R E - M Y T H I F I C A T I O N : An Inner Alchemy Practice for Creating Our Own Cosmogony + Deconditioning the Chaos of Culture

Art by Denis Sheckler

Art by Denis Sheckler

It’s the spring holidays, and as per usual, I'm struggling to find a seat at the table with ol’ patriarch Abraham, his stodgy tribesman, and their subpar wine. As an advocate for women’s health, I witness the myriad ways the central myths of our culture wind their way into our unconscious beliefs about our bodies, poisoning our well and damaging our physical and mental health in ways big and small. Whether it shows up in our sexual health, the prioritization of our needs, the right to advocate for ourselves, our reproductive freedoms, or our gender expressions, these myths are internalized, and as a result, shift how we use, tend to, and conceive of our bodies. My work in the treatment room has as much to do with rewriting the stories of our bodies as it does creating treatment plans for navigating a PCOS diagnosis or an autoimmune condition. This woman’s work (#katebush) includes unkinking the noxious knots of internalized myth so that we free up space in the body for the authentic self to emerge, allowing the authentic self to be seen AND revered, and finding ways to meet its needs and support its unfurling.

One of the ways I encourage women to do this is by identifying the core myths that shape their culture and identity, stripping them down, hoisting their legs up in stirrups, and shining a light into their innermost core. If there is a fundamental discord between your ability to thrive in your body and a foundational myth of your culture, perhaps it’s time for that myth to shapeshift into one that supports and nurtures your expression of womanhood. Or perhaps it's time for a new myth written FOR you and BY you to emerge from its ashes.

Re-mythification can wipe the poison smear of patriarchy off the body temple, and serve as a healing, reparative act of #rewilding for the soul. This is a series of exploratory questions posed by Five Element Acupuncturist + scholar Lonny Jarrett in his transcendent tao-informed tome ‘Nourishing Destiny.' I find them to be the perfect departure into the the practice of mythopoesis, forging myth + meaning in the crucible of your own imagination.

  1. What are the foundational myths of your culture?

  2. What are the meanings you have created in your own life?

  3. Are the meanings you see being created in any way related thematically to the myths of your culture?

  4. To what extent do these myths empower or diminish your mental + physical health?

The next step in this exploration might be writing yourself a creation myth, one that condenses your world view into a narrative that supports and enshrines your unique emanation of the Tao. Yes, of course you could look to the rituals and rites of pre-Abrahamic pagan cultures that worshipped the goddess and revered the witch, but I’m a staunch advocate of creating your own meaning from the stew you’re sitting in (hello, #chaosmagic). It’s innovative, radical, topical, postmodern and ancient all at once. Also, in assuming the role of the myth-maker, you don’t serve religion, religion serves you.

From WomanSpirit Quarterly

From WomanSpirit Quarterly

For inspiration, the photo above is a lesbian creation myth written by elana dykewomon (red it! It’s fierce af!) from the radical feminist quarterly WomanSpirit, Summer Solstice 1976 edition (boundless gratitude to the LA Art Book Fair and @familybooks for this rarified treasure, long-sought and much cherished). This piece is the embodiment of re-mythification, the quintessence of mythopoesis. Moses is quoted in the bible as saying “do not let a sorceress live”. Show Moses a good time! Write a creation myth! Live as if it’s the absolute truth! Create rituals with your sisters that mirror its meaning and intent! Be hungry, be curious, and if your blood sugar is low, eat the mthrfckng apple from the tree of knowledge, and don’t apologize, ever.

Seasonal Alchemy: The Waking Of The Insects

Lorie Dechar’s Spring Altar at our Alchemical Healing Retreat

Lorie Dechar’s Spring Altar at our Alchemical Healing Retreat

“If you listen closely, you can hear the daffodils open”

My teacher Lorie Dechar whispered this incantation into the circle on the eve of our Alchemical Acupuncture retreat, and morning brought this bellowing bouquet of awe to our altar. Where there were silent stalks, loquacious lemon florets arose, punching the clock for their job as heralds hearkening the shift from stillness to aliveness. Etheric high fives all around - we are the lucky ones that survived winter.

