Monthly Archives: May 2017

Cenerentola – Ashes and Cinders. What has been burned?

I am very grateful to Nawab’s comment below, as it leads us into an exploration of the question – What has been burned?

‘Thank you, dear Nuria. Yes, it is a very good question, ‘what has been burnt?’ Zezolla has become a ‘cinder’ on the hearth, which could remind us of a sacrifice, the burnt offering upon the sacred altar.
Regarding the urging of Zezolla that her Father should marry her Guardian, in metaphysical terms it is indeed the energy of the ‘soul’ that brings us into physical manifestation–a complete disaster in one way, but also the only gateway to illumination, the Divine homecoming.’

The ashes themselves are a powerful symbol of the sacred, the residue or remains of something – the result of transformation. The sacred ash on Ash Wednesday comes from the burned Palms of the previous Palm Sunday, mixed with olive oil, are applied in a cross-form on the forehead of the believer. This reminds the devout; ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’. Indeed, the wearing of ashes is a sign of surrender and devotion.

In the Hindu tradition, the sacred ash is made of burned dried wood and symbolises the incarnation of power, and the struggle toward divine achievement, the power of God in man. Devotees apply this sacred ash as three horizontal lines across the forehead and other parts of the body.

What Zezolla has sacrificed is her life in the outer world. From the ‘royal chamber, the canopy of state, splendid apparel of silks and gold’, as it says in the story. This is the gateway to illumination, as Nawab has said – the Divine homecoming. Through her practice and guidance from the Dove of the Fairies, she has achieved this exalted state of ‘nothingness’.

In the Frog Princess story, Vassilisa’s frog-skin is burned by her husband, the Prince, perhaps, as we discussed earlier, because she was not ready or able to do it herself. Her frog-skin represented the ugly skin she was forced to wear by the dictates of outer life. She had to flee to the land of Kashchey the deathless and wait for her redemption. Kashchey is a character which is mysterious but seems to be related to the colour white, like the ashes. The name seems to mean old bones, which also implies death of course. Perhaps he is deathless because he is death. Thus, the Princess Vassilisa must endure the transformation into nothingness, so that she can be reborn. Sufis too must die before we die.

When Zezolla becomes Cenerentola she begins the next part of her journey to become Queen.

Cenerentola – Who does the stepmother really represent?

Cenerentola is a story which works on many levels. It is about the evolution of the feminine, without the aid of a ‘hero’. All the characters in the tale are part of the one being – Zezolla’s father the Prince represents the Heart in Sufi terms, while Zezolla herself is Soul. She is very young and unevolved; there is no mature ‘Mother’ in this story; her Mother is said to be dead. This leaves us with the question of who is the stepmother with her many daughters?

At first I felt that Zezolla’s ‘nurse’, who became the stepmother, was a manifestation of our real or natural mother; the one who cares for us as best she can but who cannot really meet our inner needs as the Great Mother. On pondering this further, I now believe that the nurse / stepmother represents the outer world more generally, and that this story is about the Inner and Outer Realms and the transition and movement between the two. Then the story makes more sense. The outer world is so seductive – when things are difficult, we go shopping, or redecorate the house, buy a new car, but this can only satisfy us for a short time. We look for appreciation, love and happiness in the outer world, but from where do we get the love and nurturing that we really need. It is from the inner realm, as we shall see.

So why does Zezolla encourage the marriage of her nurse to her father, when she already knows that this will be troublesome for her? At the wedding feast a dove comes to her from the Dove of the Fairies in Sardinia, giving her advice as to what she should do when things go wrong. It is much like in some other stories, where the hero does something which is perhaps ‘wrong’ but it turns out to be right. Like when the little humpbacked horse, tells Ivan not to pick up the firebird’s feather as it will bring him much trouble and strife. But he picks it up anyway. Zezolla too knows what she is doing when she persuades her father the Prince to marry her nurse. This will become a great battle for her.

