Albert Einstein said, “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.” I came across this quote a couple of years ago, and since I love to read, I thought it might be fun and interesting to take another look at some of my favorite fairy tales and children’s stories. Sometimes you have to read something more than once to fully comprehend its meaning. Currently there does seem to be a lot of movies and TV shows in this genre.
I recall taking a class in college where we read various fairy tales and then wrote about the subliminal meanings. I could not help but wonder why Einstein thought fairy tales were so important, but now I am finally starting to understand the wisdom and life lessons that these stories contain. You really can learn a lot about yourself and others by analyzing your favorite childhood stories. So I decided to apply the tools I learned while in college and did a little research about uncovering the meaning of fairy tales so that I could gain some perspective into my own life.
One story in particular had so much symbolism for me that I wanted to share what I unearthed. I really enjoyed the journey and I hope you do too…
Pretty much everyone enjoyed the movie The Wizard of Oz and it has been remade recently by Disney. To me, it is a story about a spiritual seeker on a journey of self-discovery. Dorothy represents the archetypal character of the orphaned (or abandoned) child struggling with emotional wounds and her desire to transform her wounded inner child archetype into one that is self-sufficient and healthy. It is a coming of age story that pretty much everyone can relate to in some way.
In the book The Secret, it teaches people that if you stay positive and have good thoughts, life will be easy and prosperous. It really did the spiritual community a disservice, in my opinion, because it suggested to people that it is best to suppress their emotions in order to experience a positive outcome. Although it is good to stay positive, it is impossible to avoid negative emotions at times. The brain is wired to feel sadness, grief and anger. The trick is to be aware of these feelings and not suppress them, but to transmute them into healing energy and something positive. Yes to avoiding negative thoughts. No to avoiding negative feelings. There is a BIG difference.
Some of life’s best experiences come from the challenges we overcome. If you avoid all the challenges that come your way, you will also avoid the gift. It is a myth to think that spiritually enlightened people will not have challenges or that if something bad happens it is their bad karma. My experience has been that there is always a silver lining in any challenging experience.
It is the same with challenging people in our lives. In the movie the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch proves to be Dorothy’s most formidable ally because she is the one who has the biggest effect on her soul’s expansion. We all have wicked witches in our lives and hopefully after you read this, you will understand why they are actually some of your best encounters, but that does not mean you have to try to make them close friends.
When I began my spiritual journey, I thought that spiritual people would be loving and trustworthy. I also thought if I attended events at spiritual places, the people would be kind and thoughtful. I admit I can be naïve and overly trusting. I learned that I need to do a better job at discerning who to spend my time with.
I have had several spiritual people and gurus hurt me in various ways. A well-known guru tried to scam money from me. Spiritual friends have gossiped about me and attempted to sabotage my business, cheated, and lied to me. Men I met at spiritual functions tried to pressure me into extra-marital affairs (one guy attempted to kiss me after a group meditation outside a church and told me that God said we should have an affair.)
Another guy told me I was too judgmental after I turned him away. It was not me being judgmental, it was me not wanting to sabotage my life. And there has been other drama. It really is kind of funny now that I can look back at it without any emotional attachment. I suppose I used to hold spiritual people to a higher standard. When they disappointed me, I felt discouraged.
I try my best not to be a judgmental person. I do not like to see things as good or bad, right or wrong. Instead I see enlightenment as understanding that we all have choices to make. Every action we take has consequences and every cause has an effect. The choices I now make are ones that will produce the best outcome. I choose not to have affairs not because it’s wrong, but because I do not want to risk losing my husband.
When you take a spiritual journey you begin to reach higher levels of consciousness. When you see things clearly, you are more likely to make better choices for yourself. It has nothing to do with being a good or bad person because we can learn lessons from all experiences.
I have finally learned that spiritual people are the same as everyone else—no better or worse. And since I am not a perfect person and have made plenty of mistakes in life, I do not judge or hold a grudge. Instead I look at these experiences as learning opportunities and tests. Yes it was painful at times and I am a bit hesitant about trusting others, nonetheless, I am grateful for the gifts I received afterwards which include discernment; increased self-love and enjoyment of my life; greater appreciation for my alone time for creating—writing, art, etc.; greater appreciation for my husband, daughter, family and true friends; wisdom and much more.
Perhaps the biggest gift of all is the increased closeness that I share with my husband. He has been through it all with me and our relationship is better than ever. He is my Rinpoche, which is a Buddhist term for precious gem. And after more than 30 years of marriage, I appreciate him more than ever and love him in ways that I never knew were possible. People who say that there is no such thing as a knight in shining armor are mistaken. My husband is King Arthur and Sir Lancelot all wrapped up in one. I know that I took him for granted when I was younger, which I truly regret. I will never make that mistake again and I can thank the wicked witches or challenging people in my life for teaching me such valuable lessons!
