Fairy Tales 4: Archetypes, Meanings and Metaphors

A ripe turnip ready sits in its bed, ripe for harvesting.

The turnip in the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tale may represent the earthy Self or may be a symbol for the Mother archetype or the Feminine Principle.

My recent reading has been so uplifting it must be shared. The first book is called Healing the Sacred Divide  by Jean Raffa  and has some wonderful insights on the significance of archetypes in our psychic life. Next is Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, an out and out classic that reminds us how captivated we were by the stories of our childhood and the truly immense importance of fantasy and archetypal figures in a child’s developing psyche. Another text brought me to the realisation that every single fairy tale is crammed with archetypal figures and meanings. Marie-Louise von Franz provides a stunning description of many possible layers of meaning in a couple of intriguing tales of old European origin. After reading it I found myself desperate to read more Fairy Tales! So I turned to my faithful Kindle version of original tales from the Brothers Grimm.  One in particular made an impression as I couldn’t figure it out at first but after going back to Bettelheim and von Franz it started to make sense. Regarding interpretation, both authors stress that it is the meaning for the reader or listener that works the magic and that meaning flows from where we are at in our own lives and what it is exactly that we need to relate to in the tale. Now for my take on The Turnip.

Two brothers, one poor and the other rich, are de-mobbed from the army and need to decide what to do. The poor brother, we are told, decides to make a living. He pulls off his red army coat and goes off to sow some turnip seeds, which grow successfully, one in particular reaching gigantic proportions. Thinking this would make the King happy, he gifts it to him. Delighted, the King bestows rich rewards of land, flocks and gold upon the poor man. Brother Rich was envious and thought to impress the King even more with a lavish gift of gold and horses. His reasoning went that if his poor brother got such a reward for a mere turnip, he himself was bound to get far more, given his generous offering. Not so! When the King surveyed the rich brother’s gift, accepting it graciously but puzzled as to how to reward him….the Turnip! Yes, that was exactly what he needed so that was what he got!

Further episodes ensue, which I will not go into now. Let me speculate on the possible meanings that spring to mind. Firstly, the brothers are two archetyapal figures, each one is incomplete in some way but who will each take very different paths. One sheds the ego (the red coat), delves deep into the unconscious (the earth), sows seeds and patiently harvests its fruits (the turnip – a root vegetable, a mother symbol, nourishing, bringing its earthy gifts). When the poor brother (the immature but awakening self) gives the gift to the King (a wise old man figure, the young man’s future integrated self) he appreciates it because of the work (soulwork) that went into producing it and because it is wholesome and life-sustaining (soulfood). So the poor brother is rewarded with riches (an abundant selfhood). The rich brother is all surface and ego. He, we assume, kept his coat (ego) and lolled around in his materially (superficially abundant) world. With skewed reasoning, he tries to get what the brother got (individuation) by superficial means and what does he get? A dose of the fruits of the earth – the giant turnip! In other words, the unconscious erupts and overwhelms him.

Let me know if any other meanings are bursting to be heard! In the meantime, here’s a link to The Rolling Stones – You can’t always get what you want, (but you find sometimes, you get what you need!)


Image reference – wiki commons: commons.wikimedia.org : http://www.google.co.uk/search?as_st=y&tbm=isch&hl=en&as_q=The+turnip+fairy+tale&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&cr=&as_sitesearch=&safe=images&tbs=sur:f&biw=1366&bih=653&sei=q-d6UZCsIOKy0QXqyIGYDQ#as_st=y&hl=en&tbs=sur:f&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=The+turnip&oq=The+turnip&gs_l=img.12..0l4j0i10l2j0j0i24l3.3967.7151.10.15083.…0.0…1c.1.11.img.l3ZRwwtT33w&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.d2k&fp=8f1d6dd638b63d84&biw=1366&bih=653&imgrc=q8wXOBqzcnDVNM%3A%3BUaat_oTnc0QK-M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fupload.wikimedia.org%252Fwikipedia%252Fcommons%252Fe%252Feb%252FTurnip_J3.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fcommons.wikimedia.org%252Fwiki%252FFile%253ATurnip_J3.jpg%3B3940%3B2750

