08 Oct 2010 The Pythia and Writing Fiction

Summer Glau and Crew

Summer Glau and Crew

Waiting for my eyes to adjust to the lights being out. Can’t get that picture of Summer Glau out of my mind. Need to make room for images from the Unconscious. When I’m tied to this world, emotionally tied to the real world, it’s not possible to get images from the Unconscious. I believe that’s true. Otherwise, my ego is talking to my ego.

I open the Iris of Time.

The difference in images that come out of the dark is that some I see with my eyes, as in a hallucination, and the others I see with my mind, as in something I imagine. I want to see with my eyes, even though they are closed. I dropped off for just a second. Maybe now. I see a dark image of a beautiful flower, deep reds and greens. It fades. Now the little light, swirling. The little light now surrounded by purple light. A huge pale light. Dark shapes coming in from the lower left, perhaps a flowing curtain caught in the wind. My gurgling and squawking stomach. Just unbroken darkness. I can’t get started without an image. Does anyone in the Collective Unconscious want to talk to me? Anyone want to appear? If you do, where are you?

(I fall asleep.)

I wake at 1:00 am. Tonight I’m talking to my characters involved in the third volume of the mysteries – The Twice-Born. I’ve come to Delphi to talk to the Pythia. I open the Iris of Time, and find the Pythia sitting on the steps outside the Temple of Apollo.

I walk up to her. She seems to have been waiting for me. “Tell me about your life here,” I say. “How did they select you?”

“We are very young when they first take us, some when they are first born, if from a prominent family. We are taught of the temple first, brought here as little girls, so the place is familiar to us. They hold classes for us within the temple and teach us, as a group, of the god. They teach us to sing of divine Apollo and his sister Artemis. We know all the paeans, and we sing with the other priestesses. We are taught of the many city-states and how they relate through politics, and the wars.”

“I thought they brought in peasant girls.”

“At times they do, but not usually. Sometimes they’ll hear of a peasant girl with the gift and bring her here for testing in the chamber, but that is the exception, not the rule.”

“So they test you?”

“Oh yes, for many years. We’re brought here to smell the fumes and judge our reaction.”

“When was your first time on the tripod?”

“I was seventeen. A head of state, a king from Sparta, had come. The reigning Pythia was sick and unable to perform. I’d trained since a child.”

“Were you afraid?”

“Excited. For to be possessed by the god is a thrill few experience, not to the extent that one does in the chamber at Delphi.”

“How did it go? When did you receive the question?”

“Only after mounting the tripod do they ask. First I chewed the laurel leaves after preparing my mouth with a sip of wine. But I could hear the god calling my name before I entered the chamber. I blossomed like a flower when I caught the first faint fragrance. I could feel his great love for me, and he chided me. Apollo is great fun. He isn’t gruff or angry that he’s been summoned. And he is young, not as young as I, but he is eternally young. He toyed with me, and I could hear him warming to the task. We were both anxious to hear the question.”

“Where were the priests? Did they know what was going on?”

“They sensed something. I giggled, and they worried that I’d not have the seriousness required for the task. I stifled my great joy, because I knew I could do this thing they asked of me. How was I not to know? The god was already talking to me. I put on a great air of solemnity, mounted the tripod, chewed the laurel leaf”

“Did they bring the pilgrim before you, or did the priests ask the question?”

“They prepared him also. They’d assured that he had properly cleansed himself at Castalia because the male stench of a man long on the road can stifle the Pythia’s trance. Four priests, they were, and one king of Sparta, who’d come to know the child who’d replace him. He had twin boys, and knew not which should be king.”

“Did they explain to you the differences in the two?”

“No need. Apollo had observed them since they were born. Apollo had already made his choice because he knew the king was coming. But it wasn’t Apollo who made the choice. He had no preference, but his sister Artemis, she did. Still, she had to convince her father, Zeus. She’d assumed the role of midwife when they were born, having taken on the form of a mortal and pretended to have great knowledge of such matters, because the mother was in danger of death when they were born. They sent for this great midwife and got Artemis in the form of a mortal.”

“So what did Apollo tell them?”

