Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Incarnating Conscious Feminine Spirit: Owning the Three Dresses
Since it's July 4th, I want to dedicate today's blog to Freedom and Choice. And the Blog just happens to be about how to achieve it.
Movement now becomes prominent after a time of stagnation and suffering. The three-fold structure of the fairy tale begins to unfold at this point. There were three images of gestation earlier in the tale, and now the rhythm picks up with the three dresses, the three treasures and the three appearances at the three festivals. The number three stands for movement and progression in time, and a conscious realization in time and space. Where a one is unique, and two might be coincidence, three definitely sets up a pattern. This is the essential meaning of the tale, for what is really going on in the story is a whole new development of the feminine principle and its manifestation in time and concrete life. The fourth element is necessary for wholeness and completion and groundedness, like the four directions in Native American and Celtic ritual. This fourth element is the mantle of furs - the repressed instinctual life, the neglected feminine element, the bodywork that brings about the renewal of wholeness.
Allerleirauh appears at the first ball in her golden dress. She is so beautiful that the king thinks in his heart, "My eyes have never yet seen anyone so beautiful." The beauty she manifests is an inner as well as an outer beauty, and Allerleirauh now becomes the image of a new feminine value for the king. The golden dress of the sun is her connection to her authentic Self as well as an expression of her individual ego. It is appropriate that Allerleirauh expresses this sun-like, masculine directed consciousness in her initial contact with the king. She expresses her connection to the Woman Clothed with the Sun, and her connection to the goldenness of her hair. This dress, when integrated, is that wonderful sense of selfhood which so many women find so hard to attain. She knows herself! She knows who she is and what she wants. She is a match for the king, his equal and ultimately his mate.
It is through the dance that they connect. There is a dance that must be danced out, whether it’s the erotic one between a man and a woman or the dance of the energies of masculine and feminine. With men and women, there are the subtleties of the courtship dance. With the energies of masculine and feminine, there is the flow and movement that ultimately brings the right balance of energies. The princess begins the courtship by first appearing as the life-giving source of light, and exhibits her capacity for discernment and rationality by meeting the masculine on its own ground. She takes action by asking if she can go to the ball. She knows she is ready for her first test. This is the first step that women take on our journey to equality with men and masculine consciousness: we must demonstrate our ability to think rationally before men give our ideas the time of day, and we must know our minds and abilities so that we are not swayed by their perceptions of us.
Allerleirauh brings an added dimension to this rational consciousness, for once she has truly integrated it into her own feminine standpoint, this ability to discriminate enables her to see a thing as it truly is, and so name it. In ancient beliefs, if you know someone's true name, or can name a power, you have control over it. Like the ring of Solomon which gave him power over the Jinn. It is often very hard for us to judge someone or some action, because our cultural upbringing has already told us what things are, or else our personal feelings get in the way. It is as if an illusion has been set over things, and we must use some kind of truth-seeing in order to glimpse what lies beneath it. This new feminine spirit can see what lies beneath the outer shell, shining the sunlight of clarity onto what her instincts tell her.
Allerleirauh then goes back to her hairy covering, to her body wisdom and to her senses because there is a rhythm in the manifestations, and it is happening in space and time. This too is part of the dance. It does not happen once and for all, even though we think we would want it to. It takes time for this new wisdom to sink in and get integrated into consciousness. With each new situation, she must work out this new way of seeing, learning to trust her instinctual response at the same time as she depends on her rational consciousness to understand. In doing this work, she nourishes the king directly.
In the tale, she makes bread soup. Both bread and soup are humanity’s earliest nourishment. In fact, in many languages, the word for soup is synonymous with the whole notion of meals and food. Bread soup is still made by Eastern Europeans and Germans, and it is a thick, hearty soup. Allerleirauh makes the king's soup so she can nourish him with the wisdom she has gained. It is important to note that in both Hebrew (hokmah) and Latin (sapientia) the word for wisdom means "to taste." She is letting him taste of her new-found wisdom.
