Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snake Stories

Today’s tale, “The White Snake,” repeats familiar themes discussed in earlier posts. Because of this, I’m less inclined to write a new tale for it. I’d like to simply think about the story and share some musings.

The hero seeks to know the secret of his higher self (the King). The mystery is to eat a white snake everyday. What is this snake? The reptilian part of ourselves--redeemed?

Is this idea as repulsive to you as it is to me? Maybe that is the point. Snakes might represent our shadow side—those parts of ourselves we seek to disown and repress. Is the story advising us to digest (grapple with) our dark instincts and drives? Then we can access the power and wisdom hidden withinin our “irrational” impulses.

The snake image is provocative. In Europe, it was a both a pagan symbol of rejuvenation and the Christian image of the devil.

Many of these Grimm stories seem to explore the same theme—learning to hear the animal part of oneself—one’s intuition. If the hero can hear the voices of instinct within, he has an advantage in all parts of his life.

Marie Louise Von Franz (discussed below in earlier posts) has lectured that fairy tales featuring male heroes are different than those focused on the female psyche. Her ideas—given 40 years ago—can seem controversial today. But if I relate these tales to the “female’ and “male” parts of myself, I have less difficulty with her theories. You may notice that the female heroes of the fairy tales (see "Sundance" story below) often have to endure and then they are saved by circumstance. The ability to grow through suffering is explored in these tales. The male hero is much more active and often has to learn to listen to his own inner voice before he can win the maiden (i.e. he must develop his feeling/intuitive/instinctual self and find his inner feminine).

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