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Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. part 4. Utnapishtim

I would like to include a comment which Nawab has made on my last post, as it is very insightful and important:-

‘Very dear Nuria,
Many heartfelt thanks for the very interesting exploration of the saga of Gilgamesh. It is very insightful. Some thoughts that came up while reading this portion: Gilgamesh smashing the ‘stone things’ and the snakes brings to mind the Buddhist mantram, Gate gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi svaha! Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond, hail the Goer! The path of Gilgamesh to find immortality does not allow him to be beholden to any ‘method’ – perhaps that is why in his crossing, he himself becomes the mast, and he takes the skin off his body for a sail (though admittedly a skin borrowed from another creature). And reflecting on the Urnu-snakes and the stone things, of course snakes can also make us think of the power spiralling up the spinal axis, which yogis call kundalini. In that light, maybe the ‘stone things’ represent the radiant psychic centres, which in some conditions shine like jewels. So why does Gilgamesh smash this ‘system’? Perhaps because every form must some day be scattered, and the ultimate crossing means to leave them all behind. Experience of the various centres can take us to the margin of the ocean, but to cross the ocean we leave them on the shore.’
I love the idea that the ‘stone things’ represent the radiant psychic centres, which shine like jewels, especially as everything in the garden of Dilmun – the flowers and the thorns, described as being made of precious stones or crystals. It is a powerful image and concept to ponder.

For Gilgamesh the night sea journey is almost complete. He himself has become the mast and his skins, the sails, which power the boat towards that sacred place at the mouth of the rivers. The garden of Dilmun, the Sumerian paradise – the place where the sun rises and the Land of the Living.

‘Now Utnapishtim, where he lay at ease, looked into the distance and he said in his heart, musing to himself, ‘Why does the boat sail here without tackle and mast; why are the sacred stones destroyed, and why does the master not sail the boat? That man who comes is none of mine; where I look I see a man whose body is covered with skins of beasts. Who is this who walks up the shore behind Urshanabi, for surely he is no man of mine? ‘[1] He asks himself all the questions that Gilgamesh has had to answer before when faced with Siduri and then Urshanabi.

Gilgamesh replies ‘Gilgamesh is my name. I am from Uruk, from the house of Anu.’ This is a very short and focussed reply! His name, his city and his spiritual lineage. Anu is the Sumerian father of the gods – the god of the firmament – ‘the great above’. In a sense, one could say that it is like our idea of ‘the One’ or God – who is everything. Nothing exists save Allah, Allah alone exists. In the Sumerian cosmology there was first, the primeval sea, from which was born the cosmic mountain consisting of heaven (An), and earth (Ki). Anu had an important temple in Uruk: He was a supreme and remote deity.

Note. In Sumerian theogony, An (heaven) was the first-born of the primeval sea. He was the upper heavens, the firmament, not the air that blows over the earth. He was united to earth (Sumerian Ki) and begot Enlil, the god of the air. At this time the world was still in darkness and Enlil the air, was imprisoned between the dark ceiling of heaven, a night sky without stars, and the earth’s surface. So Enlil begot the moon Nana (Semitic Sin), who travelled in a boat bringing light  to the lapis lazuli heavens; and Nana in turn begot the sun Utu (Semitic Shamash), and Inanna (Semitic Ishtar) goddess of love and war.[2]

Utnapishtim is portrayed as lying at ease and seems very human in his attributes. He was last on the king list before the flood, where Gilgamesh was said to be fifth on the king list after the flood. Therefore, Utnapishtim could be seen as a forefather of Gilgamesh. He does not recognise Gilgamesh, so Gilgamesh again tells Utnapishtim at great length, about his terrible journey, his grief for Enkidu, his fear that the same fate awaits him, and of his desperation to avoid it if possible. The old man asks Gilgamesh why he grieves about mortality when nothing lives forever? The old man says the gods established that men would suffer death, and that when the gods give life, they also decide the day of death. He says that death is our certain destiny, even if we don’t know when it will happen.

Gilgamesh then says ‘I look at you now, Utnapishtim, and your appearance is no different from mine; there is nothing strange in your features. I thought I should find you like a hero prepared for battle, but you lie here taking your ease on your back. Tell me truly, how was it that you came to enter the company of the Gods and to possess everlasting life?’

Utnapishtim tells him that he will reveal the secret of the gods and this ends the tablet or section, which tells of Gilgamesh’s search for everlasting life.

The story of the flood has been inserted at this point in the Epic of Gilgamesh, but I do not believe that it belongs here. Some think that it does not belong in the Epic of Gilgamesh at all. We are not told what the secret of the gods in. However, there is a comment by Enlil, god of the air, which I find revealing. ‘It was not I that revealed the secret of the gods; the wise man learned it in a dream. This wise man was Utnapishtim, who was the only one with his wife, to survive the flood, and he was warned by a dream.

So in my understanding, Utnapishtim as a great Teacher and enlightened being, spends time teaching Gilgamesh. He passes on his secret knowledge of the mysteries of Life and of Light.

In the next episode we learn more of the tests which  Gilgamesh endures, while with Utnapishtim, and of his transformation.




[1] Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics 1977 P105

[2] Ibid P 24

Gilgamesh’s quest for Immortality: Part 3 Urshanabi

It is from his Teacher, Siduri, that Gilgamesh received instruction on how to cross the waters of death, across the ‘river of Ocean’ on his quest for immortality.  But Gilgamesh is alone and has no boat; he must find a ferryman and in truth, the directions he has been given are vague and this makes him angry. It was from Siduri, that Gilgamesh received instruction on how to cross the waters of death, much like Odysseus who had directions from Circe for the way to Hades across the ‘river of Ocean’. But Gilgamesh, unlike Odysseus is alone and has no boat; he must find the ferryman[1]. What is interesting and unusual here, is that this is not an underworld journey, nor is the boatman Urshanabi a ferryman of the dead. Ocean is the last boundary of the known or knowable earth to all the ancients. It was an impassable barrier because it communicated with the waters of death. Even the Romans were afraid of the Atlantic; Caesar’s crossing to Britain was considered a feat of superhuman daring. [2] We are told that when Gilgamesh heard that he might not be able to cross the waters, that he was seized with anger, and taking the axe in his hand and the dagger from his belt, he fell upon the boat with its serpent prow and the holy ‘things’ of stone. He smashes them up and shatters the tackle of the boat. I think that Gilgamesh had a very good reason to do this, even though it looks as if this was a rash and foolish act.

In the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, the hero Golden Chisel, finds a bright stone buried in the dry village pond. He chisels this into the form of a stone ram; his Ideal of the Divine. It is long and arduous task which in fact we all undertake on our spiritual journey. We constantly create this divine image of God, as a structure and support for our inner life. This or our ‘stone ram’ carries us through the realms and across Ocean, to find the water of life.

When Gilgamesh saw the boat and the holy ‘stone things’, they were alien to him. In a sense they were from a ‘technology’ that was totally alien – one that he did not understand. How could he make this journey using a belief system or inner structure which he did not know or understand? Remember that Gilgamesh has travelled a very long way and is in a ‘country’ totally foreign to him.  The holy ‘stone things’ were the means which Urshanabi, the ferryman, had fashioned for himself, on his own personal inner journey. We know from other stories, that we cannot take another person with us on our journey. We each must travel our own path in our own way.[3]  So when Gilgamesh has destroyed Urshanabi’s Urnu-snakes and tackle, he goes into the forest and sits down, waiting of Urshanabi. The forest represents that deep realm within us where we live our spiritual life. It is the dark forest of Dante and of the witch Baba Yaga.

Urshanabi was in the forest gathering mint, and possibly other herbs, when he heard Gilgamesh smashing the tackle on his boat. That Urshanabi was gathering mint is interesting, as mint has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1000BC. This makes a clear connection to the journey that they are about to make, a journey into other realms – a night sea journey. Urshanabi is clearly preparing for his next journey across Ocean. In another translation Urshanabi is picking Urnu-snakes, which were said to be the protectors of the holy ‘stone things’ and necessary to carry him across the sea, so that the waters of death would not touch or harm him.

The story then tells us that Urshanabi ’bent his head’, when he heard Gilgamesh smashing the precious ‘stone things’ which would propel his boat!  He was clearly upset and saddened that Gilgamesh had done this. It would have meant that he could no longer make this journey in his own right.  But the ferryman Urshanabi is, in effect, a Teacher and Guide of souls, ferrying them through the realms. He and his boat could be seen as  psychopomp, just like the horse in the story of ‘The Fairy of the Dawn’, and the’ Little Humpbacked horse’.   I would say that this is also very similar to the Stone Ram, in the story of ‘Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram.’ Golden Chisel chiselled his stone ram out of a very hard stone, creating a vehicle and guide, so as to ‘fetch’ the sweet spring water for his village. Could the holy ‘stone things’ have had a similar purpose?

