Category Archives: ashes

The Fearsome Wild Hag

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Baba Yaga flies away

Baba Yaga flies away

Baba Yaga

The Fearsome Wild Hag

     Baba Yaga is a Slavic folklore supernatural being, one of 3 sisters with the same name who appear as deformed and/or ferocious-looking women. Baba Yaga flies around in a cauldron shaped like a mortar, dwells, deep in the forest in a hut, usually described as standing on scaly yellow chicken legs, that walks about all by itself, sometimes twirls around and around like an ecstatic dancer. Her fence is usually decorated with human skulls. As she travels, she rows her vehicle with an oar shaped like a pestle. All the while she sweeps out the tracks of where she has been with a broom made from the hair of a person long dead.

 Baba Yaga is fearsome, for she represents the power of annihilation and the power of the life force at the same time. Even through Baba Yaga threatens, she is just. She does not hurt anyone as long as they treat her with dignity and respect. She expects honesty, courageous and straight talk. You must be able to accept her as she is warts, wisdom, and all. Respect in the face of great power is a crucial lesson. So many of her feminine attributes and forces are vast, all are formidable. It is understandable that the first time we come face-to-face with the Old Wild Powers, both men and women take one anxious look and make tracks.

She may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out. At times Baba Yaga plays a maternal role. She is closely association with forest wild life. She sometimes frights a hero, (promises to eat him,) but helps him if he is courageous. According to Vladimir Propp’s folk tale morphology, Baba Yaga commonly appears as either a donor, Villain or maybe altogether ambiguous. A donor in a fairy tale is a character that tests the hero, or heroine and provides magical assistance to them when he/she succeeds. In many folktales she kidnaps and eats naughty children (usually roasts them in the oven.) She has her familiars, the three horsemen, red, white and black.  And of course, she has at least one black cat and crow.

Baba means Old Woman or grandmother. Yaga means horror, shudder, or chill, witch, pain or worry. She first occurred in 1755 listed among Slavic gods. The Slavic god Perun appears equated with the Roman god Jupiter. Baba Yaga appears to have no equivalence, attesting to her uniqueness even in this first known attestation.

Baba Yaga has bony legs, when inside her dwelling, she may be found stretched out over the stove, reaching from one corner of the hut to another. Her nose is repulsive, so are her breasts, buttocks, vagina.  In some tales a trio of Baba Yagas appear as sisters, all sharing the same name. Her long chin curved up and her long nose curved down, and they met in the middle. She has a tiny white goatee and warts on her skin from her trade in toads. Baba Yaga is the fearsome wild Crone.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, The story begins, ‘Once there was, and once there was not … ‘. This phase alerts the soul that this story takes place in the world between worlds where nothing is as it first seems. The woods can be that luminal space between realms. In my collage I show Baba Yaga flying about in her cauldron rowing with her pestle. Below you can see her hut and fence surrounded by forest. It is night and the moon is full.

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A Little Help from Friends

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Cinderellawk#4A Happy Ending

The Cinderella Story Week#4

In the end Cinderella weds the Prince and lives happily ever after. Her step-sisters are blinded by the birds and the wicked step-mother spends the rest of her years caring for her blind daughters. Personally I thought the punishment of the step-sisters was a bit harsh. The tone was set by the step-mother; she was the example to her daughters so I think she was the one that should have been blinded. I want to give credit to Cinderella’s friends without their help the ending may not have been quite so happy. The Hazel nut-tree and the white bird who I believe contained the spirit of her beloved dead mother and all the other wonderful birds that came in from the garden to help Cinderella sort the lentils from the ashes of the fireplace should receive lots of Cinderella’s gratitude. Even the birds at the end who blind the step-sisters contributed greatly to Cinderella’s happiness.

This version of Cinderella contains a lot of birds. The bird symbol represents transcendence; the soul; a spirit, spirits of the dead, the ability to communicate with the Gods or to enter into a higher state of consciousness. The white bird at the Hazel nut-tree may have been a dove. Doves are often symbols of feminine energies of Peace, Maternity and Prophecy. It embodies the maternal instinct. That is why I believe the tree and the white bird represents Cinderella’s mother.

What is the moral of this story? If you believe in honor your mother and father, remain loyal and kind, work hard without complaint, and come from a loving soul you will be rewarded by finding a loving partner, (Prince Charming), recognition and riches. It also helps if you are very beautiful, because cute counts. Studies have been done and it is true that attractive people are more likely to be given positive attention than someone who is less attractive. People are drawn to handsome people. In most fairy tales the damsel in distress is beautiful. The males of our species are sexually attracted to attractive women? It is built-in to the male’s biology. You just wonder if the story would be quite the same had Cinderella been ugly or ordinary looking?

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Lentil Sorting

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Cinderella Sorts Lentils #3

Lentils to Sort

I’ve never sorted Lentils but I’ve sorted beads, hundreds of beads. It was a boring, mind numbing job. It took me hours to complete the task. In the Grimm Bros. version of Cinderella she is asked twice by her step-mother to sort Lentils. This is after the wicked step-mother dramatically dumps them into the fireplace ash and coals. The Step-mother assumes that she can then tell Cinderella, “no. You can not go to the Ball because you haven’t finished your tasks.” What the Step-mother doesn’t know is Cinderella has helpers. The birds come and do all the sorting, a rather easy task for them to accomplish.

In my collage the ugly step-mother is pouring the lentils into the ashes while the step-sisters are watching. Behind them gathered on the molding of the door frame are a few birds waiting to assist Cinderella.

As Cinderella accomplishes everything the step-mother asks of her the step-mother is forced to tell Cinderella she can’t go to the ball because she does not have the proper clothing, i.e. a Ball Gown. Therefore, she will embarrass the entire family. The step-mother concludes with, “You don’t know how to dance.” This time Cinderella is helped by the giving tree and the white bird. She is given a beautiful dress and shoes but when she goes to the Step-mother the mother has already left.

