Reimagining The Womb
As a decades-long interpreter of tarot and other oracles for myself and clients, I am always on the lookout for a deck that can further facilitate my explorations in the realm of the intuitive. I recently found such a deck in The Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck & Guidebook by Kim Krans. The images Krans has created to evoke deeper understanding of common archetypes, as well as her insight into the layers of meaning attributed to those archetypes, are uncanny and compelling. Each archetype depiction acts as an invitation to explore potential meanings endlessly.
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What is an archetype
For those not familiar with archetypes, they are considered to be archaic models or templates which represent innate patterns passed down from our ancestors and which reside in the collective unconscious, a portion of the mind that “stores” the species’ inherited knowledge and impulses of which the individual is unaware. The archetype concept, as well as that of the collective unconscious, were introduced by the pioneering Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
There are various “riffs” on the definition of archetype which have emerged since Jung introduced the concept. For some, the archetype can be likened to a being with volition. For others, the archetype is a container that limits and directs the flow of psychic energy through a person. For the purposes of this discussion, I will submit that the archetype may be viewed as both a thing (godform, entity, construct, etc.) and/or as an organizing pattern (such as an energetic frequency) that interacts with the human psyche and evolves with it.
During one of my recent explorations with The Wild Unknown Deck, I drew the card of The Womb alongside the card of The Sword. The conflation of the two cards was particularly poignant for me as, on the surface, they represent opposing forces. Was there an implied unity between the two archetypes that I had not previously recognized? Was I being invited to consider that I might need to discover within myself a harmonious relationship between the seemingly opposed functions — that of receptivity and nurturing (The Womb) and that of discernment and severing (The Sword)? Could the seemingly disparate archetypes be mutually supportive of each other?
As I meditated on the potential significance of the pairing of The Womb and The Sword, events in the outer world began to shape my interpretation of each. Due to recent eruptions of conflict in Ukraine, I found myself asking why and how the precious nature of embodied existence could be threatened yet again by acts of war — meticulously planned and executed violence which might lead to the total extinction of humans and other life forms.
From my perspective, The Womb of the collective was clearly under attack. The severing “weapon” of rationality deprived of compassion as well as physical weapons which literally pierce flesh (both categories being associated with The Sword) were again inflicting and exacerbating wounds and traumas felt by countless mothers across generations and places. If archetypes do indeed evolve, I wondered how my understanding of The Womb could evolve to act as an ally in the current climate of hostility to the Feminine Principle, wherein the bodies of living beings who begin their earthly passage in the womb of a mother are regarded as alien or disposable?
The womb as discernment
As I contemplated this question, I was introduced to a passage in a book called White Magic by Elissa Washuta, a non-fiction writer and member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe of Washington State. Discussing her newfound self-possession after an abusive relationship, she writes:
“And even full, the whole remains, but now, with him dislodged, I can see it isn’t a void — it’s a portal through which things can enter to make me strong.”
And there I recognized, in the words before me on the page, was a key to the puzzle of how The Womb could interact with The Sword. The writer was seeing her own womb as a revelation, and redefining it, not as an absence of something, not as an empty space to be filled, but as a thing with substance — an energetic portal that by its presence made her strong. As Washuta artfully illustrates, the individual womb, as epitomized by The Womb archetype, does not have to be felt and known as a passive recipient, a void. It can be claimed as a site of consciousness and of discernment. After all, the womb of a mother doesn’t just receive and retain. It informs its contents and then releases life into the world at the appropriate time.
Therefore, The Womb is also The Sword.
What a reimagining of the womb means for the future of life
If collectively, The Womb — the consciousness it signifies and incorporates as well as the individual bearers of wombs — the females of our own species and others — were viewed as self-possessed, intelligent, and whole, not as inherently empty and null, wouldn’t women and their progeny (in fact, everyone) come to be regarded in a more reverent fashion? Wouldn’t their right to exist be viewed less ambiguously? What if the intelligence associated with the Masculine Principle were commonly attributed to the consciousness that resides within the organic womb and, by extension, to the archetype of The Womb which informs us all?
A feminine energy prescription
Women (and men) can choose to meditate on the nature of The Womb as a container for both the generational trauma and the primordial power of the many wombs that have brought us forth as a species. The active and penetrating (sword-like) qualities of The Womb and of individual wombs that act as transmitters of healing and consciousness can be brought to bear on planetary crises. The Womb archetype can be reimagined to effect individual and community transformation. The threads that bind and unite organic life through all times and places, as epitomized by the collective energetic container of The Womb, become a source of strength if consciously acknowledged or, conversely, when unacknowledged, constrict the flow of life force through our bodies and through the collective.
Because of a pervasive lack of recognition of The Womb archetype as a fundamental presence and pattern supporting life and human culture, a collective reckoning is called for — if we are to create and maintain a world that, like The Womb with its manifold expressions of subtle intelligence, provides space for and nurtures all.
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