Note that David Suzuki in his recent documentary on the pyramids, tells that a boat was found, disassembled, at the base of the great pyramid. This was to have been re-assembled

By the pharaoh for use in his afterlife journey: It was held together by rope. In the documentary, the team re-constructs the boat exactly as found, using new rope and demonstrated how it was used to ferry stone from the quarry to build the pyramid. It is interesting to note that they used punting poles to ferry the boat when rowing with the current but used sail when returning against the current.


Urshanabi and Gilgamesh meet – Gilgamesh introduces himself to Urshanabi, who studies Gilgamesh’s face and asks him why he looks like a tramp. He observes that Gilgamesh’s face is worn and weathered and that sorrow rests in his belly. Gilgamesh tells him about Enkidu, of his grief, of his fear, and his implacable determination to visit Utnapishtim and discover how to find the secret of immortality.

Gilgamesh wants Urshanabi to ferry him to the ‘place of transit at the mouth of the rivers’, to Dilmun, (which is very like our idea of the Garden of Eden), to meet Utnapishtim ‘the Faraway’, who lives beyond the Ocean. Utnapishtim means ‘He Who saw Life’; it was he, who with the help of the god Ea, survived the flood, with his family and with ‘the seed of all living creatures’; afterwards he was taken by the gods, to live for ever at ‘the mouth of the rivers’ and given the epithet ‘Faraway’, or according to the Sumerians, he lives in paradise, where the sun rises.

It is clear that Gilgamesh’s spirit has fallen into a depression, and his heart is covered by fear, confusion, and agitation. His inner journey is to find stillness, inner peace, so that the mirror-like quality of consciousness can reflect what previously was always there. Perhaps to find the Divine in himself. He was a great hero and King – a leader of his people. Now he wears animal skins, eats the flesh of animals, and looks like a tramp or a criminal. Each of his teachers tells him to be happy, to be with friends and to feel compassion for those in distress. Wise words, but Gilgamesh will not be put off his search for everlasting life.

Urshanabi says he will take Gilgamesh to Utnapishtim, but that Gilgamesh has made the journey immeasurably more difficult because he smashed the ‘stone things’ and the Urnu-snakes, which propelled and protected his boat. When Gilgamesh attacks the Urnu-snakes, who seemed to have been the protectors of the stone things, the story relates that he attacked the snake’s head and pinned back its wing. The snake is of course the symbol of transformation. It is associated with the concepts of both life and death, living underground, it is in touch with the underworld and has access to the powers and magic possessed by the dead. As serpent it manifests the aggressive powers of the gods of the underworld and darkness. The positive and negative, light and darkness are in conflict, as with Osiris and Set, the eagle and the serpent. Cosmologically the serpent is the primordial ocean from which all emerges and to which all returns. Serpents are the guardians of the threshold, the in-between places, esoteric knowledge, and controllers of the power of the waters, both water-confining and water-bringing.

Urshanabi is a patient and good teacher; he sadly realises, that Gilgamesh cannot tolerate, or make use of the ‘stone things’ on his journey. They are possibly too strange, or too threatening to him.  So Urshanabi, comes to know and understand Gilgamesh, just a as Teacher would. I would say that there followed a long process of teaching and discussion. Urshanabi learns of Gilgamesh’s past feat of conquering the evil of the  mountain and forest, to fell the great cedar, and so orders Gilgamesh to return to the forest and cut sixty poles, and then a further; sixty poles; In some versions of the story, Gilgamesh must cut as many as 300 poles. Each pole must be exactly sixty cubits in length (approximately ninety feet).

Urshanabi instructs him to fit the poles with rings and cover them with pitch, and only then will they attempt the voyage. The Sumerians counted in threes, and sixes so for instance, Gilgamesh was two thirds God and one third mortal. Thus, multiples of three, six and nine, with zeros on the end, symbolise huge but very exact measurements. These poles used to propel the boat must have been immense. The punting poles were to be used instead of the ‘stone things’ to propel the boat. I find it illuminating that in the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, Golden Chisel, the hero, is a creative and artistic man. He could chisel animals, birds and plants in stone and make them appear lifelike. In our story, Gilgamesh was a great king who led a successful expedition to bring back timber from the forests of the north and who was certainly a great builder. So each of us have to use our talents and achievements to create our Ideal and means (the psychopomp) which carries and guides us to the inner realms.

Gilgamesh cuts the poles, as instructed and they sail off together across the perilous sea. In three days they sail as far as an ordinary boat would have sailed in two months. When they arrive at the Waters of Death, the boatman tells Gilgamesh to use the punting poles but to be sure his hands don’t touch the water. Gilgamesh poles the boat through the Waters of Death. His great strength causes him to break all of the poles. When the last pole is destroyed, he takes off the skin he is wearing and holds it up to use as a sail. This is remarkable – Gilgamesh himself acts as a mast or central pillar using the skins of the great beast – the lions, to be the sail and means of propulsion. This symbology goes back to some of the fairy tales in the Witch as teacher in Fairy Tales[4], where the pillar or Qutub is the pillar of wisdom, or central place around which the universe turns. It is the place of Divine presence which comes alive when the teachings are understood and integrated. Gilgamesh becomes that central pillar! The skins of the fearsome beasts which he has overcome and killed, are the traits in himself that he has mastered; they now cover him, and propel the boat using Wind representing the spirit or breath of the Universe, or the breath of God, to sail the boat. The power of the wind or spirit sustains life and holds it together. The winds are also the messengers of the Gods and indicate the presence of divinity. It is Gilgamesh himself who finally propels the boat through the perilous ocean to get to his destination. It is a powerful and amazing image! There is another version which says that Gilgamesh makes Urshanabi stand with wings spread. Wind is sometimes symbolised by wings, which brings in the idea of the Urnu-snakes with wings – like the sail of the boat. Again we have the allusion to winged snakes.  Some say that the winged beings or stone things could have been figurines or sacred symbols. Which takes me back to the ‘stone ram’. Was the stone ram too, such a holy and powerful ‘thing’ which could carry the hero to the fresh sweet spring waters for his village.

In the distance, they can see the shore. An old man stands on the shore, watching the boat approach. The old man wonders why the boat sails without tackle and mast; why were the sacred ‘stone things’ destroyed? and why was the Master not sailing the boat? Who is the stranger standing next to Urshanabi?

To be continued in the next blog where our hero meets Utnapishtim.

[1] Sandars, N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Books. London 1977 P38

[2] Ibid p38

[3] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as teacher in fairy tales, Balboa Press 2017

[4] ibid

The Quest for Immortality in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Part 2 Siduri

Gilgamesh and the two lions

The ancient method of teaching the mystery of life was to give it in the form of a legend. So the Epic of Gilgamesh is in fact a great teaching tale.

We have seen that, since his beloved friend and ‘brother’ Enkidu died, Gilgamesh has been on his great quest to find immortality. He had become aware that all humans are mortal and destined to die, all are subject to death and destruction, when he understood that, for all his love for Enkidu, and his wish to hold and possess him, his friend was subject to destruction and death. Therefore, when Gilgamesh left his city of Uruk, the physical plane, it was to journey towards the goal of  immortality.  He wandered over wilderness and grasslands, as hunter, living off wild grains and animals, even wearing their skins. He had left civilization and the physical plane behind completely. This is an inner journey, the ancients would say, it was a journey through the underworld. Just like Petru in the story of The fairy of the Dawn[1], Gilgamesh experienced great heat and great cold, on this part of his journey.

This great quest then took him to the mountains, which represent ‘heaven’; Gilgamesh first came to a mountain pass where, in a dreamlike state he overcame and destroyed the lions which he had ‘seen’ playing in the moonlight. There is a direct relationship with the lions and the lunar aspects of the Great Mother. Inanna, as great mother is said to be accompanied by two lions, and indeed, Gilgamesh is often depicted holding a lion in each hand – lions which he has conquered. Gilgamesh has now entered the inner, deep realm of the feminine.

He then came to the scorpion-men, guardians of the gateway of the Sun. Once again, Gilgamesh is warned by Scorpion-man, that no mortal man has ever crossed the realm of darkness before, but Gilgamesh is still determined to proceed, so the gates of the mountain are opened to him. Gilgamesh had no doubt whatsoever, as to his destination, in spite of being repeatedly told that no mortal man has ever made this journey before, and that he would not succeed in finding the Life that he was looking for. The Scorpion-man represents doubt and death, which pulls him backwards, while faith leads him forward to his destination.  Gilgamesh now journeys into the mountain for twelve long leagues in utter darkness, until he finally comes out into the garden of the sun, where he meets Shamash, which means Sun or God. It is interesting that the name of Rumi’s teacher Shams comes from this same word for the Sun.

