“Today I saw her. Today I saw her with my eyes, My queen, all bathed in radiance, Rejoicing, my heart stopped beating. This happened at the golden light of dawn, A miracle divine. All earthly desire vanished, Seeing her alone, her alone, only her.” ~ Vladimir Solovyov
As it’s been more than two years since I wrote my essay and poem on the Divine Hermaphrodite, I thought it time to become more acquainted with Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, in a similar way, for new life is calling. “In the Name of Sophia” series will be posted in three parts, the first two parts will be written in essay form and the third will be presented in the form of a long prose poem, hopefully all in a language that reaches the heart. Also, five years later, I felt it time to update you on my Animus Diet, but first, Sophia.
Sophia is known worldwide, perhaps beyond the Milky Way, not only for Her Divine Wisdom but for having a two-fold or even manifold nature with perfectly balanced aspects. Some call Her Shekinah, the Holy Spirit, the Feminine Face of God, others call Her God. She has many Divine names including Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Universe but today I will be focussing on Her unified masculine and feminine aspects and understanding my growing attraction towards androgyny, meeting at the still point in myself and others.
A Love Poem to Androgyny
Let’s start with my attraction. In a nutshell if I can’t tell what biological sex someone is, I’m instantly drawn and not in a sexual way. Something deeper takes hold, triggering a strong inner reaction, and like a moth to a flame I go, or more the case, I watch them from a distance. It’s always been this way, even as a young child. I couldn’t explain it further until I became a student of Carl Jung and learnt about his archetypal Animus and Anima, basically a person’s masculine and feminine sides, that I began to see things differently.
Chronologically, my attraction to double-gendered looking alchemists began way back in childhood, as explored in The Divine Hermaphrodite, although when I first started my Animus Diet I did notice that I was even more drawn to them than usual. To begin with I thought that my fascination with androgynous looking souls was down to my own LGBTQ+ identity, being an openly lesbian woman and part of the rainbow so to speak. But no, it turns out that this attraction of mine has been for something different, which has taken me by surprise!
I see that I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back to January 2016 when I first realised that my Animus was rather overweight in comparison to my slim inner woman, my Anima. Initially a diet of sorts was needed in order to balance out these archetypal aspects, before I could meet with the Divine Hermaphrodite to learn about androgyny and the Goddess Sophia Herself. Conceived and carried in darkness the seeds of my Animus Diet are still weaving my future into being. If you’re new to my poetry and Jungian thought blog, your can find out more about these archetypal adventures in my Animus Diet essays so do take a look at my Jungian Archives.
Fortunately there’s a plethora of YouTube videos and essays/articles online about the lives of androgynous and gender non-conforming souls. I’ve listened to many people talk and write about transitioning their gender, others choosing to de-transition, and others who choose to accept themselves exactly as they are and everything, and I do mean everything, in-between. What was true and what was not? This was a question I asked myself many times. In pure synchronicity, as soon as my Animus Diet began, my therapy practice started to quickly fill up with androgynous, transgender and gender non-conforming souls. I’ll write more about this later!
And if you’ve ever wondered what you would look like as your opposite gender, why not download Face App. When I tried it out, I was left speechless by a younger looking image of my father staring back at me. My wife uploaded the app too for fun and it turned out that she looked uncannily like one of her brothers, almost his twin! What’s interesting is that this app comes with an option of dialling across gender ranges so you can see yourself at different points on a continuum. Alas, I don’t have a photograph of my ex-husband on my phone because that would’ve been interesting to see him pictured as feminine. The aging choices were fun too!
Ring out the Old, Ring in the New!
In my life so far I’ve had two long relationships, both of whom I married, the first with a man and the second with a woman, with a few shorter ones in-between. And here now in my second marriage, I feel as though I’m entering a third one with my wife, a kind of alchemical, Sophian one. There’s a curious story about our wedding rings, which I hadn’t connected to my Sophian journey until writing this essay, about how we changed not only our wedding rings, several times, but metals too.
