No More “Corn Cakes” for Cerberus

The mythopoetic inquiry is a narrative of the imagination which mirrors an alternate story that dwells beneath consciousness. In that space we create the story as we are living it, writing the narrative at the same time as we are reading to ourselves and the world, creating a vision while seeing …what is and what can be.”

–Susanna Ruebsaat, Mourning the Dream/Amor Fati

Beneath the swirling story of anxiety, self-doubt, and fear to speak my mind openly, there was an alternate story calling to me, but I could not find it. In mid-December, I discovered Mourning the Dream/Amor Fati by Susanna Roesbaat a Jungian-oriented art therapist who developed a process called mythopoetic inquiry. I contacted her immediately, and soon after, our work began. What an extraordinary journey to peace of mind and forgiveness.

Sculpture by Pam England, February 2020

Mythopoetic refers to our narrative, the story we are telling ourselves about ourselves and the world, and being able to turn around to see the story and the symbols from a new perspective. So, going beyond a familiar narrative limited to words and a time line, this process began by looking inward for an image or a symbol: what showed up was a lop-eared rabbit in a field. At some point Susanna told me to pick the bunny up and imagine holding it against my heart, to feel its heart beating, its soft fur… and in this moment I felt protective of my inner child, who I often neglect while wanting someone else to notice her!

Two nights later, I had a dream: I am watching the nervous little bunny hiding under cover of foliage, trying to be invisible; she is alone and hypervigilant. When the dream continues: the lop-eared bunny is hopping up the white steps of a Greek healing temple. I follow her. In the next scene, I am holding her while standing on a wide threshold facing a room bathed in light with my back to a space covered in darkness. I seem to be at the top of this Greek temple because looking out of windows in the room in light, I only see blue sky. I am petting the bunny’s head and ears when suddenly there is growling and barking at my feet. I look down and see Cerberus, the three-headed dog, the guardian of the threshold to the underworld.* Looking down, I see I have furry bunny feet sticking out from beneath my slacks. For a fleeting moment, I cannot distinguish my human self from my bunny-Child, we merged.

My bunny was afraid and jumpy, I held her tight while trying to think if I had a corn cake *, where it was, what would I do if I couldn’t find one. The growling and barking were unnerving and threatening. 

In dreams, we have all experienced layers of images and insights arising, unfolding and enfolding in an instant, and in that instant, I realized with my whole being this truth:

Everyone is guarding a Gate and asks a price for passage. It’s a powerful strategy to keep others in their place, maybe to keep the past in place. Am I trying to leave my past, my underworld, but am daunted by Cerberus? I felt a deep sadness as I saw flashes of memories of the many times I “sacrificed” my inner Child (the lop) to many Predators and Takers in the world in the desperate hope I could belong or be chosen, or get where I’m going, avoid judgment, rejection, or stop the dogs malicious growling at the Gate. The lop was clinging to me, nervous about her fate (after all I had fed her to the dogs before!) when suddenly a fiercely protective vivacity filled my being and every cell in me promised, “No mas, I am not going to sacrifice you this time or ever again.” In that instant, I saw a belief collapsing: Cerberus never has, and will never truly accept or love me as I am even when I have sacrificed the most tender part of me. Every time Cerberus has devoured my inner-Child, the angst remains, and I am not allowed passage into the light or love. Cerberus does what is in his nature to do, he mindlessly devours the essence of me. 

I heard myself declare, “No more corn cakes for you [Cerberus]!,” then woke up. In the liminal space between dreaming and waking I envisioned my lop and said, “I will name you Corn Cakes” to remember you and protect you. I jotted down the dream and drew images of it.

*Introducing Cerberus: Cerberus allows the souls of the dead to enter the underworld, but guards the exit not allowing them to leave. In the myth of Psyche and Eros,To exit the underworld, Psyche must distract Cerberus with a corn cake (honey cake, or barley cake); if Psyche had eaten the corn cake herself, Cerberus would rip her to shreds and confine her to the underworld. There is a price to pay for passage over Thresholds.

Two weeks later, I followed the symbol of the lop-eared bunny in a sculpting class with Roxanne Swentzell, a beloved artist from the Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Mother Earth offers herself to us in every form, including clay. With each pinch and chunk of clay she provides us, we become creators, fashioning an image from a dream moving through us. Sculpting begins with a vague image, but then we work quietly, continuing to follow the image wherever it leads us. While our hands roll, smooth, and shape the clay, the unlimited, infinite unconscious is ever-searching and informing the limited conscious mind of something it needs to know. 

In the photograph of the sculpture, you can see me nestling Corn Cakes, the tender, afraid, vulnerable part of me, feeling her nervous heart beating a message to my heart. You might notice one of my feet is human, and the other is a bunny foot. After sculpting the mop of hair and one human ear, I had an impulse to add a long lop ear to my head. So, I threw the clay to make it thin and attached it to my head; it gracefully fell over my arm, and the aesthetic pleased me. This gesture and symbol made the sculpture come alive. To hear my inner-lop-Child I needed a lop ear, with this touch Listening to my inner-Child became a visceral promise. 

Although I initially tried to resist the call to make a door in my belly, I knew the piece would never feel complete if I did not take a tool and carve an entry into my belly. You can see the door drying on the paper. After firing the piece, I’ll attach the door with leather hinges. Within my belly cave will hang a Golden Ear. I can open the door anytime to Listen more deeply; to meditate on listening and feeling—without censoring—the “Call from the Great Below.”

In this photo, the clay is still wet. After Corn Cakes dries and is fired, I will put a finish on this piece. Then I’ll place her where I can see her every day which will allow me to continue following this healing image until the anxious need to belong becomes less important than showing up for myself. When I hang the door and ear, I’ll send you another photo.

Tuning into and dialoging with images and feelings is a powerful tool of transformation. If you are called to experience it, to follow your image to a new truth, come to a Hidden Healings Retreat. This creative process is not something easily done on zoom calls. I often requires time and the right space to unwind, to work and reflect. The power of work is enriched by working along side other seekers. When we completed our sculptures, each told the story of the wounding and the healing. One by one, we fell into love, into deep respect. Although no two images or stories were the same, we touched into the Oneness place, the One Heart. 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Pam England

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