Shamash was distressed at how Gilgamesh appeared – in animal skins and having eaten the flesh of animals – as a mortal man of the earth. Even Shamash, tells Gilgamesh that he will never find what he is searching for, but Gilgamesh tells him that having come so far and endured so much, he will not accept death and darkness, but has faith that he will find Eternal Light – enlightenment.

Almost immediately having overcome doubt yet again, Gilgamesh comes to Siduri, where she lives in a garden by the sea – an in-between and sacred place. Siduri is described as the woman of the vine, the maker of wine.

Wine is considered sacred, not only in the Christian faith, but in many other religions also. In the ancient religion of the Zoroastrians Jam-i Jamshed, the bowl of wine from which Jamshed drank deep, is a historical fact. Among the Hindus, Shiva considered wine sacred, and in Islam, though wine is forbidden on earth, yet in heaven it is allowed. Hauz-i Kauthar, the sacred fountain of heaven, about which there is so much spoken in Islam, is a fountain of wine.

Wine is symbolic of the soul’s evolution. Wine comes from the annihilation of grapes; immortality comes from the annihilation of self. The bowl of poison, which is known in many mystic cults also, suggests the idea of wine; not a sweet wine, but a bitter wine. When the self turns into something different from what it was before, it is like the soul being born again. This is seen in the grape turning into wine. The grape, by turning into wine, lives; as a grape it would have vanished in time. But, by turning into wine it only loses its individuality, and not its life. The self-same grape lives as wine; and the longer it lives, the better the wine becomes. For a Sufi, therefore, the true sacrament is the turning of one’s grape-like personality, which has a limited time to live, into wine, in order that nothing of one’s self may be lost, but that on the contrary, it may be amplified and even perfected. This is the essence of all philosophy and the secret of mysticism.[2]

Siduri sits in the garden with her golden bowl and the golden vats that the gods gave her. Here she is with the tools and paraphernalia of her sacred practice. The vine symbolises the tree of life or the tree of knowledge. Siduri is covered with a veil; just as the shrine of Neti, the gate-keeper in the underworld was veiled during the time of the descent of the Dying God into the underworld. So we understand that Gilgamesh is truly on a journey through the ‘underworld’, through other realms.

From where she sits, Siduri sees Gilgamesh coming towards her. She sees the flesh of the gods in his body, meaning that she can see the divine in him, but she also sees ‘despair in his heart, and his face like the face of one who has made a long journey.’[3] He is very much in his animal nature, wearing animal skins and having hunted for his food, and enduring great heat and cold. Siduri thinks Gilgamesh is dangerous and bars the gate against him. But hearing the sound of the bolt, Gilgamesh puts his foot in the gate and calls out to her asking what she has seen in him, that made her bar the gate against him. Note that it was the sound of the bolt being drawn, which warned Gilgamesh that the way was barred to him. It is often sound which speaks to us and warns us of what is ahead on the inner journey.

Gilgamesh now tells Siduri what he has achieved in his life. He has killed the bull of heaven, he has killed the watchman of the cedar forest, he overthrew Humbaba who lived in the forest, and he killed the lions in the passes of the mountains. These feats have been described in the earlier parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The ‘bull of heaven’ is a monster that personifies the seven years’ drought which was sent by the angry goddess in punishment of her rejection by Gilgamesh. Sumeria was often devastated by drought, famine, and flood; it was not an easy land to live in.

Sandars says that where Egyptians gave us a vision of heaven, the Babylonians gave us a vision of hell. The dying Egyptian had a reasonable hope of paradise to comfort and guide him at the end, but for the Sumerians, the underworld was a place of wailing.

The episode in the cedar forest is both historical and allegorical. The forest is the realm of the psyche and is a threshold symbol – the soul entering the realms of the unknown, of death and the secrets of nature. Gilgamesh would have had to face all of these, as well as earthquake and volcano. Humbaba was ‘evil’ but the name when said aloud rumbles like a volcano or earthquake. These would have been still active in the third millennium in Anatolia, and there is an accurate description of a volcanic eruption in one of the dreams which comes to Gilgamesh on the cedar mountain. Gilgamesh is like the knight who kills the dragon, and so enters into the next level or realm.

Siduri says that if Gilgamesh is really ‘that’ Gilgamesh, how is it that he is so gaunt, with despair in his heart, and his face burned from the heat and cold, and in search of the wind? To be in search of the wind has several implications – the wind is something one cannot see, touch, or catch hold of. But the wind symbolises the Spirit, the vital breath of the universe. Wings sometimes represent wind, so there is a connection with this and the flying serpent which we will encounter later. It is also interesting that when Gilgamesh was making his way through the mountain in utter darkness, we read that ‘after nine leagues he felt the north wind on his face, but the darkness was thick, and he could see nothing ahead or behind him’. Nine is the triple triad – three times three, which indicates completion, attainment, and Earthly Paradise. There is a connection between this number and the eight directions, with the ninth being the centre, and this is significant as it is the north wind which is mentioned. North (in the northern hemisphere) can indicate darkness and death, but for the ancient Egyptians it indicated Light and day, as well as masculine power. It could mean that Gilgamesh was coming through darkness, towards the Light and his own power. ‘After ten leagues the end was near, after eleven leagues the dawn light appeared. At the end of twelve leagues the sun streamed out.’[4] Ten is the number of the cosmos, it is the perfect number and indicates a return to Unity, while twelve is a complete cycle – for the Egyptians there were twelve gates of hell, in which the Sun God Ra spends the hours of the night.

In his reply, Gilgamesh tells Siduri, at length, the story of his life and what has led him to this place, at this time. It is an outpouring of his heart and soul. ‘But now, young woman, maker of wine, since I have seen your face, do not let me see the face of death which I dread so much.’[5] Siduri is the great teacher, she is the one who guides Gilgamesh on his magnum opus; she is his Teacher. He has seen her face, which was said to be veiled. But Siduri asks ‘Where are you hurrying to? You will never find the life that you are looking for. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping.’[6] In other words, he will never find eternal life as a mortal human being.

‘’As for you Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.’[7] She puts a positive and beautiful spin on being happy and fulfilled as a mortal human and we should also take this advice; to see the love, beauty and harmony of the world. But on the inner spiritual quest these must be ignored – we must be detached from the things of the world. Just as in the story of The Fairy of the Dawn, the hero Petru must not be distracted by the beauty of the ‘flowers’ on his path, the cool shade in the terrible heat, and the warmth in the freezing cold, while on the path through those realms.[8]

Gilgamesh, too, ignores Siduri’s advice; Enkidu, his Beloved Friend is dead, and understanding that he too will die, he seeks the life beyond. He knows that Siduri lives by the sea shore, that in-between sacred place, so he asks her directly, to show him the way to Utnapishtim, his ancestor, whose name means ‘He Who Saw Life’.  It was he who survived the flood, with his family and with the ‘seed of all living creatures’. Afterwards he was taken by the gods to live for ever at ‘the mouth of the rivers’. According to the Sumerians he lives in Dilmun the garden paradise where the sun rises. Gilgamesh begs Siduri for directions, so that he too can cross the Ocean. If not, he will continue to wander in the wilderness.

Siduri ‘The wine-maker said to him, “Gilgamesh, there is no crossing the Ocean; whoever has come, since the days of old, has not been able to pass that sea”.’[9]

In the times before the deluge, it seems that there were those who could make that crossing, but since then, it has been impossible. ‘Only the sun in all his glory, crosses the Ocean. The place and the passage are difficult, and the waters of death are deep which flow between’. Siduri tells Gilgamesh that he cannot cross Ocean – he would not know how to make this crossing. But, she says, “Down in the woods you will find Urshanabi, the ferryman of Utnapishtim. With him are the holy things, the things of stone. He is fashioning the serpent prow of the boat. Look at him well, and if it is possible, perhaps you will cross the waters with him; but if it is not possible, then you must go back.,”[10]

To be continued.



[1] Daly, Nuria, The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press P150-155

[2] Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Unity of Religious Ideals, The Symbology of Religious Ideas, Wine.

[3] Sandars, N.K. Introduction of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1977. P100

[4] Ibid P 99.

[5] Ibid P 100/101

[6] Ibid P102

[7] Ibid P102

[8] Daly, Nuria, The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press P150-155

[9] Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, 1977 P 102

[10] Ibid P103

The Quest for immortality in the Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh and the two lions


The Epic of Gilgamesh[1] comes from an age so ancient that it has almost been forgotten. It antedates Homeric epic by at least one and a half thousand years, which makes it over five thousand years old.  Gilgamesh is one of the first human heroes, a historical figure, about which we know, and yet he is so sympathetic and understandable to humanity. Gilgamesh was the King of Uruk, who lived and reigned during the first half of the third millennium. He was fifth in line from the founding of the first dynasty of Uruk (after the flood).  Here is not only a first heroic tale, but evidence of the first spiritual, inner journey ever written.

