Friday, June 29, 2012
On Being a Father's Daughter
This fairy tale became one of my teachers, for it made me explore and question what was going on in my own life and in the culture at large. As I struggled to find a sense of my identity as a woman, these marvelous images illuminated my path. This story speaks of a feminine initiation, a process by which a woman can achieve a conscious feminine standpoint. At the same time, it explains how the feminine transformative mysteries deepen and enrich our connection to both the masculine and feminine creative spirit, and how these forces are renewed in the culture. For the question we are all asking ourselves, collectively and individually, is, "How do we find a new spirit, a new orientation, a new way of being alive?"
It is important to remember that the thing that makes these fairy tales and myths so compelling is their connection to the archetypes, those unknown factors in the psyche that manifest through archetypal images. The archetypes are the patterns of behavior inherent in human beings. As Jung and his colleague, Marie-Louise von Franz, have pointed out:
"Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic processes. Therefore their value for the scientific investigation of the unconscious exceeds that of all other material. They represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest and most concise form. In this pure form, the archetypal images afford us the best clues to the understanding of the processes going on in the collective psyche."8
The fairy tale is its own best explanation, for its meaning is contained in the totality of its motifs, connected by the thread of the story.9 But a symbolic and psychological re-telling of the tale becomes necessary since our ability to understand the language of images has been diminished by too strong a dependence on rationality. Just as many of us have difficulty understanding the logic and images of our dreams when we first begin to work with them, so too, we have to look at the separate elements in a fairy tale before we can see it as a whole. We have to track and stalk the symbols and images and even the thread that holds the story together. We have to let our imagination play with it. We have to look at it from different perspectives, using our intuition, feeling, thinking and sensation, and we have to bring our psychological understanding and experience to it, for our age is engaged in the discovery of this old and yet new psychic reality.
Fairy tales, like dreams and myths, are expressions of the things left out of collective and individual consciousness. Throughout the ages, different stages of human development have fostered stories that reflect different phases of individual development. Allerleirauh is one of the many variants of the story of Cinderella. The Cinderella motif is also concerned with the re-discovery of the feminine principle, hidden away among the ashes and dirt of life. On a more spiritual level, it depicts the search for Wisdom as the Feminine Spirit. "Among the ancients, 'Wisdom' implied Love and Knowledge blended in perfect and equal proportions."10 Matthew Fox, in his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, speaks of the dying of Wisdom in our culture and the need to search for it. He describes Wisdom as belonging to Earth and creativity.
"...Wisdom is of Mother Earth, for nature contains the oldest wisdom in the universe. Wisdom requires the right brain as well as the left, for it is birthed by both analysis and synthesis. Wisdom requires imagination and nurtures it. Wisdom often comes via the creative spokespersons of a culture, in the handing on of stories, sagas, myths, and images from the past and from the future."11
Many of the names of the heroines of these Cinderella tales imply the idea of the Light-Giver, the bright, shining one.12 In Robin McKinley’s wonderful and heart-wrenching modern re-telling of this tale, DeerSkin, Princess Lissar is named for the light. Allerleirauh's light is symbolized by her three dresses, hidden under the robe of fur, that is, within the earthy instinctual nature. This motif of three dresses is used in many fairy tales about redeeming the feminine spirit, and brings to mind the ancient tales of the Heavenly Sumerian Goddess Inanna, who disrobes as She descends into the Underworld, where She suffers a death and a rebirth, and then ascends once more to the heavens, robed in glory.13
On Being a Father’s Daughter
Allerleirauh depicts this process in a manner that speaks to our times, for collectively we are in the situation of demanding the Father's gifts, as women look for equality on the level of masculine achievement. And if this is the only kind of equality we know to look for, women will stay wedded to the Father. Women most especially need to reconnect to our own earthy wisdom, for equality comes from an inner spirit, and not an outer form.
The theme of renewal is personified in this fairy tale by the fact that there is a king and a queen in the beginning of the tale, and a new queen and a new king at the end. The images of the king and the queen symbolize wholeness, a unity of forces or factors that make up a paradigm, a cultural dominant, or a psychic identity. The king and the queen are the kingdom, or our self-identity, in microcosm. It is only when masculine and feminine are united in a common vision that the kingdom can prosper. Hopefully, men and women will come to this realization soon, for we must also heal our relationships if we want to heal our culture.
The king symbolizes the central, dominant content of collective consciousness, the central god-image that dominates a civilization. For the West, it has certainly been Christianity, and later, the rational, scientific outlook, which led to the domination of Nature’s resources. Our emphasis on the economy is another collective dominant. These masculine dominants keep pushing for the search for perfection and continuous expansion, and therefore, they have given rise to a very large shadow – the repression of all that is seen as imperfect or impediments to progress. Individually, the king represents the dominant attitude of subjective consciousness or our ego attitude. He is the inner 'king' who sets up standards for our behavior and belief.
The queen is the inner partner of this king, and represents the intangible, intuitive, feeling side of this dominant, the aspect that gives life and energy to this collective or individual story. She is the passion and enthusiasm which drives the collective impulse of our capitalistic economic system or the deep spiritual viability of our religions. If the queen dies, the energy invested in a particular system of belief is siphoned away. When a cultural dominant, a crucial paradigm, a religious orientation, wears out and needs renewal (and this is a natural and necessary occurrence), the first thing to die out is the feeling attachments to it.
