The essence of Life and Spirit is found in this eclectic land of stone and heat, thorn and spiral. Stories are contained in the watercolors of bone-dry canyons and dusty horizons... These words are a love letter for the vastness of wild land, the mercurial nature of desert creatures and the holy presence of Life transcending constraint.
Into the Fire: Harnessing the healing energy of gold
“Gold lion’s going to tell me where the light is…” Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"The Delphic priestess in historical times chewed a laurel leaf, but when she was a Bee surely she must have sought her inspiration in the honeycomb." Jane Ellen Harrison
Over the past two years, I have used meditation and visualization in my recovery and healing rituals. Both have been incredibly helpful in returning my otherwise scattered thoughts to the core of my Self, my expression, and my creativity. As with many of these practices, I was guided to a place of stillness, of my own imagination, and of course in my vision of sacred space I always chose the desert. One of my sacred places is one I have never actually known outside my mind’s eye. I call it Fire and Water House because it sits on the edge of a mesa, above a canyon with a spring, creating an intermittent creek running through its length. I envision its large courtyard with a tall fountain made of natural materials, where songbirds and cats (there are always felines around in my imagination) sip the cool flow and the sound lulls me into a stronger reverie.
In this dreamscape, it is morning and the gold and red sun rises above the mountains beyond, illuminating the expanse and teasing out the passion from the land. My life now is equally filled with the golden element – the fire of Phoenix alive with the flames that singe the feathers and quicken the pulse with its sensual song. The desert resonates with the symbolism of illumination – the initiate enters into this realm of masculine, yang energy. The sun gives life and brings death. Here, in the burning world, this truth is most palpable.
As a mineral, gold has been revered for thousands of years, seen as a commodity and an expression of the divine, both in Christian and Pre-Christian religions. “The shine of gold, its indestructible nature, its malleability and its relative scarcity made it an ideal material to embody divine qualities, but also expressions of human veneration of the divine. Gold was perceived as an appropriate material with which to address the gods.” (Elbern 1988)
Gold has played an important role in rituals, used in the crafting of altars, amulets, and chalices. To drink from a golden chalice was to drink from the cup of the divine. To the Aztecs, gold was “the excrescence of God” and the Egyptians viewed gold as the physical manifestations of the gods, their flesh (Cooper, 1978). In modernity, as reflected in classic and contemporary literature, gold equates wealth, money, and status – posturing wealth in the divine seat.
The color gold has esoteric and symbolic similarities across time and cultures. Gold is the Lion King who takes his powerful and honorable place within his dominion. The Lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe becomes the Godhead, the patient father as the fixed nexus (sun) centered on the dramas, complexities, threats, and petty concerns of worldly/otherworldly matters. Here, gold denotes wisdom and leadership.
In the tarot, I associate the Magician with gold as I do the Sun. The Magician seeks the eternal truth. The Magician is alchemist, working between worlds and within the subtle aspects of organic versus ethereal. The Magician is most concerned with his pursuits in higher arts and the portals between illusions. Likewise, the color gold does not work well, per se, on base emotions. Gold, however, does interact with the fountain of energy emanating above and outward. Truly, gold concerns itself with the mental and metaphysical aspects of healing and transcendence. Gold is also useful for those times when our vital life force needs a recharge, or for rituals focused on time, age, and longevity.
Gold is associated with the Third Chakra. Located in the Solar Plexus, this chakra governs the ego and the will. Working with this chakra, assuming it is weakened or unbalanced, one might learn to let go, to surrender. These lessons are imperative for those of us in recovery from compulsions and addictions as we learn to work with desire, needs, and wants in ways that promote balance and self-awareness.
Animal and plant helpers associated with the color gold are lions, butterflies, and bees and sunflowers, marigolds, and Mexican gold poppy.
My own experiences with gold and its symbolic power have complex reasons and results. I have always been drawn to the West. As a child, I would watch the sun descend across the tops of corn tassels – creating a most brilliant golden light that seemed to promise warmth, the eclipse of creativity with fiery passion, a promise of salvation. Before moving to the Southwest, I would longingly look through photos of saguaros, sand-covered bajadas, and lonesome roads that meandered across the heated floor of the desert. The photos and my Fire and Water House meditation kept me sane during the long, gray months in Toronto. Gold become not only my geographic manifestation but also desire itself, re-creation.
My great aunt who worked at Circus Circus in Las Vegas gave me my favorite and first toy. Vegas – that city of promise – and the toy in question, a stuffed lion with long curious whiskers and a golden mane. Always a precocious child, I adored the colors of fire: gold, red, orange, and violet blues. Even now, I have the urge to “paint it red,” instead of black.
As I have gotten older, and the caustic urge to tear up the town or create ritual based entirely on passion and not on prudence have waned, I have softened my concept of gold as a healing color. For example, I see gold in places and in other life forms that are gentle, soft, and very healing. I see the golden hues of light in the doe’s pelt, the flicks of gold in my dog’s brown eyes, the golden hues of dried chamomile flowers.
When I was a young girl, I pursued the green longing – the buds were new, the blossoms not yet rich in their splendor. I dreamed of moors and meadows. My altars were draped with roses, yellow and pink. I wore lace and bathed in the soft scents of spring. These timid colors were my expressions, my charms.
No longer am I the girl of the moors, the fairytale classics. In my gold world, I am warmed by the lioness who sees the world before her with clarity and mastery. I walk the ledges of smoothed slick rock and taste the rare, acrid pool of water, knowing all dissipates in time.
On my altar now are marigolds – those Día de los Muertos adornments – sunflowers, beautiful in their fullness and potency, and an antique queen bee charm, of course – an oracle for a priestess.
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