Friday, December 27, 2013

Coffee symbolism

I think this blog is going to turn into a giant dream dictionary lol! But the posts about symbolism are the most popular, and I do tend to deeply explore certain recurring or potent images that show up in my dreams so it’s all good. I am going to get into alchemy soon – I’m studying up on it but it is a HUGE topic and I have a lot more reading to do before I tackle it! So for now I will stick with symbols.

I keep dreaming about drinking coffee. Coffee is a major liquid for me – I don’t drink alcohol generally; besides water, coffee is it. And I looooooove the stuff! Too much‼ Although I’ve had to switch to decaf due to sleep disturbances I could still drink (the decaffeinated version) all day long. I have to force myself to drink something else. Coffee isn’t just a drink for me though. In the way alcohol is for many people, coffee is definitely a “mana” drink for me. It’s a drink that I can get a little obsessed about. And not just me! There are actually coffee tastings, similar to wine tastings (they call it “cupping”). I can see why. It’s definitely not just a drink.

First I want to look at meanings from around the web. Probably the most obvious meaning coffee has is of energy: it's what people turn to when they’re tired and sluggish. It also often indicates that change (and therefore the hard work to effect it) is needed. Or it could also suggest the need to be more aware of things that are going on around you.
Coffee is all about get-up and go. It is a liquid that is designed to give you pep. Therefore if you have a dream where you are drinking a lot of coffee then it means that you need to continue being peppy and being a little more energetic with your life. Have a bit more energy and admit that you just need to go out and have a little bit more fun as well. Energy is always equal to fun and you will not regret going out more.
This is probably what this kind of dream is supposed to be about. It is a warning that you need to be more alert and pay more attention to your surroundings. This could mean you need to be more alert in a literal sense, where your brain is trying to tell you to stop wearing it out by staying up so late and waking up so early. Orit could also be a message that there are tons of things happening all around you that you are missing out on just because you’re slogging through life instead of going through all of the necessary motions that you should have in order to keep awake, alert, and abreast of current events.

Coffee is also associated with comradeship and companionship: It’s common to drink coffee when spending casual time with others. In that way it’s similar to the family-gathering quality of meals, but coffee is less family oriented and more about friends. People talk over coffee; for good or ill, whether they’re discussing deeply intellectual topics or gossiping about their neighbors.

As suggested above, coffee is often a signifier of taste or class: do you take it black, or as a “coffee drink” (the wine spritzer of coffee); is Starbucks coffee “too strong” for you; do you even drink it at all? The most “refined”, of course, is black, unsweetened coffee. And the most hardcore is espresso!

Finally, from around the web, here are some traditional dream interpretations that are interesting:

see coffee round: one slanders you, - one watches out for clap, - one gossips about you,

burn (roast): you will receive visit,

grind: Annoyance experiences, - also: one speaks bad person of you,

cook: Satisfaction attain, - also: wait and undertake nothing, before you do not know what the other wants,

pour out: you get dear visit,
drink: an invitation receive and a quick pleasure or a pleasant entertainment be certain, - also: you need an encouragement,

black: you will experience an excitement,

knows: a happy message,

coffee grounds: you hear a news.

(European ones).:

the coffee beans are the same symbol like fruits, - big domestic luck, - as a drink is coffee symbol of the suggestion,

see: Friends will disapprove of own marriage plans, - one is already married, it comes to violent differences of opinion,

act with coffee or sell: points to business losses,

shop: with ease keep his good call,

green coffee: stands for audacious enemies who do not show the right direction and pursue fall of one,

dry coffee beans: warn about bad intentions of strangers,

burn: one will have a pleasure,

prepare: brings pleasant guests,

grind: if a quiet family life, promises

see ground coffee: Bad luck successfully survives,

cook: comfortable family life, - soon pleasant guests can welcome, - also: if prosperity can announce,

other people with the coffee drinking see: a lot of clap and gossip is about one in the circulation,

drink themselves to good ones: a nice leisure pleasure or a very pleasant entertainment will arise,

cold with milk drink: brings a failure,

to black ones drink: meant an excitement,

with milk: one will receive an invitation,

wash coffeepot: if satisfaction brings after a heavy work,

see coffee grinder: domestic satisfaction, - care, one should bend forward any gossip by correct behaviour,

see coffee grounds: if illness and material worries tells in,
Seeing or serves a young woman to coffee, she becomes quick to the ridicule if she is not discreet.