It is this spiritual aspect which fascinates and which I will be dealing with.

After the death of his beloved friend, Enkidu, who was a ‘natural and wild’ man, Gilgamesh weeps and grieves for him. He realises that he too will die, and this frightens him. In his grief and despair, Gilgamesh resolves to find his forefather, Utnapishtim, whom the gods took after the deluge and gave everlasting life, so that he too can find eternal life.

After long wanderings through the wilderness, living like a poor hunter and wearing the skins of animals, Gilgamesh came to a mountain pass and remembered a time long ago, where he saw lions there. He was afraid and prayed to the moon god, to protect him. When he had prayed he lay down to sleep and dreamed, and waking from his dream, saw lions round him glorying in life. He kills these lions, and scatters them. I feel that this is a vision that Gilgamesh had, on coming out of his dream. There is a hint of some special connection between the lions and the Moon, so that we can perhaps understand that Gilgamesh undergoes a level of initiation: he overcomes that which makes him afraid, in other words, he conquers his fear..  Two lions perhaps represent both the feminine and the masculine aspects of Light and the sun. Lions are often symbolic as guardians of the door, of treasure, or of the Tree of Life. It is a gateway through which Gilgamesh has crossed over into another realm, on his great quest for immortality.

From here, Gilgamesh comes to Mashu, the great twin peaks into which Shamash the sun, was said to descend at nightfall and from which it returns at dawn. The Sumerians thought of the sun as asleep through the night, but the Semites held that he continued his journey in a boat, passing under the earth and over the waters of the underworld, till he came to the eastern mountain, to rise up in the morning with his bride, the Dawn. At the gate of the twin peaks, Scorpion-men stand guard. These scorpions were half man and half dragon, ‘their glory terrifying and their stare striking death into men’. But Gilgamesh shielded his eyes for a moment only, and then took courage and approached. By doing this the ‘scorpion-men’ knew that he was two-thirds god and one third human. I think that this could mean that Gilgamesh was seen by them as a spiritually evolved and wise man. They ask him why he is undertaking his journey and he gives his usual answer, which I will quote here, as it beautifully shows his state of mind, his depression, and his suffering.

“For Enkidu; I loved him dearly, together we endured all kinds of hardships; on his account I have come, for the common lot of man has taken him. I have wept for him day and night, I would not give up his body for burial, I thought my friend would come back because of my weeping. Since he went, my life is nothing; that is why I have travelled here in search of Utnapishtim my father; for men say he has entered the assembly of the god, and has found everlasting life. I have a desire to question him concerning the living and the dead,”[2]

So we see that the situation which has led to Gilgamesh’s quest, is the very human and heart-breaking one of grief and despair, at the death of a loved one. As Sufis we are often told that the heart must break open before we can experience Love and Life, so for Gilgamesh, this is an inner journey of individuation. The man-scorpion told Gilgamesh that no human being had ever made this journey before; that it would be twelve leagues in complete darkness. Twelve leagues is a very, very long time – a whole cycle of time, but Gilgamesh answered that although he goes in sorrow and pain, still he must go on. So the gate of the mountain was opened for him.

Gilgamesh then retraces the sun’s journey through the mountain on foot, and in utter darkness, one league at a time, to come out in the sun’s garden by the shores of Ocean at dawn. This garden was an earthly paradise, like the garden of Eden. Here the sun walks in the early morning and sees Gilgamesh – unkempt and desperate. This was a dark night of the soul for him.

Gilgamesh had deteriorated to the point where he was unrecognisable, wearing animal skins and eating their flesh. He was no longer the great hero and king of his people, but a suffering human being.  He had followed the sun’s road to his rising, through the terrible darkness of the mountain.

He arrives at the garden of the gods; all around him stood bushes bearing gems – lapis lazuli, and carnelian. For thorns and thistles there were haematite and rare stones, agate and pearls from out of the sea. As Gilgamesh walked in this garden by the edge of the sea Shamash saw him and saw that Gilgamesh was dressed in skins of animals and ate their flesh. Shamash was the Sun, the god of wisdom, and the husband and brother of Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility. Shamash was distressed to see Gilgamesh like this; no mortal man has ever come this way before, nor will again. He tells Gilgamesh that he will never find the life for which he is searching. Gilgamesh replies to glorious Shamash, ‘Now that I have toiled and strayed so far over the wilderness, am I to sleep, and let the earth cover my head for ever? Let my eyes see the sun until they are dazzled with looking. Although I am no better than a dead man, still let me see the light of the sun.’[3]

Gilgamesh having journeyed through the utter darkness of his long night journey, finally sees the sun in all his glory and longs for this light forever – eternal Light. For him the darkness he had travelled through, represented death and he did not want to go there again.

‘In the ancient mystery schools, the mysteries were held to remove the fear of death and to give assurance of the survival of the departed. Those who had been initiated were believed to be happy after death, while others led a dismal life hereafter, clinging to their graves.

The preparatory training for the greater mysteries was very severe. Fasting was undergone, abstinence of all sorts, extremes of heat and cold had to be endured, and the candidates swam through water for days and had to walk through fire. The training often lasted many years. After initiation, in the beginning all was darkness, dread and dismay; then a marvellous Light was seen and shining forms came to meet the initiate. The initiate experienced while on earth the state of the soul dissociated from the body. A Greek writer says, ‘Here all instruction ceases, one beholds the nature of things.’ Apuleius, who had received all the initiations of the mysteries, says, ‘I went to the boundary between life and death, I passed through the four elements, I stood on the threshold of Proserpina, at the time of deepest midnight I saw the sun shine in brightest splendour, I saw the greater and the lesser gods and revered them near at hand. The initiate was said to be received, while living on earth, among the immortal gods, and made as one of them.

Every soul that treads the path of initiation takes his first steps through the darkness; as Ghazali says, ‘The spiritual pursuit is like shooting an arrow through the darkness.’ No doubt as one approaches the goal the light comes; as the Quran says, ‘God is the light of the heavens and of the earth.’ Then, once the sight has become keen, there is no further instruction needed. One gets insight into the hidden laws of nature, all things seem to speak to the seer of their character, nature, and secret. This realization removes the boundary between life and death. One rises above the elements which have formed this mortal abode – the body and mind – for the soul’s experience, when one touches one’s true being, the soul. It is the soul-realized man who stands above all matter, and in this way the spirit gets victory over matter’.[4]

So it is clear that Gilgamesh’s journey has been a great initiation into other realms.  When Gilgamesh comes through the darkness, he finds himself in the Light – in the garden of the gods. It is interesting that Shamash tells Gilgamesh that he is the first to make this great journey, and the story has become known so that others could and have made this journey after Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh could well be the first mystic, that we have a record of. Gilgamesh at this point, has seen the Divine Light – the sun in its brightest splendour.

The garden of the gods is so beautiful and has a similar feeling to it as the white palace or castle in the stories of The Fairy of the Dawn and the Frog Princess. This is a ‘real’ place, known to mystics and sages. I also wonder could the bright stone which Golden Chisel found and chiselled into a stone ram, be one of the precious stones from the garden of the gods?

There is also a lesson here for those of us who have experienced heartbreak and loss. Do we have to go through the twelve leagues of darkness before we come out into the garden of the Sun. Jung has said that we have to go through a depression – not out of it. This is very true.

This journey is to be continued in the next blogs.


[1] Sanders, N.K. Introduction of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1977

[2] Ibid p98

[3] Ibid P100

[4] Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Gathas, Gatha 2, The Greek Mysteries

The Symbolism of the ‘Stone’ ram, in the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram. Part 2

In this essay, I am attempting to uncover the mystery of the ‘stone ram’ in the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram. In my last post we uncovered the symbolism of the Ram and its way of ‘pointing to’ or leading us to the Water of Life, but why a ‘stone’ ram? In the Epic of Gilgamesh[1], there is made mention of ‘holy stone things’, in Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. These ‘stone things’ seem to have been the means of propulsion or perhaps boat tackle, which the Ferryman used to cross the fearsome Ocean.

In this great tale, after the death of his beloved friend Enkidu, (a primitive or ‘natural’ man), Gilgamesh is alone and with the realisation of his mortality, becomes afraid of death. He had been a great king, who had achieved much in his lifetime, but now, in grief and fear, he goes on a quest to find immortality. In his distress he remembers his forefather Utnapishtim, who is an earlier version of Noah and who, it was said, found everlasting life, having become a god, after surviving the flood.

The Gilgamesh story takes place in the city of Uruk in Mesopotamia, and goes back some 5,000 years. It is the first story which has ever been recorded. In it, the hero Gilgamesh was King of Uruk and is a historical figure.

