Sleeping Beauty and the Three Faces of Saturn

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.

sleeping beauty christening

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.

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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.

The Ogress

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.

sleeping-beauty_ogressIn 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.

The Primordial Cinderella

Cinderella stories are ubiquitous throughout history and throughout the world. Even in today’s day and age, one can find Cinderella stories in many different forms and in popular media everywhere.

An interesting example is found in Episode 39 in Smile Precure, one of my favorite anime series of all time.  In this episode, the protagonist, Miyuki-chan (Cure Happy) finds herself in the book which contains the Primordial Cinderella.  This is the Cinderella story from which all Cinderella stories are derived.

Primordial CinderellaCure Happy (and the other girls) had to preserve the essential elements of the story: the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, the ball, dancing with the Prince, leaving at midnight, the glass slipper, and the glass slipper fitting the foot of Cinderella.  Other details of the story were changed due to interference by the Bad Enders and other mishaps.  The fact that the non-essential details of the story were changed did not cause any difficulties so long as the essential elements were preserved.

As a Traditionalist and Essentialist, I would say that the Smile Precure episode is entirely correct in describing the existence of a primordial Cinderella, and like the primordial version of all fairy tales, the primordial Cinderella comes from beyond this world, as fairy tales are stories that teach us Universal Truth.

So what is the primordial Cinderella?  In a story such as Cinderella, with so many different versions throughout history and throughout the world, one can look to the common threads in the story to uncover clues as to the primordial Cinderella and to determine its true meaning.

Common Threads

Cinderella is a very old story.  There is a Persian version of the story, called Mah Pishani, or Moon Brow, that may go back as far as 7,000 years.

In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales, Cinderella stories are known as Persecuted Heroine stories, and they are given a classification number of 510A. Despite the Smile Precure version, the common threads to the various Cinderella stories are not, in actuality, the ball, the glass slipper, or even the prince, although many versions do have parallels to these story elements, including the Ancient Persian version, Mah Pishani.

In these stories, the heroine is usually a young girl who was born to kind and loving parents, and the mother dies. In some stories, including Mah-Pishani, the girl is complicit in the death of her mother, following the manipulation and advice of a false mother figure, who later marries the father.

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In these stories, the father almost always marries the false mother. The false mother sometimes comes with her own daughters, and sometimes she and the father have a new daughter or daughters. In all cases, the false mother is cruel and vicious to the heroine and gives her hard and tedious tasks that are difficult or impossible to perform. The daughter or daughters of the false mother join in her cruelty and ridicule and mock the heroine. The father either dies or becomes so enamored by the false mother that he forgets about the heroine.

The heroine receives help from a magical source. In the modern Western renditions, the Baba Yagahelp comes in the form of a fairy godmother. Some other varieties of helpers are an aunt, a doll, a date tree, and in Mah Pishani, a cow that appears when her mother dies. These helpers provide advice and assistance to the heroine, often helping her complete the impossible tasks.

In some stories, including Mah Pishani, there is also a frightening, but not always malevolent, grandmother figure. In the Russian versions of the story, this figure is known as the Baba Yaga. In Mah Pishani, the grandmother figure is known as a Barzingi, who lived at the bottom of a well. In some stories the grandmother figure rewards the heroine and punishes the wicked sister(s). In Mah Pishani, the Barzingi gives Mah Pishani a Moon on her brow and a star on her chin as a reward, and imposes a donkey’s ear and tail on her wicked half-sister’s brow and chin as a punishment.

In every case, the heroine’s former position as a loved and cherished daughter is restored, and in many cases, she rises much higher in status by marrying a prince or a king, who recognizes her true beauty and value.

Spiritual Symbolism

I think the reason that Cinderella stories are so ubiquitous is because of the deep spiritual symbolism they contain.

At the beginning of the story, the heroine’s loss of her real mother is symbolic of our own separation from our Heavenly Mother. The spiritual symbolism is even more profound in the stories in which the heroine succumbs to the influence of the false mother and is complicit in the death of her real mother. In many religions, including my own, Filianism, humans are seduced into turning from the Divine Creator God, or our Real Mother, who loves and cherishes us. In the Deanist/Filianist faith, when we turned, the Mother’s Light became “too bright for [our] eyes.”

