Stories > Splendor Solis > Plate 10 - The Golden Head
A bearded man in armour with a translucent white tunic and a large sword has dismembered another man's body on the ground before him. He holds the golden head in his left hand. The background, showing an open-sided Renaissance-style building next to a canal, is reminiscent of Venice. A pillar base show knights riding into battle. (Stephen Skinner's Splendor Solis commentary)
The Golden Head vs The Abdicator
It would appear that the union of opposites that took place in the last picture was not final. The hermaphrodite represents a stage of the work at which the opposites have come too close together for comfort. We must be reminded that fresh insight into the problem of opposites involving an artificial union can easily be overvalued. There is always the danger of getting fixated upon the insight without the embodiment of the transformation. The hermaphrodite then is an imperfect or premature image of the Self, but not a final image. First there must be another separation.
In my images that means the red fox in the previous stage turns into a salamander, an animal capable of regenerating lost limbs. The crown over its head is the essential value or golden head rescued by the shadow figure (in my drawing, the raven).
The golden head (or crown in my drawing) represents the “lasting and unique value of the process up to this point, which needs to be rescued from the danger of slipping back into a conventional or an infantile form of adaptation. Understanding and insight must not be discarded even though they are helpless to prevent the suffering at this stage.” And perhaps that's why the salamander looks back at the mountain with regret (or hope?), which is symbolic of Nature and the subconscious.
In the Tarot Death tramples royalty and the bishop pleads for mercy. The crown doesn’t seem to be preserved from Death, however it could be that the bishop’s connection to spirituality was at the time of the Tarot more valuable symbolically than royalty so the golden head may be represented here by the bishop (also dressed in gold). Because the next card after Death is Temperance it would appear that something has been preserved to maintain balance.
At this stage, separation involve a sacrifice. Psychologically, the rendering of false integrity is often experienced inwardly as bodily dissociation or dismemberment. The patient may suffer with physical pain, numbing, intense sensation of heat or cold, or hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation. This destructive energy of the shadow is essential: the inner experience of the body and all its symbolism must be taken apart so it can come together in a new way.
It's interesting that Henderson and Sherwood mention patients experiencing physical pain at this stage and it made me wonder if somehow this stage of psychological transformation could  be related to the problem of "amplified pain" discussed in the podcast episode 5th Vital Sign (Invisibilia, Season 5). Because the conflict of opposites between my drawings of the salamander and seahorses, The Abdicator and The Caretaker is essentially the opposites of attachment vs detachment, which can translate in a milder form as paying too much attention to something vs too little, or caring vs not caring.
Perhaps one might consider if the growing problem of pain and over-medication experienced in society today (or of attention deficit disorders) may be a sign of getting stuck at this stage of the individuation process.
Note: the quotes in italic are from the book by J.L. Henderson and D.N. Sherwood, Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

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