And hey, I just opened an Etsy shop with art cards and bags. www.etsy.com/ravenlightarts
Here, one evil witch sister offers a curative apple to the other sister, who has just had her innocent heart broken by the magician played by James Franco. The apple will cure Theadora's broken heart by shriveling it.
Theodora then turns into the witch that's in the old Wizard of Oz film, green and broom riding and vengeful. I started getting suspicious when Theodora was flouncing around in red, white, and black, then started crying red tears...Her discovery that Oz was getting close to Glynda and her subsequent pain and suffering was the rubedo. After the apple bite? Well, it could in loose terms be a nigredo, a period of prolonged darkness. Only she doesn't get out of it. Then it's a lifestyle, not a nigredo (see Fairy Tale page for term). The symbolism is OK as far as getting her initiated out of innocence, the Eve story, but it doesn't work in the realm of healing or moving out of dualism, which is the ultimate point to Snow White. It does the opposite.
Of course lots of us get stuck in suffering, the needle skipping over and over old stories of wrongs we've experienced. Sometimes storytellers botch symbolism; this one's not too bad a digression, in particular because Theodora is not the protagonist. She doesn't need to get enlightened, Franco does. I include three films in my e book that botch rather badly; Pan's Labyrinth, Sublime, and The Box.
When the dwarves return, Snow White has entered the dead zone. They try some ritual washing both with water and wine (spirits) to point out to us the sacred nature of this event. "The dear child was gone, and nothing could bring her back." From an alchemical standpoint, this is true. What returns will be Snow White and Stepmother's "New You". The two are going to merge in some regard.
To add more symbolic punch, the dwarves weep for three days, the magic/sacred number ubiquitous in transformational story. They put her in a coffin:
"So they had a transparent glass coffin made that allowed Snow White to be seen from all sides. They put her in it, wrote her name on it in gold letters, and added that she was the daughter of a king. They brought the coffin up to the top of a mountain, and one of them always remained by it to keep vigil. Animals came to mourn Snow White, first an owl, then a raven, and finally a dove."
The painting below it is titled "Death and the Maiden". Notice the red, white, and black. I'm pretty sure that the Pre-Raphaelites (school of painters) were into alchemy and myth and its symbolism. The dark angel raises her hand in greeting; she is like the Aegis, Medusa's head (earlier post), reminding the maiden (note her signature apple blossoms by the bed) of mortality. I had no idea this Death and the Maiden was such a big theme in art. I invite you to search for images using the words "death and the maiden".
In the last post, I looked at Counting Crows' Colorblind. This realization of our multifaceted being is what's going on in Snow White's coffin time. She's working on seeing herself and others from many perspectives, rather than in the intellectual mind's limited black and white. This is work of the heart.
That Snow White gets parked on a mountain top reiterates the owl's wisdom symbolism, for mountains are a universal symbol of sacred wisdom. The black and white birds, Raven and Dove, Death and the Maiden, are opposites. Opposition like that between SW and Stepmom is what shocks us into waking up, the repulsive hair of the dog that can stimulate the cure. In our black and white minds the two do not go together. But guess what?....
"Snow White lay in the coffin for a long, long time. But she did not decay and looked just as if she were sleeping, for she was still as white as snow, red as blood, and had hair as black as ebony."
We might as well restate this: "She did not decay...because this long, long time is symbolic of an alchemical sleep, a nigredo."
Anyway, if you remember from a post 9/25/13, alchemy imagines us as a container- like that black one above. Well, we are skin containers. But this container is meant to depict the psyche. Anyway, since alchemy imagines our inner work as progressing along the lines of natural processes, this blackness or nigredo is called putrefaction (putrefactio, the title above the picture). Things are breaking down, falling apart, during Snow White's coffin time.
Because of this, the nigredo stage may be stinky. It will likely not look all that pretty in our lives. It's going to be a time of confusion, depression, anger and evil maybe, an economic crash, a severe or prolonged illness or injury, a time of failure like Stepmom's loss of "face". There is no delineation between rubedo suffering and nigredo time. Often we experience them together. Alchemy isn't designed to appeal to the literal, contemporary scientific mind. It's just a set of loose categories. I am personally not interested in getting fussy about it; maybe someone is. I'm coming from the psychological development aspect of the philosophy.
