Symbols: The One

We are in the primordial void. There is only darkness. There is no form.

In fact, there is no us, because there is no separation.

Then, out of the void comes light. A round, self-contained shape. The monad.

Now there is above and below, inner and outer, this and not-this. But as of yet, no beginning and no end.

From this simple round shape comes all life. The egg.

So many cultures explain the creation with a World Egg. From the Finnish Kalevala:

One egg’s lower half transformed
And became the earth below,
And its upper half transmuted
And became the sky above;
From the yolk the sun was made,
Light of day to shine upon us;
From the white the moon was formed,
Light of night to gleam above us;
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darker crumbs changed into
Clouds and cloudlets in the sky.

In the beginning was perfection. Enclosed and safe, with limitless potential.

The egg reminds us of its source, the womb. An enclosure, a space where creation occurs outside of our normal vision, a mystery unable to be directly apprehended.

We ponder the source of the beginning, the egg: the mother. The fertile one, our first love. The first power over us.

Paleolithic people created mother images bursting with ripeness, seemingly made of eggs herself in her rounded forms. Her fecund power was evident. And from there it is no leap to a moon mother, that other round, white egg form:

The egg, the breast: powerful images of life and nourishment. In Ephesus, these combined with bee images to suggest a veritable land of milk and honey:

Today people still worship the mother, the Goddess, in her myriad forms. From the moon and the egg we can easily connect through the waters of the womb to the waters of the sea. The Yoruban Yemaya shows us the way, with her sacred cowry shells.

And, with her waters and her shells, we find the fishes. Another source of life, containing masses of eggs bursting with life. From the one, comes two, and then more and more. Even our modern understanding of cell division is a reflection of this truth.

Is it any wonder that so many depictions of Christ have him within the vesica piscis, the womb shape that also harkens to the fish?

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Filed under art, Deep Thoughts, Religion, Symbols

6 responses to “Symbols: The One

  1. Eve

    WOW! You amaze me. How do you manage to say with a handful of images and mere sentences what it would take me about two weeks to convey?

    I’m going to call you Annie Sullivan from now on: the Miracle Worker! 🙂

    I was just reading some Jung yesterday and he published some mandala drawings of patients over a long period of time. One patient had repeated dreams of the serpent eating its tail (you have one posted above), and Jung has a lengthy discussion of the meaning of such symbols. In the context to the individual, but also in a larger context. It is truly fascinating.

    My particular favorite symbol is those fat, fertile mother images. I’ve always wanted one. For so-called primitives, those Paleolithics sure hit the nail on the head with that one.

  2. Ah, enso. Inside the circle is nothingness, inside the circle is the universe, inside the circle is the magic of life and death.

  3. Eve: I’m having (far too much) fun doing this! You inspired me to do a series. Why I’m choosing to do it while I need to be packing up my house is another story 🙂

    Ourobouros is a fascinating symbol. I had found lots of interesting text about some of these images, but then I ended up just wanting to do something more simple and less wordy.

    I love those mother images too. This post was inspired by one of my treasured books, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.

    Denise: I came across the image of enso by serendipity, and it just fits so well here. I love the thought that how you draw this image reveals much about you.

  4. Alida

    Those ripe mother figures should be on the cover of fashion magazines!

    I’m just coming to terms with the fact that since my baby is now four, my body will always look like I had a children. You know not quite so tight and round (very round) around the middle.

    I’m finding it not so hard to accept. I’m finding it beautiful and quite empowering actually. Too bad it’s taken me so long.

    Those figures are really beautiful.

  5. These are really fascinating posts and they’ve set off all manner of associations for me.

    Interesting how if you turn the shell 90 degrees, you get Tiamet who was split in two by the sky god Marduk (his own mother!) . There are those who would call it the first great assault of Patriarchy and it continues to echo – Christ’s breaking of (round) bread strikes me as an interesting reversal of the fish womb. And note that he had to be re-born, out of the tomb without the involvement of women.

    Did I mention that I’m not very big on Christianity.

  6. I enjoyed reading this, I find it all very interesting. The sad thing is I think I have fried my brain from working in this terrible heat and humidity this week on the farm, so I have no interesting comment. But keep posting this stuff, it may awaken some unused parts of my brain. Pull weeds, pick vegetables, pull more weeds, water greenhouse, pull weeds……………

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