In many ways, the Cenerentola tale is the back story of the Frog Princess and the burning of the frog-skin, as well as showing the evolution of the feminine as ‘One in Herself’. This is a powerful insight into the feminine. Paradoxically, it reflects both the before and the after, while being wholly in the present.

When the Prince marries the nurse, he has taken on the outer world with its many pleasures and seduction. His wife brings with her many daughters who belong to this outer world. We get a picture of this realm from the story – the delicious food, beautiful clothes, and trinkets. He becomes so taken up in this world that he forgets his Soul, his own beautiful daughter – his inner life which he once knew so well, lived, and loved. This is a scenario we are all familiar with – we are seduced by the outer life, by technology, by the speed of our interactions and communications. The sacred, the Soul is forgotten.

So what is it that has been burned?  What do the cinders and ashes come from? What has been burnt?  Cenerentola place is now among the ashes.  Zezolla has gone, she has become Cenerentola. A great transformation has taken place.


Trust No-One

 Petru's beautiful horse

This essay is in response to Murshid Nawab’s comment regarding Petru’s destruction of the magical communication device, in the story ‘Fairy of the Dawn’. As Nawab says – its takes time and preparation to rise to a state where we are able to bear or endure seeing the fates of loved ones, be they family or friends, but the most important aspect, as Nawab mentioned, is for us to see our own blind spots, especially the ones we really love! We so often don’t want to see them, even if we can. These rejected parts of ourselves, of our egos, are represented by Petru’s brothers, in the story of the Fairy of the Dawn. They are fearful, cowardly and have not got the discipline, tools, or strength to fight the fiery dragon at the edge of the realm. But they are also greedy and want the sacred water for themselves – without doing any of the inner ‘work’ of course. On his journey Petru sees how his brothers are trying to influence their father the emperor for their own purpose, and how the Emperor himself is becoming increasingly blind. When our small self or ego gains in power then the Higher Self loses its insight and its ability to hear the Voice within, even while another part of ourselves is on the inner journey. It is extremely difficult for us to ‘see’ and recognise when it is a part of yourself, who is sabotaging you.  Our inner and outer life, do influence one-another and it is in contemplation and meditation that we come to realise what is really happening – both inner and outer.

But it is on Petru’s return journey, carrying the sacred water of life from the Fairy of the dawn, that the Goddess Mercury warns him, to ‘Trust No-one’. When he returns to his own land – back into the world again, he is so happy to see his brothers and does not realise that they would do anything to harm him, even kill him, in order to steal this precious water of life.

There is a saying ‘After Enlightenment, the laundry’, but I wonder if there really is any ‘after the enlightenment’. Enlightenment is a gradual process and I do not think that many would feel truly enlightened on their deathbed. Sufis prefer to talk about evolution – about the process of perfecting ourselves. This is never finished in our lifetime – only the One is perfect. Jung has said that evolution is not linear, but is a circumambulating around the higher Self (the Divine part of ourselves).

Just as Christ, experienced temptation after his baptism, it seems to me that when there is a transition to a higher level of evolution or consciousness, there is a temptation to use the newfound wisdom and insight we have learned, for the purposes of the ego.

The ultimate Ideals for a Christian are Truth, Beauty, and goodness (spirituality), which are related to Faith, Hope and Love. So it is also with Sufism. The ‘Devil’ who tempts Christ, tempts him with Hedonism (hunger and satisfaction), egoism (might and power) and materialism (wealth). When Christ refused each temptation, the Devil departed.

Petru was protected from everything except the element of water, which is what he was carrying on his return. So his brothers realised that water would be the only element which could kill him. When we carry within us the sacred water we have won, the ego or small self wants to use that to its own advantage. We can see this sometimes in people, teachers or Gurus who give in to this. Their very spirituality is used by their ego to promote themselves. Spiritual ego is really the worst kind of ego as it is so deluded. So the truth is that we can trust no-one!