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Fairy tales and myths as dreams or shadow theatre

Fairy tales and myths as shadow theatre (Snow White)

By on 22 March 2020

The Loving Consciousness and the Unconscious

Fairy tales and myths as dreams or shadow theatre

Shadow theatre from the unconscious

Fairy tales and myths, as well as religious teachings, address in their stories the unconscious of man, that is, what is in his hidden shadow.

The unconscious is the realm of the body and matter.
Here, in the shadow of the human being, away from the light of consciousness, dwell the drives, deeply rooted emotions and a "body knowledge" that is independent of the mind.

Figure 2: The serpent in paradise

Hidden and repressed qualities

What is in the shadow of the unconscious has power over the human being.
It is those qualities that are not in the light of daily life because they are unknown, denied or repressed or because man is ashamed of them. But he needs them in order to attain wholeness, and so they must be integrated on the "path through the underworld".

Magic as shadow theatre

It is these shadows that are the key to unconscious behaviour patterns. They work through unconscious structures that are anchored in the body (through genes, early childhood imprints, "inherited" behaviour) and function like trigger points or switch levers. If they are activated, they trigger automatic, uncontrolled feelings and reactions (see . Strong emotions and the unconscious).

Immaturity and loss of control

Besides the difficulty of controlling them, another problem is that they are filled with negativity. As long as these personality traits are locked away in the basement dungeon of the life castle, they have no opportunity to develop. When they "break out", they appear correspondingly immature and uncivilised, instinctual and libidinous. This is usually the case when the individual experiences stress and loss of control. Then they emerge abruptly and full of negative energy from the unconscious and can cause some damage (for an illustrative example see. The escaped prisoner see also The snake in the head - our old reptilian brain.).

Examples of shadow theatre: imposed roles

From weakness and injury to the "witch" or "evil fairy".

If a woman represses her weakness and the injuries she has experienced, then these exert a negative influence on her from the shadows and make her appear angry and aggressive, for example (see The pain body of the woman - dark ruler in the shadows). In fairy tales, the evil queen, 13th fairy or the "witch" then appears (see Sleeping Beauty, Snow White).

The captivity of the wild man

If a man has learned to be gentle and adapted, he may repress and condemn his wild, impulsive side. However, this power is missing in his life for assertiveness and true masculinity. If he integrates his wild parts, he can become a "true hero" and a king in his life. This is what the fairy tale of Der Eisenhans (see also The way of the man).

Figure 3: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

Mythical creatures and other figures as shadow figures

Shadows are represented in fairy tales and myths by mythical creatures and symbolic figures. They appear in them as dragons, giants, dwarfs, monsters, witches or wizards who do not exist in real life . But even figures that do exist, such as the serpent, the noble prince, the beautiful maiden, the wild man, the wolf, the wild bull or the mountain of fire, can convey statements and as Archetypes captivate the individual.

Fairy tales and myths - interpretation like dreams

The language of images - the language of the body

Fairy tales, myths and religious texts, like dreams, use the language of images.
In this way they address the level of the body, while the mind switches off because it cannot do anything with the unrealistic images (for more see. The language of images and the rational mind).

Collective dreams of humanity

Fairy tales and myths can be seen as collective dreams that contain universal messages from the collective unconscious. That is why they can also be interpreted like dreams. This results in content that is also extremely topical and instructive for people today.

Principles of dream interpretation

The principles of dream interpretation can accordingly also be applied to the interpretation of fairy tales and myths. These are for example:

Close reference persons usually represent a real figure from the immediate environment.

The closer someone is to the main character, the more likely it is a real person with whom there is also a relationship in real life. In dreams, for example, this would be the partner of the dreamer, in fairy tales the king as the husband of the queen.

Abstruse figures: clues to the shadow

The further away a character is from the main character and the more abstruse it appears, the more likely it is to represent a hidden aspect of personality and thus a shadow of the main character. In dreams, for example, the murderer who is observed committing the crime or even an animal can represent aspects of the shadow. In lore, the evil wizard, the witch or the insurmountable monster belong to this category.

Figure 4: Snow White, the Witch and a Little Dwarf

Different personality traits - major and minor roles

Example Snow White

The characters in the fairy tale Snow White can be interpreted as different personality traits of the woman as the main character and queen in her own life:

  • Snow White symbolises the inner child, innocence and the power of pure love (Virgin).
  • The "good queen" symbolises positive femininity, the body and the unconscious. It provides consciousness (king) with trusting allegiance and brings forth the new reality (the child) in the power of love (see The Consciousness and the Unconscious). Then the good queen "dies" and the evil witch appears instead. What happened?
  • Through disappointments and injuries, the good becomes the "evil queen", the unconscious in negativity. (s. The woman's body of pain). This she kills love in herself out of pain and anger ("Not with me!", "I won't put up with that any more!"). Instead she takes revenge ("Just you wait! - From today on I'll take what I want!") and power from.
  • Her inner image of men is accordingly full of contempt. For her, men are either hunters who seek her life and limb or dwarves who are no match for her.

Common basic statements in the traditions

Man's heroic journey and kingship

If one interprets the symbols and images in the fairy tales and myths, the same patterns emerge again and again. They also all contain some very central statements for the well-being of human beings. They are always about heroes and kings and thus want to point to the hero's path to wholeness and to the goal of kingship in one's own life.

These aspects include:

Noble, divine lineage of the main character

It begins with the king's son or daughter. This noble origin should lead the human being to become aware that he is a "king's child", namely of divine descent. This, in turn, is an image of the fact that man has a consciousness and thus - like God - can reflect and instruct himself (cf. The human consciousness).

Resolute departure against the greatest enemy, the ego and the urges

However, in order for man to achieve "divine", i.e. self-effective kingship in his own life, he must first set out to overcome the instincts. For these are initially reflexive and much quicker on the spot than his thinking and determine his reactions (see The snake in the head - the reptilian brain).

Overcoming the urges in lack and deprivation as a test

Love is tested - far away from high ideals - on earth by material reality (symbolised by hardship and privations, the "desert"). The hero/heroine has to "go through the bottom".

Humility in success

If he/she has passed this test, the hero and heroine are led to success. In this, too, it is important to prove oneself through humility and willingness to serve

The acid test

Finally, the confrontation with the shadows and death awaits. This is the acid test. The good unconscious (the good king/queen, the drive from love) has been displaced by the evil unconscious (the evil ruler/witch). This evil drive is ultimately the ego, the drive out of negativity and fear of falling short. It expresses itself through power and greed, vanity, pride or anger and is overcome on the way through the underworld.

Saving love and resurrection

Love that has died or been poisoned rises again through the encounter with true, unconditional (Father) love. The redeeming son of the king is a Christ figure, a symbol of the positive drive from love in the body and in matter. The virgin on the other side represents the hero's reward: A kingdom and eternal life (see The Saga of George the Dragonslayer or also The Ironman).

This structure can be found in all fairy tales and traditions and corresponds to the heroic path of man.

Already in the oldest traditions

Content like this is already addressed in the oldest human traditions, in the Sumerian mythology of Inanna and in the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. They are continued in the writings of all cultures, be they religious or simple stories. They all follow the same pattern and have the same core message for human beings. This essence remains the same because man is what he is.

The human being attains wholeness through the integration of the shadows and the unification of his masculine and his feminine personality parts. It is through the Holy Wedding symbolised.

Uniting the opposites

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