The image above is of Coyolxauhqui, the divine energy of the moon as sculpted by the Aztec peoples. She was dismembered by her brother, the Sun God, and tossed into the sky. You see her bones sticking out, her breasts hang low, she has rolls on her belly. This is a mature woman who has lived life. Though she is dismembered, in this depiction she also gives the impression of being whole, in movement.
In her image you can feel how primordial wholeness gives way to dismemberment, but like the cycle of the moon, wholeness arises again. Nothing is ever lost, but rather you are transfigured through the dis-membering effects of loss.
Gods personifying the dynamics of dismemberment, such as Osiris, Dionysus and Kali, show the potentials of this archetypal experience. Violence, loss, grief, catastrophe, illness, despair, envy, fury, and ecstasy induce altered states that splinter and shatter you, unhooking you from your habitual anchors.
This is what trauma does - it fragments and returns you to the essentials, the very bones of yourself. And asks you to RE-MEMBER your self, to put yourself back together from a state of chaos to wholeness. This is what chronic dis-ease and illness asks of you. This is what Life asks of you. It breaks down your defensive structures until only the bones of what's essential remains. From there you become reborn, putting yourself back together - often with spiritual guidance and help from others who perhaps have done the same. In some empowered way, you get to choose what gets re-membered.
Dismemberment is characteristic of the tradition of shamanic initiation across cultures (Central Asia, Siberia, Australia, Indo-Tibetan, North and South America, Norse). A radical dissolution of the old persona (ego death) leads to a state of primordial chaos. This is considered a necessary state to allow for a new self to be born. From this point, differentiation and renewal can happen.
What Coyoxauhqui teaches us is that through the sacrifice and dismemberment of her finite material body, she becomes immortal. Surviving dismemberment (trauma) and becoming whole initiates you into the intimacy and magic between sacrifice and creation, suffering and transformation. It is not an easy process (of course! otherwise everyone would do it!) and it is often the time when we need to ask for help and put one foot in front of the other. Asking for help is sometimes the most brave thing we can do.
It has been one year since this pandemic began. How has your life evolved? What got stripped away to bones? What is the courage you've brought forward to re-member and re-assemble your life back together again? Did you need to ask for help?
Think of someone in your life who has gone through a dismemberment process and has come back stronger, more integrated than before. Ask them about it. Look for these stories and leave lots of room to listen and learn.
- that where there is despair, I may bring hope - that where there are shadows, I may bring light - that where there is sadness, I may bring joy...
- St Francis of Assisi