Journal Me Calm: Meditation and the Journaling Journey

Thanks to The Two Honest Guys for uploading their lovely meditation videos to You Tube (here’s the link http://youtu.be/02aLFyuYIE4 )

Using meditation and relaxation techniques can be a great way to get into the zone for a more reflective, insightful and calming journaling experience. There is a mass of evidence for the beneficial effects of meditation generally as any google search will unearth. There are quite a few books and personal stories around too and one book I am currently reading is ‘OPEN: How learning to live from the heart changed everything’, by Eoin McCabe. It is a story of a personal journey that has been enhanced through the use of mindfulness (living in the Now and accepting what is) and meditation (taking time to connect with the universal consciousness through our own inner being). One of my favourite sources for meditational information and inspiration is the Chopra Center who sometimes provide free meditation courses like the one coming up soon – a 21 day meditation challenge (follow the link below to view the facebook page and sign up form). I never manage to get through the whole 21! But I have downloaded one set and they are very helpful to have on-hand. This new series coming through next week is presented by both Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey and promises a concurrent journaling facility as well, so I am planning to stick with it and see how that goes. I often find that fleeting images bubble up in my meditation sessions and I have just recently started to note them down in  my journal, so I’m looking forward to this combined programme and hope I will learn more about the connections between meditation and journaling for health and well-being.

Happy Journaling!

[here’s the link to the upcoming 21-day meditation]


Journal Me Happy: Creative Journal Therapy for Life

creative journal

Many people are finding a regular journal habit. 

According to writer and therapist Kathleen Adams, journaling as a therapeutic pastime began in tenth century Japan when court ladies wrote ‘pillow books’ to help them deal with the stresses and intrigues of court life. Writing down our personal experiences is not new.

Besides, most of us have at one time or another been moved or uplifted by an encounter with some image or piece of writing: a quotation; a poem; a story; a novel; a book; a song; a photograph, print or painting; a magazine article; even our own daily observations, dreams and daydreams.

But often the impact of the experience gets lost among the frenetic activity of everyday life, forgotten and no longer available to the conscious mind. A creative journal records these experiences and becomes a personal resource we can turn to again and again for inspiration and comfort.

During my work in mental health care, clients often remarked on the beneficial effects of art and craft activities as well as the uplifting effects of literature and poetry discussion groups. In these groups, we used articles, images, poems or stories from magazines and books, or even a trip to a museum or art gallery, to fuel our discussions. Some therapists call these techniques triggers or springboards and anyone can use them in their daily life to kick-start and maintain a creative journal for health and well-being.

Creative Journaling

Creative journaling allows you to record these encounters with your creative side and to get in touch with emotions, thoughts and memories. The very act of writing and compiling the materials is itself calming – while the hands are busy the mind is free – as Soneff and Caliquire assert in their book Art Journals and Creative Healing. Having this record to look back on from time to time can also be a useful emotional resource and provide support and motivation during times of stress and strain. Because of the way in which it connects us with our authentic selves, creative journaling can provide inner guidance during times of indecision and even just become a pleasant pastime and a source of personal satisfaction.

Creative journal therapy can be a helpful lifelong companion and there are many books and websites that provide tips and inspiration, as well as more in-depth books for those who wish to delve deeper into, for instance, dreamwork and ‘confronting the shadow’. Be aware, though, that many of these more advanced guides take a fairly challenging, psychoanalytical approach to journaling. For some, they may be worth thinking of a little further on, but perhaps with the supervision of a qualified therapist.

Some key points:

  • You are not creating a masterpiece; rather you are expressing your own inner being which is always beautiful and worthy.
  • You do not need to worry about language or spelling. Spontaneity and honesty are the only requirements.
  • Your journal will never be judged. When you browse back over stuff, it is for  personal reflection and insight alone. So allow your vulnerable side to emerge, nurture your soul as you would a child’s and your own inner child will come out to play!

