Re-Membering the Feminine: Recovering the Hidden Wisdom of the Dismembered Feminine in Fairytales, Myths and Sacred Stories
May 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th, 2023
4 Live Classes | Offered Live via Zoom
What you will receive
- 4 Live Webinar Sessions with Q & A
- 4 Links to the Recordings
Myths, fairytales and sacred texts are replete with stories of the amputated and sacrificed feminine. From Medusa to the Handless Maiden, from Iphegenia to Jepthah’s daughter, the feet, hands and heads of women and girls are routinely disposed of, often with narrative alacrity. In the fairytale of The Red Shoes, Karen, the orphaned girl, approaches the executioner and pleads with him to cut off her feet at the ankles. The lines that follow this horrific request are revealing.
“…and the executioner chopped off her feet with the red shoes, but the shoes danced with the small feet across the field into the deep forest.”
The objective psyche reveals itself in the world of myth and fairytale. In this particular tale, what has been cut off, still lives, albeit in the “deep forest” of the unconscious. This pattern of feminine amputation and sacrifice that is found throughout myth, fairytales and sacred stories from around the world, speaks to a psychic splitting in the collective unconscious. Yet these archetypal dismemberments live on, as obvious as the appropriation of Medusa’s severed head by Gucci, a contemporary fashion designer.
What do these dismembered appendages reveal to us about what has been split off within our own psyche, as well as from collective consciousness, for centuries? Consigned to the deep woods of the unconscious, what if this dismembered feminine could talk? What wisdom might she have to share? Is it possible to learn from The Handless Maiden how to collectively grow our own hands back and what is required of us to do that? Is it possible that our personal and possibly, collective individuation is dependent on precisely this?
This series will bring together Jungian scholars, authors and teachers to work with particular myths, fairytales and sacred stories from the perspective of discovering the inherent wisdom of the split-off archetypal feminine who has been relegated to the deep forest of the collective unconscious. The focus of these learning sessions will be on identifying what has been split off and understanding the symbolic and critical relevance of what this has to offer for all genders with regards to the personal and global challenges we face today.
Weekly Schedule: Course Overview
Week One: May 9th
From Patriarchal Sacrifice to the Sacred Feminine: Re-membering the Goddess Sati
Alka Arora, Ph.D.
In Hindu mythology, the goddess Sati set herself on fire to protest her father’s snubbing of herself and her husband Shiva, who was the target of her father’s disapproval. The medieval practice of sati, in which women of select upper castes were expected to throw themselves upon their husbands’ funeral pyres, was named for goddess Sati’s sacrifice. While the practice of sati has been banned in India, it lives on symbolically in Indian and Indian diasporic women – and has resonance for women across the globe – as women are expected to sacrifice themselves on the altar of patriarchal culture.
In this presentation, I ask how contemporary women across cultures can reclaim Sati as the goddess who protested father-rule rather than one who killed herself for the sake of her husband. Knowing that she would be reborn, Sati may not have been seeking to self-extinguish as much as to claim autonomy around who she loved and how she lived her life. Indeed, when Sati was reincarnated as Parvati, her marriage to Shiva came to represent in Indian culture an ideal, equal relationship between the feminine and masculine. Today, how might we sacrifice not ourselves but our longing for approval and our need to be ‘good’ according to the dictates of patriarchy, so that we can be reborn as authentic and free?
While this presentation focuses on feminine myths, the ideas explored are relevant for people of all genders who wish to challenge patriarchal conditioning and reclaim their wholeness.
After completing this webinar, participants will be able to:
- Understand the Hindu myth of Sati through a feminist lens
- Re-evaluate their relationship with the myth of sacrifice
- Develop resources for connecting to the sacred feminine within
Week Two: May 16th
Forbidden Dances of “Dangerous” Women: Re-membering the Myth of Salome and the Fairytale of The Red Shoes
Loralee M. Scott, MFA
“There is a mystery of incarnation in dance that has no analogue in the other performing arts…it would be more accurate to call it the staging of a transfiguration…It is, or seems to be, finally a higher order of attention”
— Susan Sontag, Dancer and the Dance
“Perhaps too there is a joy before God that one can call dancing. But I haven’t yet found this joy.”
— C.G. Jung, The Red Book, p. 217
They were both young girls from long ago whose stories live on in the collective unconscious. One, an orphan girl who is complicit in her own dismemberment as she begs the executioner to cut off her dancing feet at the ankles and then proceeds to “kiss the hand that guided the axe.” The other, a young girl who has carried the patriarchal projections of the sexualized assassin, responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist. One dismembered, the other dismembering, their stories have been packaged within a patriarchal culture as cautionary tales, but if we peel back the layers of projections and cultural complexes, do we find a deeper story and if so, what wisdom does it have to offer us today?
