Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Green Lion

We hate the idea that we are not already perfect almost as much as we fear we might one day arrive at perfection. It's a trick to juggle improving the parts of ourselves we're ashamed of, while not getting so good that other people tear us apart at the first opportunity.

Our ability to grow has been labeled original sin and used to shame us. We fall down. We fail. We hurt others and ourselves. And sometimes we imagine that because we have done some bad things, we can never become better. Or that if we were good enough for greatness to be possible, we’d already be there. But that’s not how it works. We get better by the downfalls. The things that can shame us can also change us.

One useful symbol for getting handle on all this in the Green Lion. The Green Lion is our urge to perfection. It is that which moves us to grow, to push past pain, to struggle forward. It assumes that we aren't all there yet. We haven't completely arrived. We've started something, but it ain't done by a longshot. In mystical terms, we've discovered there's a way out of our misery, but we're still looking for the door.

Like a lot of alchemical characters, the Green Lion is shown eating something. Alchemical characters are often eating. Dragons devour each other. Snakes eat their own tails. Wolves devour kings. Fathers eat their children. Hermaphrodites eat coconuts. (Okay, I made that last one up.) Eating is a communion with the rest of the world. In the case of the Green Lion, he eats the Sun.

The Sun is the underlying source of all energy on this planet. (And that's true of all the other planets out in space as well. Different stars, same Sun.) On a nutritional level, plants use sunlight to build carbohydrates thus forming the basis of the entire food chain. On a spiritual level, the Sun is taken into the soul and fixed as part of an individual. We are all part sunlight.

So eat a plant. A big green leafy thing like chard or beet greens. (And notice how much our culture hates leafy greens. Aren't they just the hardest to get into your health conscious diet? There's a reason for that.) Find a leaf you like, but go as dark green as you can. (We're keeping things simple here, but other dark colors work too so if you really like purple cabbage, go for it.) And as you eat it, know that you are eating the Sun. Be a Green Lion.


Thalia Took said...

I love the look on that Sun's face; sort of a Ben Franklin-y Oh fer crying out loud, not again, as the Green Lion devours him.

I was reminded of the word carbuncle and its dual meanings today while writing something, and remembered this blog, so I thought I'd come over and say hi.

Yvonne Rathbone said...

Glad you could stop by! Put your feet up. Stay awhile. Try the Sun. Everyone says it's to die for.

Teheuti said...

Wow - I finally get it: the Green Lion = plants and photosynthesis. Thanks.

Flavio said...

I arrived here looking for the meaning of a green lion in my dreams, your explanation made a lot of sense, thank you for sharing it.

Yvonne Rathbone said...

You're welcome. It's just one of many. These things tend to find more than one way to come into existence.

James said...

My interpretation of this enigmatic emblem goes:
green consciousness digests the power of the Sun;
but, being green, he makes a meal of it, spilling the holy blood
or holy wine down to Earth, where it seeds as the "Word" made flesh, the Spirit of light,
made manifest in the prism of life in diversity, and begins the
alchemical journey back to the Heavens. The up-pointing tail completes the circulatory process
of alchemical distillation.