Like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty is an iconic fairy tale. In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales, Sleeping Beauty stories are given the classification number 410 and there are at least twenty-two of them throughout the world. I found the French version, which was collected by Charles Perrault, of particular interest.
Saturn, the One Not Invited
In the Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty, seven fairies were invited to the christening of a long awaited princess so that they could give her gifts. As an astrologer, whenever I see the number seven in a story, I immediately look for symbolism with respect to the seven traditional planetary powers. Each of these fairies were given place settings of pure gold, set with diamonds and rubies.
There was also one old fairy who was not invited. According to this version of the story, “She had not left her tower for fifty years, and people believed that she was dead or under a spell.” This description is a classic representation of the planetary power of Saturn. In the material realm, Saturn is the Greater Malefic, and represents the passage of time, as well as isolation, death, and difficulties or curses. Saturn is rarely invited, yet comes into our lives whether we want her or not. While the King made her a place at the table, he did not have a gold place setting for her, and she was insulted.
When it came time to give the little princess her gifts, one of the fairies held back, suspecting that the older fairy would attempt some mischief. The rest of the fairies gave their gifts.
The youngest gave her the gift that she would be the most beautiful person in the world, the second that she would have the mind like an angel, the third that all of her actions would be admirable, the fourth that she would dance perfectly, the fifth that she would sing like a nightingale, and the sixth, that she would play every musical instrument to perfection.
I believe that the traditional planetary powers are the seven main aspects of the Divine, and that as microcosms of the Divine, humans as Axial Beings have reflections of these powers within ourselves. I also believe that humans have Free Will, and thus, we can express these powers in an ordinary material fashion, and in their highest and lowest forms. I also believe that each human has a True and a False Self, and that we can manifest True and False versions of all of the planetary powers.
The gifts of the six fairies represent the highest or True versions of their respective planetary powers. Some of the gifts are quite clear. The “mind like an angel” is the gift from Mercury, the ability to “play every musical instrument to perfection” is the gift from Jupiter, and certainty “that all of her actions would be admirable” is the gift from Mars. The other three are a little less clear, however, I would say that the ability to “sing like a nightingale” is the gift from Venus, the ability to “dance perfectly” is the gift from the Moon, and that “she would be the most beautiful person in the world” is the gift from the Sun.
Then it was the old fairy’s turn, and she “declared that the Princess would prick her hand on a spindle and die.” After that the fairy in hiding said,
Do not worry, King and Queen, that your daughter shall die: it is true that I do not have enough power to undo entirely what my elder has done. The Princess will prick her hand on a spindle; but instead of dying, she shall only fall into a deep sleep that will last one hundred years. In the end, a king’s son will awaken her.
This is the Saturn principle at its highest. In the material world, Saturn is indeed a malefic. Because we are mortal, in a sense, every life is a tragedy. Suffering and death are always with us. Yet, I believe that there is a higher reality, and True Saturn is the gift of transcendence and Enlightenment. Rather than dying, the princess will sleep and be awakened into a new and better reality.
In the next part of the story, the princess does succumb to the curse and sleeps for a hundred years, and a king’s son does undertake a bold adventure to find her. This represents the Soul’s search for the Spirit, and I may write about this at a later date. In the Perrault version, however, the waking of the princess is not the end of the story. There is a second part.
In the second part of this version, the prince and the princess must marry in secret, because the prince’s mother was “descended from ogres” and seemed to have an appetite for children. They live together in secret for more than two years and have two children together, a daughter named Aurora, meaning “Dawn,” and a son named Jour, meaning “Day.”
After two years, the prince’s father dies, and he becomes the king. At this point, he discloses his marriage and his children. As the king, he is obliged to go to war, and he leaves his country and his family in the care of his mother.
His mother takes this opportunity to order that the children one by one and then the king’s wife be cooked and served to her with a mustard sauce. Rather than complying with this horrid order, the head waiter hides the children and the wife away and served the ogress other meat telling her that it was the children and the wife. The ogress discovers the deception and attempts to kill them herself in a huge vat filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and serpents. The King returned just in time to see what was happening, and the ogress was so enraged that she threw herself in the vat and “was devoured in a moment by the loathsome creatures she had put there.” After that, the “King could not help but be grieved, since she was his mother, but it was not long until his beautiful wife and children brought him all the comfort he needed.
I think that the ogress mother in this part of the story signifies the third face of Saturn, or False Saturn. The old, uninvited fairy represented ordinary, material Saturn, or death, loss, and hardship. The ogress was intentionally cruel and vicious. In this version, after finding the princess, the prince turned king must fight one more battle before coming into his power and having a happy ending. This battle is against his False Self at its worst, False Saturn. Even though he knew about his mother’s potential for cruelty, he negligently leaves his family and his country in her care as he goes off to war. The False Self only has the power we give it. With the help of a kind soul in the form of the head waiter, his family is spared until he returns. False Saturn destroys herself when recognized for who she is, and they all live happily ever after.