Sometimes we have to first give up the life we have in order to get the life we want. I learned this lesson many years ago. I had a friend in college who used to mean a lot to me. We spent a lot of time together partying. We both knew we were a very bad influence on each other, but that did not stop us. It reached a point where the relationship felt so toxic and I knew it would be best for me to end the relationship. But for some reason I felt so attached. The more time I spent with this person, I felt as though my life force energy was being drained from me. But at the same time, I felt compelled by the excitement and the reckless behavior.
There were so many times I wanted to walk away from this person, and I am sure the feeling was mutual. Eventually the friendship did crash and burn and I cried for about 3-4 months. I was very relieved that it was over, but I felt great pain because I knew my friend was going through something very difficult. In the end, it was the best thing for both of us. Right away I quit drinking and smoking.
I put all my energy into working on myself, my career and enjoying time with my husband, family and friends. I felt so much more freedom and joy. The ending of that friendship made space for something so much better. But had I not gone through that experience, I would not be where I am now. I learned a great deal about love; compassion; addiction; letting go; the ego; and the victim, prostitute, wounded child and saboteur archetypes that influence me.
My friend ended up playing a specific role in my life and I will always send that person love with appreciation, even though it proved to be a very challenging relationship for me.
All of our friends, family, spouses, lovers, bosses, co-workers, neighbors, etc. play a specific role in our lives. Without them, the journey would not be possible. It is as though we are Dorothy (or the hero) and the people we know play the Scarecrow, Tin man, Lion, Munchkins, Witches and other characters. Every good story has a hero, an antagonist and other characters to complete the story. It is the same for our lives. And it is often the antagonist that makes the story much more interesting and provides valuable lessons. Really what would the Wizard of Oz be without the Wicked Witch??
If you examine your own life, you can see who plays the Wicked Witch—and you most likely have more than just one witch in your life. Rather than being angry at them, you could instead try to feel grateful for their contribution to your life training and soul expansion. Yes it may be important to sever your relationship with the Wicked Witch in your life because it is very important to spend your time with the right people. But you can feel gratitude, love and compassion for them even if the time comes to sever the relationship.
Let me explain why the Wicked Witch is Dorothy’s best friend and why you can change the way you see the challenging people in your life:
The Wizard of Oz contains rich sources of insight into the inner courage and power contained within each person. In the story, Dorothy discovers deep hidden aspects of herself which include resolution, intelligence, self-reliance, wisdom and her connection to Source. The adventure she goes on represents challenges of survival which are intended to teach us about our own hidden abilities to help us overcome obstacles.
The tornado in the story represents chaos which is always a precursor to transformation. Pay attention because if you are in the middle of something chaotic, something really wonderful is potentially going to happen. But first you must find the seed which contains the gift which needs to be watered and nurtured so that it can grow into something beautiful and wonderful—it is the silver lining.
The first thing that has to happen for a spiritual journey is Dorothy has to separate from her family. This is typical for spiritual people when they embark on their journey. It is something you have to do on your own and you have to find your own way, although there is plenty of help along the way. When the tornado hits, Dorothy hides in her room with Toto, her power animal, hits her head on the headboard and loses consciousness.
The symbolism here includes the house which is Dorothy’s whole of the self. The basement represents the subconscious and the attic represents the superego (this is according to various dream books). Her spiritual journey really begins here. She is about to awaken and receive God’s Grace, which is slowly revealed throughout the movie. The red ruby slippers represent the Grace of God.
The house then crashes down in OZ and she has no way of knowing she is about to find the powerful and amazing strength and courage that resides in her and in all of us. The little Munchkins represent fragments of the self.
When a spiritual person begins their journey, they will begin to ask questions. Where am I? How do I get back home? How can I get to where I want to go? Dorothy starts to ask the Munchkins these questions and they instruct her to follow the yellow brick road which will take her to the Wizard of OZ, which represents the spiritual guru.
Harvard professor and mystic Howard Thurman wrote that a confused and directionless life has destructive consequences. For your relationships to be successful, there are two questions we have to ask ourselves. “Where am I going? And “who will go with me?” If you answer these questions the wrong way, you are in trouble because without self-understanding and direction we can hurt ourselves and others. The people we care most about will suffer the most.
Toto is a Latin word which means “everything.” The power animal is an extension of the self and we all have one. It can also be understood as the intuition, the guardian and in this story it represents that “everything” she needs is present within her.
All spiritual traditions teach us that it is important to stay in the present. As long as you stay present, everything you need will present itself to you. If you focus on the past too much you will eventually begin to feel vulnerable, fearful, insecure, and angry or like a failure. And when you focus too much on the future, something I tend to do, you will eventually begin to feel powerless.
