Raising Aphrodite: A Fairy Re-Tale

Once upon a time two little girls were born. The one with flaming red hair came fast, her first cries loud and furious. The midwives handed the wailing child to her mother, who gazed upon her and said softly, “Child, you must be not carry on so, the world can be a dangerous place for those with such a voice and will. I will call you Aphrodite.”

And as the mother tried to soothe the babe at her breast, new pains suddenly twisted her womb and she cried out, “There is another one!”

While one midwife rocked the first-born girl, the mother strained. This babe did not want to relinquish its watery circle of warmth, but after many hours a second girl-child was finally born. This dark one did not cry, and her night-sky eyes deepened as if she were contemplating her place in this new world. Her mother held her close and whispered in her ear, “That’s right, Quiet One, you will do well in this life. I will call you Hestia.”

As the girls grew they were never apart, even sharing a pillow as they slept. While Hestia hugged her arms around her own body, Aphrodite clasped her sister to her side. During the days they played, Aphrodite twirling and singing, sometimes stamping and shouting, while Hestia, crouching on the ground stirring pots over an imaginary fire, sang softly to herself. The adults smiled at Hestia and shushed Aphrodite and tried to still her.

One day when the sisters were twelve, Aphrodite was dancing by the gate. Her fiery tresses and bright eyes caught the attention of a passing gentleman. She quickened her step and whipped her skirts. Her eyes flashed under her long lashes. The next morning Hestia awoke alone. Hestia cried for the loss of her sister but found comfort in the deep silence which now wrapped her in its arms. That day she left her imaginary pots and pans and retreated to the encircling warmth of the kitchen. Here she cooked and cleaned and watched and listened. Although no one would speak Aphrodite’s name, Hestia felt in her heart that her sister was somewhere near, and safe, cradled even.  Within the hearth she kept a fire burning bright to guide her sister home.

While she worked Hestia sang, a soft chant low in her throat. Honey bees gathering to dance on the garden of daisies, zinnias, and foxgloves outside the kitchen door echoed her song. A pair of doves arrived and each morning crooned their melancholy lullaby as Hestia sat in the lemon sun of early day. Then the swallows came, swooping and looping, weaving unseen fabric in the sky. As the days went by Hestia’s song became stronger and deeper.

And then one day, as her voice carried up into the trees and pulsed down into the earth, she felt her whole body began to sing. The air around her resonated and glowed. And suddenly there she was. Drawn by the power of Hestia’s voice, Aphrodite rose from the well that stood not far from the kitchen door. Finally freed from the damp earth where she had been exiled, she came towards Hestia with arms outstretched. Wrapped once again in each others embrace, their hearts and voices merged in song.

Gypsy: A Fairy Re-Tale

Gypsy

They say she danced from her mother’s womb. They say her first yelps were a song to the ear. They say she was born with the pulsing rhythm of her heart glowing red beneath her golden skin.

They say when she was twelve, a white man of the cloth saw her dancing alone by a stream. Her hair flew and her skirts billowed as she twirled. She was bewitched by the blaze of the sun on her upturned face, the throb of the drum, the stomp of her feet, and the rush of the water. He saw her Passion and it made him wild. He loathed her for that. He began to yell and shake his fists at her, calling her names she had never before heard. He said the devil lives in the skin of the drum and demons were dancing beneath her skirts. But she continued to dance while he continued to condemn. And then she stopped. For a moment she felt her Joy, her Love, her Passion falter. The poisoned arrows of the man’s words had pricked her heart and she felt something she had never known: Shame.

But they say she then began to sing. She looked the man in the eye as she sang. She saw things there that frightened her. She saw self-hatred and weakness and sadness. But above of all, she saw Fear. She sang to the Fear. Called it out of its deep, dark place where it was festering and polluting the man’s heart. She sang and she sang, and as she did she felt her Joy, her Love, and her Passion begin to flicker again. The deep red of her dress and of her Love reflected in the man’s eyes and began to burn the hard, dark steel plate of Fear and Hate. As her voice got stronger, her Love grew stronger and his eyes became soft with tears.

Then she danced again. She danced right into the river and let the rushing waters wash away the poison the man’s words had embedded in her heart. It beat fully again in time with her drum.