Allerleirauh hides her golden ring in the soup. The new wisdom she shares has to do with this ring. The ring is a symbol of the Self, but it represents a specific function of the Self. In general, a ring symbolizes connectedness, such as the wedding ring that symbolizes the union of man and woman in marriage. Gold is generally associated with incorruptibility and immortality; it is the transcendent element, the most valued of our precious metals.
Allerleirauh offers the king an important new understanding of the power and use of this solar consciousness through the ring. She has made a conscious connection with the instincts and now she wants to connect with the new masculine energy of the king. The specific function of the ring is to awaken in the king an awareness of soul and of the feminine dimensions of life, for the realm of the feminine is our interiority, our inner life and connection to spirit. This ring that the king finds within the soup is that connection to the Self which recognizes the union between inner and outer realities, between instinct and spirit. It is no longer Sauron’s Ring of Power and domination, but Lady Wisdom’s Ring of Love. Discriminating and naming these realities brings the possibility of true union, just as the first step toward taking responsibility for one's life is to live out one's inner truth - which involves trusting our instincts.
When we wear the golden dress and bestow the golden ring on our inner masculine energy, we consciously decide to act a certain way, to stand up for our true values, to name ourselves rather than let others name us. Have you discovered your true name? Are you willing to be true to yourself rather than be subject to collective opinions?
One of the strangest parts of the fairy tale for me was the questioning of Allerleirauh each time she makes the king's soup. Why does she hide herself from the king? He asks her who she is (an orphan) and what she does (good for nothing but to have boots thrown at her head!). Why can't she answer? Women often feel alone on our journey to wholeness (being an orphan), cut off from any external power. But what does having boots thrown at your head mean? I have experienced this when I am talking with people who are caught in their complexes - that is, women and men who need to be right and so make sure that you know that you are wrong or crazy or stupid! Just as the boots are used as projectiles (throwing a standpoint at you), so too, these are usually projections. But is this the entire answer?
I believe this is about an attitude about the Feminine that has been imprinted onto the feminine psyche. Women have been told often enough, and in many devastating ways, that we are worthless. Women have accepted this projection for our safety, and even when it's not really believed, it affects us on many levels. So when we begin to reclaim our powers, we run into this voice. For when something is young and new, when something is in the beginning of development, we cannot always see the end result. We cannot always articulate the new thing we are feeling or doing. And we can see more clearly the old habits of putting ourselves down. We rush to tell people how worthless we are before they have a chance to tell us! When we undergo transformation, we often cannot trust that it is really happening. When we first learn that certain qualities that we once despised might really become our new strengths, we can hardly believe it.
It is also important to remember that when something new is being born, we need to keep silent about it with others. It is a mystery, so it cannot be explained or revealed. To speak too soon about it might spoil and contaminate the new thing with others' opinions, for we are in a state of incubation when we are wearing the mantle of furs. Like the Virgin Mary, who silently ponders on the mystery and meaning of Her divine Son, it is often necessary to keep silent about the divine mystery taking place within the soul and psyche. It is kept a mystery until it can manifest concretely in the world.
Wearing the dress of the moon signifies the integration of a lunar consciousness that flows and changes, sometimes waxing bright, sometimes leaving one in the dark. It is the realm of the imagination and the Imaginal. It is the light in the darkness, the light of the unconscious. It is our ability to live with paradox. It is an intuitive consciousness, attuned to unseen powers and energies. It picks up other people’s feelings and leaves us pondering about what to do. It moves in cycles of flux, in cycles of growth, decay and death, then growth again. It has to do with the blood mysteries of a woman's body, with her sexuality and the mystery of inner growth. When a woman integrates this type of consciousness, she is no longer overwhelmed or afraid of following her imagination and intuitions about where her life is going. It takes courage to follow the path of your dreams, never fully knowing if they will lead you to insanity or to sanctity. It takes trust and faith in the Self, that it will truly guide you to the place that you need to be, especially when it leads through suffering and calls for patience.
