Thursday, June 28, 2012
Allerleirauh: The Tale of the Return of the Conscious Feminine
The Power of Story
Another way to understand how these two forces or types of consciousness interact is through an imaginal approach - the way of learning through images. This way speaks to the heart; it evokes knowledge from within instead of defining and categorizing it. As the writer George Mac Donald once wrote, "It is there not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning."6 As we have seen, stories embody one form of this imaginal consciousness. Our great spiritual teachers have used stories to impart knowledge of the Mysteries that cannot be expressed rationally. A story can touch our intuitive and feeling faculties, instantaneously imparting knowledge 'through the heart', which is the seat of feeling. The Native Americans believed that humans learned and thought with the heart, and they often imparted their wisdom through teaching stories.
All fairy tales are teaching stories. We have relegated them to the nursery, but they really speak of the hidden, psychological processes – the archetypal patterns – that can help us work through our complex problems. Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of archetypal processes. Just as the hero has a thousand faces, so too does the heroine. Most stories are variations on a basic motif, and show how different components of an archetype are stressed and transformed under different circumstances. There are over seven hundred variations on the Cinderella theme, each reflecting a slightly different way to deal with not only the human problems of envy, suffering and redemption, but with redeeming the spiritual energies of life from the ashes. Many fairy tales deal with the issue of what happens to a woman when there is no positive mothering, nurturing principle in her life, and then it shows her how to find that nurturing within herself. Other tales deal with the negative dominance of the father, which spurs a woman on to her own individuality, and which is the major psychological task facing women today.
I have found a teaching story that tells us something about the masculine and the feminine spirit in transition, and I feel that it speaks to what we are experiencing today in the chaos of our 'not knowing', in the bewilderment that we feel about what it means to be a woman or a man in this day and age. It is a fairy tale that teaches us how to achieve a conscious feminine standpoint. It speaks to the necessity of working with different types of consciousness; of understanding images and letting their transformations teach us something about the essential qualities of our dual nature as human beings. It says that through women’s struggle to find our freedom, a whole new way of life is possible for both men and women. It is a story that can teach women how to incarnate the Woman Clothed with the Sun. Retold by the Grimm’s Brothers, Allerleirauh is a story about walking the path of feminine wisdom.
So imagine, if you will, a small cottage in the forest. It is nighttime, the stars are out and the crescent moon floats in the western sky. Inside the cottage there is a hearth fire, and a few candles glow as everyone settles down around the old woman sitting next to the hearth. She beckons to us: "Gather round as I tell you a tale of a beautiful princess who was intelligent, brave and resourceful, who accepted hardships, pain and silence, and who, in the end, knew herself and drew to herself the king of her desires."
(Of many different kinds of fur)
There was once upon a time a King who had a wife with golden hair, and she was so beautiful that her equal was not to be found on the earth. It came to pass that she lay ill, and as she felt that she must soon die, she called the King and said: "If you wish to marry again after my death, take no one who is not quite as beautiful as I am, and who has not just such golden hair as I have; this you must promise me." And after the King had promised her this, she closed her eyes and died.
For a long time the King could not be comforted, and had no thought of taking another wife. At length his councilors said: "This cannot go on. The King must marry again, that we may have a Queen." And now messengers were sent about far and wide, to seek a bride who equaled the late Queen in beauty. In the whole world, however, none was to be found, and even if one had been found, still there would have been no one who had such golden hair. So the messengers came home as they went.
Now the King had a daughter, who was just as beautiful as her dead mother, and had the same golden hair. When she was grown up the King looked at her one day, and saw that in every respect she was like his late wife, and suddenly felt a violent love for her. Then he spoke to his councilors: "I will marry my daughter, for she is the counterpart of my late wife, otherwise I can find no bride who resembles her." When the councilors heard that, they were shocked, and said: "God has forbidden a father to marry his daughter. No good can come from this crime, and the kingdom will be involved in the ruin."
The daughter was still more shocked when she became aware of her father's resolution, but hoped to turn him from his design. Then she said to him: "Before I fulfill your wish, I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars; besides this, I wish for a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur and peltry joined together, and one of every different kind of animal in your kingdom must give a piece of his skin for it."
For she thought: "To get that will be quite impossible, and thus I shall divert my father from his wicked intentions." The King, however, did not give it up, and the cleverest maidens in his kingdom had to weave the three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars, and his huntsmen had to catch one of every kind of animal in the whole of his kingdom, and take from it a piece of its skin, and out of these was made a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur. At length, when all was ready, the King caused the mantle to be brought, spread it out before her, and said: "The wedding shall be tomorrow."
When, therefore, the King's daughter saw that there was no longer any hope of turning her father's heart, she resolved to run away. In the night whilst everyone was asleep, she got up, and took three different things from her treasures, a golden ring, a golden spinning wheel, and a golden reel. The three dresses of the sun, moon, and stars she placed into a nutshell, put on her mantle of all kinds of fur, and blackened her face and hands with soot. Then she commended herself to God, and went away, and walked the whole night until she reached a great forest. And as she was tired, she got into a hollow tree, and fell asleep.
The sun rose, and she slept on, and she was still sleeping when it was full day. Then it so happened that the King to whom this forest belonged, was hunting in it. When his dogs came to the tree, they sniffed, and ran barking round about it. The King said to the huntsmen: "Just see what kind of wild beast has hidden itself in there." The huntsmen obeyed his order, and when they came back they said: "A wondrous beast is lying in the hollow tree; we have never before seen one like it. Its skin is fur of a thousand different kinds, but it is lying asleep."
