and puers:
• overly close connection to family so as to remain the child
• constant travelers living out of suitcases without creating roots to a place or circumstance
• usually without steady job or intimate, close relationships
The recent Neptune square Saturn beckons us into reality by dissolving illusions. Saturn asks us to mature and grow up—something the puella/puer may resist wholeheartedly (as I certainly have in the past). In archetypal terms, the opposite of the child is the parent or wise old man (Senex) or woman (Crone). In mythology and fairy tale the crone is the witch or the wise woman. She represents the maturity of girls into women with wisdom, freedom, and personal power. In the Hero's Journey Joseph Campbell discusses the crone as saving the hero by showing him/her magical powers of darkness.
In his book Iron John, poet and author Robert Bly says that the task of the puer, and puella, is to descend, in psychological terms, to experience hardship of some kind. This could mean experiencing major loss of some kind, such as a job, a bereavement, an illness, a divorce. He says, "Experiencing the descent enables the puer to become aware of the painful feelings that have always been there but not previously acknowledged. In working through the hardship, knuckling down to life’s blows where previously he would have flown away, the puer begins to grow up. Accepting the parts of him that previously he ran away from--the shame, the sadness, the feelings of not being good enough--is another way of saying that the puer begins to discover his own ‘shadow’ (or the parts of us we don't like and therefore deny)."
In Peter Pan, Peter actually loses his shadow and then Wendy helps him sew it back on. Puers and puellas need to acknowledge their shadow self--the term made famous by Jung that represents the part of themselves that they have rejected--in order to mature and truly be in relationship with a man or woman or even find material success. Many of these shadow elements relate to sex (sacral chakra), power (solar plexus), and fear (root chakra). And these are certainly topics the crone and senex can offer wisdom about…
I’m not sure I know of any other mythology that speaks more perfectly to the puella turned crone than the myth of Persephone. It is the epitome of the feminine individuation process and the descent into the darkness and shadow that evokes power, strength, and ultimately transforms Persephone from maiden (Kore) into queen. Once she separates from her mother and becomes her own woman, she is also able to be both mother and child to herself--the archetype of Ceres in our birth charts.
“If Persephone provides the structure of the personality, it predisposes a woman not to act but to be acted on by others—to be compliant in action and passive in attitude.”-Jean Shinoda Bolen
Before her forced descent and hardship, Persephone displayed many the classic puella traits such as passivity, co-dependence on her mother, and obedience. The pattern of self-abandonment is a cornerstone of the puer/puella archetype and I think the largest barrier to full individuation. Persephone types are also described as being very comfortable with women and often in a sorority, they also tend to evoke motherly responses from peers and older women who feel they must look out for her.
Perhaps one of the more painful aspects of a Puella/Persephone/Maiden is the way she interacts with men as the “anima woman” who in her chameleon like ways becomes “all things to all men.” I first read about this idea in Jungian analyst M. Esther Hardings’ book The Way of All Women several years ago and it made me cry in helplessness as I immediately recognized myself. I noticed the ways I unconsciously adapt what type of woman I am based on a man I am interested in wants and then become her, meanwhile losing my sense of self and own dominion. In this way my receptivity becomes my own worst enemy.
Of interesting note to me is the men who Persephone/Puella/Maidens tend to get involved with--the men who prefer girls:
1. Fellow puer as they are as young and inexperienced as I am. (These are still my favorite, though I am quickly learning my lesson with them)
2. Tough guy drawn by innocence and fragility (yup)
3. Older men who are uncomfortable with or can’t be with grown-up women (been there and done that)
4. Narcissists as they soak up the attention and the puella doesn’t ask anything of them (yes more often than I would like to admit)
All of this somewhat depressing (Saturn) sentiments, I’m optimistic about this Neptune and Saturn square to bring me more fully into balance between my maiden and crone. I am happy to say this youthful spirit of mine will never go away. With Persephone’s abilities, she goes between worlds and knows when her youthful spirit is necessary and when her powerful rule needs attention. After the puella, or puer, has found her shadow she can show the way for other women/maidens to individuate through their depths. As an initiator into adulthood, the crone becomes an archetype of wholeness who still has magical powers to fly off to Never, Neverland, but can also stand on her own two feet.
”Once a Persephone woman descends into her own depths, explores the deep realm of the archetypal world, and does not fear returning to reexamine the experience, she can mediate between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. She can become a guide for others.”-Jean Shinoda Bolen