Allerleirauh gives the king her golden spinning wheel after this second appearance at the ball. The spinning wheel is the emblem of all ancient mother goddesses, a symbol of feminine spirit that weaves the web of life. Through its motion, the thread of life is created. The mystery of giving birth is associated with the idea of spinning and weaving, bringing together natural elements in a coherent pattern. The Fates spin the thread of life. Lunar consciousness helps us to recognize the thread of our lives, through all the sorrows and happiness, making a whole pattern. It shows us that life has its rhythms, which will support us if we work with them. Lunar consciousness stories us with our own mythic life.
We touch on this lunar knowledge when we use the mythic imagination, when we find archetypal stories that speak to our lives. How is the king nourished by this golden wheel of life? We need to acknowledge that our instinctual life has meaning; it is not just a savage, chaotic aspect of humanity that must be held in check. The archetypes are the images of our instincts, and when the archetypal images are wedded to instinct, we understand the meaning and purpose of what we are going through.
When masculine spirit incarnates into life, when it treads the stately measures of life instead of bulldozing its way through life, it too is life-giving rather than the death-dealing patriarchal consciousness that typifies Western culture. If President Bush had been given this spinning wheel of life, perhaps he would have given the U.N. sanctions against Iraq more time to work. Surely, there would have been less death and destruction and more life than what has resulted. He did not take into consideration the overall tapestry of life that he was dealing with. Perhaps we Americans will never know the full extent of the suffering that this war caused the people of the Middle East. Only time will tell. But lunar consciousness feels the jarring truth that ‘might never makes right’.
Our Moon dress helps us open up to our imaginations. Music, art, writing and dance itself open us to our feelings and give us the opportunity to work with the energies of our life in a productive and healthy way. So if you’re stuck, put on your favorite music and move your body. Your Moon dress will show you what you have to do next.
The third time Allerleirauh appears at the ball, she is wearing the dress as bright as the stars. Again, we see her as the image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun. The king is waiting for her, for he desires her and her wisdom now. All this time the king has been nourished by a mystery, and he wants to know who and what this new feminine spirit is. At the same time, the princess has undergone her transformation through the energy of this new king. The binding connection between them is once again symbolized by a golden ring, this time one which the king gives back to Allerleirauh. The circle is now complete. Reality is wedded to imagination. Anything and everything becomes possible.
When Allerleirauh wears the star dress, we see her personal relationship to the Divine Spirit shine forth in her extraordinary beauty. She has integrated the inner spiritual values and realities that the stars represent, and she can manifest a true spiritual wisdom that is rooted in the Self. This wisdom now includes the body and the sensual aspects of life that were once rejected by her and by the collective. It also includes the heavenly aspects of wisdom, and knowledge of the cosmos and its workings. This is Gnosis, belief based upon experience. The integration of the star dress brings to women a mystic vision, which sees connections, which knows that everything fits into the Great Round of Life for a purpose. This consciousness is the imaginative, unitive experience of the mystic, and it operates through compassion, which is the awareness of the interconnection of all living things. These are gifts that women so readily share. It is time to reclaim them for the world.
The last treasure to go into the soup is a golden reel, and it is also connected to spinning and sewing, for it is the spool around which the thread is wound. It is that eternal core of Being around which the thread of life must be wound if it is not to tangle or break up, just as the mystic vision of our human divinity is the consciousness which must be at the center of a new cosmology upon which we can build a united world. Human nature needs to relate to something greater than itself, something which gives life its meaning. We humans are made in the Divine image, and our life can become whole only if we ground our being in that greater Life. The princess has come to understand that this divine essence comes from within herself, and in helping the king to understand this, she leads the way towards a new responsibility and a new hope for herself and for her kingdom.
The Star dress, which under the Father symbolizes our religion, now becomes the vehicle of our personal spirituality. Spirituality is a direct connection to Spirit, our ability to go within ourselves and connect to the deepest levels of life. Do you have a spiritual practice that grounds and centers your daily life?