When we begin to realize the devastation that our economic system has caused to the environment, it is hard to believe that 'progress is our most important product'! When religions cannot give their people a viable connection to Spirit, people stop attending their religious services. The images of that particular dominant no longer capture the feelings and imaginations of the people. Western culture is experiencing this death – we no longer believe what our ancestors once did. On an individual level, when a conscious attitude is no longer life-giving, the feeling tone is lost, and the psychic energy goes back into the unconscious. Life loses its meaning. Individuals go into a depression and we get a society that is depressed, addicted, obese and unbalanced.
When a cultural dominant dies, we witness the tremendous energy and chaos underlying the need for renewal being expressed in the many fads, cults and excesses that abound in modern times. Human beings seem to need a dominant, some form of psychic wholeness to relate to that helps them channel the tremendous energies of life. The king and the queen represent that psychic wholeness.
In Allerleirauh, the fact that the queen dies implies that the predominant spirit of the times is in need of renewal. But what form will this renewal take? The tale tells us that women are called upon to find our own feminine standpoint, independent of the expectations of the old masculine culture, if a new wholeness and perspective is to be achieved. Of course, men must engage in this struggle too, but I feel that it is women who must incarnate this renewal in our lives, and stop selling out to masculine values.
"The basic rejection and denigration of feminine values as compared to masculine values is the heritage of our historically patriarchal culture. This has resulted in a situation in which the feminine individuation problem has become a pioneering task that perhaps is meant to usher in a new period of culture."14
For women today, and for our culture, the dying queen represents the aspects of the feminine that are approved of by the patriarchy. For far too long, women have shaped our lives to masculine ideals of womanhood. We often repress our own concern with personal authority and the satisfaction of our own needs for the sake of others. We struggle to transform our mature, womanly bodies into that of young teenage girls to attract men’s attention. Our wise, womanly mothering wisdom is discounted in political and academic circles.
The devaluation of the feminine over the past 4000 years led to the second-class status of women, and women began to accept this view of our own sex. We were told that, like our mother Eve, we were the source of humanity's fall from grace, as well as being the source of temptation for men. Women, 'liberated' women, still have a sense of guilt when some strange man follows them home or molests them! They cannot help thinking that somehow, they are at fault. And this theme is carried over into the stories our culture tells itself, such as movies about the 'obsessive' woman in Fatal Attraction, or the violence depicted against women in movies like Sleeping with the Enemy or The Silence of Lambs. The 'dark' side of the feminine – the earthy, often uncanny, aspects - were vilified by men who were afraid of it, and so women lost touch with our sexuality, our feelings, our imagination, our mystery, and our wild freedom.
The queen in this fairy tale carries the projection of the masculine ideal of womanhood. No dark, mysterious woman is she, but rather a 'heavenly' light being. This is symbolized by her golden hair, which is emphasized in the tale. Hair often symbolizes the life-force, and the golden color indicates that it is a sun-like, rational force. This feminine aspect is removed from the Earth, from the 'darkness' that is also a part of the Feminine Spirit. This feminine dominant serves the heavenly, and in Western culture, masculine ideals. She is like the Greek Goddess Athena, the virginal daughter of the Father, in the Father's service, open and receptive to his spirit alone.15
Like Athena, this queen carries and reflects and defends the masculine spirit in all things. Why else would she demand that the king marry someone who is as beautiful as she, with exactly the same golden hair. This demand assures the continuance of this particular masculine dominant, whether or not it is the necessary and beneficial thing to do. Instead of promoting change, which is life, she stops it. She is the epitome of a Father’s Daughter, a daughter of patriarchy. Unfortunately, father’s daughters have been cut off from the earthy knowledge of the cycle of life.
This queen is removed from her feminine roots, which would connect her to the natural rhythms of life, death and rebirth, which are so basic to the feminine mysteries and spirit. In fact, she resists those rhythms by demanding the king make this promise. This is an aspect of the patriarchy which we often overlook; namely, that there is a feminine element that wants to perpetuate the old value system. Part of the reason we overlook it, and therefore why it becomes so troublesome, is because it is unconscious. Psychologically, the fact that the queen dies symbolizes that this feminine component has worn out and has sunk back into the unconscious. It now rules the king unconsciously, through the promise, and so keeps him tied to outer forms, regardless of his own inner feelings and their demands.
The queen herself condemns her daughter to marriage with the Father. This could only happen in a culture or an individual where a true feminine standpoint is lacking. If the feminine viewpoint brings into life feeling-valuation, imagination, natural rhythms and unity, then we find that this dead queen operates behind the scenes to keep this life force from entering into our governmental, economic and religious structures.
This is an apt image of what happens when the American government, in the name of democracy, liberty and justice, supports tyrants and their repressive regimes. Or when we are told that our liberties need to be curtailed for our own security. Or that we must make war to bring about peace. The promise that the king makes to the queen reflects the refusal to trust that life renews itself, and that it will bring about the necessary changes if we let it. The promise stops the flow of life into new forms; it would rather see the old husks live on past their time. This is an image of the dragon that would devour the Woman and her divine child in The Book of Revelation. Psychologically, the collective or individual dominant has become rigid and petrified, dry and lifeless. It becomes a Wasteland.
We are all Father’s Daughters, women who have been sold out by mothers who have forgotten their own feminine wisdom. We make our decisions about life based on a belief system that does not value the gifts of Feminine Spirit. How do you feel about it? Are your life decisions based on what your heart knows or what your head thinks?