Ancient Mesopotamia, lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There ground water or foundation water was believed to be the source of everything, of all creation. The sages at the beginning of creation were thought to be half fish. The Sumerian God Enki was the God of wisdom, whose particular element was the sweet waters bringing life to the land.

The people there relied heavily on the regular spring floods which burst the banks of the rivers annually. Mesopotamia was a cross-roads of the early ancient world, for trade between Egypt, India and China. So the stories, philosophies and religions of these regions, came to China and probably influenced their own understanding of the world. This may well have been the background of the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram. There are some parallels.

After many adventures and travelling as a ‘wild’ man, Gilgamesh comes to a place beside the sea (an in-between place, or a crossing place), where lives Siduri, the woman of the vine, the maker of wine; so here is a connection with the God Dionisius, who was the god of wine, and which we dealt with in the previous post. It was Dionisius, who saw the ram in the desert, and following it, found fresh water.

Siduri sits in the garden at the edge of the sea, with a golden bowl and the golden vats that the gods gave her. The figure of the wine-bearer was still used by medieval Sufi poets for whom it was the symbol of ‘reality revealed’. She is covered with a veil; and from where she sits she sees Gilgamesh coming towards her, wearing animal skins, with ‘the flesh of the gods in his body, but despair in his heart, and his face like the face of one who has made a long journey’[2]. She does not recognise him and thinks he is a criminal. She bars the gate against him, but he calls to her and asks her what she saw that made her bar her gate? He tells her he is the mighty Gilgamesh, and of the mighty feats that he has done in his life, and threatens to break down her door and burst through her gate, if she doesn’t let him in. Siduri then responds and says “If you are Gilgamesh, who have done all these things, why are your cheeks so starved and your face so drawn?”[3]

He tells her of the despair in his heart and the grief for his friend; how he is mortally afraid of his own death. She tells him he too will die, and that he should enjoy the life remaining to him. There is no way of crossing the Ocean, no-one can do that, she tells him.  Only the sun in his glory crosses the ocean.

‘Look at him well, and if it is possible perhaps you will cross the waters with him; but if it is not possible, then you must go back’ Siduri tells him. This woman is clearly a great Teacher, an aspect of the goddess perhaps. She is attempting to guide and help Gilgamesh.

But she does tell Gilgamesh where to find Urshanabi, the ferryman of Utnapishtim.  The holy things of stone are with the ferryman Urshanabi. Urshanabi has fashioned the prow of the boat into a snake – the urnu-snake. Some say that Urshanabi is collecting urnu-snakes in the forest. Note that Urshanabi is the ferryman of Utnapishtim and not of Gilgamesh. This is important for the understanding of what happens.

But when Gilgamesh sees what she has told to him, he is seized with anger. He attacks the ‘Stone Things’ and the urnu-snakes and destroys them all in his rage. Then he goes into the forest and sits down. What is it about the ‘stone things’, and what he saw in the boat, which made Gilgamesh so very angry that he smashed them immediately on sight. Was it fear of the unknown? Was it so terrifying to be faced with something which was sacred, which was powerful and numinous and alien? Was he faced with a new sea-faring technology which he felt threatened by? Did he see something in the boat which made him think that it could not take him across the Ocean?

What these ‘holy things of stone’ are, is a mystery – no-one has yet been able to shed light on their meaning. Some scholars think of them as lodestones (a naturally magnetized mineral used as a compass in the ancient world. This does not explain why punting poles would have substituted for this, as we see, later in the story. A later fragmentary verse suggests that the Stone Things were magical images of some sort.


In the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram[4], the hero, carves his stone ram, from a bright stone, which he found in the dried pond, after meditating in the mountains. This stone ram is the psychopomp which guides and carries our hero to the other realms. This must be fought or worked for in some way. In the story of The Little Humpbacked Horse, Ivan must conquer the ‘demon’ who was flattening the Tsar’s corn every night. This ‘demon’ was a white mare. It is the feminine which must be integrated in some way, so that She then gives the hero his ‘teacher and guide’ his psychopomp – in this case his Little Humpbacked horse. In the story of The Fairy of the dawn, Petru must learn from his old witch teacher, how to manifest his beautiful horse, with which he later fights the dragon, travels through the realms, and wins the sacred water of life.

Gilgamesh encounters his Teacher, Siduri, and she too teaches him about life and death, and the inner journey; where he can find immortality. Urshanabi, the Ferryman and his boat, are the means by which Gilgamesh, can make this journey – in other words, his psychopomp. Urshanabi cannot take Gilgamesh with him:  that journey is Urshanabi’s and he would use his snakes and his stone things to carry him across the Ocean. He can only guide Gilgamesh, on his great journey. The psychopomp is the spiritual guide of a living person’s soul. Gilgamesh must find his own way of propelling and protecting the boat or vehicle on his own quest.


Gilgamesh has encountered a ‘technology’, belief system, or thinking, as symbolised by the ‘stone things’, which is quite foreign and frightening to him. This belongs to Urshanabi who has been making this journey every night. When Gilgamesh ‘sees’ the boat with its winged serpent and the ‘holy stone things, he realises that these were created by Urshanabi himself, for his own journey. He must also realise that these things cannot take him there! They are part of Urshanabi’s culture, psyche and personality – totally alien to Gilgamesh. This is what makes him angry and smashes them. The story says that having done this, he sits down and waits for Urshanabi to come to teach and guide him to make the journey.  In smashing these precious ‘stone things’ he smashes the only means of bringing the boat across the Ocean and of protecting it from the waters of death. We are told that when Urshanabi hears Gilgamesh smashing the ‘stone things’, he beat his head. He is utterly devastated. He knows that he can never make that journey by himself again. He tells Gilgamesh:

“Gilgamesh, your own hands have prevented you from crossing the Ocean; when you destroyed the tackle of the boat you destroyed its safety.”

“Gilgamesh, those things you destroyed, their property is to carry me over the water, to prevent the waters of death from touching me. It was for this reason that I preserved them and the urnu snakes with them”.

In trying to discover and understand the meaning of these stone things, it is striking that in their description of paradise, the writers of the Epic of Gilgamesh, describe this garden as ‘ the garden of the gods; all around him stood bushes bearing gems – lapis lazuli, and carnelian. For thorns and thistles there were haematite and rare stones, agate and pearls from out of the sea.’[5]

Precious stones and their qualities were fundamental to understanding the numinous in those ancient cultures, to this present day. The ‘stone things’ could indeed have been carved figurines, carved in precious stone. We are told in the story of Golden Chisel that the stone was very hard and took a long time to chisel.  To chisel this stone ram, represents the creation of our Ideal of the Divine. It is something, very personal and very difficult, but when it is achieved, the stone ram comes to life for us. It leads us to the fresh spring water of eternal life.

As we saw, in the previous post, there are references to the Ram, which led the way, or pointed the way to fresh spring water, Likewise, with the Zodiac is the symbol of the constellation of Aries.  In ancient times there were thirteen signs of the Zodiac, as there were thirteen lunar months in the year; This thirteenth sign of the Zodiac was Ophiuchus, the Snake Bearer. Perhaps this is what is signified by the serpent prow of the boat which Urshanabi fashioned. At this juncture the Ram was the first constellation, and Ophiuchus was the last.

There is a symbolism in the stones related to Ophiuchus: there is Fluorite, indicating healing on all levels, Black Tourmaline, indicating inner wisdom and transforming negativity, and Tanzanite, relating to phenomena like clairaudience, visions, spiritual connection, and psychic power.

Thus the journey of Gilgamesh is a great journey of the soul, towards healing and Light, as led and guided by Urshanabi in his boat. It is a journey towards healing and an understanding of soul and eternal life.

The parallels with the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, are extraordinary. At the time when the stone ram came to life, the ram told Golden Chisel that should a stranger ever ‘see’ him, that would be an end to his ‘magic’ – he would no longer be able to bring fresh spring water to the village. Gilgamesh is here the stranger who ‘sees’ the ‘holy stone things’ of Urshanabi (the stone ram of Golden Chisel) and then smashes them. In Golden Chisel, the stone ram was transformed into a heap of rocks, and from these broken pieces, arises a constant spring of fresh water[6]. When the structure of our belief system and spirituality is seen, then it disappears, so that we have direct access, to the Divine One. The water of Life does not have to be fetched every night, but is simply there all the time.

As we will see following blogs, Gilgamesh must create his own ‘ideal’ of the Divine, so that he too can find eternal life.