Roasting a young woman coffee, she escapes bad things by a happy marriage with a stranger.


prepare: Prosperity in the house,

drink: you are liked with the people very much.

The meanings are so varied that it’s hard to draw any general associations from the above but there seems to be a thread of friendship and/or domesticity or problems with same. Perhaps this is because of domestic nature of preparing coffee, and it’s tendency to be consumed among friends (with a lot of talk accompanying it.)

My own thoughts about coffee are really different, at least as they apply to me personally. When I was first thinking about coffee and what it meant in my most recent dream I kept thinking about two things: 1) it’s dual nature (bitter/sweet), which is like salt and 2) its similarity to wine. Salt has a dual nature of bitterness vs. wisdom.
What turns the ashes of failure into the crown of victory is indicated by the fact that ash is alchemically equivalent to salt… Basically salt symbolizes Eros and appears in one of two aspects, either as bitterness or as wisdom. Jung writes: “Tears, sorrow, and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is there can be no bitterness.” …
(Edward F. Edinger, Anatomy of the Psyche)

Coffee is similar; with coffee, the dual nature is bitterness vs. sweet. Coffee is either drunk with a lot of cream and sugar or it’s black and bitter. The thing is, it’s the bitterness of the coffee that makes it so delicious when you add fat and sugar (it’s the same reason why chocolate is so addictive – add a bit of bitter to fat and sugar and the brain goes nuts.)

The other thing coffee reminds me of is wine: Like I said, as with wine coffee is a “mana” drink. It’s basically a liquid drug. Wine, which is associated with Dionysus, is an agent of solutio; it erases boundaries and brings everything together in a blur of ecstacy (or, pushed further, into madness.) Coffee is like an anti-Dionysian liquid; it’s strongly associated with work and getting things done. But it’s a mind altering liquid just the same. Where wine is an agent of solutio, coffee is an agent of exhilaration and the motivation to go after your desires.

Coffee is also black. It’s a black liquid, a kind of bitter nigredo. It’s black and bitter, but it’s the bitterness of the coffee that adds flavor to life. Without the bitterness, the sweet is just overwhelming… or worse, just bland and tasteless. It’s the bitterness of the chocolate that makes it so delicious, that and the sweetness and the richness. The inability to appreciate what is bitter in our lives is a sign of childishness; to love the bitter for itself shows a maturity of taste and a sophistication in the art of living. It’s the cold night that makes the warm light so pleasurable… but the night itself has its own winter-like beauty, if you’re artistically and emotionally sensitive enough, and mature enough.

I think this idea is what all these coffee dreams may have been leading to.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cat symbolism

Cats keep appearing in my dreams and, while it's true that I love them (and live with several) I think these dreams are pointing to more than just the fact that I like them. I've come to the realization that I really need to do a thorough exploration of the symbolism of the cat.

As with owls, cats are often associated with the night – both animals hunt at night, both are characterized by their ability to see well when we ourselves can’t. And since the unconscious is like the unknown night, how you feel about the unconscious will generally be reflected in how you feel about animals of the night, whether you hate and fear them or find them fascinating and helpful.

In keeping with their connection with the unknown and unseen, one idea that often crops up with cat’s is invisibility:
Albertus Magnus, the teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas, insisted that a man could become invisible by wearing on his thumb the ear of a black cat, boiled in the milk of a black cow. Apparently the recipe was never tested; or if it was, the negative results were ignored."