The Munchkin leader, which represents the unified-self emerging, gives Dorothy some direction and suggests that if she feels lost, she should ask herself “Where am I”? This is her lesson that informs her that the inner self contains all the answers she is looking for. (Do you ever ask yourself questions when problems arise? The answers to your problems are within you. You just have to ask.)
It has been written that every human being has within them about 12 different archetypal energies. These energies form our personalities, talents, etc. They vary from person to person and include types such as athlete, actor, king, queen, comic, student, teacher, mediator, parent, entrepreneur, photographer, hermit and many more. There are 4 archetypes that we all carry within us and then about 8 types that are individual to each of us. The 4 types we all have in common are child, victim, prostitute and saboteur.
When these archetypes go unchecked they often can wreak havoc in your life. I will discuss the 4 common archetypes throughout and explain what power they have on us. It is important to never underestimate the influence that archetypes play in our lives. This concept was first introduced by Plato, and then much later by Carl Jung, and currently many authors write about the topic. I will write more about this topic in future blog posts.
The two witches in the story represent the shadow and the light. We all have both aspects within us. The Wicked Witch, which represents Dorothy’s shadow side, threatens to take away Toto in order to sabotage Dorothy’s well-being. Just as in real life, our dark side will try to sabotage our own well-being.
When you learn how to recognize which archetype is at play, you can make better decisions. Dorothy responds to the Wicked Witch with anger. This response represents Dorothy’s victim archetype. Everyone plays the victim at times and blames others for challenging experiences.
Glinda the Good Witch represents the Light aspect and gives Dorothy the red ruby slippers. The ruby slippers represent the Grace of God. We all receive something unique from Source to help us navigate our journey of life. It is important to discover your own unique gift from God because it will assist you and help you reach your full potential. Reaching your full-potential will be easier if you learn how to work with your archetypal energy and ask God for Grace.
When the Wicked Witch wants the ruby slippers, she is awakening Dorothy’s prostitute archetype. This archetype does not only have to do with selling the body for money. More often it has to do with staying in a job or relationship you do not like just for the money or security. Or perhaps doing something for money that goes against your integrity.
The Witch offers Dorothy an easy way out in return for the ruby slippers. In life, every time you are given Grace, the prostitute archetype will test you to see if you are willing to sell your new spiritual power for material gain of some sort. It is kind of like winning the lottery and then becoming materialistic and caring more about money than people. You may then fail the test and become bankrupt, which is what often happens to people after a financial windfall. In order to keep the money, you will need to pass whatever test comes your way.
The saboteur is also at work here wondering if you will sabotage your new good fortune. Perhaps you will invest in swampland in Florida and lose all your money. In life we are always being tested by natural forces. We often want to blame others when this happens, but really it is just how the Universe functions and how we reach higher levels of consciousness. It gets easier when you know the rules!
Even though these archetypes may sound ominous and troublesome, it is important to know that each archetype has a positive and negative aspect. The saboteur archetype may alert you to danger. For example when a spiritual guru tried to scam money from me, I believe it was this archetype that brought the con to my attention. I had to make a choice to believe what he and others were promising or to trust my gut instinct and keep my money (luckily I kept my money).
The saboteur archetype brings something to your attention, and then it is up to you to decide what choice to make. We attract these situations to us in order to experience personal growth. It is hardwired within us in our energy system and is located above the crown chakra. We make sacred contracts before we are born and our archetypal friends help to ensure we have the necessary experiences to expand our souls.
Let’s move on to the Scarecrow, which was my favorite character in the story. The Scarecrow represents Dorothy’s need to grow intellectually and is an extension of her inner self. When we embark on a spiritual journey, which we are all on whether we label it as that or something else, we need our intellect to help us get to where we want to go. If you want to expand your soul, you will need to continue learning and growing in various ways.
The Tin Man represents Dorothy’s need to awaken her sense of love and compassion. Sometimes the only way to open a heart to feeling love is through experiencing a broken heart. It is as if the heart needs to be cracked open in order to feel love and compassion. Anyone who breaks your heart is actually helping you open up to being more loving and compassionate. Dorothy will need to develop her intellect and ability to love in order to become whole and finally succeed on her spiritual journey.
The Cowardly Lion represents the bully that shows up on every journey. It is a mirror reflection of her fear, lack of courage, low self-esteem and weak will. If you have a bully show up in your life, it may indicate that you need to address these hidden fears within.
During Dorothy’s journey, she encounters difficulties, challenges and detours. All along the way her hidden archetypal characters are awakened and she is being tested as to whether she will give into the light or dark aspects of her wounded child, victim, prostitute, and/or saboteur archetypes and will she call on her guides for assistance. When we face challenges in life, we have choices and are being tested. Chances are you will be more successful if you call on your own guides for assistance. The key is knowing how to ask and how to receive the information.
