The women in the tales are strong. Sometimes it just depends on how we look at them.
I wrote that last week, and it’s been working away inside me ever since. You see, all the time we can only think of a strong woman as being the one who dresses up as Le Chevalier Fortune and goes about slaying dragons then we’re bound to be unbalanced. That view of “strong” is based on masculine strength, which is equally valuable, but it doesn’t take account of the intrinsic value of feminine energies and qualities.
Jung said that women need to get in touch with their animus – their inner masculine energy (or, put on the clothes of Le Chevalier Fortune) – to access their full strength and potential. True in many ways. But we all – men and women – need to get in touch with our inner feminine energy too. That’s why the stories can weave male and female characters as archetypes, because their teaching and wisdom applies to us all equally.
Fairy tales can teach us all to recognise our feminine strengths as nurturers and healers (The Juniper Tree), our ability to create solutions with wisdom firmly rooted in nature (Cinderella), and our capacity for constancy in love and devotion (Beauty and The Beast).
It’s probably true that those of us who were born female have a closer connection to these feminine qualities, just as our male brothers often have greater access to the dragon-slaying potential of human endeavour, but the tales teach us to balance the gifts of both energies to realise our divine inner nature.
We’re now deeply within the dark time of the year – the time of cool darkness, inner listening, gentle restoration and creation. This is the feminine time of the year. The time when we want nothing more than to gather round fires weaving stories, love and laughter; to sip warm tea in steamy cafes, linger over the last froth of a latte, or walk in winter woods.
Yet how often do we – or our societies – really allow ourselves to do that? In reality, in the Western world at least, we’re under perpetual pressure to perform, produce results, do and achieve at a constant rate throughout the year. And that rate is always set to maximum. That’s fine in the energetic spring days, the abundance of summer – when the masculine (solar) energies are at their peak and we thrust ourselves into the world with aplomb.
But in the cooler, darker months when days are dominated by night, inviting us to sleep a little longer, dream a little deeper, the feminine (lunar) energies ask us to slow down, rest and restore. Be still and listen within.
It’s these feminine qualities and energies that are still largely being ignored.
So, in madness, we’re expected to maniacally maintain constantly high levels of masculine effort and achievement throughout all times of the year – even when the natural cycles demand otherwise. It seems to me no wonder then, that this is the time when we become a little stretched, a little out of touch with our own inner nature.
Anyone who knows me might know that I’ve recently been off work with a lengthy bout of ‘flu. I’m hardly alone in that respect, it seems half of Britain has had the same affliction. Now, I can’t speak for anyone else here, I can only tell you what I’ve learnt for myself: it would not have been possible for me to get ill without my own consent.
Somewhere deep inside I answered yes to the little voice that asked, “wouldn’t you like to just rest for a while?”
That voice is the Trickster. It’s so convincing precisely because it’s offering us exactly what we know deep down we need. However, instead of receiving the gentle restoration and healing that would come as a natural consequence of living with my body’s rhythmic cycles, I agreed to subject myself to a Crisis of Cleansing. Equally necessary under the circumstances; much more messy.
It’s in honouring both the masculine and feminine energies of our own inner nature that we find the deepest healing.
The perfect ending to many a good fairy tale is the marriage between the Prince and Princess. Understood as symbolic of our own archetypal inner energies, this wedding can show us both the greatest medicine and the ultimate destination of our soul. The balanced and harmonious union of the yin and yang – One Soul Complete.
This isn’t telling us to sit around passively waiting for our Prince/Princess to come. Far from it. This is soul work of the deepest kind.
How much are you in touch with your own inner nature?