“Fairy tales, myths, and stories provide understandings which sharpen our sight so that we can pick out and pick up the path left by the wildish nature.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Fairy tales are limitless gold mines of psychic imagery to fashion vivid understandings of how the initiatory energies of soul move and shape us. Initiations were once tended to by our wise elders, crafted into potent reservoirs of soul force to serve both the individual and community. Now left untended by wisdom, these forces still rise up in us and spin our worlds out of control, just as a ship’s helm wheel spins wildly in a storm when the helmsman has been cast overboard. Fairy tales have made their way to us through this storm of lost soul coherency, becoming enigmas of meaning, hinting at being perhaps the remnants of cultural myths, lost gods, and heroic journeys. Transformed by their path through time, they have become rich with collective dreaming deposits of intense value.
The psychic image of the witch, as it appears in fairy tales, is the one that tricks us into her lair and forces us to clean her kitchen endlessly before cooking us up for dinner. This kind of witch differs from the one we identify with when practicing witchcraft. Same word, different meaning. It is critical to know this if one wishes to speak in the language of fairy tales. This kind of witch is purely a metaphysical soul-stealing villain. She is a malignant force of the other world alone and is not representative of something we want to become but of something we want to defeat. She does not need to be redeemed; we do. She is there to test and imprison us if we do not measure up.
She Hunts the Outcasted Soul
She lives in remote places. On the edge of a village, out in the caves, in crags, in the middle of a wasteland or dark forest. We find her when we have wandered (or been pushed) from our connection to life and thus become vulnerable to such a parasite. She wants to trick us into her game and thereby feed on us. Seen clearly, she is the Death Mother (a term borrowed from Marion Woodman) as opposed to the Mother of Death. Kali Ma, Baba Yaga, and many others are the Mother of Death. They work by using death in service to life, to liberate and reveal. The Death Mother, on the other hand, works only to use life in service to death. She pulls the creativity, will, and vision from us and feeds on it. She does this by separating us from ourselves. She separates us from our soul.
To face the fairy tale witch and prevail is to come out enlivened by a reclaiming of the Mother of Death within us. One could say this is the only way to truly become the kind of witch people fancy themselves as these days, for a human witch is no witch if they do not wield the life force provided by the Mother of Death. No one can become a true witch if not initiated by death. We must reclaim our witch’s craft from the fairytale witch that has trapped it in her designs aimed at our demise. Being trapped in the witch’s machinations is to have our life force drained. This serves no purpose other than to die, never having fully lived.
Signs of Bewitching
So how do we know the witch has our soul? The surest sign is that we are distant. Distant from ourselves. From our creativity. From our vision. Distant from our loved ones, from our life’s path of passion. Distant from our connection to community and to, nature and our body. Distant from our will. Distant from our power to choose. Distant from the effects our actions have on ourselves and the world around us. Distant from our soul. Any and all forms of distance from beauty, life force, and passion for wholeness through expression can indicate a trial with the witch is underway. The degree to which there is distance, and especially an unconsciousness of that distance, the witch is winning.
When you face the Death Mother and reclaim your will from her cage of dislocation, you will then have revealed her to be the soul initiator she truly is. Revealed her to be in service to life. But only if you make her so.