When Dorothy falls asleep in the field of poppies, it is a metaphor which represents our need to process some challenges in an unconscious state of sleep. Certain realities are too difficult for us to handle on a conscious level. Do not underestimate the power of “just sleep on it.” Some old wounds are too difficult to address on a conscious level and allowing your subconscious mind to heal old wounds can provide a therapeutic experience. Sleep time is necessary every night in order to reconnect with Spirit.
Dorothy’s transition from child to adult, or orphan to hero, requires both grace and healing her past which can be partially accomplished in a sleep state. In this part of the movie, she is healing her inner child and old wounds. In order to fully succeed in life, it is important to heal your past to make room for your new prosperity.
Dorothy does eventually get to see Oz. And as all good spiritual masters do, Oz puts her to the test. He will only help her if she brings him the broom of the Wicked Witch. There is paradox here: you will always be given a test before grace is invoked and you need grace to pass the test. For example, you cannot instantly become courageous; you have to act courageous to know that you have courage.
On her journey, Dorothy is at one point captured and travels through both the dark forest and the dark castle. The capture represents us being trapped in our fears & desires and feeling isolated & abandoned. It provides an allegorical account of a spiritual journey from purgatory to paradise. The saboteur archetype will always appear at times to remind us to either keep the faith or give into our fears. Remember there is a light and dark side to each archetype and it is up to us to decide which road to take.
When Dorothy calls on the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion for help, she is basically calling on her own intellect, heart and courage which she is in the process of unifying. Just as each character in Dorothy’s life represents aspects of herself, the people in your life mirror the features of your inner-self.
As her three companions are trying to rescue her, the Wicked Witch fights back and sets fire to the Scarecrow. This act represents the attack on the intellectual self as one follows their spiritual journey. For example, the mind might say: sitting on a cushion and meditating is silly thing to do. Or searching for enlightenment is for fanatics.
To put out the fire, Dorothy picks up a bucket of water (which represents her unconscious mind) and throws the water on the witch. The witch yells at Dorothy and as she melts away, her fears melt away as well. She feels safe now. We can all call on our unconscious mind to help melt away our fears because fears exist in the mind.
Next Dorothy and her friends return to Oz feeling very proud of their accomplishment. They bring the broom to the Wizard, only to be informed that it is not enough after-all. Toto will NOT accept the rejection and pulls back the curtain exposing the fraud. Never underestimate the influence and ability of your power animal to help you on your journey.
It is at this point that Dorothy learns she does not really need a spiritual guru after-all. The truth is that if we rely too much on a spiritual guru, we might just get burned. Yes they can help us, but if you put them on a petal stool and trust too much in their power, you may lose your way and feel like a fool.
Being exposed, the Wizard is forced to make good on his promise and help Dorothy return home. The Land of Oz represents the achievement of spiritual power and independence which is essentially meaningless unless she can bring back home what she learned and apply it to her everyday life. How often do we attended a spiritual event and feel empowered only to not apply what we learned to our everyday lives? Spiritual insight is not an end to itself but a means to transform our life from mere survival to love, prosperity, compassion and finally service to others.
Next Dorothy is confronted with yet another test, regarding false power. The Wizard offers a ride in the hot air balloon (symbolic of a lot of “hot air”). Toto jumps out of the basket and once again leads Dorothy in the better direction. Again this is the saboteur archetype showing up and forcing Dorothy to decide which way to go. Since Dorothy knows better than to separate from Toto, she follows her dog and leaves the Wizard.
Having made the right choice, Glinda the Good Witch, or guardian angel, appears and reminds Dorothy she has all the internal power she needs to return home. The ruby slippers, which represent GRACE, were all she ever needed. She is now whole and enlightened ready to return home. She is instructed to chant: “there is no place like home” which is her internal power. You too can call on your guardian angel and use chants to gain your own personal power.
If Dorothy had returned home once she received the ruby slippers in the beginning, she would not have integrated her intellect, love, compassion and courage. She needed the challenging journey to become enlightened. The good witch tells Dorothy that the ruby slippers have wonderful powers and all she has to do is click them three times and command the shoes to take her to where she wants to go. We too can call on God’s Grace and command assistance to where we want to go.
Dorothy has completely integrated all aspects of herself including her mind, heart, and will. Dorothy eventually wakes up safe in bed and embraces her family feeling appreciation for them all.
In the end, the Wicked Witch has proved to be the one who did the most to expand her soul! The journey would not have happened without her.
So if you have a wicked witch in your life, rejoice because she (or he) just may be your biggest ally, best friend, most influential person, etc. But do remember that Dorothy did not hang out with the Wicked Witch. She learned her lesson and moved on to experience her new-found enlightenment.