Poseidon, the ruler of the ocean of emotion
I was sparked by Steve Hurt’s article on Poseidon and the ancient gods in the Summer 2023 Edition of Odyssey. I wanted to share what I have learnt – that Poseidon is more than just the god of the ocean. I have a particular interest in Poseidon, because I have always sought solace in the sea and because I find myself painting a boat in a storm over and over again.
This interest in Poseidon was reinforced two years ago when I went to an energy healer in Cape Town and, whilst she was encouraging my chakras to light up, she said Poseidon came to see what was up. Apparently, he was just watching her work on me, so she asked him rather tetchily, “Are you just going to stand there or are you going to help?” And he apparently then took me out of the dark stormy sea and planted me calf-deep in the sand on the beach. Grounded me. I had not mentioned anything about the sea or gods or my art to this healer; I had just described my experiences with my divorce and my diagnosis. Afterwards this lady invited me to go find out more about Poseidon and what came to light fascinated me.
Poseidon is not just a sea-god. He represents far more than that. Humans tell stories to explain their stories and the relationship of Poseidon with the ocean is a story of the relationship we have to our subconscious. According to de Warren and Auroville, “Poseidon is the power that reigns on the subconscious. By the upheavals it raises, it forces a progressive control of the vital.” When Poseidon storms into our lives, we find ourselves feeling as though we are being tossed about in the surf and it is time to journey through the deep emotions that have been suppressed and not expressed. What really rocked my boat (excuse the pun) was that Poseidon “…brings issues to light through emotional, mental and physical shocks, which are the psychological distortions and imperfections of the seeker. As vital manifestations most often remain outside the control of the intellect, he is the god of stormy seas more than the one of calm waters. As emotions have strong psychosomatic repercussions on the body he is also known as the ‘shaker of the earth’, or the ‘support of the earth’, earth being in this case associated with the body.”
Now, why does this resonate with me? Because I was diagnosed with the shaky disease called Parkinson’s at the tender age of 38 years old. I have become aware, with the help of many healers and therapists, that for many years I suppressed my emotions. Leading to a storm-tossed body. Let me describe what I have discovered.
Firstly, context is important. The modern era of western ‘civilisation’ has led to a sitting, thinking-culture – cerebral work domains, distracting technology and too much sitting at desks and too much shaming around emotional vulnerability. We have also not spent enough time walking in nature, re-setting our humanity. We have become overthinkers and ruminators. As an academic, I spent years studying and reading and typing. Excellence was not a choice, it was the goal. Criticism was revered. No emotions were allowed in your publications. As an environmentalist, I spent years sitting at a desk, managing projects, writing proposals and strategies and stressing about funding. I made endangered species my burden. And, as a woman in science, I faced additional pressures to ‘prove myself’. As a mother, I spent years being my son’s pancreas (he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three), I was up sometimes three or four times a night and then would have to get up early again to start it all over again. I had to be constantly available to assist those that took care of him whilst I was working. Hyper-vigilance. A nervous system under constant pressure. Top that up with a cocktail of car accidents, home invasions, messy divorce and it is a recipe for a tremble.
Then there is the matter of self-awareness. When we repress our emotions, they do not go away. They become trapped in the body and cause ailment. If we are not aware of how we feel, how can we know who we are, what brings us joy? For example, I always wanted to be a writer. I was told there was no earning potential in this field and that I should be a scientist, as I achieved high academic results. When you are young and unwise, you follow others’ advice until you learn better. Nowadays I find more joy in playing with words, like a seal plays in the waves, than formulating hypotheses and analysing data with nonparametric statistics. I can do the science stuff; but it’s an intellectual pursuit, not a joyous expression.
What about repressing anger? If you cannot feel anger, how do you know if your boundaries are being broken? Once our boundaries are repeatedly broken, we start losing trust in ourselves and fear and shame are not far behind.
I propose that Poseidon is a signal to us to express, not suppress. Poseidon himself was known for his rather base emotions – anger, jealousy, possessiveness. And we, too, have to acknowledge those emotions in order to master them. This could be referred to as our ‘shadow-work’. Yet, Poseidon is not only about the dark and deep – we can choose to be curious and non-judgmental about our desires. After all, “the sea is both a symbolic expression of life and the place which preserves the memories of evolution.” Poseidon’s storms connect us to our creativity and vitality, as we learn to transform, rather than repress. Poseidon “teaches us that obstacles are levers and allies, generating the necessary conditions for our freedom and teaching us endurance. When we progress towards an equality of soul he can be sensed as a joyful enthusiasm, irrespective of the external conditions. Once his work is accomplished, a perfect equanimity is established in the vital.”
Thus I welcome Poseidon in my dreams, as the journey to awareness of emotions has been the silver lining of my storm-clouds. I am learning to ground, to earth, when the surge starts. I am grateful to Poseidon for the shocks and shakes that signalled my lack of self-care. The trembling has given me a greater understanding of being me – being Christy – and, through this, I have learnt a new art-form, how to love myself.
To celebrate Poseidon, I am drawing a picture of a white horse this week. According to the legends, Poseidon’s association with horses is the key to understanding the transformation. The horse is “a symbol of vital force which can be or has been disciplined and therefore a symbol of vital power.” When he strives for mastery Poseidon is known as ‘the tamer of horses.’ I spent more time drawing this horse than I spent on all the stormy-sea paintings put together. I am practising mastery.
Christy Bragg works as a freelance writer in the health (www.spaceforwellbeing.com) and the environment sectors (www.LinkedIn.com/in/christy-bragg), and sells her art on Instagram @Christy_Bragg_art. She has worked in conservation and climate change adaptation for 20 years. She also knows a lot about porcupines.