Basic Materials

To start off with, a simple notebook is sufficient. The most useful type is one that has a blank page opposite a lined one – think of your old Science or Home Economics copies from school!  Pens and pencils, a pair of scissors, a printer (if you use a computer to browse for material) and a glue-stick complete the basic kit for your creative journal. Add stickers, postcards, photographs, ribbon, sequins, anything that calls to you as time goes on. Of course this can also be created as an electronic document for those so inclined but do take care with privacy. Personally, I prefer a paper copy to handle and write into directly.

Decorate and personalise your notebook cover and pages as you please with colours, stickers, stencils or whatever resonates for you. How often have you secretly envied the lovely art and stationery sets that kids get at Christmas and birthdays? With this journaling activity, feel free to put together your own box of tricks!

There is no need to purchase expensive kits or materials to begin with, as your first entries will be experimental, trying out your ‘voice’ and flexing your creative muscle. Further on, you may wish to look at the wider range of materials and kits available. Alternatively, straightforward art and craft supplies that are sold practically everywhere may appeal to you as you get into your journaling project.

Ideally, the more personalised you can make this notebook, the more it will come to represent your special ‘me-time’ and help you get in touch with your creative, healing self. So either choose one that appeals to your tastes or take a budget style version and stick or draw onto it with images, patterns, quotations or photographs that are special to you.

A Quiet Space

Identify a space or room where you can expect privacy. Make it comfortable and inviting with a relaxed atmosphere and with everything to hand that you will need for your creative journaling. A storage facility like shelves, a cupboard or even some decorated shoeboxes will hold all your necessities and a comfortable but supportive chair with a small desk or a lap table should be positioned for optimum back support as well as comfort. You are now ready to begin. A good idea is to start with a brief relaxation exercise such as slow breathing, visualisation or chanting a favourite mantra.


Some people may feel they want to set aside a specific day for journaling, or even foresee themselves journaling on a daily basis. My personal experience is that for several days in a row material just keeps cropping up, then I may go for a week or two with no entry and often find I use that time to browse back over previous entries. Alternatively, a set time of day to sit down with your journal may be helpful, when your body-mind will begin to tune into that as your time for getting in touch with yourself. Last thing at night may feel right for contemplation and journaling or if you wake early, that could be your inspiration time.  Above all, never feel you should work on your journal, just follow your inspiration and your own natural rhythms.

The Journaling Process

Next, be on the lookout for pieces of material that strike a chord with you. For instance, you may have at the back of your mind a favourite poem, book or painting and if you don’t have a copy on hand, either Google, Wikipedia or your local library will help out. It’s useful also to keep a rough pad and pencil handy at all times, to copy out poems, quotations or references as they come to you, or to jot down flashes of inspiration that pop into your mind, which you can then transfer to your proper journal later on. Hone your awareness to material that makes an impression on you personally – quotations and images in magazines for instance, or have a browse through old photographs, letters or your book collection. As soon as something hits your emotional buttons, you’re off.

Make a record of the piece – copy or stick it in as the first part of your journal entry for that day (it is helpful to date each entry). Then start to jot down your thoughts and feelings about the piece: how you found it; what you like about it; how you feel when you engage with it; what memories it calls up for you; what it might symbolise for you; any goals or intentions that emerge as you think and write about it.

If finding something to write about is eluding you, just pick a colour and start doodling, scribbling and ‘messing around’. In her book The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself, Lucia Cappachione advises this kind of limbering up exercise and suggests that eventually, words will come, or you will begin to feel a reaction to the images you are creating on the page, feelings and thoughts you can then write down.

