This painting of Narcissus at the pool is one of the most famous now, though Caravaggio, its painter (16th-17th C.), fell into obscurity for centuries after his death. He was very successful in his lifetime, but profoundly troubled, swaggering around town looking for fights, and killed one young man. The fire of his love for painting flipped into a dark hatred and competition, as did the cursing youth in our myth. He was the king of this painting style, chiaroscuro, rendering his subjects in unnatural extremes of light and dark. Seemingly his artistic brilliance was countered in his personal life with darkness and likely hubris; the Pope issued a death warrant for him. When his work came to light again out of the darkness of obscurity, it spawned a group of painters called Tenebrists, 'Shadowists'. We could say that Nemesis's job is to get us to look at our shadows, at the places where love and light can not penetrate. I love when art imitates life...
This painting must be of the very moment that Narcissus sees himself, poised to take that drink; "While he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in the mirrored pool- and loves". Again I ask you to consider the import and ubiquitousness of the archetype of reflection. First, that we see soul, our true self, by looking within and seeing ourselves reflected there. We often see there the thing we had thought we were not, the shadow cast by our daytime identity. This is the sort of mirroring that we see in the yin yang symbol. What we think we are not is only the opposite, the mirror, of what we think we are. Though we can only express one of the opposites at a time, the limitation of the time-space continuum, wholeness of human experience means we understand we embody at least the potential for its opposite.
Secondly, in that meeting of opposites we see as well what bard Loreena McKennitt (earlier post) calls god in her song, the Divine within, since the nature of the Divine is wholeness, not duality. Thirdly, the manner in which we ordinarily, in our daily lives "under the sun", see our true selves, our souls, and our buried selves, is through looking at, facing, meeting (all things Narcissus is doing here) "other" in the world. That is why we fall in love with people, from the perspective of reflection, of mirroring. The loved reflect back both our light (the beauty Narcissus is so famous for) and our dark. When we strain to capture the light we see in another, our dark could be found in the curse, the suffering, that follows a rejection, when we fall back into the shadow we were fleeing from. The shadow could be that which we do despise, as Ovid puts it, in ourselves, though the shadow can actually hold light, as when we hide our own beauty, gifts, and love, the Black Sun of the alchemists. Narcissus's initiation is begun; as Amelia Curran (earlier post) puts it, "Hardest hearts if you ever let go, will come together on the renegade road". Narcissus is going to enter the renegade road of leaving behind his old sun-ordered world, the human conditioned experience Rich Thomas is protesting in the song Gold and Silver, last post. He's exhausted by this game of soul-stealing. He's going to leave his conditioning and look within.
So Narcissus tries to embrace his image, just as Echo tried to embrace him; "How he thrusts his arms to catch the neck that's pictured in the middle of the stream!" Nemesis's work is often this; that we develop compassion through experiencing the event from the other side. Then we cannot identify any longer as residing on one side or another of a given duality, such as desiring and desired, and conditioning crumbles. For example, in The Game, one of the films I review in my book (here on Amazon), Nick, a cold hearted Scrooge type, experiences as part of his initiation landing penniless and unknown in a city in Mexico, now the same as the many folks asking for a handout he's refused in the past. For this reason I call Nemesis the Queen of Karma, though I don't hold with the popularized definition of karma.
The photo above is to bring in the other aspect this Nemesis has ruled over the years- destiny. Nemesis's balancing and unifying skills are needed if we are to fulfill our destinies, which are rooted deeply within the soul. Our destinies are part of that light within. That's what this woman is catching, because the star is the universal symbol of destiny, not only because stars are light and we are in truth light beings, but because the stars have always evoked in humans the vastness of the cosmos, its seemingly eternal nature, and it is this vast Creation that we connect with in our own destinies. Ovid lets us know that Narcissus's initiation is one that leads towards fulfilling his destiny using the mere mention of stars; "His gaze is fixed upon his own eyes, twin stars", the windows of his own soul.
Well, Narcissus's story's about to close. As I mentioned earlier, this transformative moment which he is dialoguing with Echo, the forest's soul which is one with his soul, is about self love, of the deepest kind, not that which depends upon physical beauty. He says (notice the word "shade" or shadow), "No more my shade deceives me, I perceive 'tis I in thee- I love myself- the flame rises in my breast and burns my heart..." This is the flaming heart that's used in Christian icon. He says "The thing that I desire is mine- abundance makes me poor." Everything he could want, he now knows he holds within (I love myself), and his "poor" is a reference to humility. He no longer feels special, worthy in a worldly sense, because he is not seeking and hunting for something of worth any more, as folks who desired to hold his beautiful form (including himself) once did. Worth as a thing to pursue is meaningless when everything has worth, the truest definition of humility. This is an enlightened moment, surely, and it is unfathomable to me that the story is considered one of punishment, of a bad end. That's the problem with a culture that literalizes death and does not teach its wisdom found in the cycles of the natural world.
Spellbound Spellbound I am, I am
The wizard has enchanted me, enchanted me
Spellbound deep in my soul, in my soul
In my heart burns a sizzling fire, a sizzling fire
Spellbound I am, I am
The wizard has enchanted me, enchanted me
Spellbound in my heart's root, my heart's root
My eyes gaze to where the wizard stood
I plan to look at ravens next. Peace out!