Alchemist: Connecting Signs and Symbols

This will be my final post tied directly to the 9th Annual Latino Writers Conference. As everything happens for a reason, I believe that I sat at a table at the conference alone, only to be encircled by people who I was intended to run into. Several signs and symbols appeared to me during the conference. A few were immediately obvious to me, and others took some time for me to recognize. In the order of appearance my signs were as follows: roses; spirals; healers; the name Juan; the color red; and my name.

Roses and Red– At my table, I was greeted by not one, but two women named after the beautifully magical flower. In alchemy, “the placement, color, and state of bloom of the roses carry subtle messages.” When guild members have meetings, “there are no posted announcements of the subject matter of meetings or printed rules of behavior. Only the silent message of the rose guides members on a heart-to-heart basis.” The first person I had meaningful conversation with with Rose Hartnett. The second was Rosa Maria Calles. Two roses? What are the odds, out of over 100 people and a little circle table? On the site where I found the best dissection of the rose, I also came across the meaning of her many colors. Since red was a symbolic color for me that day (with the red room and all), I opted to own the meaning of a red rose. In alchemy, the red rose represents “passion, love;

Spiral or Rose?

vitality, feeling of being alive; masculine or active energy; creative projects; and workshops.” So here are a few things I found intriguing about the rose…

To understand the archetypal signature of the rose, it is necessary to suspend one’s intellectual and cultural connections to it and simply be open to the “presence” of the rose. This popular flower has a complicated symbology with paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of both purity and passion, both heavenly perfection and earthly desire; both virginity and fertility; both death and life. The rose is the flower of the goddesses Isis and Venus but also the blood of Osiris, Adonis, and Christ. Originally a symbol of joy, the rose later indicated secrecy and silence but is now usually associated in the common mind with romantic love. But the rose is much more meaningful, much older and more deeply embedded in the human unconscious than most people believe. Rose fossils 35 million years old have been found in Europe, and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from the oldest Egyptian tombs. In spiritual alchemy, the single red rose represents the mystic center of a person, his or her heart of hearts – one’s true nature. It also represents the process of purification to reveal one’s essence or the inner “pearl beyond price.” Sufi spiritual alchemist Rumi described this idea when he wrote: “In the driest whitest stretch of pain’s infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose.” As a symbol of the Mystical Marriage on a personal level, the red rose represents a special kind of love in which one “melts away” into the beauty of another, and the old identity is surrendered for that of the beloved or a higher identity within oneself. In this sense, the rose is a symbol of complete surrender and permanent transmutation. Because of its association with the workings of the heart, the rose in alchemy has come to symbolize secrets of the heart or things that cannot be spoken or an oath of silence in general. In the folded structure of the rose, the flower seems to be concealing a secret inner core. “Mystery glows in the rose bed and the secret is hidden in the rose,” wrote the twelfth-century Persian alchemist Farid ud-din Attar.”

Spirals, Healers, and the Name Juan– I sat at a table with two healers, spirals and a man given the name Juan (among others). The healers and spiral signs stood out to me from the start. The Celtics believed that the spiral symbolized “evolution and holistic growth, letting go, surrender, release, awareness of the one within the context of the whole, connectivity and union with deific and cosmic energies, revolutions of time, stars, planets, and the way of natural progress.” I saw spirals throughout the day. Temazcalera, Tonita Gonzales wore spiral earrings. Francisco X. Alarcón delivered a moving presentation in a red room where the universal symbol frequently surfaced. During the course of this conference, I continually beheld the MesoAmerican Spiral. So here are a few things I found intriguing about the spiral…

Ancient Celtic artists used the spiral symbol as a mind-altering creative process in which the act of creating a spiral in their work released their minds into a creative splendor. Perhaps that’s why we see them dominate the Celtic world; out of a strong desire to step outside the physical and enter a gossamer domain where dreams and intuition take hold of awareness. In terms of spirituality, the spiral symbol can represent the path leading from outer consciousness (materialism, external awareness, ego, outward perception) to the inner soul (enlightenment, unseen essence, nirvana, cosmic awareness). Movements between the inner (intuitive, intangible) world and the outer (matter, manifested) world are mapped by the spiraling of archetypal rings. Moreover, in terms of rebirth or growth, the spiral symbol can represent the consciousness of nature beginning from the core or center and thus expanding outwardly. This is the way of all things, as recognized by most mystics.”

I didn’t think of sharing the table with a Juan until I received the autographed book The Legend of La Llorona today from Ray John de Aragón. I was so excited to get the book in the mail, but I was even more excited to read the note he enclosed for me. It was evident he had taken the time to read my posting on the curanderas. He said “so you are interested in Curanderas?” Apparently his great-grandmother was a curandera in Northern New Mexico. She was also Mondragón de Valdez. There may be a relation, as they were from Las Vegas, New Mexico. I have the Mondragón and Valdez surnames in my maternal line. His note goes on to say “remember I am a Juan. I’ve cured Mal Ojo in the past. Anyway, the mother back in Las Vegas thought I could. Interestingly, it worked!” Mal de Ojo is illness caused by the eye. It can be cured by a curandera or curandero. Many people believe it means “evil eye,” but according to Dr. Juan Chavira this has long been misinterpreted (his audio lecture on Curanderismo is available online with the University of Texas at Austin at the link below). People named Juan and Juana are also used as a remedy for Mal de Ojo.  This was something that I did not connect until today.

My Name– This sign was simple, yet powerful. During the lunch at the conference, we were told that there would be an opportunity to hear readings by conference attendants. I heard some amazing writers read that day. I did not come prepared to read anything, so I just planned on listening. I was under the impression that those writers who wished to read aloud would put there name in the hat as requested. Apparently, somehow all

2 Symbols in One

names went into that hat. I was stunned to hear my name called not once, but twice. When it was called a second time everyone laughed. Coincidence? I think not! I have already said that everything is written in the stars. Those whom I was intended to meet encircled me. One by one, these flowers bloomed. The last thing that came to me is this…. A rose actually is a spiral!!!

For further reading on these signs, symbols and healing visit:,,

Explore posts in the same categories: Symbols and Imagery

4 Comments on “Alchemist: Connecting Signs and Symbols”

  1. Sandra Says:

    Wow, Felicia! This is inspirational, my friend! What a wonderful tribute . . . I can see why we got along so well. Spiritualism is very important to me, too.
    Keep up the awesome work!

    • flujan Says:

      Thanks Sandra! You know that’s why we hit it off- you know what they say about birds of a feather!?
      I am so glad that we got to know each other… I look forward to your next visit to Santa Fe- maybe next time, I can make you those enchiladas!

  2. […] artists alike. I met him years ago at the Latino Writers Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico (see Alchemist: Connecting Signs and Symbols) You can see some of his other books I wrote about here. I am currently in the interview process […]

  3. […] presenter in addition to being a distinguished guest of honor. Visit these links to read more about when I met Aragón at that conference or to read about what I have already written about […]

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