Posted in Angeles Arrien, inspirational, journal prompts, multiculturalism, nature, spirituality, Writing for healing

Shapes of Wisdom: Tribute to Angeles Arrien

                                                                 Angeles spiral

Cultural anthropologist, visionary, and author,  Angeles Arrien  passed away suddenly on April 24th of this year. Another angel got her wings. Even her name  infers the celestial.  Her work is anything but ethereal. Her far-reaching spiritual and multicultural wisdom is cherished in cafes, dance studios, prestigious universities, and board rooms in corporate business settings.  She was the 1993 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin award.

Arrien’s works include one of my favorite books about archetypes, The Four-Fold Way  ®.  She explored symbols, shapes, culture, universal meanings and indigenous healing. Women’s wisdom is at the basis for much of her work. She wrote Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life and The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom and Signs of Life. She produced a wonderful tarot workbook that I’ve used for years, The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols.

I had just mentioned Arrien’s work to an old friend. Later that week, I was rearranging my books and pulled the Four Fold Way off the shelf to browse. I opened to page 40 about the warrior archetype. I spent a good hour sitting on the floor  re-learning some of her basic concepts. I’d even written about Arrien in one of my blog- journal entries.

I scanned over to page 41 and read a phrase I’d heard quoted at a workshop: “Where in my life did I stop dancing? Where in my life did I stop singing? Where in my life did I stop being enchanted with stories? Where in my life did I become uncomfortable with the sweet territory of silence?” The quote was in the warrior archetype section, and the challenges cited in the shadow were relevant. The push to move forward and to believe in one’s goals is held within symbols and in creativity. “Healing is creativity and passion and love.”

Here are some of the meanings for shapes:

The circle = wholeness

The equidistant cross=relationships

The spiral = change and growth

The triangle=dreams, goals, visions

The square=foundations, stability

Arrien goes on to explore indigenous healing traditions that always include holistic health-long before the term was mainstream. Our happiness, the health of our spirit, emotional and physical bodies are unified in a vibrational flow. If one of our areas or chakras is blocked, our energy vibration is off, and we can become ill or suffer in varying degrees with common emotional issues such as anxiety or depression, even insomnia and minor aches and pains.

One remedy: Dance! Sing! Freely roam the woodlands and seashores.

In working with the warrior archetype, we are empowering ourselves in our training to become healers, teachers, protectors, and adventurers. The warrior is not necessarily concerned with battle, rather, it is involved with being successful as a hunter-gatherer. And, we are constantly accessing our value from outside approval rather than by inner strength, courage, and authenticity. “We come into our leadership skills by staying in our power…”

What appeals to me most with the positive side of the warrior is a renewal of joy for simple dancing/movement and singing, along with the sacred silence of connecting to spirit wisdom in nature.

What a wonderful party must be going on, on the other side…but we are still stunned by the loss.  Angeles Arrien and her work will be studied and savored for years to come.

Above: collage tribute for Angeles Arrien.

Journal prompt 1: Are you drawn to any particular shapes or symbols? Have you studied the work of Arrien, Jung, or others who explore symbolism and multi-cultural disciplines? Take one concept or sentence from Arrien’s books and write about why it resonates.

Journal prompt 2: Draw each of the shapes mentioned above. Take one page for each shape. Then write about what the shape means to you personally. If you are moved to go beyond this, add a poem, or try a collage.


I made it this far and plan to keep going. I believe nature heals the soul. I love to journal, to write, do art, and music. I'm not afraid to tackle tough subjects. Solar-powered & drive hybrid. Trying to do my part. Earned my BA at 53. And, I believe, it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

2 thoughts on “Shapes of Wisdom: Tribute to Angeles Arrien

  1. Hi Susan! I think you will enjoy her books. Her work is fantastic. I was introduced to Signs of Life and the Four-Fold Way in expressive arts therapy classes in grad school. I was so sad to hear she passed away. Thanks for the Tedx link! They are all so valuable. x

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