Stephanie Pope on the Hero's Journey Essay Series: Pt 5 Bee-Red for
myth and poetry

Day Log


Glasgow, red bee
The UnHappy Hero Part 5....................
-stephanie pope.....
published 3-9-07

I hear the level bee:
a jar across the flowers goes their velvet masonry

                                  –Emily Dickinson, The Bee

Ghost with a living corpse; dead image cast
into a present ravished by the past

                                   -Théophile Gautier

Whereas a walk-through of the movie Pan’s Labyrinth conveys in darker images in childhood themes that our happiness has a sense for what ennobles soul and life throughout every stage of life, happiness psychology provides us another image saying that childhood is a time when we are happy even when the literal reality tells us we are not.

The death of childhood, the childhood we imagine we lived, marks the death of the child we imagined ourselves to be. The child lives on however, in a world beyond our own literal one. This is the world that is eternally real. It is a world playing to likenesses like a program of little affirmations running in the background. The thought of this, the mood this brings to mind, presences a passing inward that passes into and out of another world.

Pan’s Labyrinth
marks in a pattern and a space where one’s own descent into imagination is taking place. In Pan’s labyrinth, Pan’s magical guides are fairy insects that mark this threshold and are its guardians. Psyche’s cherubim take amazing form!

A past will come to presence here in the image of the child living there what the child in us knows goes on living. What is living there is living eternally and is its own making. Yet, every living child in our present world is ravished by another world too, a world of the father, a world such as was Pan and Ofelia’s once upon a time in an oft avoided labyrinthine struggle forgotten in fatherhood. The nightmarish nature of that inheritance has come to bear upon our own natures now.

The notion that we live with dead religious images among other imaginal kinds is expressed and amplified in the writing of David Miller. Regarding those images that pertain to god the father in Christ’s incarnation and death and the resurrection of the dead he writes

…precisely because Christianity’s ‘forms were set’ in Western structures of meaning by twenty centuries of the institutional church, these ‘dead images’ are ‘living corpses,’ ‘ghosts’ that are ‘cast into our present.’ (Hells & Holy Ghosts, 13)

Professor Miller goes on to identify in After Christianity: Christian Survivals in a Post-Christian Culture by Rudolph Binion, three unconscious Christianisms in postmodern literature and life that also, by way of cinema-life I now suppose make-up the mono-intoned hunger of the otherworldly father seeking Ofelia’s return. These are the notions of original sin, the belief in an afterlife, and the Christian understanding that worldly reality is contradistinct what is ultimately real.

These religious ideas impose other views upon our seeming which we may not be conscious operate. The belief in afterlife, Binion argues, provides the view that the past will decisively determine the future. Being born under the weight of original sin casts over us a cloudy feel for our present world in how it is seemingly not in rhythm with the way things ought to be. Finally, we have this eerie feeling that our true seeming is not that to which we can point directly and imitate.  

I can also note Professor Miller’s own view of his inheritance in Christendom as he shares it

What I am haunted by is precisely the “shadow”-side of religious structures of meaning, which, if they at some time and for some persons seem to have been salvific and therapeutic, have also in some times and in some places had a demonic underside.

I cannot help thinking Ofelia’s journey into the house of The Pale Man possessed this sort of humanly negative, though religiously positive kind of ambivalence. It was a mixed-up mess in the messed-up mix circumnavigating down and into the otherwise down-miss venture-some re-turning childhood. Imagination is nothing, if not playful!

Nonetheless, to revisit the child is to descend into the story in life where the child has gone. There are different ways to do this. That means there are different kinds of descent.  There are different kinds of descent because there are different kinds of psychological language whose words get used to descend underneath images in the language a text will story.  For my part I am trying to keep to a depth or archetypal perspective during each of my explorations.

It is not necessary that the story into which we descend be a true reality as in something that is literally or materially so. For what every story will have been, and you can be sure of this, will have been a psychic reality. “Reality is simply what works in the human soul.” (Jung, CW, 60) James Hillman amplifies what kinds of things work in the soul.

All sorts of things work in the soul — lies, hallucinations, political slogans, outmoded scientific ideas, superstitions — and so these events are real, whether true or no. Many other conscious events — good advice, historical facts, ethical codes, psychological interpretations — may not have any effect in the psyche’s depth, and so these events may be considered as not real, whether true or not.  (Loose Ends, 173)

You and I can suppose what is real will have been that which had an effect in our psyche’s depths.