Another author whose ideas are inspirational is Diana Trout, an artist who has incorporated journaling and art making into everyday life. She advises a technique called ‘spilling’, using images and words to brainstorm spin-off words and feelings that can then be entered into your journal; words like time; rose; twilight; living; wings; ocean; snow; hope; river; luck; stone. These words might also spark a search for images or a drawing session, all manner of expressions may flow out of a single starter word.

References and Further reading

Kathleen Adams, Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth, 1990, Grand Central Publishing

Lucia Cappachione, The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself, 2nd edition, 2002, New Page Books / The career Press, new Jersey

Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols, 1968, Turtleback Books

Tristine Rainer, The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity, 1981, Published by Jeremy P. Tarcher

Sharon Soneff and Mindy Caliquire, Art Journals and Creative Healing: Restoring the Spirit through Self Expression, 2008, Rockport Publishers Inc.

Diana Trout, Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for free Expression, 2009, North Light Books

Citation for Images from creative commons Google images advanced search ‘free to use, share or modify’ accessed 20th Feb 2013, trackback to:

Image 1 from http://moonstarsandpaper.blogspot.co.uk/2007_01_01_archive.html

Image 2 from  http://www.flickr.com/photos/libookperson/7248114918/

Many websites provide daily hints to get your journaling juices flowing. Any internet search engine will call them up; this is one of the best sites I’ve come across: http://journalingprompts.com/

creative journaling                                     HAPPY JOURNALING !

Fairy Tale Wisdom 3: The Shadow of the Wolf

Red Riding Hood and her Wolf Shadow

The Shadow of the Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood is a classic tale from the Brothers Grimm which calls forth a very specific Jungian interpretation, centered upon the character of the Wolf. If we read the story as a parable about individuation and transcendence, then Little Red Riding Hood represents the first age: the immature, somewhat innocent, undeveloped Ego, with the remainder of the Self as yet unconscious. Grandmother is the wise woman, the third age of maturity towards whom Red Riding Hood is travelling until she is waylaid. And the Wolf? Well, he is the Shadow with whom the Ego must grapple through the dark night of the soul, as Jung had it. Shadow is deceptive, cunning, ravenous to meet his own needs and in the story he deceives both Red Riding Hood and Grandmother with various ploys and disguises, just as the un-integrated Shadow in Jungian psychology.

Jung theorised from his own observations that all humans have a shadow archetype latent within, unconscious but active and full of discarded feelings, impulses and drives that society and our Egos suppress, repress and otherwise disown. For wholeness and maturation, we must encounter the shadow, own it and channel its impulses in healthy, constructive ways and thus disarm its destructive power at the same time as energising our own being – for the shadow is not ‘bad’ as such, just powerful and potentially destructive if not reined in. (See the inspirational blog by Jean Raffa  called Matrignosis here on wordpress for more detailed and deep analysis of the Shadow).

So Red Riding Hood ends up in the wolf’s stomach, alongside her previously eaten Grandmother and as the wiki entry Little Red Riding Hood suggests, this theme resonates with other ‘restoration’ myths such as Jonah and the Whale and Peter and the Wolf. To stay with our Jungian interpretation, let’s move on to consider the crescendo of the tale. A woodcutter comes along (perhaps the animus archetype who is next in line for archetypal encounters in the individuating Self), who rescues Red Riding Hood and Grandmother from the Wolf’s belly and they all ‘live happily ever after’, as Red Riding Hood and Grandmother (her future Self) have been delivered from the Wolf. Except the Wolf of course, who is either destroyed or runs off, depending on the version you choose.

But can this be right? Is it not a little sanitised and puritanical? In more modern versions, Red Riding Hood befriends the Wolf and absorbs his power and sensuality (for example the films An American Werewolf in London and The Company of Wolves), themes which ring more true and meaningful in light of human complexity.

In Women who run with the wolvesby Clarissa Pinkola Estes, we are inspired to stay in touch with our wild, instinctive, intuitive soul, secretly stitched into many fairy tale characters like the wolf. Let’s befriend our inner wolves and channel their magnificent, creative energy, turning the dark shadow into light energy.



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