Notice there are two beings there, in this container above, implying that the opposites are going to dissolve. We can imagine them as Snow White and, on the other side, dwarves, prince, and Stepmother.
Say not so! So there.
The deal with the gold letters is that our TRUE names are written in gold, gold= the eternal. Discovering/unfolding (in Duritz's Colorblind poetry words) our true names, our authentic selves, is what we're headed towards in our human development. There's a lovely story in Hindu tradition, where the God of Creation, Prajapati, writes our names in gold on our newborn foreheads, the 6th chakra. The name is our destiny. Interestingly, it's a place, like our own face, that we cannot see except in a reflection.
So the prince recognizes Snow White's true self in the name here, implying that our collective protagonist- SW, Stepmom, dwarves, etc.- have done the same. He asks to buy the princess, or technically, the coffin. The dwarves say "We wouldn't sell it for all the gold in the world." The true self, the essence of our beingness, is outside of the consciousness that buys and sells, the dwarves want to let him know.
This is actually one reason I am more in the alchemical camp, as opposed to the more New Age spirituality camp, although there's lots of fun to be had there, too. Alchemy is very process focused; the journey is the destination, and the movement out of suffering is normal human development, not some miraculous anomaly or an escape plan. I like process, though it's an orientation that doesn't come natural to someone conditioned in contemporary American society.
The dwarves let us know that materialism is referred to here by saying "all the gold in the world". Gold is experienced on two levels; the sacred name level, and the materialistic wealth level. Princey-poo is in the middle of choosing between the two in this scene. The protagonist in Oz The Great and Powerful is depicted as going through this very same shift. The prince lets us know that he's hip by saying:
"Make me a present of her. I can't live without seeing my Snow White. I will honor and cherish her as if she were my beloved."
Did you notice the sublety of "as IF she were my beloved"? For if we are speaking of inner transformation, we're really talking about a bigger picture, beyond the specific personal experience of a fiancee. We can put these words in Stepmother's mouth, for instance. Or we can think of them in a way similar to Jesus's words advising us to love our neighbors as ourselves- as IF they were ourselves. Self compassion is this, for example, the moment when we treat ourselves as precious, a big hurdle for those who are of the caretaking ilk.
The fairy tale differs from Disney in that Snow White awakens when the apple bite is dislodged from her throat. The symbolism there would be that she was choked, unable to express herself and/or her creativity, a typical female 5th chakra issue that takes us back to the original mother who wishes, longs, desires to birth a "new you" (earlier post). Since the 5th is a masculine energy center, women need to develop their masculine side as part of using this energy authentically and fully.
The healthy new relationship with the masculine signaled by the appearance of the prince could be part of understanding that our creative flow doesn't have to be ordered along competitive lines. Or maybe that we are brave enough to enter into the "real world's" competitive forum with our creativity without taking it personally. Taking things personally is an archetypally feminine issue that proceeds from the personal or small perspective. Relating to "small" has great advantages: humility and the ability to stay interested in details of minute, repetitive daily significance, for example. But it can also keep us from getting the archetypally masculine long range perspective. That perspective requires distancing. That ability is oft represented by the raptors; Falcon, Eagle, Osprey. Gryphon is such a wisdom animal.
"When she entered, Snow White recognized her right away. The queen was so terrified that she just stood there and couldn't budge an inch. Iron slippers had already been heated up for her by over a fire of coals... She had to put on the red-hot shoes and dance in them until she dropped to the ground dead."
Notice we end with the alchemical red, white, and black just as we began it; red coals, black iron, the (assumed) white wedding dress.
I've already talked about how Stepmother needs to die as an old aspect of the psyche. I've already talked about the connection to smithing (iron) and creativity, and the element of fire, and the air element's competitive "faster and faster" dance.
What, no song? Ha! No such luck! Put your hands together and close your eyes!
I can't tell where the journey will end/But I know where it starts
They tell me I'm too young to understand/They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me
So wake me up when it's all over/When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself/And I didn't know I was lost
I tried carrying the weight of the world /But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world/And I don't have any plans
I wish that I could stay forever this young/Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone/And love is a prize
So wake me up when it's all over...
Like I said, this alchemical game is "made for everyone", and love is surely the prize...
That's a wrap on Snow White! Phew! Next a single symbol, the gryphon. That'll likely lead me into another Grimms' story, The Gryphon. Or Griffin. That's easier to type but not as much fun.