They say when she was a grown woman, the tiny perforations that Shame had ripped in her young heart allowed in the light of Compassion. She sang to lead all voices in harmony with the wind. She danced to call up the energy of the earth. And she beat her drum so that the hearts of those around her might pulse as One. And just like a broken bone that rebinds stronger than before, her Love, her Passion, her Joy – her Voice – swelled so no one’s words of fear could ever cause her doubt again.

The House of Disrepair: A Fairy Re- Tale

credit: Joanna Tebbs Young

This is a tale based on a recent dream which I worked with in my journal.

There once was a little girl who lived in her father’s big, old house. Although the little girl’s father was kindly and gave her all he thought she needed and wanted, he kept her in her room to protect her from the unpredictable and competitive world outside. The little girl’s bedroom was on the very tippy-top of the house where windows let in the warmth of the morning sun and the comforting glow of the full moon. It was a grand house but it was falling into disrepair and some of the windows in her room were broken. When the winter winds blew the little girl wrapped her arms around herself, and dreamed of spring and far away places.

One very late winter’s day as she was looking out across the fields in which she had never run, she noticed an eruption of purple in the snow. The first crocus of spring. She longed to touch it, to be near it, to connect to its strength and resiliency. The beauty of the sight pricked her heart with yearning. The tiny hole suddenly opened into a gaping wound. Grief and tears flooded her soul and flowed from her eyes. She cried as if she would empty herself. Tears filled the room. The floor beneath her feet began to bubble and soften. Large chunks began to fall below. Through the holes the little girl could see what lay beneath. A staircase – an abandoned stairwell.

As her tears continued to fall, a river of water cascaded down the stairs and the remaining floor gave way. Wading through the water, the little girl climbed down the stairs. There at the bottom stood a long-forgotten door. She lay her hand upon the door knob, rusty with disuse, and slowly turned it.  The door opened.

Bright sun reflected off the snow, momentarily blinding and disorienting the girl. But the light also dried her tears. She felt the wound in her heart slowly begin to close as she danced across the field towards the first bloom of spring.

The Little Girl who Swam with the Moon: A Fairy Re-Tale

Myths, whether we are aware of them or not, are held in our psyche and influence our thoughts about others, ourselves, and how the world works. These myths can be the stories our families told us, the fairy tales read to us at night, the cartoons we watched, the magazines we read today, even the ancient myths told by generations before us (which still influence the books, movies, and songs of today). Unfortunately, many of the messages in these myths promote the darker sides of human nature* and perpetuate old, negative, incorrect stereotypes of gender. (Think about the fact that it was men who wrote the myths and fairy tales we still live by – that a women isn’t complete until her Prince comes along, that older women are hags or witches, or that a man isn’t a real man until he has slayed a dragon (risked his life and shed blood). Pah. Just imagine how different the story of Cinderella would have turned out if a woman had written it. For one thing, any woman knows that a glass slipper would hurt like hell. Personally, I’d rather be home alone scrubbing the floor than out dancing in a pair of crystal punch bowls. Just sayin.’)

It is the “myths” in our heads that produce the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that are scurrying around making us doubt, undermine, and even hate ourselves. Many people are realizing the importance of re-writing these myths in a way that empowers and celebrates  – not denigrates – our natural perfectly imperfect human-ness. It was with that in mind that I wrote the following tale.

* Fairy tales and myths are not always negative. They are also “road maps” for the journeys of life, especially in the emotional/psychological realm. (See this note and others regarding fairy tales at C-Change on Facebook).

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The Little Girl Who Swam with the Moon

There once was a little girl named Gywnn. Her hair was red like the sun setting behind a blue mountain, her eyes brown like rich, newly turned soil, and her skin soft as a lamb’s ear. She sang with the birds and danced with the swaying grass, and ran just to feel her body alive with delight. But Gywnn’s joy in herself and nature made her father jealous and he told her to be ashamed. He was afraid of the passion he saw in his daughter and he thought the world was a cruel and loveless place. He locked the gate and declared she must stay within his garden walls. She was no longer permitted to speak or sing. She could not dance, run, or even bring her eyes high enough to see the horizon.

