I like Bell's illustration above with its crowned heart on top of the thorny frame. The crown sacrilizes the truth that the archetypal (see Metaphor 101) feminine is passive (the sleeping woman), in case you didn't know, or perhaps more accurately, receptive. Though there aren't many guys who are into dead ladies, it's not surprising that the combination of beauty and passivity/receptivity can be pretty darn compelling. That's just the way it is, for better (in some cases) or worse (in others). If nothing else, the passive types are inviting because they are harmless, like a child is. It's one of the laws of magnetism.
The two-sided heart, as is the case with all two-sided organs in the body (kidney, eyes, brain, etc.), is divided between masculine and feminine. It's split most generally speaking into the active and the passive ways of loving, the desirous and the desired. Within our hearts, we all carry both of these opposites. The moment (or the moments) when the twain meet are moments of uniting the two sides so that they are no longer the desired and the desiring, but a completeness. The search is momentarily over. If the search were over for a lifetime, we would call it enlightenment, in contemporary American parlance. The search for the beloved is the search for The Beloved, for unity consciousness, for an experience of oneness. That we find this experience of oneness in the often fleeting form of infatuated love is one of the most cruel of realities the adolescent and adult human will face.
All this is true, and for lots of folks, Briar Rose's story is a love story, a story of a young lady meeting the adversity of some evil forces through lying on her bed until some good looking guy finds her. But the thorns here have another symbolic job, that of signifying the more general category of loss and suffering that arises in all human beings once the developmental stage of childhood is over. We enter the dark when we lose, when we suffer; loss and suffering are a form of death. The great human developmental challenge is to love despite the suffering, love in the broadest sense; love self, love other, love without expectation and attachment. That infatuation takes place in our youth is indeed a cruel trick, for we are not mature enough to handle it, and vice versa. However, this fact, that there's no winning in romantic love, is also a pointer to love that transcends any particular attachment.
Briar Rose's initiation is, despite the general concept that this is a love story, not through falling in love, no matter how common that form of initiation is in my society that lauds romance and where we choose our own life partners and lovers. No, Briar Rose's initiation is as generic and impersonal as her life and her name. The story is actually not about her initiation, from my perspective; it's a cautionary tale, perhaps, concerning the need for parents, caretakers, and societies to allow for the adolescent need to step (or fall) into the darkness. It's a story about the absolute inexorability of that developmental need. It's about the manner in which human fate is not just light but darkness as well, and perhaps even the truth that our destinies cannot be realized when we struggle against our human fates.
Spinning wheels were not used in ancient Greece and back in time; the Fates are using a drop spindle, the most primitive way of making yarn and thread. The distaff that holds the unspun fibers is held by the crone on the right, from our view. So Briar Rose's pricking of her finger on the spindle or distaff (depending on the version of this story) is a neat metaphor that says 1. there is sacrifice and suffering and loss (blood, wounding) 2. it is her fate.
And due to the addition of the later spinning wheel, it also means that 3. destiny is involved, or fortune as the ancients had it. The wheel is used in metaphor to many purposes, but I'm talking about the archetype depicted in the tarot X, the Wheel of Fortune. The number ten in this case of tarot refers to a cycle being completed, since we use a decimal system of counting, and another being initiated. It's a turn of the wheel. Our movements from one human developmental stage to another are surely such turns, and this symbolism is also part of the Dreadful Wind and Rain miller's wheel, in my last blog series.