Cloistered away in the fictional town of Storybrook, Maine is a cache of fairy tale characters stuck in their stories, devoid of memory and unable to realize their happy endings. The tragic heroes and heroines of the imaginative television series Once Upon a Time have been exiled to the outpost by the Evil Queen, Snow White’s stepmother, whose wrath over her own unhappy fate has caused her to place a curse on others, keeping them from their happy endings.
One day an outsider arrives in the sleepy little town and the characters begin to wake up and regain their memories, granting them the power to revisit their stories, to “re-member” them in a different way, asking that they be infused with needed healing, which paves the way for happier outcomes.
It should not surprise us to see this popular return of simple story in the media, seen also in the Grimm television series and the two feature films Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman, to remind us of its redemptive power.
Invoking a Better Outcome
A common scenario in fairy tales, notes Caroline Casey in her book Making the Gods Work for You is that when a character loses their way in the Enchanted Forest, after acting out emotionally and weeping, they finally sit down and tell themselves the story of how they got lost. “Something about telling yourself your own story invokes the resolution of the adventure. The magic horse arrives, the stairs descend from the heavens, and the next chapter of the journey begins to unfold,” she writes.
“Telling the story attracts the molecules of its manifestation,” she adds.
This is strongly aligned with the spiritual practice of stating positive affirmations to manifest what we aspire to in our human lives. Our thoughts, actions, words and visual representations, such as painting or creating a vision board, are all powerful tools for realizing what we wish to manifest for our souls and in the material world.
It is exhilarating to think that in this lifetime so many of us who bore witness to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, understanding it was a giant leap for mankind, may also get to experience an evolutionary and huge shift in human consciousness.
In order to manifest this shift each of us is being asked to participate by waking up and being present to our lives. To make sure that what and how we think, speak and act is in alignment with our highest wisdom and reflects our authentic Selves. It is time to be who we really are.
Re-Membering Our Personal Stories
For several years I have worked with people to tell the stories of their lives. It is hard work to find the right voice to excavate our truth. From an archetypal perspective it may be the orphan, victim or destroyer who clamors for all the attention, before the creator, sage and ruler can bring the picture into balance.
So often the stories we have carried around for so long, which may not even be true, have become etched into us on a cellular level, burdens expanding into obstacles that block our path to living a happy life. Getting to the real truth sometimes means having to go mining for it in some dark places, which usually leads to discomfort.
Like many people, I have had some humdinger stories about my life, particularly around my family. Some of them were true and some of them were like fish tales, growing bigger and more distorted over time, tripping me up.
Could my young mother have parented me differently? Absolutely. Often being left to my own devices imbued me with an independent spirit, made me extremely capable at a young age and afforded me the freedom to discover my creative gifts. Given the opportunity, I would not wish to exchange these benefits.
Now, I am mostly grateful and feel tremendously blessed to have been brought up as I was.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…
The trek from our nightmarish stories to our personal happy endings is often an arduous journey that begins when life splits us open or metaphorically speaking, dismembers us, as experienced in a shamanic death. You may recognize this also as the dark night of the soul or astrologically speaking, as a Plutonic initiation and descent into the underworld, or a good old-fashioned midlife crisis.
In her brilliant book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., describes this dismemberment through an examination of The Handless Maiden tale.
“In the underworld, whenever a thing is not able to live, it is taken down and cut apart to be used in another way. This woman of the story is not old, not sick, yet she must be dismantled for she cannot be the way she has been anymore. Yet forces are waiting for her to help her heal,” explains Pinkola Estes.
Stripped of the protective layer of her ego, the young maiden wanders through the underworld vulnerable and defenseless, as we humans do in such initiations. “At this time, we see in our lives that no matter what we do, our ego-plans slip from our grasp. There will be a change in our lives, a big one. Our own powerful destiny begins to rule our lives–not the mill, not the sweeping, not the sleeping. Our lives as we once knew them are over… It is a time when all that we value loses its lilt,” Pinkola Estes writes.
It is a dark and stormy night indeed. Through deep work we eventually give birth to a new self and emerge transformed.
The wandering maiden is similar to another exile, the duckling in the author’s version of the classic tale, The Ugly Duckling. Extreme trials take the duckling to within an inch of his life but Pinkola Estes explains that the exile is tempering him. “…Its effect is similar to pure natural carbon under pressure producing diamonds – it leads eventually to a profound magnitude and clarity of psyche,” describes the author.
As we get re-membered, we become stronger, wiser and conscious. We wake up from the nightmare of our former life. We get to do a major rewrite of our stories and dream a new dream.
And now we are being called to look around us and see how we are all connected and enmeshed in the giant web of life.
Author Caroline Casey writes that, “We might say that where we stand culturally, in millennial time, is in the fourth act of human history, where evil and greed appear to be victorious on a vast scale.”
But that doesn’t need to be the way our story ends!
We could seek the help of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Casey says, “At the freshwater springs of the aesclepions (healing temples), people would come to incubate a healing dream, a better story for themselves and their community. They would leave reinvigorated by the vision of the journey ahead of them. And so are we, when we journey imaginatively to the healing springs of the aesclepion to ask for a larger healing story for ourselves, and our community.”
In our transformational times, we have an opportunity to be like the mythic heroes in Joseph Campbell’s work, who by sharing the elixir, or healing, we have discovered on our personal journeys with the larger community, increase the odds of making the much talked about possible leap in human consciousness that is knocking on our door.
©2012 Teresa Piccari