Yesterday marked an exquisite pivot in the Taoist alchemical year, the stirrings of Water into Wood. The shift from the chthonic consolidation of winter’s watery repose, to the courageous leap of wood bursting through dark matter, is in full effect. It’s a moment known as The Waking Of The Insects, signaling the burgeoning aliveness that happens as we collectively wake. Any and every thing in nature that has become stagnant will be re-energized by the unexpected. If you eavesdrop a little on your psyche + soma, you can hear the sap rising, the insects finding their hum.

This seasonal shift is related to Hexagram 51 of the I Ching - The Shock of the Thunderclap. Thunder brings arousal, stirring the primal forces from deep within, waking up the senses and bringing heightened awareness through the medicine of fear and the unexpected. Truly auspicious that those of us that live in the plastic pastures of LA were greeted by a thunderstorm as the insects roused from their slumbers. Do you feel the stirring?

I’m offering my patients an alchemical treatment to align with the seasonal shift - waking up the stagnant slumbering + coaxing forth the juicy sap from within to initiate momentum and moxie for the season ahead. Let’s play in the verdant field of qi together!

Winter Solstice: There's A Darkness on the Edge of Town

Winter Solstice

Despite the whitewashed glitz of tinsel, Bing Crosby, and the ever elusive ‘getting what you want’, the winter solstice holidays are really all about the discomfort of a precipice, the disorientation of decomposition, and the exploration of the liminal boondocks between darkness and light. Liminal means “relating to a transitional stage” or “occupying a position at both sides of a boundary,” and the shadowy magic of liminal states lie in their ability to be brazenly nebulous, threatening the sense of equilibrium and unambiguousness that our binary-bound, homeostatic fleshsuits crave. Our ancestors turned the distress and unease of lying in wait under the shadow of a darkened sun into ribald celebrations of death and rebirth, where social hierarchies were reversed or temporarily dissolved (here’s looking at you, Saturnalia!), and bloodied sacrifices were made to hasten the return of the sun. 

’Tis the season of nigredo, the alchemical Darkness On The Edge of Town, the first stage of the Great Work where the fixed gets dissolved by the volatile. Nigredo - sometimes translated as ‘blacker than the blackest black’ - is a liminal phase shift that putrefies the shadowy morass of the ‘dark night of the soul,’ and through discomfort and decomposition, condenses it into light. It’s the alchemical version of Christmas- the return of the Sun King that only the tenebrous coupling of chaos and the unknown can provide. Perhaps I’m no more than an aging goth with a penchant for Jung and fifty shades of black, but this to me is the true spirit of Christmas. 

A few ideas for exploring the divine discomfort of transition & liminality this holiday season: Prostrate yourself in front of the dying sun on the edge of a precipice, a border between the here and there… where the sand meets the sea, an ominous crossroads worthy of a Robert Johnson yarn, a lawless bordertown at the terminus of a highway, the 8th stair in a 16-stair stairwell. When you are positioned on a hinge between the density of the past and an amorphous future, where do you lean? When there is ambiguity and disorientation, what sort of things come up? Find a waiting room in which you have no set appointment and sit in it until you become wildly uncomfortable with anticipation. Incant Yeats’ ‘Rosa Alchemica’ at the mouth of the La Brea tar pits whilst a rogue street pigeon is disentangling itself from the tarry mire. Have someone tie you to a tree in the middle of the woods and trust that the knots will find their way loose. Let a stranger blindfold you and walk you home. Go ahead, tell them your address. Ride an elevator for an entire day. Light one white candle under the cloak of darkness in a coyote den on the outskirts of Elysian Park, and sing Springsteen’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ at the top of your lungs like it is holy writ. When you come to the part that goes - “Everybody’s got a secret, Sonny, something that they just can’t face. Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it, they carry it with them every step that they take” - blow out the candle. Make like the Hanged Man of the major arcana and suspend yourself upside down for a distressing duration of time, unwinding into the discomfort of the upended, yielding to surrender. What condenses in the darkness and discomfort? Can you attune to sensation without assigning it roles? Can you keep it opaque? Is the waiting the hardest part?

Whatever emerges from this explorations of enigma, let’s lean into the darkness together.