“I can’t tell you in Greek because you’d not understand, but within the hexameter verse, he told the man all this. That Artemis had been there and seen the birth of his sons. And Artemis knew what no one else did. That the second born had the strength of character to let his brother be born first because his brother was afraid. The second-born was the brave one, said Apollo. He will be brave and true, and compassionate as king as he was with his brother in letting him be born first.”

“Was he the only pilgrim that day?”

“Oh no. We had many more. But they’d only allow seven that first day. The priests were afraid the strain would be too much for me.”

“And what happened to you afterward. Did the god leave you when you dismounted the tripod?”

“The god wouldn’t leave me alone. I left the chamber but he followed me all the way back home. They gave me wine to bring me back to my senses. And a strong bitter decoction that almost made me puke.”

“So were you then the new Pythia?”

“No. A couple of days later the Pythia reigning health and was back in top form. They held me back until the next year because I was so young.”

“Was the king pleased with the oracle?”

“At first, when he first saw me on the tripod, I heard him castigating the priests that they’d brought him before a child to speak the wisdom of Apollo, but the priests told him that the god had chosen me for him alone to receive an oracle, that his was a great privilege. So he held his tongue, and when I made Apollo’s pronouncement, I saw him smile. He told the priests that I’d been right. The first-born son was impulsive and full of action, perhaps brave to an extreme, but the second son was more contemplative, less apt to run with his first impulse.”

“Thank you for spending time with me,” I say. “I hope my story will do your confidence in me justice.”

“Write your words with respect for the Oracle, and you’ll not fail me or the god.”

With that, I close the Iris of Time.


Amazing what ideas can come to you in the middle of the night. I woke, had this idea for new type of Active Imagination session already fully form in my head. It seems that I’m now ripe for using this method for working on a novel. This is how I want to use it, at least initially, for writing fiction, and I’ll start with the third volume of The Mysteries, The Twice-Born. I’ve already outlined the work and even have a couple of chapter written. But I’ve been stalled out for several years not being able to write some scenes. This AI session has broken me free. This is how I plan to use Active Imagination.

Since I already know my characters, or at least have a preliminary assessment of them, I will now confront them in an active imagination session. As I enter each session, I’ll first go to the Pythia and have her take me to the character I plan to interrogate. In her presence, I’ll then question them about their lives and what ever I believe might be useful material for my novel. I’ll ask the Pythia about questioning them and how to go about it. Hopefully she’ll be able to help. I’ll do this for each character before I write a scene. I plan to do this at night in bed. In this way, I’ll prepare my characters for each scene. I might even plan their actions with them, as might the director of a movie. I’ll provide them input of the situation but also ask them to introduce such material as they feel fits their situation. Perhaps in this way, material will flow from the Collective Unconscious into my novel.

With Jung’s method, which had a much different purpose, he had his patients go into Active Imagination with a problem or the state of mind troubling them, and then talk to the personage who they though would have a valuable perspective on their problem. I’ll be talking to my characters, but I’ll have knowledge of who I’m talking to because I’ve modeled them after actual people from either ancient Greek history or literature. Primarily for literature I use the writing of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, although I do plan to use some characterization from Aristophanes.

Once I’ve written an Active Imagination session for each of the characters, I’ll fold the material into the actual scene. I guess the way I will do it is that I’ll talk to each character to get the information I need, and then I’ll write the scene during another Active Imagination session. This preparation should allow me to unlock the material and allow the scene to flow freely as it occurs. Of course, afterward comes the editing, where I’ll massage the words, ensure the scene has accomplished what the story necessitates, and then move on to the next scene. Perhaps I can get the atmosphere, the weather, etc from another AI session. This is Jungian novelsmithing writing., at lest least as I now see it.

I have been wondering all along how I would apply Active Imagination to novelsmithing. And this evening after the session with the Pythia it all unfolded. It is a process that just dropped in my lap, coming to me seemingly out of nowhere, similar to the way the Pythia’s words came to me.

But I’m already having second thoughts about the process. As with all material that comes to me during an Ai session, when it’s brought fully into Consciousness, Consciousness wants to question it. Consciousness wants to invalidate it. I suppose it’s just a symptom of the relationship between the Consciousness and the Unconscious. Consciousness treats the Unconscious as though it’s its little brother. Consciousness always wants to snicker and make fun of it. Invalidate it. I can’t let that happen. I must take up for the Unconscious and the material that comes from it.

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