My life split itself in half just after my 43rd birthday in 1993: now there's life before breast cancer, and everything after.
A serendipitous encounter with Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth in 1996 helped me understand what I'd just been through as a Hero Quest.
Taking Campbell's advice to "follow your bliss," I turned away from my life as a straight-laced, perfectionist corporate tech writer. Instead, I started finding my "wyrd"(personal destiny) as a student of "weird" esoteric stuff like Tarot and astrology.
I also became an explorer of non-perfectionist, self-revelatory art forms .
In 2004, to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a breast cancer survivor and successful Hero Quester, I created my Breast Cancer Survivor Kit (which later morphed into the Hero Quest Kit), published a memoir about my Hero Quest, and also started making shrines about my healing journey.
As I continued making shrines for another 10 years, I realized I'd gone through several quest cycles.
Each descent into the Underworld involves battles with different personal demons; each ascent brings me greater understanding of my wyrd/personal destiny.
After 10 years of shrine making, I'd run out of space in my home to display any more shrines. Luckily, a friend introduced me to Seena Frost's Soulcollaging™ in 2015, and I've been making collages ever since.
I got another jolt in 2017, when my brother was put on a kidney transplant list and then, a year later, underwent a kidney transplant.
Since he and I have known we share the same kidney defect since we were teenagers, it seemed likely I would be facing my own transplant in the near future.
I quickly realized I was on another Hero Quest, and started applying my collaging to help me process what I was going through.
By continuing to make the invisible visible through collaging, I've not only found, but also learned to embrace archetypal parts of myself I never knew existed.
One of the first archetypes I visualized for myself was as a strong breast cancer survivor.
As you can see, the specter of a recurrence is always there, but as more time passes, the further it recedes into the background.
In the meantime, I'm surrounded by protective spirit guides .
Thanks to this collage by my artist friend, Karen Godfrey, I now also have an archetypal image of myself as a kidney disease survivor: protected by the archangel San Raphael, the patron saint of healing.
The fishes (which San Raphael is always shown holding) remind me to "go with the flow" - an important lesson I know my kidneys are trying to teach me.
I know I need to go with the flow because - strange as it may seem - my natal chart tells me so.
Here is an image of my N. Node in Pisces - what I'm here to learn to do in this lifetime. Pisces is all about letting go of my perfectionism and just going with the flow.
I actually think both of my major hero quests have been concerned with this.
Collaging helps me go with the flow by requiring a shift out of left-brain strictly mental mode and into right-brain wordless, creative and intuitive mode.
Along these "fishy"go-with-the-flow lines, I must tell you that I've always felt like something of a fish out of water - always looking and acting a little "weird," never quite fitting in.
Come to find out, that's also exactly what my natal chart says about me.
As one of my favorite astrologers describes the placement of my Uranus (my uniqueness), I am the one who stands on the edge of town, attracting all the village eccentrics.
I love that!
My Tarot lifetime archetype is the Hermit, the Way Shower - the one who gathers and disperses knowledge.
This also resonates with what my natal chart says I came into this life with (from many, many, many previous lifetimes): Virgo.
In addition to being about pursuit of perfection, Virgo is also the archetypal priestess concerned with pursuit of spiritual Truth.
Doing astrological readings seems like a natural way for me to "employ" this spiritual truth-seeking Way Shower archetype.
Because of my hero quests to and from the Underworld, another strong archetype for me is the Greek goddess Persephone, who journeyed to and from the Underworld with the seasons - every six months.
Some say she was originally abducted by Pluto, Lord of the Underworld. Others say she went down of her own free will - after hearing cries from below.
Regardless of how she got there, she soon discovered the riches of the Underworld (what we now call the unconscious). Ultimately Persephone came into her own as Queen of the Underworld, comforting the souls she found there, showing them how to make the most of their time there.
In short, she discovered her wyrd/personal destiny in the Underworld.
Like Persephone, I feel very comfortable discussing Underworld issues with astrological clients - sharing what I've learned about journeying to and from that strange land.
Hecate is an old, old, old goddess archetype that resonates in the deepest parts of my soul.
As Demetra George describes her in Mysteries of the Dark Moon, "She is a primordial figure in the oldest stratum of our unconscious. . . . She is a guardian figure of the mysterious depths of our unconscious that accesses the collective memory of the primal void and whirling forces at the onset of creation."
Hecate originally ruled over heaven and earth and the Underworld, but was later relegated to just the Underworld. She is the one who welcomed Persephone to the Underworld and showed her how to find and embrace her own power there.
She is also the one who brokered Persephone's return from the Underworld.
So - through the archetype of Hecate - I can assure you that your hero quest will never leave you stranded in the Underworld.
My questing/wyrding has also awakened me to my ancient indigenous roots. Pagan women and their beliefs resonate with me in a way that both strengthens and informs me on my questing/wyrding path.
Perhaps that's why Persephone and Hecate and other ancient goddess archetypes resonate so deeply with me.
My natal chart says my higher destiny/wyrd is to be fiercely, rock-solidly, unapologetically myself.
Here's how I've envisioned that.
Hey, it is what it is.
Take it or leave it.
. . . you may find my art log interesting. I'll be discussing new collages as I make them , as well as other artistic things I'm trying.