The Arabs assigned very peculiar properties to such a stone [tiger’s eye]. They believed it could make its wearer invisible in battle. They also believed it could prevent an adulterous wife from conceiving children by her lover, provided her husband made her drink milk in which the stone had been dipped, before he went away on a journey. Perhaps the stone, perceived as an eye, was thought to affect various phenomena of vision and watching.”

All of this is pretty obvious I think and not super interesting, the whole black cat thing and everything. The first interesting thing I found about cats was Marie Louise von Franz's description of the cat and how it often symbolizes a kind of independent femininity:
“The cat in our country stems originally from Egypt, where it was once a divine animal. There, they had a cat goddess who was the goddess of music, sexuality, pleasure in life, and life-embracing feminine fertility. The cat, in contrast to the dog, has never sold its soul to man. It has a kind of egocentric reserve. The cat says, ‘You may stroke me and you may serve me,’ but it never becomes your slave. And if you annoy it, it just walks out on you. In women's dreams, therefore, the cat often is an image of something feminine, independent and sure of itself, just what modern women so often lack. That's why the cat goddess come up in women's dreams as a positive model of feminine behavior. It is not brutal; it does not display any masculine features. It is feminine and, at the same time, very firm, very identical with itself. The cat is not very amiable, but very true to itself.
(von Franz, Marie Louise, The Way of the Dream)

Cats are usually thought of as female... which makes it a bit weird for me because most of my cats have been boys. People are always asking me how “she” is doing, even though I've told them repeatedly that “she” is a he. There's just something about cats that people intuitively feel is feminine, and, this is just based on a very small sample but my impression is that people who don’t like cats often generally don’t like “girly” things either. Cats are Aphrodite-like animals; sensual, associated with pleasure, fertility and drinking (not just Bast but Sekhmet, Bast’s blood-thirsty sun-lion twin, was only appeased by alcohol mixed with blood). Bast’s temple in Egypt was described as small but beautiful, surrounded by water on three sides (very Aphrodite).

Another god associated with cats and alcohol is Dionysus, the god of drink, who’s usually portrayed wearing a leopard skin. The Dionysus man is sensual and fascinating, like a leopard, and also as dangerous emotionally. Cats have that Dionysus quality of sensuality but without the danger. Maybe that’s what people who hate cats really hate; the desire for sensual pleasure which refuses to be controlled. That independence and refusal to be controlled is an integral part of the cat:
This calm, cool exterior bleeds over into the Tarot to convey a sleek mood of secretiveness and obscurity. The cat is an ultimate authority of its own inner realms. It needs no permission to behave in one way or another - therefore the cat must be given full reign to rule as it sees fit.

It makes sense that under Christianity cats would fall out of favor; cats are sensual animals, animals of Aphrodite (pleasure) and Dionysus (ecstasy). Body-negating and full of hatred for earthly pleasures, such a religion would hate animals that symbolized pleasure. (“Christian: Satan; darkness; lust; laziness.”) (
All these ideas of connection between human and animal were more or less diabolized under the Christian system, which regarded animals as soulless or demonic, or at the very least devoid of any feelings that needed consideration. Men, jealous of women's propensity to make pets of animals and treat them with love, soon found ways to condemn women for sensual, affectionate relationships with their dogs or cats. A woman seen fondling or talking to her pet fell under suspicion of witchcraft. Even a woman who spoke to any animal, as one might say "Hello there" to a squirrel or a bird, could be considered a witch. During the centuries of persecution, women were often burned for keeping cats, or nurturing lambs, or talking to frogs, or raising colts, or even for having mice in the house or toads in the garden.

