We left the gold-crowned boy working in the garden, standing up to the weathering forces of the elements. One day he's working in the garden and it's so hot he takes his hat off
"that the air might cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glittered and flashed so that the rays fell into the bed-room of the King's daughter, and she sprang to see what that could be. Then she saw the boy, and cried to him, 'Boy, bring me a wreath of flowers.' He put his cap on with all haste, and gathered wild field-flowers and bound them together. When he was ascending the stairs with them, the gardener met him, and said, 'How canst thou take the King's daughter a garland of such common flowers? Go quickly, and get another, and seek out the prettiest and rarest.' 'Oh, no' replied the boy, 'the wild ones have more scent, and will please her better.'"
Here we have some golden pudding-proof that transformation has taken place in the kitchen and garden work. The boy's golden hair-sun-light shines into the daughter's bedroom, the place of intimacy which earlier in the tale housed the key of transformation! This penetration of masculine light (ethereal fire, we could say) into the intimate, closed space of the feminine soul is another way to think of the key-in-the-lock symbolism so ubiquitous in alchemical tales. It's so much fun to encounter the myriad ways that human experience can be expressed and represented here on Earth! Of course we can also think of the finger penetrating the surface of the golden well.
The earth and water mastery is displayed as well in his choice of flowers. Our prince responds without hesitation to the feminine request for adornment; he's certainly not afraid of women's bed-pillows and their intimacy. He brings wild flowers; wild flowers imply an honoring of Mother Nature, earth element, with Her wilder ways of creating, since wild flowers have in no way been fiddled with by humans. I will address the flower thing more further on, and now add a quote from the old collection of Celtic lore, the Carmina Gadelica (link to a really neat archive);
Give thou thine heart to the wild magic,
To the Lord and the Lady of Nature,
Beyond any consideration of this world.
Notice also that he makes for her a wreath; the circle symbolism again. The circle is, as I said in the post about the golden ball, symbol of unity consciousness, the undivided soul, associated with earth and water element. Unified masculine is more described by the qualities of immanence and radiance, but this symbolism game is not meant to be at all mathematical, precise. It is an art.
This hat-yanking and arm-grabbing is the feminine pillow-intimacy that doesn't stand on ceremony, in contrast with all the hierarchical masculine ordering and bossing about of the boy, that marketplace orientation. She certainly does some of that, but when it doesn't work she just reaches out and grabs instead of rejecting, punishing, actions which serve to reinforce hierarchies; she connects. She completes the circle.
This meeting of the princess and golden lad (a prince, the inner child of the king) is exactly like the ubiquitous meetings between men and women in countless alchemical tales; it's an inner meeting, the hieros gamos, where the masculine "discovers" the true beauty of the inner feminine, as in The Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and Cinderella. You will find if you look at these famous three stories that the meetings are described in terms of the prince seeing her beauty. In this one, with a twist we have the princess seeing the beauty, the divine glory, of the masculine principle with its golden radiant nature. Again, hair is specifically air element (thought and ethereality), and the crown of the head and gold emphasizes the higher consciousness aspect of that archetypally masculine element. It's cosmic mind, not the intellectual, rational, divisive mind.
So there is a meeting within the king of the masculine and feminine that has resulted from his work with the elements, specifically water and earth as they are the feminine elements. Our princess is going to act as a reagent, if you will; a "substance or compound that is added to a system in order to bring about a chemical reaction, or added to see if a reaction occurs." She's going to test his mastery of earth and water element to see if he's tapped into their sacred natures, rather than embodying them in mundane (dualistic) or unconscious ways. Just as the wild man "tests" the boy three times, so will she.
Does he pass the first test? He sure does! He gets it right about the quick response, the choice of flowers, his ability to weave a circle. Rather than getting all excited about the money, "he cared nothing for the gold pieces. He took them to the gardener, and said, 'I present them to thy children, they can play with them.'"
The money gift implies that inwardly he has received some subtle or ethereal power, shall we say, from his feminine side; remember the golden ball bit? This money is also circular. Gold in the form of earthly riches is presented in these stories in order to describe, to dramatize, the difference between unity consciousness, and consensus reality or dualistic consciousness. It's not that money is bad; it's just that worldly riches are a good test of personal values. Which do you prize more, earthly power or soul power?, is the test here.
If you are just into your wand-power and lack the left-handed soul connection of the orb (we are all kings and queens in the psyche) the whole thing's out of whack. We believe all the power is in earthly "stuff", which not only includes a new car or a prettier girlfriend, but the social status that goes along with. Therefore we give to "it" our power. If you get attached to it, if you think an influx of money can improve who you are, can heal your disconnection, if you suffer at the possibility of losing it, then you have not passed the test; you're out of balance.
Again, nothing whatsoever wrong with worldly orientation, but wisdom isn't found in the perpetual pursuit of worldly rewards. The magical, alchemical philosophy sees what lies behind and beneath money and gold. Notice this symbol of eternal glory is given to the children; this passing along of internal power to the child brings us back to the boy at the golden well, the soul. Interestingly "ducat" comes from ancient Greek "doux", leader, because kings and queens are often molded onto coins' faces- so were gods and goddesses. Back in the day, there was a holy connection ideal implied in leadership- and maybe everything else! Is there a pun here related to the king's work with his inner child? Is he letting the soul connected aspect "lead the way"?
