Descent and Re-Emergence form a unified theme found in many mythic and literary tales, as in our lives. Descending to the depths is healthy and constructive; re-emerging renewed to apply the insights gained is extremely valuable. Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is therefore a cyclic process for personal growth and development.
Since we are in the final week of November, Month of the DESCENDER Archetype, it is appropriate to focus on the theme of Re-Emergence. Of course, this is also a Better Endings theme of itself, as Descent needs a resolution, a surfacing or a transcendence, in order to bear its cornucopia forward into mindful awareness and change.
There is a plethora of mythic and literary examples to choose from to represent the sort of Re-Emergence you can bring about in your own mythic life’s journey. Theseus’ descent into the Labyrinth to defeat the Minotaur at Crete and rescue his captured compatriots is a Classical example. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos who has contained the Minotaur and feeds him with captives from Theseus’s home of Athens, gifts Theseus with a sword and a skein of thread so he can defeat the Minotaur (half-man/ half-bull) and then follow the thread back OUT from the labyrinth to lead his compatriots to safety. Heroic Theseus, son of King Aegeus, thus succeeds quickly—after some deft storyline complications in his return voyage—to become a worthy King of Athens himself.
The story, though, that most comes to mind for me as an example of Re-Emergence from Descent this week is the historic and spiritual tale of the life and death of Joan of Arc. I have been thinking of the recently late Leonard Cohen’s lyrics all week in his tribute song to La Pucelle (“the Maid”), “Joan of Arc.” Jennifer Warnes does a wonderful rendition of this song on her “Famous Blue Raincoat” album, itself a tribute to Leonard Cohen; I will link you to a YouTube version that includes both Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen singing this excellent song below. As the Universe or Spirit would have it, when I asked inwardly if this is the example I should share, last night a version of Jeanne d’Arc’s biography showed up on late night TV. That was my confirmation.
Of course, Joan of Arc’s Descent occurred in two ways: first, spiritually, by her accepting and listening to the voices she attributed to St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. It took an unusually receptive consciousness and deep faith for Joan to accept the mission she felt called to undertake based on these voices. Then after several successful campaigns leading troops to deliver France from British control, Joan’s physical world Descent came with her imprisonment, with her trial in which she did not recant her spiritual calling, and ultimately with her being burned at the stake as a heretic.
Leonard Cohen, who passed away earlier this month, penned his “Joan of Arc” lyrics around the final descent and the Ascension of St. Joan from the unusual point of view of the Fire that consumed her. One might read Cohen’s protagonist as simultaneously the Holy Flame of her enduring faith and the physically voracious Fire at the pyre that consumed only her physical shell so to release and liberate her Spirit. In both senses, the burning at the stake of Saint Joan constituted her Ascension, her ultimate Re-Emergence into the Light and Truth of the Divine via the action of Holy Spirit. Many accounts of her death report that witnesses saw a White Dove rise out of the mixed ashes of Jeanne d’Arc’s body and the wood of the fuel that claimed it.
images are from pixabay.com
JOAN OF ARC (by Leonard Cohen)
Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
as she came riding through the dark;
no moon to keep her armour bright,
no man to get her through this very smoky night.
She said, “I’m tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before,
a wedding dress or something white
to wear upon my swollen appetite.”
Well, I’m glad to hear you talk this way,
you know I’ve watched you riding every day
and something in me yearns to win
such a cold and lonesome heroine.
“And who are you?” she sternly spoke
to the one beneath the smoke.
“Why, I’m fire,” he replied,
“And I love your solitude, I love your pride.”
“Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,”
saying this she climbed inside
to be his one, to be his only bride.
And deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and high above the wedding guests
he hung the ashes of her wedding dress.
It was deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and then she clearly understood
if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eye.
Myself I long for love and light,
but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?