The Handless Maiden

Sacred Space - Containing and Transforming

Let's talk about containers...cocoons, wombs, caves...Circles.  And I'll throw in a little about squares too.

Over the years, in my work and study with dreams, and learning Dreamwork, I have become quite familiar with the idea of sacred space.  That is - space that is designated for doing deep and healing inner work.  The Greek word for this concept is temenos.  That's where the square comes in.  It's why we have square churches and square courtyards, square courtrooms, and square baseball diamonds.  They contain.  (In 2013, when I was beginning the shift in my own work, I wanted to name the business "Temenos."  The name was already taken!)

A few years later, I was reminded of the concept of the Sacred Circle in a Jungian DreamWork class.  It is the same idea, but comes from a different tradition.  "It is an old Goddess ritual to bathe--purify--to don the white gown--the garb of descent to the land of the dead--and to draw a circle of magic protection--sacred thought--around oneself." (from Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes).

In my class, the professor encouraged us to create some type of circle when doing dreamwork, active imagination, or any other type of inner work that would engage the unconscious.  A message to both the conscious mind, and the vast contents of the unconscious, that "I am serious - I want to listen - I want to go deep!"  

So I began gathering my precious items - hunks of rose quartz and other crystals, rosaries, metal crosses, artwork - and forming a Circle around the space that I was doing some type of inner work, creating a program, or writing what I intended to share publicly.  I was creating a Sacred Circle in which to bring that which was coming out of the unconscious, into my conscious mind. (I used to worry that if someone were watching this behavior they would have had some serious questions about my mental stability - but I did it anyway!)

I realized I had been doing this for years!  Building and walking labyrinths.  Turning my round glass top table into an altar.  Painting the Celtic triad in my house.  And beginning to meet in Circle with other women, mostly, under the guidance of Heather Elizabeth of SHE.  

The significance of how I had been tapping into the energy of the Sacred Circle - how it had been holding me, protecting me, providing a container for growth and transformation - was brought to my awareness in such an incredibly synchronistic way! See Dreams, Synchronicity and The Handless Maiden for this story!

Maybe you are beginning to see the back story of how I have come to take this work so seriously.  There is nothing that I ask you to consider investing in - whether that be time, energy, practice, or money, that I haven't done myself.  

My journey continues - I am amazed at what keeps unfolding - and unfolding, like a never ending opening of a beautiful flower!  And I want that for you!  I suspect that you are wanting it for yourself too, or you wouldn't even be taking the time to read this blog.

How do you want to begin?  I have laid out the options for ways I can accompany you on your own journey - the treasure hunt, I like to think of it.  Just click on the link.  Everything you will find there allows you to begin to experience that sacred container, in varying degrees.  

And know this - no matter when you choose to peel back your own layers - The Sacred Circle is always there for you.  We are always and continuously held by the Divine Spirit, where there are such vast and plenteous resources for the drawing on!

with gratitude and love, peace and healing!


Dreams, Synchronicity, and The Myth of the Handless Maiden


Look for my blog posts about how I have used sacred circles to do my own inner work, and a little about where the concept comes from.  It's the idea that actually marking off physical space helps our psyche get the message that we are serious about this inner work business, that we really do want to meet what is in the underground of the unconscious.

I want to share here what I received as an amazing experience of synchronicity that helped bring the whole idea of sacred circles into my awareness in a powerful way! Here is that story...

I was very excited to have the opportunity to take a class on Jungian principles in DreamWork at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, taught by Pittman McGehee, in the Winter/Spring of 2015.   I had already been working with my dreams for over 15 years, reading and studying with the writings of recognized teachers in the field - John Sanford, Robert Johnson, Joyce Rockwood Hudson, among others.  I had attended a dream conference at the Haden Institute, and had been offering dream retreats and groups, as well as guiding my clients in their own dreamwork.

All that to say that I was quite familiar with the principles, but enjoyed the teachings of Pittman McGehee and believed I had much to learn from him.

Following the first week of class, I received a detailed dream (CAUTION: it's a little graphic!!) in which, along with other symbols, there was an image of an intricate replica of a piano, the size of dollhouse furniture or a music box. Also in the dream, my sister's right ring finger was cut off in the process of chopping vegetables. There is much action that I am involved in to reattach the finger, which is unsuccessful, the dream ending with the detached part of the finger dried and shriveled, and the hand bleeding.

Also that same night I dreamed that my baby grand piano had been burned out (actually a recurring dream). As I sat in that next class, the discussion became centered around feminist issues, with some conflict within the class arising. Pittman spoke in a very relaxed manner, saying something like “this is the issue of how the patriarchy has cut off the feminine, what the myth of The Handless Maiden is about.”

Immediately I recalled my dream, and was curious to explore this. I knew exactly where I could find The Handless Maiden, as I had read it some years previously in The Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  It was on my bookshelf.  Within 5 seconds, Pittman then said, “You know, that's what the movie The Piano, is about.”

My mouth dropped open - “Oh my God!” I thought. If I may have not received the message the first time around, here it was delivered to me again.  (Remember the pianos in my dreams??) There was no doubt that his comment was for me, and that my next task was to reread The Handless Maiden.

I proceeded to pull out my copy as soon as I returned home that night. In the very beginning of the story of The Handless Maiden, the young woman is inadvertently sold out to the Devil by her unawares father.  It was in reading this story and Clarissa's interpretation of it in light of the feminine journey of healing and awakening, that I came to understand the concept of a Sacred Circle in much more depth!

"The day the Devil came to fetch her she bathed and put on a white gown and stood in a circle of chalk she'd drawn around herself.  When the Devil reached out to grab her, an unseen force threw him across the yard." (p.422)

The maiden's act of drawing this circle of chalk around herself was the signal to her unconscious mind that she was ready to grow, ready to See herself, ready to take on the shadowy parts of her nature, and ready to bring forth her own inner and intuitive wisdom.

So, you see, that's what all this sacred circles and container energy is all about!  It's hard work.  It's deep work. And it's exciting work.  It takes a great deal of commitment, time, energy, and financial resources.  Probably the greatest investment you could ever make!  The individual offerings I have designed - Indigo, Turquoise, and Emerald of Becoming Your Heart's Treasure  - will guide you on that journey, just like The Handless Maiden reflects.  (In person, phone, or Zoom sessions)

Or possibly you are in a place along your path where belonging to a group that is intentional about connecting with the Divine Spirit, and connecting within, is the thing that would assist you on your spiritual and healing journey.  That's where Sacred Circles can meet you.

Re-reading The Handless Maiden, in the context of all that I had learned and in looking back over my dreams (turns out I had lots of images that were related to "handless," including one in which my own hand had been severed, and began to grow back!), and with Clarissa Pinkola Estes' brilliant commentary, I saw each step of my own journey reflected in this tale.  As all fairy tales go, it tells many truths of our psychological unfolding and growth in a symbolic way.  This is what we will begin to explore in the online group, Sacred Circles in May.

For now, I just wanted to share with you this additional layer of how it is that I came to be so passionate about doing inner work, and creating sacred space in which others can do theirs.  There is another story of synchronicity (actually 2 of them) that came out of that Jungian class.  I actually didn't learn much more content, and I was kind of disappointed in what the professor did NOT share.  But, these synchronicities and how they guided my own work was definitely worth the time and money!  I'll tell those another time!

with gratitude and love, peace and healing!  Alisa