FAIRY TALES I
Are fairy tales what their name suggests: fantasies that have no relevance to our modern technologically driven world? Or is there virtue in exploring what these age-old tales are trying to communicate to us from across the ages and from continent to continent? Even as adults, fairy tales continue to enchant and lure us back into the dreamland of our childhoods. Yet fairy tales were never conceived of as children’s stories. They were part of the great oral tradition of story telling found around village piazzas or in the spinning rooms. They were the collective dreaming of countless unnamed individuals who observed and lived these family driven scenarios. What are they trying to convey to us that still holds us enthralled and willing to sit and listen? Fairy tales have been recounted, embellished and paired down to a polished minimalism that omits all personal details (there are no individual names, only nicknames like Cinderella or Red Riding Hood, and generic names like Prince, evil Step-Mother, King). Yet they speak to us of the most personally difficult themes. At the start of all fairy tales is a poisoned seed: the King and Queen have no child and are so longing for one they are willing to accept even a toad in lieu of a child; or the King, grieving his beautiful Queen, falls in love with his daughter because she most resembles her; or the mother is so possessive of her children that she wants to eat them up. The poisoned seed is active, it grows, it sets in motion the roller coaster action of the story. The protagonists (hero, heroine) are propelled across the mirror from this world into their subconscious where their deepest drives, urges and secrets are percolating as in a great cauldron. Will they find their way through to transformation? Each fairy tale examines a different scenario through the light of the imagination. What does the imagination contribute to our everyday reality? Senses, images, hopes and unfoldings, that can show us how to navigate these deep stirrings, exercise courage and inventiveness, and come out victorious. In the unfolding of the tale, we have been led, through imaginal characters once removed from us, to examine, face, conquer and tame our drives and emotions. The tales are always transformative, delivering to us the wisdom of collective dreaming on how-to come out of a psychic knot and “live happily ever after” or, in other words, never have to face that particular ordeal again. Our work during the three days will be to examine different symptoms and recurring neurotic themes as embodied by classical fairy tales and to live, through guided exercises, the wonder of dissolving those knots and reaching a higher level of consciousness.
FAIRY TALES II
Why do fairy tales still hold center stage “Into the Woods” of modern media? Why are they still retold, reinterpreted and reframed to the delight and fascination of today’s audiences, young and old? Why do the wicked witch and the evil stepmother continue to send chills up our spines? What makes fairy tales as relevant, as fresh, as when they first emerged from the storytelling pot of generations? In Fairy Tales I we worked on childhood transformation, the initiatic passages from childhood to teen and teen to young adulthood—and the virtues of courage, resilience and inventiveness they require. Today those essential rituals marking the milestones in our life stories unfold not so much from the timeless truth of our psyche as from linear time, and we have only our fairy tales to remind us of the need for a deeper commitment to our inner truths. Studying these little jewels of communal dreaming can give us road maps to a better future.
In Fairy Tales II we extract from traumatic or disempowering childhood experience the golden nugget of wisdom and strength it contains. The Bible says that “the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children, to the third and to the fourth generation.” Fairy tales disagree. They show us how to transcend the “sins of our fathers”—to use our worst experiences to get better; to become more able, not less. Like the Greek hero Oedipus, we are blind; inured to the dysfunction we live with. We are lucky if our vision clears and we see we are acting out “the sins” of our parents.
The Fairy Tale clears our vision. It provides us a framework to transmute this dysfunction—these “sins”—into personal power. It allows us to replace our childhood images with empowered, transcendant images of our own. Fairy Tales allow us to look at the worst and transform it to the best: incestual desires (“And the king loved his daughter and wanted to marry her because only she was as beautiful as his dead wife.”—Donkey-Skin), lethal greed (“The mother was willing to destroy her child to get what she wanted”—Rapunzel), or any other “poisoned seeds”—an alcoholic parent, an abuser, a sexual predator in a parental role.
The Fairy Tale shows us the steps that are required to confront and conquer such patterns, and change the effect of the past on the present and future. The king who wanted to marry his daughter is ultimately transformed not by his own insights or inner work, but by his daughter’s actions—and he happily leads her to the altar to marry her prince! The child’s transformation ends up transforming his/her life and more often than not his/her family’s too. The Fairy Tale tells us it’s easy—the Fairy Tale says all you have to do is “Watch me and follow in my footsteps”.