DATE: Friday, December 20, 2013
TIME: 1:00 p.m
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Brenda D. Gesell
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Pillars of Salt or Stone: The Alchemical Pilgrimage of the Petrified Feminine"
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-T; 2009
CHAIR: Dr. Allen Koehn
READER: Dr. Mikita Brottman
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Thomas Lavin
Gesell, B. (2013). Pillars of Salt or Stone: The Alchemical Pilgrimage of the Petrified Feminine (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2013)
The famous “weeping rock,” which stands on Mt. Sipylus in Turkey has, since ancient times, been perceived as the embodiment of Niobe, the Theban queen of Greek mythology. She insulted the gods with her pride and was condemned to live in stone and mourn forever (Homer, 2006). A very early legend in Palestine holds that a salt formation near the Dead Sea comprises the earthly remains of the biblical character, Lot’s wife. According to the book of Genesis, when Lot and his wife were fleeing the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God directed them not to look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed and was instantly transformed into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26, New International Version). In India there persists the legend of Ahalya, a mythological Hindu beauty who was magically transformed into stone as punishment for her pride and infidelity (Doniger, 1999).
The tales of Niobe, Lot’s wife and Ahalya, though unique, share psychological similarities that resonate for individuals who were raised by a narcissistic parent and/or grew up in inherently narcissistic patriarchal cultures. Collectively, each story illustrates the loss of anima within a culture divorced from authentic feeling, nature and instinct. This dissertation examines the legends of the petrified woman and explores how her myths may communicate a renewed psychological understanding of the feminine soul that exists in both men and women. Moreover, the substances of the petrified woman, salt and stone, with their paradoxical and malleable symbolism, lend themselves well to the prinicples of Jungian alchemical psychology. This dissertation will conclude that alchemical imagery provides a guide toward liberation and wholeness for the petrified anima.Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.