This session will bring the seminal work of Carol Gilligan and Judith Herman together with a post-Jungian amplification of The Fairytale of The Red Shoes and an examination of C.G. Jung’s encounters with Salome in the pages of the Red Book to explore themes of self-agency, individuation and women’s continued struggle to own their bodies for themselves. We will explore the ways in which the archetypal feminine has been misappropriated within Jungian psychology and the degree to which the premature and often traumatic sexualization and silencing of young girls continues to be normalized and unconsciously influences healthy psychological development and women’s individuation. We will work with these themes against the contemporary backdrop of a mental health crisis that is particularly prevalent among adolescent girls.
- To distinguish the influence of internalized cultural complexes on healthy ego development/individuation
- To identify the unconscious projections embedded within traditional models of individuation
- To specify the necessity of integrating feminist theory into post-Jungian models of individuation
Week Three: May 23rd
The Visual Poetics of the Dismembered Feminine in Greco-Roman Myth
Emily Lord-Kambitsch, Ph.D.
“If there is a ‘propriety of woman,’ it is paradoxically her capacity to depropriate unselfishly: body without end, without appendage, without principal ‘parts.’ If she is a whole, it’s a whole composed of parts that are wholes, not simple partial objects but a moving, limitlessly changing ensemble […]”
Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa” (Transl. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen), 1976
Roman philosopher and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero in his De Inventione tells a story of the Greek painter Zeuxis, whose task it was to paint the infamously beautiful Helen of Troy. Zeuxis could not find a single female model with the requisite physiognomy. Instead, he used five different models, whose features he mixed and matched in order to create Helen. This reconstitution came as a result of a process I call “visual dismemberment” of the women who from Zeuxis’ perspective by themselves could not aspire to supreme beauty, but who in their constituent parts could combine to form the ideal.
This session will begin by exploring the theme of dismemberment as a mode of visual and eroticized poetics in mythic tales of the feminine from Greco-Roman literature. In genres from Greek comedy (Aristophanes’ Lysistrata) to Roman love poetry (Ovid’s Amores) women’s bodies appear “dismembered” in that they are represented as parts in isolation. Whether ruined/maimed or intact, women’s body parts form a narrative sequence, constructed not from the embodied self-awareness of the female character in question, but from the roving gaze of a male viewer/voyeur. Modern perspectives on visuality, narrative, and the feminine from Laura Mulvey (“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, 1975) and Susan Sontag (On Photography, 1977) will provide a framework for analyzing three literary case studies of mythic women who suffer the fetishizing, dismembering gaze of patriarchal violence: Daphne, Philomela, and Galatea.
The legacy of Mulvey’s and Sontag’s observations, alongside Hélène Cixous’ call to women to write their own narratives in “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1976) will bridge the ancient context and our own, in which there is a movement among women writers to cast these mythic women afresh (for instance, Nina MacLaughlin’s Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung, 2019). The session will allow space for discussion on the role of poetics in re-membering the dismembered feminine. In what ways are we still primed to consider the “dismembered feminine” as “normal” (such as, for instance, clothing advertisements that “dismember” women’s bodies through framing)? Can we find examples of contemporary women’s revisioning of these mythic dismembered women through narrative poetics that do not rely on (eroticized) visual dismemberment?
Content warning: strong themes of bodily violence in contexts of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
- To apply ideas from modern feminist theory to understand the dismembering poetics of Greco-Roman mythic texts.
- To discuss applications of “visual poetics of dismemberment” that we practice unconsciously, or have become unconsciously attuned to in the narratives we tell, or consume.
- To observe examples of contemporary poetics of the re-membered feminine.
Week Four: May 30th
Ola Hou ‘O Manamanaiakaluea: Re-membering Manamanaiakaluea
Jennifer Maile Kaku
Leʻa wale hoʻi ka wahine lima ʻole, wāwae ʻole
E haʻa nei kāna iʻa
Joyful is the limbless woman
Dancing among her fish
The moʻolelo of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele tells the story of a mythical quest undertaken by Hiʻiaka at the behest of her sister Pele, the volcano deity. Her journey across the Hawaiian archipelago in the company of a supernatural fern woman and a human woman named Wahineʻōmaʻo is a veritable Odyssey in the Pacific, with one notable difference: Unlike almost every other archetypal heroic journey, this Hawaiian epic foregrounds mana wahine, female power and agency. On the island of Maui, Hiʻiaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo encounter a limbless woman named Manamanaiakaluea dancing and chanting in the waves as she fishes along the shore. She is described as mumuku or muʻumuʻu, the “cut-off” or dismembered woman, but her story is not one of persecution or disempowerment.
The questions we ask frame the answers we are able to receive. In Anguish Of Snails, Barre Toelken evokes the mild exasperation of Native storytellers with the questions that people educated in the American system tend to ask. “What does it mean?” is what the Western mindset wants to know, whereas in Indigenous contexts it might be more pertinent to ask: “What does it enact or embody?” (138). Sacred tales are not just narratives about things, they are also narratives that do things. The meaningfulness of a story might lie less in what it means than in what it does.
