The spiritual path, captured in folk tales
The six dead spouses of Bluebeard
Many folk tales are about a way back to the place where we come from: the Kingdom of God. In order to return to our true home a number of difficulties must be conquered. Who isn’t careful will be eaten by a witch, an ogre or a big ferocious wolf. Perhaps you have already been eaten?
Hansel and Gretel
The story of Hansel and Gretel is about each of us. The image of a brother and sister, who are abandoned by their parents and get lost in a great dark forest, is a metaphor of a person (internally divided in a masculine and feminine side) who wanders the earth separated from God.
The children face starvation, but just in time they arrive at a shack built from ginger bread, cakes and candy and they immediately begin to nibble. They seem saved but then it appears that they have been lured into a trap by an evil witch who captures them and wants to eat them.
The house of candy represents the lures of this world. Who is singularly focused on earthly pleasures and chooses for sensory delights, the story admonishes, will be ‘captured’ by material things and die in a spiritual sense. Fortunately, the children manage to liberate themselves just in time and with their pockets full of pearls and gems (spiritual wealth) from the house of the witch, they return to their father (i.e. God).
Another danger on the spiritual path hides within people themselves. The story of Tom Thumb, a boy the size of a thumb, tells of the adventures of our divine self during our time on earth. Multiple versions of this story exist. In Charles Perrault’s version, Hop-o’-My-Thumb gets into a row with a man-eating ogre, who wants to eat him. In fairy tales, an ogre commonly represents our ego, which compromises our divine nucleus.
Hop-o’-My-Thumb outwits the ogre and purloins his seven-league boots (seven chakras) and treasures. With his pockets and boots full of (divine) gold he returns to his parents (God).
In the version of the Brothers Grimm, Tom Thumb’s life isn’t threatened by an ogre but by a cow and a wolf. He end up in the stomach of the animals but manages to free himself in the nick of time. Ferocious animals are a reoccurring theme in folk tales. They represent in general our lower, animalistic nature which has to be subdued if we want to return to the Kingdom of God.
Being captured in a stomach, as Tom Thumb was, additionally refers to a focus on gratification of the (under)belly. In terms of chakras, this is about the energy of the lower three chakras.
The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids
Also Little Red Riding Hood is eaten by a wolf, just like the seven goat kids, which were emphatically warned by their mother who had to leave on an errant. In both stories the wolf feigns an identity that differs from who he really is. In Little Red Riding Hood he dresses up as the grandmother of the girl. In the story of the seven kids (chakras) he whitens his paws with flour and alters his voice. Because he is not directly recognized as wolf he is able to overcome his victims and devour them.
This depicts not seeing the danger of yielding to our urges and drives. These stories aim to warn us for wasting our life energy (which flows through the seven chakras). We require these primitive forces to realize our higher nature. This is also the theme of the familiar story of the murderous Bluebeard.
Six dead wives in a basement
The new bride of Bluebeard discovers to her horror that her husband keeps the corpses of her six predecessors in a room in the house. A grizzly tale that’s not suited for young children, with the same meaning as the story of the devoured goat kids. The six wives represent the six chakras which are “killed” by animalistic urges: hair (a beard) represents the animalistic. At the seventh chakra (wife) a transformation takes place.
The color blue refers to the spiritual. This story wants to show us that our animalistic forces have to be “spiritualized” (transformed). The imagery that is used to this extent is as hilarious as fitting and symbolize a kundalini awakening. When Bluebeard finds out that his seventh wife has discovered the corpses and wants to kill her too, she asks him for fifteen minutes to pray. Meanwhile she sends her sister Anna to the top of the tower to see whether her two brothers are approaching:
“Sister Anne,” she said, “go up, I beg you, to the top of the tower, and look if my brothers are not coming. They promised me that they would come today, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste.”
Her sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time, “Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”
And sister Anne said, “I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass.”
In the meanwhile Bluebeard, holding a great saber in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his wife, “Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you.”
“One moment longer, if you please,” said his wife; and then she cried out very softly, “Anne, sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?” And sister Anne answered, “I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass.”
“Come down quickly,” cried Bluebeard, “or I will come up to you.”
“I am coming,” answered his wife; and then she cried, “Anne, sister Anne, do you not see anyone coming?”
“I see,” replied sister Anne, “a great cloud of dust approaching us.”
“Are they my brothers?”
“Alas, no my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep.”
“Will you not come down?” cried Bluebeard.
“One moment longer,” said his wife, and then she cried out, “Anne, sister Anne, do you see nobody coming?”
“I see,” said she, “two horsemen, but they are still a great way off.”
“God be praised,” replied the poor wife joyfully. “They are my brothers. I will make them a sign, as well as I can for them to make haste.”
Then Bluebeard bawled out so loud that he made the whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.
“This means nothing,” said Bluebeard. “You must die!” Then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, he prepared to strike off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her one little moment to recollect herself. “No, no,” said he, “commend yourself to God,” and was just ready to strike.
At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard. He knew them to be his wife’s brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer; so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers pursued and overtook him before he could get to the steps of the porch. Then they ran their swords through his body and left him dead.
Sister Anne who runs up the steps of the tower represents the kundalini-energy which rises from the pelvis through the spinal column. The two brothers of the woman represent the two energy channels ida- and pingala-nadi, which run along the spinal column. When these two channels merge at the level of the forehead, the ego (Bluebeard) dies and the sacred marriage takes place: man is reunited with his Creator (Bluebeard’s wife obtains all his riches and marries another man).
This story is often explained as a warning for the consequences of curiosity, because all trouble begins when Bluebeard’s wife uses a key that her husband had strictly forbidden her to use: that of the little room at the end of the corridor on the bottom floor.
That the woman can’t control her curiosity is rather a positive aspect of the story. The room at the end of the corridor (spinal column) on the bottom floor (the pelvis) is the place where the kundalini is “imprisoned.” Opening this room symbolizes the beginning of a kundalini-awakening, and all uncanny events that follow are positive images of the process of transformation.
If we want to find God we must relinquish our attachment to material things and sensory gratification. We must recognize the wolf for what it is, a dangerous predator, and not let it into our house. The ego must make way for Tom Thumb. No small task, but the stories are unanimous about what awaits us: great wealth and a long and happy life!
This article was published in Paravisie magazine (September’17)
Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2017