It’s on. You are cordially invited to the Royal Wedding! Which seems just perfect for discussing the archetype of the Hermaphrodite. In the first half of my Jungian themed essay I shall explore my personal reflections and in the second, I will continue that journey in the shape of a long prose poem. The joint presentation of each feels right, bringing the Solar King and Lunar Queen together in a way I have never worked before. I hope you enjoy!
In Greek mythology, the Goddess Aphrodite and the God Hermes produced a beautiful child they named Hermaphroditus. Being most handsome he received much interest including the unwanted attentions of a lustful nymph called Salmacis who begged the deities, once she had spied him, that they never be parted. Hence, their bodies were fused into one form and they became “a creature of both sexes” despite keeping their individual heads.
On reading this Greek myth recently I resonated deeply, as since childhood, I have been strongly drawn to androgynous souls, those who seem to inhabit both genders. Drawn and repulsed in equal measures as a child, I couldn’t speak of my conflicting feelings for years, not until my early thirties when I came out as a gay woman. Today, nearly twenty five years later I realise I’m undertaking another soul journey as I explore the archetype of the Hermaphrodite, one that’s been with me all my life.
Having spent the past three years slimming down my animus whilst fattening up my anima during The Animus Diet, I felt a clear sense that my psyche was turning towards something new. I remember it began nine months ago following a dream in which I met a talking hermaphrodite statue. On waking I googled ‘Hermaphrodite’ and many ancient Greek statues flashed up. I was spellbound as I thought my psyche had made the image up, but no, the (non-talking!) statues existed.
In my dream I walked past a group of statues and stopped when a hermaphrodite statue started talking. They laid down a gold and silver sword in front of me and told me to jump on a statue of Pegasus and kill the monster (which was another statue). There were animal statues there as well but I can’t remember what they were. As I jumped on Pegasus the statue came to life (and to colour) and we flew up above the planet. After much battling, I seized my opportunity and thrust the sword into the monster’s heart, killing it.
Then, as dreams do, a shift took place and I found myself entering a tattoo parlour, where I watched people of many genders (I can’t explain it any other way) having their genitals tattooed with colourful symbols, including flowers, birds, geometric patterns and swirling serpents. A young androgynous tattooist came over with ink pen in hand and asked me what I would like and I said I’m not ready but I’ll come back when I am. I wanted to ask for a red square with a white circle inside. The dream ended there yet something within awoke. At first I didn’t understand why but I guess androgyny has always been there and now, after nine months of pregnant darkness, I feel ready to explore. Interestingly, just before this dream, I had written the final part of my Animus Diet and was wondering what would happen next!
Growing up I realise I didn’t want or accept my sexual orientation or gender for years. I didn’t want to become a woman like my mother, nor did I want to become a man like my father or some 1980’s stereotyped version of either. I wanted something different, but not on a physical level as I was happy with my feminine body, yet somewhere within I hungered for decades never knowing that spiritual androgyny could be a choice, until my I reached my mid-fifties.
As a student of Carl Jung I am greatly informed by his work on the archetypes (CW9i) in which he concludes the symbolism of the Hermaphrodite represents an image of the Self: “…a symbol of the unity of personality, a symbol of the self, where the war of opposites finds peace. In this way the primordial being becomes the distant goal of man’s self-development.” (ibid). This book has quickly became my favourite in his Collected Works book series!
Briefly, let’s return to the dream that brought this archetype into my consciousness, and the realisation of the fight I’d been having all my life in accepting my anima and animus, twin souls of the psyche. I was captivated by the work of the tattooist reassigning gender through symbolism and, as for my future tattoo, the red square and white circle within … well this article feels like the tattoo itself, with the Red King and White Queen coming together in their essay and poetic forms.
A short note about the Rosarium Philosophorum which is a sixteenth century alchemical treatise, first published in 1550. It includes 20 woodcuts and is recognised as one of the most important texts of European alchemy. Fortunately, there is a lot of information about them online and the image I have used below is woodcut number 17. Now for the second part of this essay.
The Divine Hermaphrodite
In the luminous cave of my heart
a mystical wedding takes place,
as the sun king and moon queen
merge to wear one single crown,
joining as they do to transform
into the Divine Hermaphrodite.
How this soul journey transpires
my mind will never understand,
for such ceremony comes to pass
only below all conscious thought,
where the crowning of nature,
death and rebirth remain hidden.