What really surprised me about the cat symbolism in my own dreams is my sudden realization that, for me, they’re one half of a split animus complex. This may be why they’re always male in my dreams (I’m sure the fact that my cats are all boys has something to do with it… or it may be that my cats are always boys because of my complex??) I read the following recently and a bolt of realization hit me:
The animus in the dreams of a woman in psychotherapy often displays an even sharper split, appearing again as two quite different ego-projected complexes. One is the dominating, judgmental, condemning side, personified as a patriarchal father, dictator, judge or menacing animals such as a tiger or bear. These animus personifications seem to attack the woman dreamer, corresponding to involuntary thoughts that may attack her in waking life, saying, "What good are you? What could you accomplish? All you do is worthless."

In the same woman, a complementing ego-projected complex may be weak, helpless, or impotent. He may be an oversensitive artist; a deformed, crippled, or crazy boy; a distant, indifferent, or frigid man unable to love; or a weak, helpless animal.”
(Donald F. Sander & John Beebe, Psychopathology and Analysis, from Murray Stein’s Jungian Analysis, p. 312)

This is true, for me at least. In all of my dreams, whenever cats have appeared, they’re always in danger. I always have to protect them and keep them out of danger. Or if it’s not a cats it’s another weak, helpless animal. I always thought these weak animals were my inner little girl but it may be that they’re really images of the weak, helpless half of a split animus. I do know that at least part of my animus is cruel, domineering and, at least until recently, degrading. Are these cats and other helpless animals the other half of my animus? It seems so to me, right now at least.

One final facet of the cat that I’d like to explore, one which is particularly appropriate in light of the way cats are in my own unconscious: the role they play as protectors. Cats, at least in Egypt, are actually seen as protectors of the Pharaoh. Cats kill not only kill grain eating vermin but also snakes and scorpions. In Egyptian mythology cats were protectors of the Pharaoh; the cat goddess Bast fought Apep, the snake god of evil, and killed him: “[I]n other myths, it was the cat goddess Bastet, daughter of Ra, who slew Apep in her cat form one night, hunting him down with her all seeing eye” (and here again is the association with vision and night-sight.)


Cats are, in an obvious way, associated with sensuality and pleasure, independence and the night. But they’re also warm-blooded protectors against that which is poisonous, or that which would devour the nourishment the unconscious depends on for life. Perhaps the independence and joy in earthly pleasures is one way of protecting ourselves from these things in our lives.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Love is a devil. Love is an angel. Love is a demon who lies and says that if only you have it, all your desires will be met. Everything will be perfect. Love lies that finally, now you’ll be happy. That only with it can you be happy. If only you have it. Love is the doorway to God. It’s the trap that lures you out of your safe harbor, to risk everything… and then lose it all. Because only love is strong enough to make you risk everything, so that in the end, you can gain the world. Because the truth of the matter is this; only by losing everything can you find your Self. And love is the doorway, and the lure, to start that journey.

I felt compelled to write this on my iPhone the other day. Yes, this whole love thing is still working on me... Dammit!

Things were going super well with G. Then all of the sudden he's avoiding and ignoring me, and I'm flipping out. I thought I was over this... Wasn't I already over this??? Well, apparently not. But a lot of really amazing things have come out of this latest experience; the biggest one is the realization that this is a calcinatio experience, the stage in alchemy where you're heated up until all the impurities are burned off. Which is strangely how I've been feeling lately (not during, though - during it I was a hot mess!) And everything I read, despite the fact that I was re-reading everything, seemed to have something to say about it. It's incredible how that works - if it's a really good book then every time you read it you'll get something new and amazing out of it.

I was (re-)reading Edinger's Anatomy of the Psyche when, right at the very beginning of the book, he talks about the calcinatio.

What turns the ashes of failure into the crown of victory is indicated by the fact that ash is alchemically equivalent to salt. The symbolism of salt has been discussed comprehensively by Jung (Mysterium Coniunctionis, paras. 234 – 238). Basically salt symbolizes Eros and appears in one of two aspects, either as bitterness or as wisdom. Jung writes: “Tears, sorrow, and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is there can be no bitterness. Salt, as the carrier of this fateful alternative, is coordinated with the nature of woman.” This piece of modern wisdom has an ancient parallel in Aeschylus:

In visions of the night, like dropping rain,
Descend the many memories of pain
Before the spirit’s sight; through tears and dole
Comes wisdom o’er the unwilling soul.

