Butterflies, Dreams, and Marion Woodman

In late June, I receive encouraging editorial feedback about the first draft of my book about Monarch butterflies. After reading the first few pages, my belly clenches and an inner voice says, “You can’t do this. How can you write about butterflies while the world explodes with hatred and war?” My years of devotion to raising, photographing, and writing about Monarchs feel trivial.

Simply admire them as they float over the garden with wings glowing orange in afternoon sun. Isn’t it enough to feel their little feet grasping my fingers before launching from the nursery to lay eggs or migrate? Does this struggling world need another book about butterflies?

A few days later, after talking with my dream therapist about the need for the Sacred Feminine in our world, I have a dream about Marion Woodman. In 1988 when I longed for a female teacher, I met Marion at a workshop she gave on the Black Madonna. She was the one–a Canadian Jungian analyst, writer, workshop leader, and founder of BodySoul Rhythms, integrating movement and art with dreams and mythology. In my dream,

I sit in a circle of mostly women and a few men with Marion in the middle. We discuss getting Marion’s ideas into the world and interesting more people in the healing work of the Feminine. As suggestions fly, Marion’s belly laugh fills the room. She asks for more ideas. We don’t want Marion’s insights about the sacredness of nature and soul to be washed away in a materialistic, violent world. Marion’s laugh is musical, sweet and joyful. She can’t do this sacred work alone. She needs help. She needs my help.

Marion Woodman and Elaine 2003

I awaken with gratitude for Marion and grief about her death in 2018. Her illnesses didn’t stop her teaching until her last years, and I don’t want my physical limitations to stop me from sharing the joy of Monarchs.

***

The morning after the dream, I get an email from a woman at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago asking if she can interview me for a podcast about Marion Woodman.

“Yes,” I write. “I’m honored.”

Marion’s letters

 

I wonder why they ask me, neither a Jungian analyst or therapist. I’m simply one of Marion’s many enthusiastic students who loves writing about her. My relationship to her stays alive in dreams and her precious letters.

The synchronicity of dream and interview request encourages me to dig deeper into the Monarch work. How do I share the miracle of transformation I feel working with them? It’s not so different from the feeling of a workshop with Marion. Both touch my heart.

I imagine Marion’s laughter as I describe searching for a Monarch egg smaller than a sesame seed and tending it until it becomes a butterfly. She would delight in the lunacy of my passion, each morning checking the porch nursery for new chrysalises in the mesh crates or looking for a tiny caterpillar emerged from an egg I collected in the field.

“Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. This is a four-fold image of a Sacred Feminine transformation,” Inner Marion says. “Keep watching and writing. Keep sharing your wonder and the next steps will appear.”

***

Do your dreams make you think more deeply about events in your life? Do you dream about important teachers or people you love?

For other posts about Monarch butterflies, see Monarch Medicine: A Meditation on Transformation.  For other dreams about Marion Woodman and her letters, see Let the Warm Love Flow. With gratitude to Ellen Schmidt (Writing Room Workshops) who helps me write with precision and feeling.

14 Comments
  1. I don’t think you passion for butterflies is lunacy. Not at all!

    This poor, aching world needs good energy, the kind your perspective on monarchs would bring. Right now you are experiencing static from the inner critic. Simply ignore it. Go with the nudge to press on, as your encouraging editorial feedback probably urged.

    Tomorrow I will be honoring my mother–again–in a blog post during her birthday week. She has left a lasting legacy in my soul, and so I’ll broadcast that, at the risk of sounding repetitious.

    And I will contemplate your words from the Inner Marion: “Keep watching and writing. Keep sharing your wonder and the next steps will appear.” Thank you for sharing your true feelings and sending positive vibes our way, Elaine!

    • Thank you, Marian. I struggle with self-doubt and then push ahead. I can’t ignore it, but have to engage and wrestle a little. Having the dream and integrating the idea of sacred transformation sends me in the right direction. I’m grateful for Jill Swenson (book development editor) and Ellen Schmidt (writing group leader) for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself. I’ll be inside much of the day today. (It’s Florida hot and humid.) I walked with the dogs at 7:30, saw 2 Monarch butterflies and many Swallowtails, gathered a few Monarch eggs in a wet area with lots of milkweed, and picked green beans and lettuce from the garden from my garden for one for dinner. Just like your mom might have done, I harvest before it gets too hot and did a little watering, too.

      I look forward to reading your post. I love hearing about the strong women in your family and you’re never repetitious. Sending blessings your way.

  2. I just love reading anything you write. You make it look so easy when I know it’s not. Thankyou for making me feel every time I read your words you could be talking to me . Just a girl from Illinois. I am so grateful!

    • Thank you, Kim. True, it’s often not easy, but it makes me happy when a piece works out. I’m grateful for writing teachers who give me constructive and honest feedback and see the potential even if my writing is rough the first time around. I’m not afraid to write many drafts if necessary. (I was once a girl from Missouri and now now live in the country in Western NY.)