In the following blogs I will decode three ‘chapters (tablets 10, 11 and 12) from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

  • The Search for Everlasting Life
  • The Story of the Flood
  • The return



[1] Sanders, N.K., The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, London, England, 1977

[2] Ibid p 101

[3] Ibid p 101

[4] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press, 2017 p 209

[5] Sanders, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. P.100

[6] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press, 2017. P 213

The Symbolism of the Ram, in the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram. Part one

The above illustrations, from the tombs of Chinese Tang dynasty,  show that trade and interaction between with Egypt and the west, was well established by this time. The ram symbolised nobility, in the Tang tombs. Imperial Tombs in Tang China, 618-907, by Tonia Eckfeld, RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2005

The wise have given lessons to the world in different forms suited to the evolution of the people at a particular time; the first and most original form of education that the wise gave to the world was symbolical.

One can say that symbology has always served to keep ancient wisdom intact for ages.

There are many thoughts relating to human nature, the nature of life, relating to God and His many attributes, and relating to the spiritual path, that are expressed in symbolism.

There is a great joy in understanding, especially in understanding things that to most people mean nothing. The secret of symbols is revealed to souls who see through life. – it requires intuition, and deeper than that, –  insight –  to read these symbols. To the one to whom symbols speak of their nature and of their secret, each symbol is, in itself, a living manuscript. Symbology is the best means of learning the mysteries of life, and one of the best ways of leaving behind ideas which will be preserved for ages after the Teacher has passed away. It is speaking without speaking, it is writing without writing. The symbol may be said to be an ocean in a drop. [1]

So, we can see that ancient peoples have always expressed their deepest beliefs, their ‘science’ and their technology through stories which explained their world and their gods in a meaningful way. We see this in the fairy tales that I have worked with in The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales.

However, there are some symbols which I am coming to realise, possess greater significance and meaning for me and one of these is the symbol of the ‘stone ram’ in the story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram. A Han folktale. [2]

There was once a village where there was no fresh water, so the people there did not know the true taste of tea and food. In the village there was a tradition that fresh water would someday burst as a spring from the lips of a stone ram.

This is a strange tradition, and I wondered where it came from and why a stone ram?

Sweet spring water was believed to be the source of all creation. The flooding of the Nile, for instance, was central to life for the ancient Egyptians, who depended upon this for the fertility of their lands.


There are several stories which describe a ram leading Dionysus to find spring water in the desert. Dionysus represents the heart, of ecstasy, and of course Dionysus was the god of wine – of the spirit, but also of death and rebirth, as well as the harvest and fertility.

In Egypt, during the time of Dionysus and his campaigns in Africa, his troops were traveling through a sandy desert; They ran out of water and were worn out struggling through the sands of the desert. A ram appeared before them, rose up in the air and alighted behind a dune. When scouts followed this animal, they came upon a spring of water, but there was no sign of the ram. Dionysus ordered the building of a temple to Zeus Ammon on the site where the spring rose. A likeness of the ram was placed in the temple and the ram was placed in the heavens in a position of great importance. We know this as the constellation of Aries the Ram.

The cult of Aries had its beginning at that time, since its position at the zenith coincided with the rising of Sirius in the east and the flooding of the Nile. The Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak bore the likeness of the supreme sun-god with the horns of a ram. The road to Karnak was formed from the wings of two granite sphinxes bearing the head of Aries.[3]

Note that Ammon was originally the name of the Greek god Zeus.
The god was represented either in the form of a ram, or as a human being with the head of a ram; but there are some representations in which he appears as a human being wearing only the horns of a ram.

The Milky Way was thought to be the ‘Nile in the Sky’ and so the temple of Amon, was placed in the position of the Ram in the Milky Way so as to replicate ‘ As above, so below.’ The three great pyramids are likewise said to be a reflection of the three stars in Orion’s belt, which incidentally point to Sirius in the night sky.

Herodotus relates a similar story to account for the ram’s head: Heracles wanted to see Zeus, but the latter wished to avoid the meeting; however when Heracles at last gave in to his requests; Zeus cut off the head of a ram, and holding this in front of his own head, having covered the remaining part of his body with the skin of the ram, then appeared before Heracles.
When Dionysus, or according to others, Heracles, went to India and led his army through the deserts of Libya, he was quite exhausted with thirst, and invoked his father, Zeus. Hereupon a ram appeared, which led Heracles to a place where it opened a spring in the sand by scraping the ground with its foot. For this reason, says Servius, Zeus Ammon, whose name is derived from ἄμμος (sand), is represented with the horns of a ram.  There are several other traditions, with various modifications arising from the time and place of their origin; but all agree in representing the ram as the guide and deliverer of the wandering herds or herdsmen in the deserts, either in a direct way, or by giving oracles. Ammon, therefore, who is identical with the ram, is the guide and protector of man and of all his possessions; he stands in the same relation to mankind as the common ram to his flock.[4]

Sirius was revered as the Nile Star, or Star of Isis, by the ancient Egyptians. Its annual appearance just before dawn at the June 21 solstice, heralded the coming rise of the Nile, upon which Egyptian agriculture depended. This particular helical rising is referred to in many temple inscriptions, wherein the star is known as the Divine Sepat, identified as the soul of Isis.

The Story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram is a Han fairy tale and it is clear that it had come to China via the trade routes, as it applied to the flooding of the Yellow River, just as it applied to the Nile. The Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) was huge in size, and known for opening its trade with western cultures and opening the Silk Road. The Han’s knowledge of the outside world, philosophy, religion and technology increased. In the Han period Confucianism and Daoism were developed, and Mahayana Buddhism was accepted. So this is the background of our fairy tale – a time the where the culture was open to philosophies, spirituality, and ideas from Egypt and other western cultures.  This story must have come to China via the trade route, from Egypt. The Yellow River, like the Nile, flooded just after the time of the Vernal Equinox, when the Sun was in the constellation of the Ram. Both rivers were the source of water for the peoples, as well as the fertility of the soil after the river flooded.

In the story of Golden Chisel, A talented young stone mason by the name of Golden Chisel, searched long and hard for the ram of the prophecy. He searched in the surrounding hills and mountains. One night, returning home, he noticed a faint glimmer of light over the centre of a dried-up pond to the south of the village.

The next day, he went and began to dig there, penetrating a layer of red clay and a layer of black sand before unearthing a bright stone, the shape of which vaguely resembled a ram.

Golden Chisel took the stone to his workshop and after careful thought, began to carve, blunting his tools on the stone as he made the image of a ram. With the last stroke, completing the fore-hoof, the ram came to life. Filled with gratitude, it offered Golden Chisel gold or silver or whatever he could wish for, but Golden Chisel only wanted fresh water for his village. Although this was more difficult, the ram agreed, but swore Golden Chisel to not reveal the existence of the ram, lest the magic be broken.

Then the ram scampered away to the distant Yellow River, sucked up a bellyful of fresh water and brought it back to fill the pond. Three times a night it made this long journey, and without knowing how it came to be there, the people began to enjoy fresh water.

So here our young stone mason searched for a glimmer of light which symbolised the rising of the Ram. He had to dig through a layer of red clay first. Red represents the sun, as well as the colour of the desert. The ram (Aries) at that time would have heralded the spring equinox. Then he dug through a layer of black sand, before unearthing a bright stone. Black signifies the primordial darkness, the Void, and the darkness of death but in China it represents the North, the feminine, and water. So it seems that the bright stone was found in the ground water of the pond to the south of the village.

Having found the bright stone, Golden Chisel carved it thoughtfully, into what I have described as his Divine Ideal. It is a long and difficult task. He must chisel out all imperfections, all manifestations of the ego as he masters his small self. He creates anew a structure – his belief system, which will guide him to find the water of Life. The Stone Ram becomes the psychopomp – the guide of souls through the inner realms.

After a hundred days, though, something happened:  the ram did not come back at the usual time, and Golden Chisel went to search for it, finding it al last along the path to the Yellow River grievously wounded. The god of the Yellow River had become jealous of the water taken by the ram, and had attacked it, cutting off one hoof.

We could say that the hundred days mentioned in the story, would be the time between the rising of the Ram at the vernal equinox, to its zenith which coincided with the rising of Sirius in the east and the flooding of the Nile, on about the 25th June at that time.

Note that for up to 35 days before and 35 days after our sun conjuncts the star Sirius;  it is hidden by the sun’s glare. The ancient Egyptians refused to bury their dead during the 70 days Sirius was hidden from view because it was believed Sirius was the doorway to the afterlife, and the doorway was thought to be closed during this yearly period.[5]

This would account for the disappearance of the Ram in the story. The belief being that it was unable to return, having been grievously wounded by the jealous god of the Yellow River.

Golden Chisel made a golden hoof for the ram. Then, angry, he vowed to avenge the injury. He took the sun-and-moon talisman that had been passed through his family, and went to confront the god. The god of the Yellow River attacked with various weapons, such as cold and turtle demons, but in the end, was defeated by the power of the talisman. Begging for mercy, he asked Golden Chisel what he wanted, and Golden Chisel and the ram answered as with one voice that they wanted fresh water for the village. The god then took from his mouth a pearl, saying that when the stone ram would hold it in his mouth, fresh water would flow from it forever.