After our separation from our Heavenly Mother, we become subject to the False Mother, in Deanic/Filianic Mythos, the Dark Queen, and perhaps her daughters as well. The heroine’s mother is no longer able to help her directly. In the Filianic Mythos of God the Mother, the Mother says, “what you have done may not be undone, for you have acted with My Spirit,…” In the first paragraph of the Mythos of God the Daughter, we learn that “a terrible abyss had opened to lie between the world and Her, and Her creatures could not look upon Her brightness.”

vlcsnap-2018-05-05-21h08m11s566Yet, even then, our True Mother loves us and finds ways to help us. In the Filianic Mythos of God the Daughter, the Mother gives birth to a Daughter who is able to bridge the divide between us and our Mother. In the Cinderella stories, her mother cannot help her directly, but the helpers that explicitly or implicitly come from her mother can and do make her life easier. In the Russian story of Vasalisa, the doll given to her by her dying mother performs all of the tasks that her stepmother imposes upon her. The heroine must follow the instructions and advice of her helper in order to overcome the challenges in front of her and to rise above her current difficulties. Cinderella must follow the Fairy Godmother’s instructions and be home before midnight.

In some of the stories we meet a third feminine figure, the frightening grandmother. The Baba Yuga in the Russian stories and the Barzingi in Mah Pishani. This figure is sometimes hostile and sometimes the one who judges the heroine and finds her worthy. She is also the one who administers or is the catalyst for the punishment of the false mother and her daughter(s). This figure seems almost analogous to the Dark Mother in the Filianic Trilogy, who is said to be the Darkness beyond the Light, and the Light beyond the Darkness, and who is sometimes associated with Sai Rhavë or the planet Saturn.

cinderella transformation

Transformation and Happily Ever After

With the advice and assistance of her magical helpers, the heroine is transformed.  She becomes her True Self. In many stories, her beauty and virtue are recognized by a prince or a king, who marries her and is the instrument of her rise from a life of hardship and drudgery to royalty. This can be seen in the form of our own eventual Liberation from the toils and troubles of this world to a form of Paradise. The False Mother and her daughters are punished in some way in all of the stories, and harmony is restored.

The Symbolism of Fairy Tales

One of the places where we can find Universal Truth is in fairy tales.

Cinderella Before

Yes, fairy tales…the timeless stories we tell our children, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast.  Fairy tales have been criticized in modern Western culture as being unrealistic or naïve and have been decried by feminists as for their portrayal of women as weak and helpless, needing  protection and saving from a man.  These criticisms really show how hard it is for the modern Western mind to get beyond literalistic thinking – reading fairy tales as if they were modern novels about individuals.

This literalism is actually quite insidious inoculation from being able to really understand the true meaning of fairy tales or to get any real good out of them.  So, the first step in being able to understand fairy tales and derive real metaphysical truth from these tales is to understand that they are not literal stories.  They speak to Truth (with a capital T), not to factual truths.  They are in the category of Mythology and Folklore, not stories of actual human beings.

So, we have just said fairy tales are not literal, factual truths, nor stories of actual human beings.  So, what are fairy tales then?

Fairy tales are timeless stories of the human condition, and our separation and reunion with the Divine.  All separation from the Divine and from each other is only a temporary state, and that the only permanent state is that of reunion and Unity.  Fairy tales all have common features.  While fairy tales can be enjoyed and are instructive without an understanding of the meaning of these features, an understanding is helpful to reverse the rationalist conditioning that many of us have been exposed to from earliest childhood.

Children’s Stories

One of the features of fairy tales is that they are told to children, and that they appeal to children in a magical way.  The appeal to children is so powerful, that even in our heavily rationalist, materialistic culture, they have survived.  While in response to Western rationalist, feminist thought, Disney has changed its telling of these timeless stories, particularly with respect to the roles and characteristics of the female characters, the older and more traditional movies, such as Cinderella and Snow White, are just as popular as they have ever been.  Little girls are entranced by Disney princesses so much that they are effective marketing tools.