The symbolism of the flowers is that of spiritual development. Just as in The Six Swans (last story here interped), flowers are a connection between ethereality (air element) and earthly beauty; heaven meeting earth. Our soul directed human development towards wisdom is ordered along the lines of this balance. Why were wild flowers the correct choice? Because, just as the wild man represents the soul which was hidden to our king in the beginning of the story, the wild flowers also represent a more soulful orientation. In this case, the "prettiest and rarest" refers to a worldly orientation, because it's comparison shopping, wanting "the best".
Such hierarchically ordered discrimination requires the air element's intellectuality which judges, which orders the world in "knowledge of good and evil" terms. Our cocreated perceptions of good and bad are socially ordered conditioning. Our explanations and coping strategies and thoughts about good and bad are learned, therefore they don't fall into the category of "wild". Our wildest sense is smell; "the wild ones have more scent". Olfaction is closely tied to emotion and undergoes less interpretation or processing in the brain, and humans are notably bad at it. Of course we mammals have a whole separate olfactory system for pheremones, part of our experience of sexual attraction, a good alchemical case in point...
The following day the King's daughter again called to him that he was to bring her a wreath of field-flowers, and when he went with it, she instantly snatched at his cap, and wanted to take it away from him, but he held it fast with both hands."
Notice this exchange between them is all about their heads, i.e. the crown chakra. Just as the prince received a golden head of hair, our young lady is getting the "crown treatment", too. Crowning is always a sacralizing act, a recognition of the divine. I found this great tapestry in a search for Flora, the Roman flower goddess, my initial association with this flower wreath. William Morris's words describe Flora's domain of the flower well, the female body as stand-in for Gaia, for Earth;
I am the handmaid of the earth,
I broider fair her glorious gown,
And deck her on her days of mirth
With many a garland of renown.
And while Earth's little ones are fain
And play about the Mother's hem
I scatter every gift I gain
From sun and wind to gladden them.
Remember, sun and wind are archetypal masculine. So we can think of the wreathing as a tribute, an honoring, from the masculine which supports the feminine creative powers that be so that they can then return the favor with abundance (the ducats). Later on, apples will bring in abundance, too. Our boy has learned from the gardening to embody this feminine aspect, to love it in himself and all it represents.
He's given ducats again, and again he "cared nothing for the gold pieces", passing them along to the gardener's children again. The same occurs one more time to complete another round of magical threesomeness.
"Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The King gathered together his people, and did not know whether or not he could offer any opposition to the enemy, who was superior in strength and had a mighty army.
This country overrun by war is, of course, the king's psyche. First of all, dualistic consciousness is always at war with itself; that's its nature, opposition. It serves us well in manifesting this place of duality consciousness, but wielding the wand day after day, year after year, without one hand on that divine orb gets exhausting. So thanks, guys (and ladies)- you can relax now and let it all flow. Polarity depends on a certain amount of tension, of pushing away, as in a magnetized iron pole. The Earth itself is, of course, just that; a spinning electrical "motor" relying on the magnetized iron core. Polarity is what creates electricity, an alchemically interesting power source I am largely ignorant about.
So, at some point (or likely, points) in our own transformational process, we may feel torn between the valuation of soul and spirit, and prioritizing the mundane perspective which is seemingly more powerful, more important. Between the many psychic aspects we embody, like the inner figures in these stories, there are sure to be arguments. We are set up in this tale to address one such conflict; that between the inner wild man and his soul centeredness, and the careful, socialized, masculine psychic character which strives to keep things safe, unchanged, to protect. Any way you look at it, our conditioned psyches and their "polluted pools" are "overrun by war" and its attendant Mars-and-iron anger and fear.
The outer wars that rage on Planet Earth are the result of our inner wars; the story will offer an answer to this ongoing struggle within and without. War and conflict, i.e. duality, is a divine creation available for spiritual beings to explore and learn from, experience and transform through. Remember that the sun, however cosmic it might be in its sacred sense, is fire element, too. Archetypal masculine fire power is surely challenging to master. Once the inner war is over we simply radiate love, like the sun.
Here's a song about this inner work with the "Sun King". Garrels works within the Christian tradition I think, but regardless, he's obviously singing of mystical, alchemical experience here. Alchemy fits into all faiths, like the Sufism that claims Rumi as its own teacher;
Fire by Night Josh Garrels
We are one, every daughter and son
With our forgotten names
We left home on the open road
To find the holy flames
We are the children of a sun king
Hold onto my hand this mysterious evening
It’ll meet us like a dream
Call all our names and we’ll be found
Walking where we heard the sound, on down
Tomorrow mountain we will climb
Tonight the stars and fire shine
In our eyes/In the woods/We’re alive
Cloud by day, and the fire of night,We will never look back
Young and old with a sojourner soul,Illuminate the path
Follow where the moon does shine,Through the leaves of trees above
Wild life, holy night, The ocean is singing of
The earth trembles with his love...Chorus
The names we have forgotten are found in the soul; notice we have woods and dream, both symbols of soul as well. There's evening, the magical time referred to in our story already. I'll leave the rest to you...next, going to war!