Gold Chisel in his battle with the god of the Yellow River.

If we look at the Egyptian version, mystery schools consider Sirius to be “sun behind the Sun” and, therefore, the true source of our sun’s potency. If our sun’s warmth keeps the physical world alive, Sirius is considered to keep the spiritual world alive. It is the “real light” shining in the East, the spiritual light, whereas the sun illuminates the physical world, which was considered to be a grand illusion. This is a very powerful and moving belief at the core of being.

There is a line of a Sufi prayer:-

‘Let the star of divine light
shining in Thy heart be reflected
in the hearts of Thy devotees.’[6]
Sirius is the ‘Star of the Divine Light, hidden in our souls’. She leads us to the fresh spring water – the water of Life.

The ancient Egyptians knew that once every year the Sun was in line with Sirius. About 5000 years ago, the helical rising of Sirius occurred around June 25. When the Egyptians saw Sirius rising just before the Sun they knew it would soon be the time for the flooding, or inundation of the Nile River, around which Egyptian life was woven.  They depended upon the flooding of the Nile for the fertility of their lands.

It was up to the Egyptian priests, who attended to the calendar, to sight the first rising of Sirius. At the temple of Isis-Hathor, is a beautiful statue of Isis, located at the end of an aisle flanked by large columns. The statue was oriented to the rising of Sirius and priests would place a jewel in the goddess’s forehead so that the light from the returning star would fall on the gemstone. When the Egyptian priests saw the light of Sirius upon this gemstone on the statue of Isis they would announce to the people that the New Year had begun.[7]

It is said that visible light was but the shadow of invisible Light, which is a beautiful concept

It is during the time when Sirius is hidden in the sun, (sun behind Sun), that Golden Chisel engages in great battle with the god of the Yellow river. He uses his Sun and Moon talisman, which has been in his family for generations, to defeat this jealous god. Ancestor worship was something which was revered in and from the time of the Han dynasty.  In effect we could say that Golden Chisel had ‘lost’ his faith when the ram disappeared, and therefore needed to renew his faith and understanding by re-making the ram’s fore foot. But we could also surmise that during the Han period, there were many new faiths and philosophies, competing with one-another, so that he needed to convince the ‘controller’ of the sacred water, that he too has a right to share it. It was only when he convinced the god that the sacred water was there to be shared with all beings that the god took from his own mouth a pearl for the stone ram to hold in its mouth, so that water would flow from it forever.

During the time when Sirius was invisible, (as it was in conjunction with the Sun), our hero Golden Chisel, was able to find the Ram, a heroic and profound deed indeed! This can be seen in the light of a major life’s quest. In overcoming the jealous god and winning the pearl he has achieved his goal. The peal is the symbol of the power of the waters, the essence of the moon and controller of the tides. She represents the life-giving power of the Great Mother. In China, the ‘night-shining pearl’ is the moon, which the dragon of light swallows. It is depicted with dragons as masters of the waters and guardians of treasures. The ‘pearl of perfection’ is, with the dragon, the spiritual essence of the universe, and of the quest for enlightenment.

The god of the Yellow River has been depicted as a dragon by my illustrator and I think she has understood this perfectly.

He refashioned the fore-hoof which was damaged by the jealous god of the Yellow River, making the Ram whole again.  He did this with the ‘gold’ of the sun, so that the ram could again dig for the sacred water in the sand with his fore-hoof.

The belief system of the Egyptians, corresponds very much with our story.

We read:-

Returning to the village at dawn, though, Golden Chisel and the stone ram were sighted by a young cow-herd who was up early, and when the boy called for others to come and see, the ram was instantly transformed into a lifeless heap of stone – from which, nevertheless, flowed a stream of fresh water.

Now with the return of the ram (and Sirius), they were seen again, by those who were up early enough. Golden Chisel had done the inner work, so that the sacred, sweet, spring water flowed for all who could see it. This was true illumination.  The ram was no longer necessary for the enlightened, as the water of life flowed directly to them.

The Egyptian version of the story has profoundly illuminated my understanding of the Golden Chisel tale. It has given the myth a profound depth and meaning and has expanded my  own feeling and knowingness of the inner work.

In the next blog I will deal with the meaning of the stone ram, where here we have delved into the meaning of the ram only.



[1] Hazrat Inayat Khan, Symbology, The Sufi Message Vol. 13

[2] Condensed from Favourite Folktales of China, translated by John Minford, published by Graham Brash (Pte) Ltd., Singapore, 2000.




[6] Prayer Salat, Sufi Prayers, Hazrat Inayat Khan, unpublished.


Universal Worship: Experiencing the Divine

This is the Talk given at a Universal Worship presented by The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne on Sunday 12th November, at the Toorak Uniting Church.

Below are the sacred readings which were read as part of the service.

We all have experience of the Divine, even though we do not always recognise the experience as such. Sufis believe that we are part of the Divine One, and so the Divine is part of all of us; our mind is part of the Mind of God, our heart, within the Heart of God. So to experience the Divine we need to turn inward. As a drop in the ocean of the Divine, how does the drop experience the Ocean?

All the great Beings such as Krishna, Buddha, Zarathushtra, Moses, Jesus, and Mahomed and many others ‘known and unknown to the world’ have had a direct ‘seeing’ of the Divine and this has been described in the readings we have just had. It is almost impossible to describe these experiences, except perhaps in poetry. There are many similarities, and yet some differences, related to the time and culture of the peoples perhaps.

Fire and Light

Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita described the Supreme Personality of the Godhead, as unlimited and full of glaring, brilliant, radiance. It was glaring like the sun and its many faces were rapidly changing. although being faced with a living God is terrifying.  Because Arjuna has been able to experience this, as a human, means that we too can have this knowledge. The experience is not something that can be described – we catch it in a glimpse of the whole universe in the beauty of nature, when we are open to receive it. It is a peak experience, which can guide our whole life.

Zarathushtra too, experienced the Divine (Ahura Mazda) as Fire: – Ahura Mazda’s first thought blazed into myriads of sparks of light. It is interesting that the Ahura Mazda brings with him, his daughter, the Divine Feminine, the enlightened guide, full of love and compassion. Moses too sees God in flames of fire, from within a bush – but it was a fire which did not burn or destroy. This is a mystery!

In the Koran the Light (Nur)  is also spoken of as  being everywhere, neither from the East or West, even though flame touched it not. Again Light without flame.  ‘Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth’, says the Koran. This Light is Nur the Uncreated Light of God. Physical light is but a reflection of the true Light in the world of reality, and that true Light is God. We can only think of God in terms of our phenomenal experience, and in the phenomenal world, light is the purest thing we know. But light is dependent on so many things – energy, space and time. The perfect Light of God is free from any such defects. The lamp is the core of the spiritual Truth, the glass is the transparent medium through which the light passes, but protects the light from moths (low life or motives in man), gusts of wind (passions). So the spiritual Truth has to be filtered through human language or human intelligence to make it intelligible to mankind. Glorious illimitable Light, cannot be described or measured – it illuminates the mind and understanding.

Meditation – turning inward.

It is while Siddharta was sitting under a jambu-tree, pondering life, death, and the evils of decay, while concentrating, that he became free from confusion. All desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquillity came over him and a deep compassion filled his heart. So we are given the hint that it is by concentrating that we can achieve this state of ecstasy and knowing in ourselves. His inner voice showed him that everything contains its own opposite – where there is heat, there is the possibility of cold, where creatures feel pain there is also the faculty of pleasure.  We must seek the great deathless lake of Nirvana in which to purify ourselves of these opposites and rise above them into unity. If we do not find it, it is not the fault of the lake. It is interesting that Ahura Mazda also brought with him, love and compassion, so these are common to both religions. And Zarathushtra asserts that silent meditative thought is best for mankind.

Known and recognised.

I find it very moving that Moses was called by name by his Lord – he was known. In our own experience of God there is also this deep sense of being known and deeply accepted, even loved. It is as if God is holding out his hands to us. We can communicate with God, Just as Moses did on Mount Sanai. Moses answered, ‘Here I am!’ I think this means that we should respond to the call of God, and let him know we are hearing Him.

Being faced with a living God is terrifying! “Take off your sandals” says the Lord. This is a sign of respect and humility – the ground was made sacred by the Divine Presence, and so it was proper to take off his sandals. Moses was in the presence of the Divine.

When Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan, he experienced the Divine directly, as the heaven being torn open and the holy spirit descending on him like a dove. And Jesus heard the voice of the Lord saying “You are my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” This was a powerful experience of being known, like Moses, and being loved as a son, and of having pleased his Lord by his very being. John had foretold that one would come after him, who would baptise us all with the holy spirit.

