These important, new ideas were helpful to me in this exploration of the Oceans of Light and Darkness, and particularly in deepening the story of Koschai the Deathless (below).
Dark and Light in Fairy Tales
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”– Albert Einstein
Einstein’s quote is also about Emotional Intelligence. Fairy Tales teach that there are forces in the world that are not friendly to human beings, and how you can survive and thrive regardless. There is a Nigredo point in every story, and the Hero/Heroine transform and succeed in saving themselves and most often others. Our emotional selves need this information.
During the last couple of generations there has been a tendency to either remove the fairy tales from our view as children, or to literally rewrite them without the dark. A quick personal example was a requested script on Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. In the story Hansel can see only the Gingerbread Witch who feeds his greediness, and Gretel can only see the Dark Witch who will eat Hansel once he’s fat enough. In the script we had the witch be either two actor/dancers working back-to-back or a single person in a two-sided costume. Blocking permitted Hansel only to see the lollipop witch and Gretel only the other. The director of the play removed the Dark Witch (it would frighten the children) and put in two Gingerbread witches.
Children are already frightened by both inner (e.g., nightmares) and outer demands (e.g., to “grow up”, change). Fairy Stories let them know they will go through many different Roads of Trials, Nigredo deaths/transformations, and make it to the Gates Out. Fed on a diet of Gingerbread, protected from the “dark and evil” things in our gestalt, what resiliency can they have when they meet the shadow, or find themselves in the unexplored dark?
Suicide is a major issue in our time. It goes past statistics when it’s someone close to you. People ask “Why?” I am not naïve in believing that the person raised without true Fairy Tales may not understand the process of transformation they are undergoing. They enter the Temenos and feel trapped there, or think that they are dying (the old self is!) and don’t know how to get to the Gate Out.
If you were not raised with Fairy Tales, nothing stops you from reading them now. If your Head doesn’t understand them, your Emotional being will. Try reading aloud, maybe to another person, or listening to a podcast. If you find a story that resonates, read it to yourself or listen to it over and over. All of you is listening.
Photo by Ridwan Meah on Unsplash
Koschai the Deathless: Refusing the Nigredo Transformation
Going further in: Koschai the Deathless stories tell us what happens to someone who refuses to even consider transformation. By the time we meet Koschai the Magician in the tales, his soul is hidden away from any death inside nested objects (like a Russian doll): an egg inside a duck, duck inside a rabbit, the rabbit in a chest, the chest buried or chained up on an island far from human habitation, reachable only by riding Koschai’s magical horse. The magician has spent his lifetime protecting his soul in many different guises rather than transforming it as he matures. At each crisis he added another protective layer.
The objects vary:
- Some stories start with the soul in a needle inside the egg.
- Some tellers take license with what precedes the egg and duck, and the list can be quite long and include farm animals.
- One teller asks the audience for what’s next (often a cat inside a dog).
A Wikipedia entry summarizes Koschai the Deathless, character and stories or if possible, read the originals in the Russian Fairy Tale Book.
In the HellBoy world Koshchei the Deathless is a six-issue miniseries written by Mike Mignola and illustrated by Ben Stenbeck. It’s also a trade paperback published January to June 2018. I suggest you Google HellBoy, Koschai: it’s a fun search. We are provided with Koschai’s backstory:
- An old monk records Koschai’s history
- Good man but authoritarian until corrupt figures beat him
- Dragon finds him and rescues him for seven or nine years of service
- Leaves, marries a Princess who kills him
- Dragon finds him again and saves him again
- Dragon teaches him magic (perhaps to be finished rescuing him)
- Koschai hides his death (his soul)
- Without it he has no mercy
I think the Dragon is attracted to Koschai in the first place because he recognizes a kindred greediness. Greed is a Deadly Sin. Its Quickening Cure is Compassion/Mercy. The dragon saves Koschai twice, teaches him survival skills. Koschai does not transform.
When we literally or emotionally beat the perceived “darkness” from a child we can create monsters. A child raised by a dragon, a greedy monster might learn magic and know how to hijack others with similar experiences in our collective societal soul. It’s possible that the ancient “caterpillar to butterfly” metaphor of transformation is too soft for such a child. The ancient image of the phoenix might be a better match – burn into a crisp and then rise from your own ashes.
Alice Miller explores the roots of violence, using Adolf Hitler as an example in her book For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence. Here is a link to an interview in OMNI on the Natural Child site which articulates this process in great detail.
How to Integrate Light and Dark
We are dependent now on the Ocean of Light refusing to be overcome by the Ocean of Darkness. Remember always that when we look across the divide and perceive Darkness, the other side is doing the same thing. We see ourselves in the Light. So does the other side of the mirror.
What is to be done? The Carter Center sponsored a discussion with one of the participants of the transformation of the Irish people, who have now raised their first generation of children who were not taught to kill each other. They began, as did the labor movement in England, with meeting each other one by one over coffee. All will to “change the other” was set aside: the only goal was to get to know the other person, what happened to them, what they fear, what they hope, without judgment. And in that exploration both can be transformed as they discover there is truth and goodness, lies and evil in both of their lives and perceptions.
The same transformation phenomenon happens when we recognize and love our “dark” side. We discover in that process that our “light” side needs the “dark” as day and night need each other. We are whole when we have both our Ocean of Darkness and our Ocean of Light in harmony.
BOTH the light and the dark need transformation: the name of the angel of darkness is Lucifer, which means Light. Jesus said “I am the Light” and was murdered for it, going down into darkness to be transformed. The opposites are each other’s redemption.
Nurturing Our Selves When in the Nigredo
We might hide our soul away but Koschai the Deathless warns us of that choice. We are in an elemental process, and instead might tend the elementals within us:
Earth: Tend our body – food, exercise, sleep. Maybe I want chocolate, or that exercise is a walk outdoors to sit in a chair in the sun, that sleep is in short naps or many long hours. No judgment.
Water: Drink it every day, the best to be found. If baths appeal, take one. Sit by open bodies of water, maybe by the ocean if lucky and watch the light change dark to light, light to dark.
Air: Breathe. Train in other times to sit and breathe into the musculature that tightens from anxiety. Watch the clouds.
Fire: If an open fire is impractical or impossible, a candle flame is not. And sunlight bulbs bring the sun’s fire to a body, as many savvy persons prone to depression know.
And, let your friends and family know you are going through a transformative time, and be specific about the help you could use and what you don’t want to do (parties, yes or no, for example).
Embrace Our Whole Selves
There is always some part of us that needs to die and pass away, and some part of us needing to be born. It’s not the act, it’s the attitude – the mindset of thought that accepts the possibility of death and rebirth over and over in our own lifetime.
I stay open to these opportunities and try my best not to ignore them. I choose to embrace my whole self, and live without an aversion to the darkness or love only the light within me.
I rock between dark and dark,
My soul nearly my own,
My dead selves singing.
The Abyss by Theodore Roethke
The personal comments coming my way by email are welcome and appreciated. AND it is very useful to me and others when you comment in the area prepared for that purpose at the end of this blog. All of us can benefit from your experience. And if this blog was useful to you, please pass it along to others.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What Open Secrets do you know that have been tucked away?
- When did you become aware of your own transformations on your life’s Hero/Heroine’s Journey?
- How do you experience the dark – outdoors, within the Self, within the culture?
- When in a needful time, how do you nurture yourself?
- What other questions come to you?