Whence and wither, whence and whither...
From where - toward where? As tidal as the seasons we flow like bits of sea glass and flotsam into a new season at 4:45 AM PDT on March 20.
Outside the diagram of the everyday there are few guides by which to navigate being - time and symbols are two. Cut loose from those and few could pilot this difficult spanse called life.
Like our distant kin, from childhood on we stream our life to the hours of a day, the days of a year, the years of mortal existence. We learn from family, our culture and ourselves what signs are important, which have meaning and what that looks like.
Over time those signs become deeply embedded as symbols, encoded in neurological history, in the rich ground of memory that persists across millennia. Symbols manifest in stories, dreams and day-to-day speech and are understood to mean something more than the object or quality for which they stand.
Perhaps because they represent spring, the symbols of the vernal equinox, of the Irish celebration of St. Patrick's Day, remain familiar - the shamrock, snake, fairy folk, St. Patrick, gold and green.
And we know some history behind them, the interwoven story - an original triune matriarchal divinity - its transformative power felt in the moon and the snake. And we know of the Elder gods, the Tuatha de Dannan who receded before another god's emissary, Saint Patrick.
But the significance of a symbol is found not only in its history, but in the energy it can still conjure. Symbols that lose this energy are relegated to history and "bygone days."
Part of the reason our minds explore symbols, wrote psychologist C.G. Jung, is that we are "led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason." It is the "ideas beyond reason" that confer symbols with ongoing energy and resonance.
So, other than as cute fodder for bumper stickers, inexpensive votives and a colouring for malted beverages served on March 17, what, if any, relevance do the symbols of St. Patrick's Day still carry?
Guessing a bit around the edges of your answer, I will tell you that it is a trick question. Symbols operate on (at least) two levels, that of the personal and that of the societal, of the collective. From society I can purchase a green plastic bowler and some shamrock window clings. But that which is personal is precisely that.
At their depth, symbols can guide us to what cannot be expressed, what is beyond reason. The shamrock - vegetative, green and three. Three is a number of dynamism, of something started but never finished, a thing that gathers experience and refinement, that which is supportive and pleasing in proportion - it defies duality. Might there be something of that nature in your life? Was it an idea you set aside, a hobby or even an event or person that had a particular energy that you wish you had attended to? What lies beyond three in your mind at this moment?
What of the snake? Do you not wish you could transform? Why can't you? Simply lose that skin, leave it where it lands, dry and used, and step forward as who you want to be. Leave them laughing and move ahead of your fear. Stay close to your ground, rest, coil and conserve creative energy for the future. Recognize where you are in your life, how your energy presents itself - is it ascending or descending, what do you make of that? What might you change and how might you move forward?
Ah, the cute wee folk, the drunken leprechauns. "Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit" roughly speaking "bidden or not bidden, god is present." Residing in each mind, regardless of cultural background, are splinters of archaic divine energy. More powerful than so-called "free will" these splinters call and guide a soul's destiny. They are both possessory and liberating, they saturate our lives with a vague secrecy and they absolutely reside beyond reason.
Green and gold - life's mystery and solar consciousness - the very essence of renewal. The colour of the land, of Eire herself and the spirit of our small planet in consort with our closest star, the sun, the light of our minds and our day. The measured combination of the two can lend form to the greatest dreams of humanity and provide a bountiful legacy for the generations that will someday regard us as distant kin.
There are many such symbols, some light, some dark, which represent the wellspring of human experience. Our personal interpretation of these common figures infuses our lives with passion, clarity and texture, imparting an extraordinary light on ordinary, yes, even tired looking symbols.
Take a second look this spring. When the "signs of the season" appear, consider where they have been, and where you might be going and how that "whence and wither" might help set you on your way.
Wheel of the Year