Said the King: "See if you can catch it alive, and then fasten it to the carriage, and we will take it with us." When the huntsmen laid hold of the maiden, she awoke full of terror, and cried to them: "I am a poor child, deserted by father and mother; have pity on me, and take me with you." Then said they: "Allerleirauh, you will be useful in the kitchen, come with us, and you can sweep up the ashes." So they put her in the carriage, and took her home to the royal palace. There they pointed out to her a closet under the stairs, where no daylight entered, and said: "Hairy animal, there you can live and sleep."
Then she was sent into the kitchen, and there she carried wood and water, swept the hearth, plucked the fowls, picked the vegetables, raked the ashes, and did all the dirty work. Allerleirauh lived there for a long time in great wretchedness. Alas, fair princess, what is to become of you now! It happened, however, that one day a feast was held in the palace, and she said to the cook: "May I go upstairs for a while, and look on? I will place myself outside the door." The cook answered: "Yes, go, but you must be back here in half-an-hour to sweep the hearth."
Then she took her oil-lamp, went into her den, put off her dress of fur, and washed the soot off her face and hands, so that her full beauty once more came to light. And she opened the nut, and took out her dress which shone like the sun, and when she had done that she went up to the festival, and every one made way for her, for no one knew her, and thought not otherwise than that she was a king's daughter. The King came to meet her, gave his hand to her, and danced with her, and thought in his heart: "My eyes have never yet seen any one so beautiful!" When the dance was over she curtsied, and when the King looked round again she had vanished, and none knew whither. The guards who stood outside the palace were called and questioned, but no one had seen her.
She had run into her little den, however, there quickly taken off her dress, made her face and hands black again, put on the mantle of fur, and again was Allerleirauh. And now when she went into the kitchen, the cook said: "Leave that alone till morning, and make me the soup for the King; I, too, will go upstairs awhile, and take a look; but let no hairs fall in, or in future you shall have nothing to eat." So the cook went away, and Allerleirauh made the soup for the King, and made bread soup and the best she could, and when it was ready she fetched her golden ring from her little den, and put it in the bowl in which the soup was served.
When the dancing was over, the King had his soup brought and ate it, and he like it so much that it seemed to him he had never tasted better. But when he came to the bottom of the bowl, he saw a golden ring lying, and could not conceive how it could have got there. Then he ordered the cook to appear before him. The cook was terrified when he heard the order, and said to Allerleirauh: "You have certainly let a hair fall into the soup, and if you have, you shall be beaten for it." When he came before the King, the latter asked who had made the soup? The cook replied: "I made it." But the King said: "That is not true, for it was much better than usual, and cooked differently." He answered: "I must acknowledge that I did not make it, it was made by the hairy animal." The King said: "Go and bid it come up here."
When Allerleirauh came, the King said: "Who are you?" "I am a poor girl who no longer has any father or mother." He asked further: "Of what use are you in my palace?" She answered: "I am good for nothing but to have boots thrown at my head." He continued: "Where did you get the ring which was in the soup?" She answered: "I know nothing about the ring." So the King could learn nothing, and had to send her away again.
After a while, there was another festival, and then, as before, Allerleirauh begged the cook for leave to go and look on. He answered: "Yes, but come back again in half-an-hour, and make the King the bread soup which he likes so much." Then she ran into her den, washed herself quickly, and took out of the nut the dress which was as silvery as the moon, and put it on. Then she went up and was like a princess, and the King stepped forward to meet her, and rejoiced to see her once more, and as the dance was just beginning they danced it together.
But when it was ended, she again disappeared so quickly that the King could not observe where she went. She, however, sprang into her den, and once more made herself a hairy animal, and went into the kitchen to prepare the bread soup. When the cook had gone upstairs, she fetched the little golden spinning wheel, and put it in the bowl so that the soup covered it. Then it was taken to the King, who ate it, and liked it as much as before, and had the cook brought, who this time like-wise was forced to confess that Allerleirauh had prepared the soup. Allerleirauh again came before the King, but she answered that she was good for nothing else but to have boots thrown at her head, and that she knew nothing at all about the little golden spinning wheel.
When, for the third time, the King held a festival, all happened just as it had done before. The cook said: "Fur-skin, you are a witch, and always put something in the soup which makes it so good that the King likes it better than that which I cook," but she begged so hard, he let her go up at the appointed time.
And now she put on the dress which shone like the stars, and thus entered the hall. Again the King danced with the beautiful maiden, and thought that she never yet had been so beautiful. And whilst she was dancing, he contrived, without her noticing it, to slip a golden ring on her finger, and he had given orders that the dance should last a very long time. When it was ended, he wanted to hold her fast by her hands, but she tore herself loose, and sprang away so quickly through the crowd that she vanished from his sight.
She ran as fast as she could into her den beneath the stairs, but as she had been too long, and had stayed more than half-an-hour, she could not take off her pretty dress, but only threw over it her mantle of fur, and in her haste she did not make herself quite black, but one finger remained white. Then Allerleirauh ran into the kitchen, and cooked the bread soup for the King, and as the cook was away, put her golden reel into it.
When the King found the reel at the bottom of it, he caused Allerleirauh to be summoned, and then he espied the white finger, and saw the ring which he had put on it during the dance. Then he grasped her by the hand, and held her fast, and when she wanted to release herself and run away, her mantle of fur opened a little, and the star-dress shone forth. The King clutched the mantle and tore it off.
Then her golden hair shone forth, and she stood there in full splendor, and could no longer hide herself. And when she had washed the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been seen on earth. But the King said: "You are my dear bride, and we will never more part from each other." Thereupon the marriage was solemnized, and they lived happily until their death.7