But Gywnn’s mother taught her how, even with head bowed, she could still see. Each tiny tendril pushing through the earth, the mushroom caps peeking between the fallen leaves, and the worm munching through the soil. The fox cub’s paw print dancing on the mud and the diamond sparkle of dew drops in the morning sun.

And Gywnn’s mother whispered stories of old in Gywnn’s ear. She told her about the Grandmothers who sowed, who reaped, who gave love, who received love, who created, who made love, who made life, and who celebrated every death as a release into a new joy. She told Gywnn of her beauty, strength and power which was passed down from each woman to her daughters. And she told her that her voice could never be truly silenced as long as she kept listening to the hum of Mother Earth in her bones, her skin, and her heart.

At night Gywnn would go to the water’s edge where Grandmother Moon’s reflection tickled her toes. Gywnn whispered her secrets while the fish circled at her feet. In the rippled orb of white, Gywnn saw the love of her mother and all the mothers before her. Even when the moon hid her face and she felt lost in the dark, Gywnn knew the majestic light would return.

Each night Gywnn grew in strength as the love filled and opened her heart. Slowly Gywnn raised her head, and as the light from above filled her eyes she stepped further into the light at her feet. She let herself fall into the water and swam with the moon. Within her the hum grew louder. She could not keep it silent any longer. She opened her mouth and sang out. The grass quivered, the trees rustled, the nightingale called, and the rabbits laughed. She sang and sang, loudly, clearly, and Mother Earth vibrated with the pleasure of it. The garden walls crumbled to dust. Gywnn rose naked from the water. With the moon at her back, body proud and voice strong, she stepped into the world, never to be silenced again.

© Joanna Tebbs Young: Wisdom Within, Ink

Prompt: Write your own fairy tale. Empower yourself in a story.

Lunar and The Lady: A Fairy Re-Tale

The following is a fairy tale, a new venture for me, which came to me in a series of dreams over the last month.

The full moon was smiling down the night I was born. Her lovely face shone and milky light fell on my mother’s fur as she licked the newness of my pink skin. And although my fur was to grow in as thick and black as night, I was named Lunar in honor of Grandmother Moon. Today my back legs are strong so I can bound through the grass, my eyes are bright so I can see stars in the sky, and my ears are long so I can hear the songs of the trees.

But then I was suddenly alone. One night a bird swooped in from the side and snatched my mother from the earth. I never saw the raptor but it was big and dark and had claws that almost ripped my mother in two. He flew to a great height, but then flung her down. She lay broken on the ground, her body limp and mangled. As I watched, paralyzed with fear, an Old Woman with gentle hands lifted my mother, held her to her breast, and carried her home. There she is now, protected, loved, and growing in strength every day.

I needed a new home, a new mother. One night while hopping down a dark road, I heard a cry. A head of me was a lady, not young but not old, crying out in pain. On her heel was a mouse, its long teeth embedded into her flesh. Blood was dripping down her foot and into the earth. As I watched, The Lady pulled the mouse from her heel, and although the wound was deep, The Lady seemed to grow in strength before my eyes. The wound was oval in shape and as she touched it gently with one finger, she smiled.

And then she saw me. She gathered me in her arms, held me to her breast, and carried me to her home. Two white mice, a white cat, and another rabbit, also white, lived there with The Lady. She took me to her bedroom where she gave me my own special pillow on which to sleep. The Lady was afraid I might run away but I stayed right there, close to my new mother.

The Lady was an artist. She would go into the woods and gather sticks and leaves and mushrooms. Encircled by her sisters, she created a blanket with images of beauty and magic. The blanket grew and grew so long and thick it spread out on the floor and eventually through the door out into the night. They rejoiced in their work and while they sewed they sang songs that sounded like the bubbling of the river and the rustle of the trees. Then at night they would dance, their bodies luminous, in the moonlight.

The Lady was pregnant. Her face shone with a milky light. She gathered much food around her and ate all she could, but shared with her sisters too. While she sat with her hand on her belly, I curled to sleep in her lap.  As I grew so did the baby in her womb. When the girl-child was born I was laid beside her to protect her and to keep her warm. I held her to my breast, and while whispering songs of Grandmother Moon in her ear, carried Her home to her heart.

© Joanna Tebbs Young: Wisdom Within, Ink

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