Shortly after I go to see the movie I write a poem. I am thinking about the seed and the blade and the ghastly nature of the visit to the abode of the Pale Man. The two eyes on the plate and the two grapes Ofelia tastes keep working long after the theatre closes!

I am also thinking about the two scenes in which Ofelia sees the menstral blood of her mother; the first time the blood appears in hemorrhage and the second in a bloody show prior to giving birth. I think it was here I begin to realize what it is my own Ofelia sees. She sees red.

The poem I write at the time just sort of flowed out of me. It is like the blood of the bloody show prior to Ofelia’s mother giving birth. When I make this connection I change the title of the poem from “The Seed & The Blade” to “What Ofelia Saw”.  The last line pair changes, too. The original line is

and bred
in red

But this does not say enough now so I pull the word ‘bred’ apart like I would if it were bread. That makes a kind of hunger-satisfying sense to the underworld longing that is about to be fed. The blood in the bled that is bred is bread. This is my body and my blood making-up the "b-red." (This now may be making the bee-red into a kind of communal poetry!)

B-red poetry operates in a kind of bringing back or gathering what is to belong together in reunion and in banquet — a re union — a come-union of ghosts communing (!)  The poem revers to show unknown presence(s) come to seize upon the hour and break in upon it visibly in some way.

Sometimes I can hear the velvet masonry of the magical in words. Such a time is now. B-red is a sound in the head buzzing. It is also an assignment. Be red. (Emily understood!)

I tear the image a-part again. Anytime there is this chance for the poem to become magical, you take it. This time I am wondering about bees. I remember Barry Brazelton telling once in a lecture on children and childhood that the flower is made for the animal eyes of the bee. The bee goes mad down inside that flower. If you watch you will see how crazy the bee gets over the flower.  Children get that way about flowers, too. The two most popular colors of flowers to bees are red and yellow. Red is the more popular, drawing more bees than any other color.

I next go to learn more about how bees see the color red.  Adolph Portman’s address to Eranos is published in “Color Symbolism: The Eranos Lectures” ed. Klaus Ottman, Spring, 2005. The essay discusses how bees see red. It is Portman who shares the awareness that the bee cannot see the color red. What the bee sees is ultraviolet light. The red color of a flower will emit more ultra violet light than any other flower color. The bee is attracted to another kind of light. I think this may be something like the way a psyche makes two eyes sit on a plate in a dream and scares the hades out of you. The telling about what is real is from a much different point of view. It is taking a subjective objectivity into account that is other than ego.

When Ofelia sees red she sees the way her mother has bled. She sees the blade in the bled you might say. One can recall the blade maiden, Persephone right here. One can recall the different kinds and each soul’s grief the way grief makes an appearance from within Pan’s domain of nightmare as well as through salvific and therapeutic structures of meaning. One remembers the horrors that are good to one and the horrors that are not good to one. This is the ghost in the body. Never give up this ghost. There is a way it’s been given up to you alone. But this knowing is a very dark knowing. It is darker than dark. It is three times dark. It comes from way down inside a material imagination. It is an in-side wisdom and so one must descend imaginally into the event one experiences and be ravished by subjectivities that make it up unconsciously to have any hope of experiencing what ghosts.

Ofelia has to go down into Pan’s body and see through Pan’s eyes to see what Ofelia sees. When she does she sees how Pan’s footprint in-forms and informs her with “two eyes not in a head”. Ofelia sees through another kind of light.  It comes from a felt sense that is out of touch and beyond sight. It has a humanly negative, though religiously positive feel to it. But more than this, Ofelia is reading darkness. (see footnote 1) What she see/ds is her soul’s code.

There is a moment you will come to in your own soul’s code where what you read will be read.  The ghosts will say ahhhh and be satisfied. This is bee-red. (see endnote 2)


1)A special thank you to Dennis Patrick Slattery for sharing his poem, “Reading Darkness” with me. The poem is the inspiration for this particular re turning of the image. The poem is unpublished to date. Dr. Slattery is currently putting a new poetry volume together for publication.

2)When I went to illustrate the poem to my amazement I discover there really is a red bee. The discovery was made in a meadow in Glasgow. To read more about this discovery click on the link.

Extended Reading

On Colony Collapse Disorder see Laura Shamas, "Worried About The Buzz" Wednesday, March 27,2007

Related Poetry

What Ofelia Saw

Additional Links

Pan's Labyrinth

Hero, Pt4
Hero, Pt1
Hero, Pt 2
Hero, Pt 3

poetry on Pan's Labyrinth, Ric Williams, the infinite turning &
for the absence of rain more-Ric Williams
mythopoetics mythopoesis
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