The sun begins to set outside, and dusk sets in like a twilight veil, stirring something deep within your heart and soul. You curl up in your favorite chair, the warmth of the newly lit fire in the fireplace a decadent comfort. The blaze sizzles, a hypnotic crackle that lures your senses to the edge of another world. With anticipation you flip open your book, thumbing through the well-worn pages to find the spot where you had left off. Settling in, it takes almost no time at all before you are whisked away, enraptured in the magical adventure once again.
Have you ever wondered why magical tales and myths captivate your mind and heart so deeply? What is it that has us reeling with delight and enchantment over those stories that weave the magical with the mundane – what is this powerful longing that they evoke within us?
For many of us, the “real world” seems to have lost its magic and wonder. The sensations and beliefs we once held as a child that said anything was possible become more and more difficult to hold on to as we grow up. This lackluster reality has many of us by the toes, and we can’t seem to escape the growing coldness we feel as its result.
The truth is that magic and reality don’t have to cancel each other out, and there was once a time when they even played nicely together. So to reiterate the point: magic is real, and until fairly recently this idea was pretty much understood in cultures all around the world.
Lucky for us, our ancestors left clues sprinkled throughout their folklore for us to gain a deeper understanding of how myth, magic and reality all swirled into one. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, we may follow these hidden gems not only to gain a greater understanding of our ancestors’ relationship with the Otherworld, but also in order to illuminate how the interrelationship of these elements supported them, challenged them, and was an intrinsic part of growth and development.
Myths and legends actually hold a layer of truth, seeds of wisdom from which spring the themes, characters and plots of the stories. The images and symbolism within these types of tales speak to the soul in a way that literal language never could. Oftentimes the folklore of a culture will inform on a much deeper level than even historical accounts will.
I’d like to use the Brothers Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty to illustrate the merging of the human and Faery worlds. Before we dig in, let’s first define “faery” so we are on the same page. The word faery has two origins depending on the spelling. The first is from the Latin word fata and means “destiny.” The second origin is Gaelic, from the words “fear sidhe,” which means “man of the mound.” These mounds were considered to be entrances to an unseen realm invisible to many humans. So a Faery is a being of light that exists within the spiritual realms of the Earth, deeply connected to the life force, evolutionary process and destiny of the planet and those inhabiting it.
The story of Sleeping Beauty begins with the birth of the beautiful princess, Briar Rose. At the christening all the Faeries from the surrounding land are invited. These Faeries come bearing gifts: not tangible objects but positive attributes with which the princess is to be imbued.
The first gift is very important because it is the gift of Beauty. Beauty has been used in many fairy tales as well as the Arthurian material to mean Faery energy or origin. The use of the word here signifies that this is a story in which the Faery theme is indicated, possibly even suggesting that the princess herself may be related to Faery in some way. The Faeries continue to bestow the gifts, and it is through this gift-giving we are told that reciprocity is a natural and very important part of Faery and human relationship.
Then another Faery arrives, one who had not been invited because she had not been seen in years and was thought to have vanished or left the land. Of course, she feels snubbed, and as a result gives a gift of demise – the princess will prick her finger on a spindle and die on her seventeenth birthday.
When viewed from a higher perspective, what we are being shown here is that Faeries mediate forces of both life and death. We tend to perceive death as a negative, but it is not viewed the same way in the world of Faerie. Death is a natural part of life, without which life could not spring forth.
One other gift worth mentioning is the last one bestowed by the youngest Faery in an effort to lessen the angry Faery’s gift of death – she softens the effects so that the princess will not die, but instead will sleep for a hundred years until a prince can wake her with a kiss.
Typically sleep represents a level of consciousness. First, it suggests something taking place at the subconscious level. Additionally, it tells us that from this seemingly dreadful fate an opportunity is born – to die to one’s old self and rise from that experience, awakened and transformed. This is the opportunity presented to the princess (and all of us at various times within our lives) if she can indeed accept it.
Finally, let’s fast-forward to the princess pricking her finger and falling asleep. Again this is where the opportunity for transformation begins on a very deep level. Around the sleeping princess, a seemingly impassable forest springs up immediately. The forest is a symbol used to signify the middle point between two worlds – the otherworldly realm of Faery and that of the physical or human world.
Now remember the prince needs to somehow pass through this forest, which means that he needs to step between the worlds, leaving behind the safety and perceived security of the material world. This quest is really signifying a change in consciousness.
As you will remember, the princess’s name was Briar Rose. Here the rose symbolizes the heart of transformation itself, which can only fully blossom as the inner forces of the masculine and feminine are brought into balance within each one of us. Thus the uniting of the prince and the princess with the kiss symbolizes the ultimate alchemical process of transformation, the sacred marriage that merges and activates the inner forces of polarity within the initiate– the awakening of the rose.
Within my book series The Forest Speaks you will find many of these traditional Faery elements included as well, and while The Forest Speaks is a modern day work, I have sought to preserve many ancient codes and symbols in order to activate and awaken the soul magic of my readers.
No doubt you can think of other examples in which some of these symbols have carried through into modern day literature. Even if only on the subconscious part of the author, the truth of the matter is that “magic as reality” lives on in our hearts and minds.