Recently, my imagination was captured by Kerenyi’s (2016/1951) Nemesis, relentlessly pursued then raped by Zeus after which she lay an egg and immediately deserted it in the woods. Her aspects unfolded for me. Nemesis is the goddess of righteous anger when nature’s order is violated (including the nature of the psyche). She’s also the retribution for hubris, or arrogance against the gods (Atsma, 2017). Zeus, in his egoic pursuit of his individual desires, commits hubris against the goddess herself with fearsome consequences. The goddess becomes pregnant from her violation and lays an egg, which she leaves the egg to rot. From the egg which is rescued by Leda, a monstrous beauty, epically destructive and expansive, is born, Helen of Troy.
In life, we are sometimes forced into something we aren’t yet ready for, are incapable of mothering, or which should not be given life through our labors. There are also cases of giving birth to things the soul does not want or can’t handle. In more than one counseling session, I’ve had clients want to move directly to “fixing the problem” before getting to know their symptoms, emotions, relationship to it, etc.
As I was processing these thoughts this week, I found an interview by Daniela Sieff (2009) with Marion Woodman about the death mother and how she kills the imagination, among other aspects. This too applies to Nemesis. When an egg is fertilized, it will not begin to develop unless kept warm under its mother. It ceases to even begin to imagine itself and the necessary change it often brings.
The reluctant/death mother can serve a life-affirming purpose by not always giving the ego what it wants, and staving off future disaster, but also a life-denying purpose by stifling the imaginative powers of psyche as it fertilizes the fundament in preparation for necessary change.
Atsma, A. J. (2017). Nemesis. Retrieved from https://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Nemesis.html
Kerenyi, K. (2016). Gods of the Greeks (Kindle ed.). Aukland: Pickle Partners Publishing. (Original manuscript published 1951)
Sieff, D. (2009). Confronting death mother: And interveiw with Marion Woodman. Spring, 81, 177-199.