Notes On Alchemical Psychology* is a series of texts dedicated to personal creative therapeutic work, merging the old ways & the new. Here I talk about the lore of the traditional handcrafted Russian Doll, of stories nested within stories, astrological rising signs, and all things hidden in plain sight.
“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”Winston Churchill, BBC Broadcast, London, 1 October 1939
This is the wider context of Churchill’s famous ‘Russian enigma’ quote and, as any further clarification, it places what is said into broader perspective. To paraphrase it – the soul of Russia may be undecipherable to the foreign observer, but its key driving force is visible to all who perceive it with interest.
The mystery of an internal mechanism of a situation, or the inner workings of a human being, might never be fully understood, but the kernel of truth can be found when we determine a key motivation, a raison d’être. The central engine, the ghost in the machine, what fuels us most. Often it is a simple, not a complex desire. The complexity around it stems from our childhood legacy of coping with the frustration and sadness of its lack, deformation, suppression, sometimes perversion, the ways we were led away from what we love.
If the key to an action or non-action is not readily detectible, it is, of course, hidden. Intentionally, or more often – not. Everyone has within them an ocean of unconscious currents, but only one ship to navigate them, a vessel that rides the surface, with allegiances, routes, winds to conquer – and a destination.
As with any puzzle, to understand the full picture, one must pull back, and observe the topography.
How does a form speak of its content?
The Russian nesting doll, the babushka, or matryoshka, was first introduced to the world at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900, although its history dates back a thousand years earlier, to Chinese crafted nesting boxes of the Song Dynasty, and their Chinese decedents, boxes turned into dolls, which then ’emigrated’ to Japan in the 19th century, becoming the Shichi-Fukujin, or the Seven Lucky Gods. Although the first Russian set in lore was told to be the creation of a monk inspired by the legend of golden statues of the ancient sky god Jumala in the foothills of Ural Mountains, what is known is that the artist Sergei Maliutin, commissioned by his patron Savva Mamontov, created the first set of matryoshkas out of linden wood, with intention to symbolise the essence of Mother Russia, itself.**
And they did.
In astrology, the rising sign is calculated by the hour and minute we were born under on a certain date, it is our literal and allegorical entrance to the world, characterising the presence of our being, the face we are first determined to show – as to be born requires will. Our mother’s, and our own. While our Solar sign reveals our essence, we never should disregard the appearance of us, which our rising sign reveals, as this is what we aspire to be in a continual process of becoming. This observable unfolding communicates so much more about our motivations, as it requires a movement towards a goal. Like a birth.
Consequently, in observing a surface we determine what the subject or object wants to be perceived as in an ardent striving to become as. Its raison d’être.
The Russian Doll, sequentially, becomes a larger version of oneself, or the reverse, child to mother, and mother to child, obscuring in plain sight its intentions with playfulness of expression. When we gaze upon it, or visualise it, only one thing immediately comes to mind – the country of Russia. Every other association follows this first impulse to assign a meaning through an identity. Its history is obscured in its shape, while its destination has been clearly painted on its surface.
It became its surface.
This is the absorption at the core of the mechanism of appropriation. If it continues without acknowledgement and collaboration, infused by a new, original creation, it becomes a process of corruption, looting and pillage. To steal from another is to deny sacredness of creation, the fruit of another’s own history and being. To erase, or to desecrate by imitation. Exploit the treasure of a space, mind, and emotion. An existential crime.
As the history of the matryoshka shows, its initial absorption of an already existing narrative was conducted in such a profoundly personal way, with a purity and depth of concept, that it managed to conjure an entirely new iconography – its core enigma precisely resting within the intensity of this visible motivation.
Chinese boxes still exist, and are treasured, their mystery now separate to the Russian Doll. But of the two, its the matryoshka which vividly encapsulates an idea, expressing the emotional investment of her creators and her connection to a specific land, lore, and storyline.
When we think of human beings, while it is not only wise to assess their presence, observing their actions and non-actions, unfolding of their will towards a situation or towards others, it also crucial to acknowledge that which they most aspire to become. This desire can always be sensed, and is therefore readily observable if we finely attune to another, as the profound emotion of it animates a person more than any other equally present feeling – driving an individual towards creation, avoidance, defiance, or towards destruction.
Observing the visible is often the best answer to any question about a hidden motivation, as nothing exists without, if it does not have a root within. And it is the brightest blooms that reveal to us the name of the flower.
Author: © Milana Vujkov
*NB These notes follow a personal journey, and are offered as philosophical & creative inspiration. Although I am a psychologist by education, the material within them is not therapy or substitute for therapy. However, they are dedicated as temenos for accessing the therapeutic numinous, in hope of being of good service to your soul in exploring the potentials of each moment in time.
** Source: therussianstore.com