Every family has one. A secret that pervades the air at family gatherings like the smell of moth balls. A death, a betrayal, an imprisonment. A relative that falls from the family tree and vanishes without a trace. Secrets roll through the dust of generations like fragile tumble weeds. Sometimes they’re collected, fashioned into tales that are embellished with bright beads of drama, or muted strands of omission. Sometimes they’re made more colourful, more heroic, to lighten the terrifying darkness, conceal the senseless waste.
Film and literature depict the flawed hero. The Black Sheep, the Sacrificial One who becomes the Redeemer. The Rebel, the circuit breaker, who fracks atrophied denial in the palisades of silence. Sarah Polley, in her documentary Stories We Tell explores the twisted thread of secrets in her own family when she discovers that her mother and Montreal producer Harry Gulkin sequestered their love. That she was born of their hidden passion.
In Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, author Margaret Heffernan explores the subtle and pervasive ways we choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to remain unseeing in situations where “we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.”
And yet, we do know. Many of us spend much of our lives moving forwards, never daring to look back. At first, we may run like the Gingerbread Man, as fast as we can, to escape the dark shadows of our inheritance. Or like Bluebeard, we keep the gruesome corpses of our memories locked away with the key that bleeds. Perhaps we stuff the dark terror of our past into a glass bottle where it floats across the sea but eventually washes up on the shores of future generations. Family secrets are intuited even by young children, unpicked, uncovered, with the best intentions by loving parents who wish to protect them from what they perceive as a dangerous truth. So often it is in our families we inherit secrets and lies and encounter conflicts and complexes that have ossified over many generations. Sometimes it is helpful to revisit the past. Sometimes it is not.
There are some truths that in the telling of them, vindicate and heal. There may be some truths that leave exit wounds that shatter our lives forever.
Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, and now, The State of Affairs, examines the modern western notion of truth-telling in this age of transparency.“ In America, lying can never be an act of caring. We find it hard to accept that lying would be protective, this is an unexamined idea. In some countries, not telling, or a certain opaqueness, is an act of respect. Also, maybe the opposite of transparency isn’t intimacy, it’s aggression. People sometimes tell for their own good, as an act of aggression.”
The astrology this month highlights our assumptions about truth and justice: The Taurus Moon is clad in sensuous silks as she receives her consort on Saturday, November 4th. She’s ripe bellied and swollen as she burns away the veils of illusion, shining her light on those things concealed by darkness. Mercury moves into Sagittarius on November 5th, followed by Venus in Scorpio on November 7th, augmenting Jupiter’s predilection for telling the truth. Already, Jupiter in Scorpio has revealed the rapacious sexual predation that has pervaded patriarchy for centuries. Tumescent sexual predators have commanded positions of power during every twelve-year cycle of Jupiter in Scorpio in human history. So why, at the time of the 2017 ingress of Jupiter into Scorpio have so many been outed for past abuse? Pluto’s slow transit through Capricorn may certainly be smoking out all that is rotten in a modern society that pays lip-service to human rights and equality. And Chiron has been in tense square to Saturn which could be interpreted as a wounding by authority figures (December 2016-December 2017.) Eris, sister of Mars, was“discovered” in 2005 when Jupiter was last in Scorpio, signifying a new archetype, interacting with human consciousness. Eris is associated with chaos, discord, and strife and the outraged Feminine is the zeitgeist of these times as Mother Earth groans, and greed and aggrandisement crack the structures of state and big business.
On November 13th, Venus, lusty goddess of Love merges in the night skies with Jupiter, infamous in myth for his insatiable sexual appetite and unbridled grandiosity. As Jupiter emerges from the glare of the Sun and rises radiantly in the East in late November, expect more revelations of cads and crooks who hold high office.
Joseph Marshall, Lakota teacher, writer and story teller tells how he would go out walking with his grandfather, sometimes for miles. “He had this curious little habit of stopping and then he would turn me around, grab me by my shoulders and he would say, Grandson, look back at the way we came. So, I would. I finally asked him, Grandpa, why are you making me look back? He said, Because, Grandson, one of these times I’m going to send you down this trail by yourself and if you don’t remember the way you came, you will be lost. To me, that is the greatest lesson I ever learned about history and about the past. Our past makes us who we are, makes us what we are.”
Like racehorses, some of us are destined to be weighted more heavily from the start. Perhaps in looking back, we learn how to walk bravely in the dark. We may glimpse in the stories, the strength, the creativity, the courage of those who have walked before us. In their pain we discover the portal to our fragility. In the opaqueness of their secrets, the bright spark of Divinity concealed in the soft folds of their humanity. Perhaps in looking back, we look to the future, to a life on earth with a new vision for those yet unborn. Perhaps in looking back to the past, we will remember the way we came and discern when to speak and when to stay silent.