This was our fifth trip we've made to Ireland. I've spent more than a month here on each of four trips. I have another month trip planned for 2015. Still, I feel somehow I'll always be a tourist. The people of Ireland are very hospitable. Most everyone is willing to chat. I’ve some of my best conversions while riding in taxis and at the pubs. Of course I get the obligatory question, "Where are you from?" I used to answer, "America," but then I got tired of the, as the Irish say, 'You taken me for an ejjiot' look, translated, "Yes, Yank I can tell your from America." Kindly, though, they ask, "What part?" One night in Ennis I told the woman asking, “Arizona.” "Aye," she said, "You're used to the dead heat." Arizona, does indeed have dead heat. Though, I am not used to it—in fact, I despise it. Then, she, like most curious folks, asked how was our stay. Telling people we're staying for a month always receives a pleasant response. They seem to appreciate we're taking the time to really see the country. Then, when I told her we've been here five times, the next question is typically, "So what keeps drawing you back?" That question gets to the heart of the matter.
Why do I keep coming back to Ireland? For one, both sides of my family has identifiable roots in Ireland. One side of both my mother's paternal and maternal families have Irish roots. My father's family, the Staffords, also has its roots in Ireland. I just haven't gotten all the family research completed, but I am making progress. When I give my name along the eastern coast and down into the southeastern counties, especially Wexford and Waterford, I usually get the response, "I know some Staffords, are you related?" The English drove the Staffords off the British isle in the late 17th century. Most all of them settled in Ireland. Maybe I'll find a distant cousin someday?
I've also made continued trips to Ireland for a paradoxical reason; to get away from the "dead heat," of Arizona. While at the same time, to place myself into the alchemical heat of transformation, a "dead heat," which I find readily available to me in Ireland. Four times, I have been here on pilgrimage, the last three, walking. The experience of trekking through the ancient forests of Erie moves me into deep psychological reflection—the work necessary for alchemy of the soul.
The alchemical process has four stages; blackening, the red, the yellowing (or multi-colors), and the white stage. The goal is to create psychic gold, or the philosopher's stone. In Jung's term's, individuation or the complete integration of the personhood into their Self (the center point of the psychic circle). This long and complex process requires "dead heat." A heat that is managed and well tended. Hot enough to bring about psychological transformation. Not so hot as to totally incinerate the psyche.
Blackening brings the dross to the surface where it can be scraped away. Those things in our life that have been suppressed and need to come to the surface for us to deal with and then let go. The reddening turns up the heat every so slightly. What remains, begins to congeal, now in a more healthy way. Much like having a jigsaw puzzle where we had forced some pieces to fit in order just to move on—now we are able to go back and slowly rework the puzzle so that the pieces fit nicely in their appropriate places. It feels and looks better. Next, in yellowing (or multicolor like the peacocks tail), more heat is added in order for something beautiful, which has been hidden deep within, to now emerge. This is the stage where the work of individuation could possibly become visible to others. The person going through the alchemy of the soul is allowing the Self to be the center and not the ego. These stages take careful, intentional, risky, and time committed work—a lifetime. The white stage, well, is as difficult as making gold. Maybe such is the reason I still feel like a tourist in life, no matter where I am—just not quite home.
Obviously I've over simplified the alchemy of the soul. Jung has written at length about the work. I'm working on these ideas in more detail as they relate to the book I'm writing, Pilgrimage: A Way of Life. Any feedback and questions would be greatly appreciated.