Five years ago just before I started the Animus Diet, I’d put on ten pounds in weight and in doing so outgrew my (already snug) white gold wedding ring. It was so disappointing that I couldn’t get it enlarged either, in case the centre diamond popped out. Change was in the air for sure and for ages I wore a lovely silver ring in its place until two years ago, around the time I wrote the Divine Hermaphrodite essay and poem, my wife, whilst on holiday, bought me a new (and this time) plain silver wedding band.
The timing was incredible, when I think about it today, because no sooner had I got my new ring than my wife lost hers in the middle of a pine forest. A needle in a haystack comes to mind! Alas, we would have to wait until we were visiting Cumbria again to buy another. For the next two years she wore my old ring (which was so loose it could literally fall off her finger) until I bought her a new one from the same Lake District jewellers! That’s another story in itself, as due to the pandemic the shop was closed for months, then she ordered the wrong size and had to send it back before a second ring eventually arrived, finally fitting her perfectly!
Hmm, rings I realise were definitely the back story to my Animus Diet and as a huge Tolkien fan, I did laugh afterwards as throughout those years we must have watched the entire six film series not once but twice … so that’s twelve films about rings and still the proverbial penny didn’t drop! Until it did. And so our rings have changed several times until we each found the “one ring” which feels not only literally but symbolically important. This is in contrast to my first marriage where I wore a rose gold band throughout, a Victorian antique, which, if I think about it now, had originally been somebody else’s ring and marriage, never really belonging to me.
And so I’m left wondering today if my second marriage is an opportunity to encounter and embrace the divine image of Sophia, as we transition from gold to silver, from diamonds to bands, from the wrong size to the right size? When I look at older couples, that may be the case, as many seem happy to leave traditional roles behind and enjoy, for example, cooking, gardening or DIY for the first time in their relationship. In my own life Sophia has certainly been an energy I’ve grown into. Perhaps the psychological and spiritual purpose of marriage or relationship, irrelevant of a person’s gender or sexuality, is to help each other re-attain this original androgynous state and regain our lost connection to Sophia.
The Poetry of Psychology
Let me begin with one definition of psychotherapy that I have always related to and which is integral to my practice – that is “to listen to and attend to the soul.” Bearing this in mind let’s return to my clients! In the last five years I’ve worked with 11 clients all of whom have self-identified as either transgender, bi-gender, genderqueer and/or non-binary (outside the male/female gender binary). Only a small number I know, but after 20+ years of working as a psychotherapist these clients, who are supposed to (in theory) represent only a tiny proportion of the population, all arrived in the last five years, with the first arriving the same week as I posted Part One of my Animus Diet. I have to say that it’s been a joy, a challenge and an education to work with the many clients who so generously shared their stories.
If relevant and clients were receptive, I would introduce my Jungian lens into the work, sharing insights gained from my Animus Diet and Divine Hermaphrodite studies, in order to further explore the archetypal wars within and help to bring the client’s Anima and Animus into a new harmonic relationship. It’s important to add that not all of these clients came to therapy to explore their gender identity. However, if this was the case, please know that we never strove for a 50/50 masculine/feminine ratio but where balance felt right for each individual. Sometimes that would be 70/30, other times 40/60, while others would fluctuate along the continuum with all kinds of levels of androgyny in-between.
Why is the continuum important? Well everyone is different and one size doesn’t fit all. Balance doesn’t mean that both sides have to be balanced out, they don’t have to be equal. We have a choice on which side to express dominantly (or not) in our lives, for none of us were born with this division in ourselves, it only developed as we grew. However, one thing I’ve witnessed time and time again is that by playing with one’s gender expression (i.e. appearance) something from within is always drawn out. In my work with this group of clients I encourage them to get curious about their archetypal Animus and Anima to help them better solve the mystery of themselves.
