When Darkness Offers A Light

 Lana Tustich

Lana Tustich

The Kraken is known to be a destructive force; although here it’s a helpful presence offering a much-needed light in the darkness. A sense of isolation is palpable but only from humankind. Krakens are a recurring theme for me and represent an emotional daemon which lurks in the depths of the subconscious. Symbolically speaking, the water correlates to the emotional life, and all that gets stored through feeling. As a guardian of what lies on the bottom of the ocean floor (the very foundation of our emotional life), the Kraken is often symbolic of a particular emotional state. A state which includes rage directed towards someone who has sailed into dangerous waters. If we felt the need to release the mythical beast from the depths there is usually a sailor within close range; a sailor who can probably sense what lurks beneath or at the very least he’ll have heard rumours about its existence. He (or she) may have an element of recklessness deeply rooted in the personality, or it could be a phase they are currently passing through. Either way, they know all about the Kraken but may have doubted its presence in the waters they sailed into. The waters I refer to here are another way of saying that someone crossed an emotional boundary. The Kraken wakes because of a perceived threat to the emotional self.

Feeling curious about the origin of the word itself, I found that it’s taken from the Norwegian word krake, which designates an unhealthy animal or something twisted. This fits with the idea that the Kraken represents a distorted emotional reaction. This reaction may not be entirely healthy, but it persists nonetheless. The Kraken has no magical ability and could refer to an internal force which has quietly grown to mythic proportions because it has been left undisturbed for an inordinate amount of time. Like the beast itself, it would be incredibly difficult to kill off this aspect of the self, and far easier to not have it provoked to rise in the first place.

Tennyson’s sonnet shows the Kraken in an almost sentimental light yet also has the creature dying if he should rise to the surface, which then reminds me of the idea that it is only by bringing something out into the open that we can confront it and deal with it. This is said most often when there’s something we sense that is dark, demonic and depressing within our personality.

The sonnet by Alfred Tennyson, The Kraken (1830)

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die. 

I find it reassuring this Kraken holds a lamp from one of its tentacles and wonder if there’s a suggestion of finding answers if we’re prepared to look deeper. Light also gives off heat, and that tiny amount of warmth may be enough to keep us emotionally alive; what I mean is, we can keep the lines of communication open to what we are feeling. This is not a time to be shutting off; most especially if you’re not in such a great place, and you feel drawn to this image. The woman in the boat looks ill-equipped. Not only is the boat too small for the ocean, but she's also got nowhere near enough clothing on to protect her from the elements. There’s a suggestion from the image that she may have been blown off-course and suddenly found herself in a dark and dangerous place; although she’s holding a knife in her hands so may not have been entirely unaware that she needed to protect herself. The problem here seems to be one of proportion; she didn’t correctly gauge the incoming weather ~ it was worse than what she anticipated. But, the helpful stance of the Kraken suggests a person who is at least trying hard to understand a dark aspect to their own personality.

Destructive emotions can be compared to all sorts of things metaphorically, but I’m particularly fond of the Kraken because I can relate to it so easily. I identify with this beast most often when I’m not ready or willing to share emotional space with someone, or if I’m afraid of being caught or wounded by an emotion which I don’t want to experience. My personal Kraken will rise to the surface as a result of jealousy or the threat of having something stolen which I regard as precious. I am always aware that releasing this aspect of myself can lead to devastation for anyone caught in the maelstrom, and yet I find it incredibly easy to justify doing so if I see no other way of keeping myself safe. There will be more to say about the Kraken another day, but I need to leave this alone now.

Alone in The Sea was an image which caught my eye whilst mooching around DeviantArt. It initiated a closer look at the work of Lana Tustich, and you can see more of her work here.