  3. This is too wonderful Elaine! I love the 4 fold image of the Sacred Feminine Transformation. Your journey detailing your passion with the Monarchs, has strongly hinted at just this. Your energy is needed, more so than ever. So wonderful that the CG Jung institute in Chicago is seeking you out.

    My dream life seems barren at the moment. But yes, I do sometimes dream of important people in my life. My Jungian analyst has sometimes made an appearance, Jung too.

    • Thank you, Susan. I’m trying to understand and articulate my Monarch passion with something more than “they’re beautiful and fun.” They’ve become a huge symbol for me and I’m beginning to understand the significance and meaning. Just beginning. I can only guess that the Jung Institute of Chicago connected because of my writing about Marion Woodman and also the piece that won first prize in the Jung contest sponsored by the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis in 2017. That paper was called “Wild Nights: Grief Dreams, Mythology, and the Inner Marriage.”

      Dreams come and go, so they will return. I’ve never had a dream about Jung. (Lucky you!) I’ve been working with the same analyst since 2008 and I don’t dream about her. So many of my dreams have a flavor of the waking world with a little twist. Last night, Vic visited and a cat and kitten became a cow and calf. Hmmm… I have no idea what that’s about. May there be peace in our hearts and in our world.

  4. Just, wow. Your love for these sweet, beautiful creatures and for Nature – whom they represent and of whom they are a part – is surpassing. What could be a problem with such a deep, lasting, and nurturing connection?!!!

    • As you know, Myra, I was once a “serious” government major at Cornell with an agenda to save the world. That part of me thinks I could do more and should do more, something more serious. I laugh, because helping the endangered Monarchs is a way to help the environment and what endangers them endangers all of us. This inner “not enough” conversation has been going on since I was a girl. It’s better to let her speak since she won’t go away, so that’s what I do. I hear Marion Woodman laughing at me–with sweet love. Thank you for questioning me. There is no problem other than the one within me.

  5. I love your butterflies|

  6. Dear Elaine,

    It’s wonderful to return from my mountainous and lake-filled travels around our northern lands to read your post today! Coincidentally, or not, yesterday we stopped overnight on our way home to visit a beautiful, butterfly farm in Stratford-Upon-Avon (and to watch Richard III at the RSC) so my soul is still fluttering above while I write. Oh, that’s very good news that you’ve received great feedback on the first draft of your next book, I’m truly delighted for you!

    I love that your “Inner Marion” put in an appearance, looking for new ideas on how to get her “work” out there into the world (collective consciousness) and came to the realisation that she cannot do it alone. Thus the Anima or Divine Feminine aspects showed up en masse to “workshop” the problem out. I’ve always thought we can never go wrong following dreams and what a spectacular dream this was! And then came the interview offer, well, as above, so below!

    It’s always lovely to read your replies here too so I was fascinated to read about your recent dream of Vic visiting and how a cat and kitten transformed (much like your beloved Monarchs) into a cow and a calf. Mother and baby, author and book, comes to mind! I dream lots and on holiday I had an amazing dream where I visited my mother who was, wait for it, looking after cats and kittens as this was her new job in the other world. Well, you just couldn’t make it up!

    Sending much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us, Deborah.

    • How wonderful that you saw tropical butterflies! Plays are wonderful, too, but not for me now. I’ve felt stuck in my writing, so was beyond grateful for a “Marion” dream. Dream Marion’s laughter stays with me, although I’ve not felt jovial. I need more conscious contact with the laughing Marion within and more butterfly releases(they’ve had a hard summer in dry heat, but they’re coming on now). Yes, it is a spectacular dream and needs more attention.

      We’ll see how the interview goes tomorrow. The weather won’t be turbulent and that helps my hearing. I don’t understand the dream about Vic. It was a snippet and my dream helper is on vacation. It helps to discuss the images and find meaning. Vic and I discussed each other’s dreams often without interpreting. We asked questions, Embodied Imagination style) mostly about clarification, and listened. I miss that part of our relationship and it can’t be replaced. Ah, your Mother and cats (which is what “real” insect people call caterpillars.) This is your mother’s other world job! No, you couldn’t make that up.

      Sending you acorn love from the healing forest and cool winds from the sea, Elaine

  7. Oh, Elaine (I stared to write Marion), what JOY! There is no doubt this is exactly what you are meant to be doing. Cheers for such encouraging feedback from inner and outer sources! I’m pretty sure every emergence of the sacred feminine could be labeled lunacy, and Marion would delight in all of it.

    • Immediately after the interview which airs in a few weeks from the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago (I’ll post it), I looked through the first book Marion book I read in 1988: The Pregnant Virgin The first chapter is called “Chrysalis” which I hadn’t remembered. 1988 is a long time ago. She writes of her first experience of life, death, and rebirth when she was 3 years old and her father pinned a chrysalis she found in the garden on a curtain. One morning it was a butterfly! Synchronicity on top of synchronicity. I was stunned and felt guided, although I have no idea where I’m going. Maybe I don’t need to know. I released 4 female Monarchs yesterday.

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