Yet from alchemy’s great work,
the Rosary of the Philosophers,
twenty primordial inscriptions
of joy, sorrow, glory and light,
we can chart the body’s renewal,
all the while keeping our heads.
In this way, after devoting over
one thousand and forty nights
slimming down my fat animus,
by eating up fruits of mystery,
I am relishing the end of dieting
as I turn into a hermaphrodite!
Strange, as it’s taken me forever
to figure out who my anima is,
let alone embrace my inner man,
that ingenious spirit, my animus.
Then, just as we become friends,
off they go to marry each other!
Even though alchemy’s bidding
brings numinous soul evolution,
like the thirteenth Doctor Who,
I feel I am regenerating again,
as the blending of the opposites
within form a time-warped state.
Behold the holy Hermaphrodite!
Quintessence of the cosmic self,
symbol of perfected wholeness,
who is returning to our universe
while the king and queen marry
in order to create divine syzygy.
A sacred ritual offering freedom
from the violent, heartless wars
of opposites, above and below,
bringing them to a welcome end.
Thus mind, body, spirit and soul
can at last find harmony within.
Under the beautiful flag of Earth,
beneath each lunar and solar tree,
each double-gendered alchemist,
true embodiment of yin and yang,
is showing us how to carry light
as our DNA restores androgyny.
Let us hold our hands in prayer
with both our divine genders
and incarnate this elixir of life.
Let our soul and spirit say “I do.”
Let us witness this royal couple
transfigure, let two become one.
Today, with the eyes of a crone
and my hair turning silver-grey,
I see my spiritual androgyny
as a truly wonderful blessing,
one that is helping me discover
a new star in the constellations.
Oh, how I salute the light found
in the modern shaman’s eyes,
gender fluid rainbow bearers
who together bridge the world,
helping me seek out wholeness
while wholeness seeks out me.
Come Sophia, great spirit of love!
Most hallowed of all androgynes,
restore me to your realm of light,
bring together my riven genders
in your heavenly bridal chamber.
Spiritually, I know I am intersex,
part of your ancient gnostic myth
that brings dual nature to light,
revealing how gender took shape
following the painful separation
and descent of your twofold soul.
As I write, light floods the room
and the memory of home fills me
with a longing for my lost family,
somewhere in the midst of space,
where spirit and matter converge
into the Divine Hermaphrodite.
From whence I came and to which
I will return, I am uncertain,
yet along this pathless labyrinth
I go on with my journey of love,
beneath the sky I was born under,
until I can remember who I am.
Happily the world is expanding
with love for transcendent others,
whether lesbian, gay, bi-sexual
queer, questioning, transgender,
intersex, asexual, pansexual or
straight, one size never fits all!
All are spiritual hermaphrodites,
whose completeness takes them
to where the brightest stars sing,
“Come home, come home to Self!
To Sophia’s everlasting embrace
from which each soul is created.”
Nine months ago an invite came
by way of dreams, as I was called
to attend a wedding in Heaven,
joining the lover and the beloved.
But first I was to train to become
a celebrant under Sophia’s wing.
Later that night a hermaphrodite
tells me I must kill the guardian
of my old beliefs around gender.
I am told that my life is too short
to live this lie, for I am masculine
and feminine at the same time.
What does this mean in my life,
here in my mid-fifties to become
a spiritual rights campaigner?
I feel like I have climbed a wall
to spy on the celestial gardeners
and dropped over the other side.
Like a caterpillar I do not know
what I am yet to become, as I
inch deeper into the alchemy of
disintegration and reintegration,
aware my task is to remember
that we are all hermaphrodites.
As the wedding draws to a close
the moon queen and red king,
a white circle inside a red square,
is being tattooed inside my heart.
I listen and look deep within,
love and light flood the chamber
while the Divine Hermaphrodite,
Shiva-Shakti, join together as one.
Mystical God/ess, Divine God/ess,
living all genders, yet genderless,
undivided in their eternal union,
the shape of our new tomorrow.
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Header Image Credit: Laurel Price (UK Artist)
Second Image Credit: Rosarium Philosophorum
© Deborah Gregory 2021. This essay forms part of a much longer series which includes my four part Animus Diet and three part In the Name of Sophia essays and poems which are presently being gathered to create a new book later this year – Jungian Archives