From the simplest standpoint, calcinatio is a drying-out process. An important part of psychotherapy involves the drying out of water-logged unconscious complexes. The fire or emotional intensity necessary for this operation seems to reside in the complex itself and becomes operative as soon as the patient attempts to make the complex conscious by sharing it with another person. All thoughts, deeds, and memories that carry shame, guilt or anxiety need to be given full expression. The affect liberated becomes the fire that can dry out the complex and purify it of its unconscious contamination.

The necessary frustration of desirousness or concupiscence is the chief feature of the calcination stage. First the substance must be located; that is, the unconscious, unacknowledged desire, demand, expectation must be recognized and affirmed. The instinctual urge that says “I want” and “I am entitled to this” must be fully accepted by the ego. There can be no proper calcinatio, as distinguished from masochistic self-flagellation, until the proper material is at hand. I think this is what underlies the following warning of an alchemist: “A great many students make the mistake at the very outset, by performing this calcinatio on a wrong substance;… or they choose a false method, and corrode instead of calcining the metallic bodies on which they operate. Calcination can take place only by means of the inward heat of the body, assisted by friendly outward warmth; but calcination by means of a heterogeneous agent can only destroy the metallic nature, in so far as it has any effect at all.
(p. 42)

The three texts quoted will suffice to demonstrate the nature of the substance to be calcined. It is called variously a “ravening wolf,” “black faeces,” a “dragon,” and a “mighty Ethiopian.” These terms tell us that the calcination is performed on the primitive shadow side, which harbors hungry, instinctual desirousness and is contaminated with the unconscious. The fire for the process comes from the frustration of these instinctual desires themselves. Such an ordeal of frustrated desire is a characteristic feature of the developmental process.
(p. 21)

What this whole experience has driven home is the utter importance of keeping all of these feelings contained inside yourself. Not bottled up; you can't try to not have them, or not feel them. And not sloppily flung out all over everyone around you either. I literally envision the alchemist's retort inside me, from throat to groin, and I pull everything I'm feeling together and force it in there. Sometimes I have to go inside myself but usually just containing the feelings is enough. And what's happening is that, as these feelings are contained, and after they've bubbled and boiled and then eventually burned themselves out, something is left behind. I don't know how to describe the feeling other than that it reminds me of the kind of emptiness/fullness you feel after a really big crying jag, when you're exhausted and everything is clean inside, and you feel like you can finally feel everything as it really is after a long, long, long time. Jung described the process like this:

In this transformation it is essential to take objects away from those animus or anima devils. They only become concerned with objects when you allow yourself to be self-indulgent. Concupiscentia is the term for that in the church… On this subject the great religions come together. The fire of desirousness is the element that must be fought against in Brahmanism, in Buddhism, in Tantrism, in Manicheanism, in Christianity. It is also important in psychology. When you indulge in desirousness, whether your desire turns towards heaven or hell, you give the animus or anima an object; then it comes out into the world instead of staying inside in its place… But if you can say: yes, I desire it and I shall try to get it but I do not have to have it, if I decide to renounce, I can renounce it; then there is no chance for the animus or anima. Otherwise you are governed by your desires, you are possessed… But if you have put your animus or anima into a bottle you are free of possession, even though you may be having a bad time inside, because when your devil has a bad time you have a bad time... Of course he will rumble around in your entrails. But after a while you will see that it was right (to bottle him up). You will slowly become quiet and change. Then you will discern that there is a stone growing in the bottle… insofar as self-control, or non-indulgence, has become a habit, it is a stone… when that attitude becomes a fait accompli, the stone will be a diamond.

(p. 44)

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