Spinning Straw into Gold
Stories are medicine... They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act or anything - we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories.--Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph. D.
Next to knowing what to do with a few loaves and fishes, knowing how to spin straw into gold is probably the most important talent a woman can possess. It can make the difference between living a life of lack and living one of Simple Abundance. Gratefully, this gift was bestowed on all of us. But, like any other talent, the gift of alchemy must be called forth, treasured, owned, respected, and nurtured.
As the story goes, a poor miller who is given to bragging meets a king who is known for his interest in accumulating riches. Wanting to impress him, the miller tells the king that his daughter possesses a rare talent - the ability to spin straw into gold. Skeptical but intrugued, the king orders the maiden to his castle, where he shows her a large room filled with straw. He then commands her to transform the straw into gold by the morning or lose her life.
Because this is an impossible task, the young woman succumbs to anguished weeping. What can save her? Suddenly, a strange little man appears in the room. "I can spin straw into gold. What will you give me in return?" he says. Stunned, the miller's daughter takes off a necklace that had been her mothers' and gives it to him. At once the little man sets to work. The last thing the maiden remembers before she falls into a deep slumber is the soft droning of the spinning wheel. At dawn the king finds the miller's daughter still asleep, surrounded by hundreds of spools of golden thread and not one wisp of straw.
The king is delirious with joy at what she's accomplished. And though she wants to explain that it isn't she who's performed this incredible feat, she cannot bring herself to admit her incompetence. If she did, what would become of her? But her silence only increases her dilemma, for the greedy king leads her to an even larger room filled with straw, and again, she hears the royal command to spin it into gold if she values her life.
The second night passes like the first. This time the maiden offers the strange little man her ring in exchange for his magic. The following morning the king is again ecstatic to find the room overflowing with golden spools. But the miller's daughter still conceals the real story. By the time the king leads her to a third straw-filled room, this one the size of a great hall, she realizes she has made a terrible mistake. Why has she not confessed her secret collaboration? But it's already too late, for the king has promised to make her his bride if she will spin the straw into gold once more.
This time, when the mysterious little man arrives during the night, he finds the miller's daughter nearly beside herself because she has nothing left to offer him. "Never mind," he says. "I will help you one more time in exchange for your firstborn child."
"How can I possibly make so terrible a promise?" she asks herself. Then she reasons that, since no one will ever know about her secret accomplice, she won't have to keep her end of the bargain. And so, with her consent, the little man spins the straw into gold for the third time. The next day, the king makes the miller's daughter his queen, and, in her happiness, she soon forgets her promise.
A year passes and the queen gives birth to a handsome baby boy. However, soon afterward, the little magician suddenly reappears in her bedchamber and demands the baby. The queen pleads for her child, offering the little man all the wealth of the royal kingdom, but he refuses. Overcome with grief, she falls to the floor weeping. Her clandestine collaborator, moved to pity, grants the queen three days to discover his name, which he has always kept a secret. "If, by the end of that time, you can name my name, you may keep your child." Eventually, with the help of a clever, faithful servant, the queen discovers that the little magician is called Rumpelstiltskin. She is able to keep her child, her crown, and her contentment.
"Stories are embedded with instructions which guide us about the complexities of life," Jungian analyst and cantadora storyteller, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, reminds us in her powerful evocation of the female psyche, Women Who Run with the Wolves. [This week], contemplate the psychic path taken in this story. When reflecting on dreams of fairy stories, it's important to remember that all the characters are inner aspects of ourselves. You are not only the miller's daughter, but the miller, the king, the faithful servant, the baby, and Rumpelstiltskin. Even more important, you are the straw and the gold.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995
Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where you renew your springs that never dry up.--Pearl Buck
When we were young, we dreamed of things we were going to be when we grew up. There were paths aplenty leading from our youth to glorious adulthood as a successful actor, firefighter, business tycoon, teacher, or whatever it was that you and I dreamed ourselves becoming. So, here we are - adults. What fun, huh?
I am willing to bet that most of us live an imaginary dream life, outside of our particular reality, wherein we imagine ourselves doing something completely different than what we really do each day. This is our secret imaginary self, which leads many vicarious lives simultaneously. Driving down the road, singing with the radio, we are Frank Sinatra or Faith Hill. When we step up to the plate with a bat in our hands, we are Joe Dimaggio or Babe Ruth, about to blast one outta there. We are master gardeners, famous pianists, captivating speakers, and for dang sure, we could run this country better than the bums in charge of it do now! We do everyday things sometimes as if we were the most capable person ever to do them, no matter the quality of what we do, or whether or not someone is observing or benefiting. We do these things OUR way, right Mom?
Stop your everyday life for a short time today, and write down a few notes about who or what it is that you want to be in your secret lives. Tap into the power that knowing this can give you, the wisdom of our imaginary alter egos which can give us tips on developing our own particular sense of style. Who would you want to be if you were not you? Write it down. Then write down how they live, what they wear, who they associate with, you get the idea. Now, how can you bring some of that wisdom and power into your own life? Look within, and have some fun. Knowing what it is that your heart secretly desires can help you to develop who you really are, your authentic self. Your secret imaginary selves are full of surprises, passionate wishes. There is a wealth of goodness, flair, pizzaz and daring at your disposal. Discovering it, marshaling it to your everyday purposes will give your life a direction and energy that may make a vast difference in your world.
While you are exercizing your imagination on Sarah's fairy tale this week, live out the power and wisdom of your dreamlife too!
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