Week 11 PBP: First “F” post. F is for Fairy Tales.
Fairy tales, fairy stories, faery tales… whatever you want to call them I grew up thinking everyone was well acquainted with these stories. Yes, I was one of those children who grew up immersed in the world of fairy tales. The Disney versions sure – I know every word of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty by heart even now in my mid-20s. The Diseny-fied sanitized versions of fairy tales though were not the only fairy stories I grew up with Grimm’s collection and Hans Christen Anderson’s as well as a plethora of other fairy stores. A few of my favorites I can remember to this day include The Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Those last two are fairy stories primarily for children. Even when the Grimm brothers collected their famous collection of stories, the stories were going out of fashion and taking a different shape.
Fairy tales were originally not children’s stories at all, they were originally an oral folk tradition of wisdom for young adults. These are stories using archetypes to convey life lessons or wisdom. Some are morality tales, others are more mystical in their wisdom. In case you’ve never been exposed to a “real” fairy tale here’s one of my favorite animated shorts:
Emily and the Baba Yaga by Lynchpin and 19Hertz
The Baba Yaga story definitely conveys more of a wisdom” message than a life lesson on how to be a good person. I was an English major at one of the relatively few universities with an old school esoteric English lit department. I took courses on Harry Potter and its cultural relevance, old English literature, Beowulf, medieval literature, fairy tales, and Tolkien. As a result, I have a great respect for these fairy stories. As a Pagan, I understand these stories as sacred stories. For Pagans, fairy tales take on even greater meanings. They are useful as they were intended to be stories to teach us how to be good people, to impart folk wisdom, but also they can teach us about how our ancestors believed since much folk magic has roots in older belief systems. Fairy tales can even teach us things about magic, since magic is featured in many fairy tales. Anyone who has an interest in working with or developing a relationship with the fey, certainly will find fairy tales useful. Fairy tales impart knowledge about what kind of offerings to leave, as well as about the different kinds of fairies.
Fairy tales work by using archetypes. Carl Jung’s philosophy on the collective unconscious and archetypes states that archetypes are powerful ideas or images that resonate across the collective unconscious. Archetypes were developed from the experience of a race or culture, they are ancestral memories in a way. By tapping into these ancestral memories, certain stories are particularly compelling to us as people. Fairy tales work on archetypes: they are not just stories about evil queens, princesses, princes, and big bad wolves those characters work on a subconscious level. As witches or practitioners of magic, we work on this same unconscious level consciously. In practice, magic is the practice of consciously creating subconscious changes or shifts in perception. We can use fairy tales as a way into these levels, as mediations, and of course as a way to impart values and magical and life lessons to children and young adults. Finally, fairy tales gives us hope and a chance to experience wonder. Life is hard, fairy tales offer and escape, the realms of fantasy and the fairy world can still instill a sense of wonder in the natural beauty even if just for a few moments of suspended disbelief.
If you’re interested in working magically with fairy tales, here are a few of my favorites:
“The Tinder Box” Hans Christian Anderson
“The Snow Queen” Hans Christian Anderson
“The Little Mermaid” Hans Christian Anderson
“Little Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty” The Grimm Brothers
“Rumplestiltskin” The Grimm Brothers
“Cinderella” The Grimm Brothers
“The Glass Coffin” The Grimm Brothers
“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” The Grimm Brothers (especially good for astral travel/traveling to the faery places)
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” The Grimm Brothers
“Snow White and Rose Red” The Grimm Brothers
“Seven Ravens” The Grimm Brothers
“Vasilisa the Beautiful” (Russian)
For a taste of more modern fairy tales I recommend these films and books:
Neil Gaiman’s Stardust (1998)
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories (2010) Holly Black
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Sources for further reading:
“On Fairy Stories” JRR Tolkein