Interestingly, as I introduced the idea of having a two-fold or manifold nature, one client decided that any further transitioning was no longer necessary and an extraordinary year-long transformation began to take place, leaving my client with considerably less gender and body dsyphoria. An incredible journey of love and healing! Please note that a client doesn’t need to identify as LGBTQ+ for the Animus/Anima Diet to have an effect, because each of us has a masculine and a feminine side whether we use both sides or not. The danger of not balancing these aspects can be illustrated using the analogy that the longer anything remains caged, the more savage it becomes.
A short note to therapists. One exercise greatly enjoyed by many is when I ask clients to draw, paint or create a collage of what they think and feel their Anima and Animus looks like. The results often prompt in-depth conversations. Towards the end of therapy I repeat this exercise in order to explore changes made, above and below. I have to say that working with these archetypes has revolutionised my practice for individuals and couples alike. Sophia is not only the alchemist’s gold but the therapist’s gold too! At the end of this essay, I’ll repost links to previous essays in this Jungian orientated series which you may find useful.
More Than the Eye Can See
With Sophia there’s always more than the eye can see, as, although I choose to present a feminine looking appearance and use the pronouns “she” and “her”, I know there’s more to me than my outer presentation alone. It’s not a problem in my life but it could have become one if I decided that my whole identity was hinged on gender alone and not my psychological and spiritual identity. “Desperately Seeking Sophia” I realise has been what I’ve been searching for all of my life, through all my transitions.
How I feel today is natural. I think it’s natural for many of us who couldn’t put into words, whilst growing up, that they too knew they were both masculine and feminine. I no longer feel like the “weird kid”, different and outside the group. I didn’t choose a poet’s or a psychotherapist’s life, they chose me, for vocation, I believe, is the summons of the soul. I didn’t choose to be attracted to women, I was born that way. Nor did I choose to spiritually and psychologically transition my gender, I just followed my soul’s urgent calling. Again, Sophia chose me, however, the truth of this choice has only revealed itself to me in recent years through my Jungian studies and research.
I don’t think my story’s played out yet as I’m still living in the middle of the tension of so many opposites, in a position that doesn’t hold the answers, but thankfully allows space for the questions. And for me to sit with those questions. I feel that the last five years have been the most important years of my life so far. Perhaps this is the life’s work that I will be mining until my physical death and, whether I want to write this new book or not, sharing my personal story and Jungian adventures feels important and necessary somehow.
Growing up I remember being powerfully drawn to the deep poetry of Sylvia Plath who, I realise all these decades later, aspired to achieve a poetic voice that embodied characteristics of both genders simultaneously. For me her androgynous imagination united and transformed each gender, thus creating rich verses of androgynous wholeness, which spoke to both my head and heart! The modern-day poet Kae Tempest, whose work I greatly admire, writes in a similar androgynous style. Within each of these poets’ works I sense them striving to re-create a wholeness in which I find many deep soulful connections. My soul sings, “this poet knows … they really know!”
Finally, let me return to the image at the top of this article where twenty years ago a beautiful statue of the Goddess Sophia (Sveta Sofia) was erected in Sofia, Bulgaria, standing in the spot once occupied by a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Many may interpret this as being the feminine usurping the masculine, however, to me the message seems to be one of change in our world, where the crown, owl and wreath bearing Mother of the Universe with perfectly balanced aspects has returned. Her statue serves as a symbol of my deepest desire to reconcile and unite with my own inner Sophia and, in doing so, rediscover something that was hidden in plain sight all along. I see Her symbolism as our inheritance and love – Her center is everywhere, Her circumference is nowhere.
Until the next time … as there is no end of Sophian things left to explore!
Wishing you all Bright Blessings as we move towards the Spring Equinox! As the old pagan chant goes: “Equal day and equal night, first the dark and then the light.” May you find balance in all things! Love and light, Deborah.
© Deborah Gregory 2021. This essay forms part of a much longer series which includes my four part Animus Diet and Divine Hermaphrodite essays and poems which are presently being gathered to create a new book later this year – Jungian Archives
Image credit: Google Images – The Statue of “Sveta Sofia” is a monumental sculpture in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo of daffs, my own.