The sad thing is that the appeal to children is seen as a way to compartmentalize these stories as not being serious or relevant to adults or the Modern World.  Yet, to the more traditional Essentialist mind, children are supposed to be told stories of Universal Truth.  In the sutra of The Way of Simplicity, it is written:

For the truth is such that a child may understand it, yet the sage, if she have not simplicity and love, may struggle with it for all of her life and have nothing.

What is your truth, if it cannot be shared with a child?

For in the eyes of Eternity, how little is the space between and infant and the wisest of the world?

These stories are not to be abandoned by adults.  Yes, one will and should understand these stories differently as one matures, and indeed maturity requires one to be able to see Truth in a deeper way.  On the other hand, as an Essentialist, one places special importance and value on stories that are told to children as those that speak to Universal Truth.

Once Upon A Time

Another feature of a true fairy tale is that the setting is “once upon a time.”  This is the marker that this is a story outside time and space.  This should also be the first clue that these stories are not to be read literally.  These speak to Truth that goes beyond time and space, and therefore beyond our literal human lives.

ImagePrincesses and Prince Charming

Commonly in fairy tales, Princesses and Princes are the main characters.  This is another marker that these stories deal with matters beyond materiality and are not to be taken literally.  These stories speak to ideals and to archetypes, symbolized by royalty.

These stories also speak to the interaction between the metaphysical passive (the Princess) and active (Prince Charming), in eastern terminology, yin and yang.  In Eastern and Traditional thought, the passive state is the highest state, and the active state serves the passive.  So, to an Essentialist, even thinking of these stories as any type of statement on the roles of actual gendered individuals is ridiculously literalistic.  The interaction between the Princess and Prince Charming shows the interplay between the passive and the active states of being, with the passive generally representing the higher state. “Earth moves but Heaven is still”.

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Curses/Witches/Evil Queens

Another common feature of fairy tales is the involvement of evil.  While as an Essentialist, on one level everything in existence is part of the Divine, on another level, inherent in manifestation is the struggle between good and evil.

This is a paradox, but one that is necessary to accept.  Evil is as much of a part of manifestation as good and always seeks to destroy good.  This is seen in that there is usually some form of “curse” that is placed on the protagonist.  Interestingly, the types of curses upon the Princesses and the Princes are quite different.  Princesses are trapped in drudgery and materiality (“Cinderella”) or completely asleep (“Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White”).  Princes are turned into monsters or lower beings (“Beauty and the Beast” and “The Frog and the Princess”).

True Love and Transformation

In fairy tales, the curse is always lifted or the Princess is freed or rescued.  It is love that lifts the curse.  Love is seen to have a magical transforming power.  Indeed, it is only love that can defeat the evil antagonist.   This is the feature that is most criticized by modern society, as setting unrealistic expectations of marriage and being harmful to women.  Yet, to an Essentialist, this is the Ultimate Truth.  Love is transforming and healing.  This transforming love is not romantic human love, it is Divine, Godly Love, which is the only thing that can transform and heal.

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While Divine Love is not romantic human love, the interplay between the Transforming Love manifested by the Princes and that manifested by the Princesses is interesting in and of itself.  The Princes show their love through activity, i.e., fighting the Evil Queen, searching for the girl who fits the slipper.  The Princesses show their love through wisdom and awareness, i.e. seeing the beauty within the beast,  kissing the frog. The Princess is often the divine Spirit who recognizes the lost soul in its earthly disguise.

Happily Ever After

As fairy tales begin with “Once Upon a Time,” they end with the protagonist “living happily ever after.”  In a sense this is the resolution of the paradox of the curse and Evil Queen.  Good ultimately triumphs over evil.  While evil is inherent in manifestation, the only Truth is the Divine.

We can never be permanently separated from the Divine.  There is only one resolution.  The evil must be overcome, the curse must be lifted, the Prince and Princess must come together, and they must “live happily ever after.”  That is also the only resolution in the separation inherent in manifestation.  We must return to the timeless state of union with the Divine.
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See also:

Mythology and Folklore