In our reception of Manamanaiakaluea’s story, we will be less concerned with what her dismemberment means than with what it does. Without seeking to impose any particular significance or analysis on her mythical/narrative body, we will focus on what it inspires, what it activates, and how it functions as a source of generative/creative power.
- What does it do within the world of the story? How does it affect the interplay of power(s) among the three women?
- What does it do in the world outside of the story? Manamanaiakaluea’s story inspired an ancient dance style called the hula muʻumuʻu, in which dancers literally embody her limblessness. How does this dance re-member Manamanaiakaluea and her story today?
- What does it activate in our own individual worlds? To whom does the dismembered woman chant on our own inner shores? This story is also, as we shall see, about (mutual) recognition.
- How does it relate to our collective world and the most urgent muʻumuʻu story of our time: the maimed and dismembered body of the ‘āina (land) and of our Mother Earth?
In approaching Manamanaiakaluea and her story, we will take our cue from Wahineʻōmaʻo, who, with wonder, joy, admiration, and aloha, is moved to befriend the limbless woman, and from Hiʻiaka, who suggests that there is more to the limbless woman than meets the eye.
- Receive Manamanaiakaluea and her story from a decolonizing, place-based, culturally respectful perspective.
- Explore potential connections between this localized Hawaiian story and the wider stories of the session’s participants and of the living planet.
- Embrace the dismembered mythical/narrative female body as a source of inspiration, activation, creative power.
This course is ideal if
- You struggle with owning your self-agency, voice or authority,
- You struggle with self-esteem
- You are a therapist or clinician working with adolescent girls or women
- You are interested in applied mythology relative to feminist theory
- You are interested in developing resources to connect with the sacred feminine within
By the end of this Course, You will be able To
- Distinguish the influence of internalized cultural complexes on the individuation process
- Embrace the dismembered narrative female body as a source of inspiration and creative power
- Discuss applications of visual poetics of dismemberment that we unconsciously practice
- Develop resources for connecting to the sacred feminine within
May 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th, 2023
5:00 – 6:30 PM PST/8:00 – 9:30 PM EST
- $225 General Rate
- $185 Pacifica Alumni, Full Time Students, & Senior Rate
- $135 Pacifica Student Rate
Program link will be sent out prior to the event. For those unable to attend live, the presentation will be recorded and the link shared after the event.
About the Teachers
Alka Arora, PhD is an associate professor in the women’s spirituality program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, CA. Her research and teaching focus on integral feminist pedagogy, decolonial feminist spirituality, and ecofeminist animal ethics. She also serves as an instructional consultant, transformational coach, and workshop facilitator.
Loralee M. Scott, MFA, is Director of Pacifica Online and brings over two decades of successful organizational leadership and a proven track record of post-graduate, Jungian informed curriculum design, development and delivery. A thought-leader, entrepreneur and sought-after speaker, she has lectured internationally in several countries. Her work as an award-winning choreographer was responsible for the passage of anti-trafficking legislation in Troy, NY and is featured in the book: Grief and the Expressive Arts published by Routledge. She is passionate about creating communities where soulful engagement and transformative learning can happen.
Emily Lord-Kambitsch, PhD (University College London), MSt (University of Oxford) is Co-Chair and Associate Core Faculty of Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Trained in classical philology and reception studies, she is a lifelong student and celebrant of the process of translating and transforming old stories into houses of meaning that give quarter to the ongoing dilemmas and delights of individual and community identity formation. A poet-storyteller, she is the author of the poetic memoir, Western Yoga: A Field Report on Desertion and Deliverance released by Bottlecap Press in 2023. For more information about her work, see her website: https://www.emilylordkambitsch.com/
Jennifer Maile is a doctoral candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University, an MA in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a French postgraduate degree (DEA, Diplôme d’études approfondies) in Histoire et Sémiologie du Texte et de l’Image from the Université de Paris-Diderot. Her essays have been published in the Mythological Studies Journal and in the recent anthology A New Gnosis: Comic Books, Comparative Mythology, and Depth Psychology. Maile is a longtime dancer and teacher of hula with Hālau Hula O Mānoa founded by Kumu Kilohana Silve and an ongoing learner of hula as a dance of ecological consciousness with Ulu Ka ‘Ōhiʻa founded by Kumu Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaole. She divides her time between Honolulu, Hawaiʻi and Paris, France.
Cancellations 14 days or more prior to the program start date receive a 100% refund of program registrations. After 14 days, up to 7 days prior to the program start date, a 50% refund is available. For cancellations made less than 7 days of program start date, no refund is available.
For additional information, including travel, cancellation policy, and disability services please visit our general information section.
May 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th, 2023
- Number of Classes: 4 Classes
- Class Length: 90 min.
- Class Time: 5 PM – 6:30 PM PST/ 8:00 – 9:30 PM EST
- Total Duration: 6 Hours
The presentations will be recorded and shared after each session for those unable to attend live.