What is the meaning of the impossible task? It is a way of shifting blame from the step-mother to Cinderella. The step-mother didn’t say no to Cinderella’s request to go to the Ball, she just told Cinderella that she had to finish all her tasks. The plan is that Cinderella won’t be able to finish in the allotted time so it is her own fault that she had to stay home.

In the kitchen Cinderella is sitting by the fireplace. The kitchen looks shabby. Years ago I went on a tour of a very stately mansion. I was shocked at the discrepancy between where the owners lived and where the help worked and lived. It was quite a difference. The library was magnificent, beautiful wood panels and shelves. A lovely oriental carpet graced the inlayed wooden floor. In the maid’s quarters upstairs the room was estire and denuded of any adornment what so ever. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling, the walls were grey the overall look was that of a jail cell. So of course the kitchen, the servant’s domain, would be shabby. The only concern would be to have it be function able.

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Cinderella’s Devotion

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Cinderella's Devotion

Cinderella’s Devotion

What are the positive aspects of the story?

   One of the most positive aspects of the story is how Cinderella’s love and devotion to her mother never changes. Her mother had told her that if she remains good and pious that God would take care of her. I also like the idea that her mother’s spirit is alive in the Hazel nut tree. The white bird acts as her mother’s helper. Praying at the tree makes Cinderella feel safe and understood

   When she is given a ball gown of silver and gold Cinderella puts it on and attends the ball. I think that every young girl thinks it would be wonderful to have the most beautiful gown at the festival. This part of the story is dreamy and fun to entertain. When Cinderella arrives at the ball she looks so beautiful that even her family doesn’t recognize her. The Prince notices her and sweeps her off her feet. He exclaims that “she is my dance partner” to all other suitors. The story suggests that at first he may have been attracted to Cinderella because of her beauty but as he gets to know her he falls in love with her. It is a real love story. We all want to find a Prince Charming who will think we are the prettiest woman at the ball. Who would search for us and want to marry us even if we are the scullery maid who sleeps among the ashes.

    It bothered me that Cinderella’s father never came to her aid. I understand that the step mother has colored his perception of Cinderella. At one point in the story the father describes Cinderella as deformed. Even so, I still found it unbelievable that he was ambivalent about her circumstances. In my readings of variations of the story there is one that suggests that her father wasn’t her biological father. Cinderella is her mother’s child. This makes more sense to me and explains why Cinderella didn’t have a living advocate.

    It wasn’t unusual a couple of hundred years ago for families to have step children or step parents, or half brothers and sisters etc. Many men and women died young. In fact, women died in child birth leaving a father with children to care for. Since the majority of families worked on farms this would be especially difficult. So men remarried and often they married the woman hired to care for their motherless children. I know that is something that happened in my family. My great-great grandfather had a son to care for after his first wife died. He hired a young woman to take care of his son. After several years he married her and they had my great grandmother.

I also wondered why Cinderella always runs away from Prince Charming. In the Disney version it’s because the Fairy Godmother told her to be home by mid-night when the magical spell stopped working. But in our story it doesn’t say why she ran away. My guess is Cinderella was afraid that if the Prince knew about her humble circumstances he would not want her. Plus, she didn’t know what her “parents” would do if they found out that she had gone to the Ball. It wasn’t until the Prince insists she try on the slipper that she realizes its okay for her to reveal herself.

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Cinderella

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Cinderella dances

Cinderella dances

Cinderella

 

This fairy tale seems to be told, at least some variation of it, by different peoples all around the world. It is an old tale going back as far as the Greek’s telling of a maiden who is bathing and a bird steals one of her sandals and drops it in the lap of the king. The king thinks it’s an omen and goes in search of the owner. When he finds her they marry and the sandal owner becomes the queen.

 The story we’ve selected is a bit different than the Walt Disney version of Cinderella. We selected the Bros. Grimm telling because it is richer and more detailed. In this telling Cinderella is helped by her mother’s tree and a white bird. The magic comes from them. The tree symbol suggests that her mother’s spirit with the help of the white bird is watching and taking care of her. In the Walt Disney version it is Cinderella’s fairy god mother who is the magic maker.

In my collage I show the Prince’s castle. The Prince and Cinderella are dancing at the Prince’s Ball. I show the wicked step-mother who does everything she can to prevent Cinderella from going to the Ball.

There is an enlarged photo of Cinderella in the background. In the photo you can see just how beautiful she is. Even in her rags and wooden shoes her beauty shines through. Just before her mother dies she tells Cinderella “…remain pious and good … and I will look down from heaven and be near you.” And as the story goes Cinderella goes daily to her mother’s grave. She plants a twig that turns into a tree. It is that tree and the white bird that perform the magic in this story. They make it possible for Cinderella to have a beautiful dress and shoes for the Prince’s Ball…

The step-mother is blinded to Cinderella’s character and beauty by her jealousy. She wants her new husband to focus on her and hers, i.e.: the step-sisters. Because of Cinderella’s grief at the loss of her mother and the rejection of her step mother, step sisters and the loss of her father’s attention she lives a cold and bleak existence. The fact that she is turned into a scullery maid just emphasizes the change of her status. However; Cinderella does as her mother requested. Her reward for remaining pious and good is that the Prince recognizes these qualities along with her beauty and falls madly love and marries her.

I think most folk and fairy tales are teaching tales. They reflect the community’s belief of right over comes wrong, good conquers evil that justice will prevail, that greed, selfishness and jealousy are punished and that goodness is recognized and rewarded. This story is a classic tale because it so wonderfully illustrates the reward for piousness and good.  You get the love of a Prince. //