I love the writings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I also like simplifying things so they are more understandable. Clarissa's book, "Women Who Run with the Wolves", allows our minds to step away from our Ego for a time through stories. Stories allow us to merge with another's reality or experience so we can learn and bring back these teachings, as Clarissa puts it, to 'consensual reality.' These teachings, these stories imprint us with knowledge we can apply to the next initiation in our lives.
The Handless Maiden appears in many cultures under various titles. It allows us to participate in the Heroine's test of endurance. It takes a long time to tell and even longer to absorb. It is a story from deep within the underworld. This story covers key journeys of a woman's psyche both male and female. It is filled with initiations and is a story of endurance, the making of something.
The teachings of endurance occur throughout nature as well. For example, the soft paws of a young wolf pup need toughening for survival in the wild. Endurance means to harden, to make sturdy, to make robust, to strengthen.
The Wild Women archetype is the Great Wild Mother. Her timeless ritual is to make her offspring strong. The underground forest is the underworld of female knowing. It is a wild world that lives under this one. While there, we are infused with instinctive language and knowledge. From there we can clearly see and tap into our deep knowing.
In this story the maiden masters several descents, one after another: Darkness, Sacrifice, Light.
Her parent's, the king (her future husband) and the kings mother (her future mother-in-law) each have a round themselves!
#1 The Bargain Without Knowing
The Miller, the father in this story is shown as a weak man. A male in a story represents the Animus, the male psyche. Both men and women have male and female within their psyches. The female psyche is called the Anima. The Animus and the Anima are terms that come from Carl Jung's work in the field of Analytical Psychology. The maiden's father represents the weak animus within a woman's psyche, which through stages of initiation strengthens. When we call upon our masculine energy we call upon protection and are able to defend ourselves. The Wild Woman represents both the male and the female psyche.
In the story The Handless Maiden, the father (the provider) had fallen on hard times. He had nothing left but the great rough millstone in his shed and the flowering apple tree behind it.
Hard times can easily open the door for the Devil to enter. The Bible says the Devil walks the earth and it's true because the Devil lives and breathes within our Egos. The Devil, in disguise, appears and makes an offer that is too good to be true. And so it was! For the Devil offered riches if the Miller gave him, in three-years-time, what was behind the shed. Wow, thought the Miller, an apple tree for riches. Now that sounded like a great bargain, with riches he could buy more apple trees and improve upon his situation.
As soon as the Miller agreed, everything in his life changed into riches. When his wife, delighted with all things beautiful heard the bargain, she wailed, "Oh husband, the man in the black cloak was the Devil. True, our apple tree stands behind the shed, but so does our daughter right now. She has been sweeping the yard all morning with a willow broom. The Miller and his wife began to weep and wail.
For three years, their sweet daughter stayed without a husband. The day the Devil came to fetch her she had bathed and put on a white gown. She drew a circle of white chalk around herself. When the Devil reached out to grab her an unseen force threw him across the yard.
The Devil screamed, "She must not bathe anymore or I cannot touch her." When the maiden resembled more of a beast than a young woman, the Devil returned. The girl wept and her tears went onto the palms of her hands and down her arms. And because of this her hands and arms were pure white.
The story continues in my blog post: The Handless Maiden--Initiation #2 The Dismemberment.