All of these prophets were known and named by the One – the Divine, as are we all. The Divine knows each one of us. It is said that if we take one step towards God, then God takes a hundred steps towards us.

In our prayer Salat, we say:-

O Messenger, Christ, Nabi, the Rasul of God!
Thou whose heart constantly reacheth upward;
Thou comest on earth with a message as a dove from above when Dharma decayeth, and speakest the Word that is put into Thy mouth, as the light filleth the crescent moon. —-

All the messengers of God have had a direct experience, often in a time when the social order was in decay – when the world was in chaos. Their understanding of the message of God when taught to his followers, eventually became a religion. But it is this direct experience of the Divine, which speaks to us in the same way, when we understand and accept  the Truth we are being shown.


Experiencing the Divine.

We shall read from the Hindu Scripture

After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead, O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, happily have I shown you, by My internal potency, this supreme universal form within the material world. No one before you has ever seen this primal form, unlimited and full of glaring effulgence.


We shall read from the Buddhist Scriptures

While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld with his mind’s eye under the jambu-tree a lofty figure endowed with majesty, calm and dignified. “Whence comest thou, and who mayest thou be?” asked the prince.

In reply the vision said: “I am a samana. Troubled at the thought of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for happiness that does not decay; the treasure that will never perish; the life that knows no beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought.

We shall read from the Zoroastrian Scriptures

Then I realised You as Bountiful,
O Mazda Ahura,
When the Good Mind encircled me.
His question was:
“Which party will you claim as your own?”
Zarathushtra replied:
“Henceforth, I will consecrate my homage to your Fire,
And as long as I am able I will meditate upon Your Truth.”

“Therefore grant me Truth whom I invoke.”
Then Ahura Mazda replied:
“I come to you with my daughter,
Armaiti, (full of love and compassion).
Place before us your searching questions
for by that questioning you will gain the Sovereignty
by which you will obtain understanding.


We shall read from the Jewish Scriptures

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


We shall read from the Christian Scriptures

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by Jothn in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.


We shall read from the Scripture of Islam.

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.  His light is like a niche wherein is a lamp, the lamp encased in glass, the glass as if it were a shining star. From a blessed tree the lamp is kindled, whose oil is neither from the East nor West, whose blessed oil would well-nigh shine out, even though flame touched it not!
It is light upon light. Allah guides into this light whom He wills; and Allah sets forth Parables to men, for Allah is the knower of all things.


We read from the Gayan.

In the brightness of day and in the darkness of night what didst Thou not teach me! Thou hast taught me what is meant by wrong and what is called right. Thou hast shown me the hideous face of life, and Thou hast unveiled before me life’s beautiful countenance. Thou hast taught me wisdom out of utter darkness of ignorance. Thou has taught me to think after my thoughtless movements. Thou playest with me, my Beloved Lord and Master, hide and seek! Thou closest mine eyes and Thou dost open them.


Do not hide your Light!


‘Knowledge is the light of life. It is the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. The true light has always been in the world and it illuminates every person born into the world. It was in the world and the world is living  only because it had that light of knowledge within itself, but the world did not hold on to it.
It revealed itself to its own, but its own did not keep it. Only the ones who understood the knowledge, they alone were given the opportunity to become like it, by virtue of their belief in its essence. Those who believed in the fact that life is based in knowledge did not become the sons of the flesh, but became sons of knowledge.’[1] So wrote Tolstoy in his truly insightful book on the gospel.  Jesus said “You are the light for the world, so do not hide your light, but show it to people. After all, having lit a light, no one puts it under a bench, they put it on the table so that it shines for everyone in the room. Likewise, you must not hide your light, but you must show it in your actions, so that people can see that you know the truth. And, seeing your good works, they will come to understand your heavenly father.”[2]

In the fairy tales we have been delving into, the Feminine is constrained into hiding her light. She is ‘enchanted’ into wearing a frog-skin, or she is hidden in the depths of the ocean (of the unconscious). The hero’s quest is to find her, but the Feminine herself has her own quest to make her light shine forth. She must ‘get rid’ of her frog skin, and gain the ‘knowledge’ (enlightenment) to become the Queen she really is.

In a recent discussion on ‘From Lucifer to Satan’, at the Melbourne Jung Society, Lucifer as the Angel of Light, holds our awareness of our beauty, pride and our sense of being special. We have been taught that Lucifer is the fallen angel, but Lucifer is only ‘fallen’ when the ego grabs our concept of beauty and pride within ourselves. The shadow side of Lucifer can be narcissism and inflation – thinking of ourselves as being more important than we are. Lucifer is the light bringer – where the mind splits into opposites, the Light brings together the opposites into unity. Lucifer is in effect, the masculine Venus, or Freya, (Goddesses of Love, Light, and Beauty).

It is so easy for the feminine in the patriarchy to hide herself: to wear the frogskin. We can very often see this in the body language. Hunched over, head down, trying to disappear; to not be noticed. Our gaze is directed to the ground, rather than to the heavens. Raise your gaze, so that the world can see your beautiful eyes. Raise your gaze so that you can see the magnificence of the mountain tops. It is as if we have been enchanted, as it says in the frog princess story. The mind reflects the body and the body reflects the mind. Our training and our practice in the spiritual realm allows us to become aware of our beauty, and to be proud of what we have achieved. As Tolstoy shows us, to show our light in our actions, so that people can see the Truth.

The collective shadow is Satan, who stands as an accuser, tempter, and transgressor. Satan deflates our sense of importance and reminds us that we are frail corruptible flesh. It is Satan who prevents us from shining our Light. But he tempts us to move from austere self-sacrifice to the joy of earthly pleasure. He undermines obedience with a call toward self-reliance and a disregard of laws and conventions.

In his reflection on the life of Jesus, Tolstoy shows us a Jesus who went beyond the laws and conventions of his time, to teach the fulfilment of the eternal law, of the mystery of the other inner realm. Jesus defines his own spiritual laws most beautifully in the Beatitudes.[3] The shadow of Satan is unrestrained selfishness and power over others.

There is a very beautiful quote, by Marianne Williamson, often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’[4]

It is interesting to note that the fathers of both the Princess Vassilisa (in the Frog Princess) and Princess Zezolla (in Cenerentola) can also represent the patriarchy. It is the patriarchy which is not in relationship with the Divine Feminine, and sees the feminine as a young maiden, or virgin. For the feminine to disengage herself from this misunderstanding, is a momentous task and why it is so remarkable that Princess Zezolla achieves this.



[1] Tolstoy, Leo. The life of Jesus. The Gospel in brief. Translated by Dustin Condren. Harper Perennial New York 2011

[2]ibid p 4

[3] ibid p 37

[4] Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love, HarperCollins, 1996

Trust No-One!

Nawab’s reply to my last blog has really shown the difficulty of the descent into the ashes and the hardship endured for spiritual purposes.

He wrote:- ‘Another way of seeing the death of Zezolla’s mother is: the birth of the independence of the soul, no longer tied to the Source from which we come. Then the descent into the ashes is a perfectly clear picture of every soul’s descent into the world of hard labour and limitation. What makes Zezolla remarkable is that her exile becomes her apprenticeship, and she becomes able to reclaim her royal nature. The ancient Hindus called hardship endured for spiritual purposes ‘tapasya’, meaning purification by fire, and it was the practice of some yogis to go and sit among the cinders of the cremation grounds as a way of mastering themselves.’

The apprenticeship is difficult, and it is a long one. It is not something that can or should be done quickly – it needs patience and Perseverance. The purification by fire is also painful – we see this in the fairy tales we are studying.

The longing for the Divine Sophia or Source which we have ‘lost’ is both painful and yet drives us on the do the Inner Work. The longing that we have for the Divine Source, points us to the Goal of our journey.

When Petru returns from the Fairy of the dawn with the magical water of life, the Goddess warns him:

‘Beware of your life; make friends with no man, do not ride fast, or let the water go out of your hand, believe no one; and flee flattering tongues. Go, take care, for the way is long, the world is bad, and you hold something very precious.’

Having achieved some level of insight or enlightenment, we begin to see the world and the people in it acting and reacting from ego. It reminds me of the old Indian legend where a young man asks his Teacher to show him a clear vision of the world as it is. When the cover was lifted from his eyes, he saw every human being with the face of some animal, except one, the Teacher himself. All these animals are within us, so we recognise them in others. This can cause us to react to these aspects of ourselves in others in a very harsh way. Our task is to master these ‘animals’ by the practices we are given by our Teacher; but it can make the spiritual life a very lonely one. Who can we trust?

The animals which Prince Ivan meets in the story of the Frog Princess, are aspects of himself which he does not like and immediately wants to kill them. We repress the parts of ourselves we do not like or want. Often they are not negative but powerful and fierce, like the ferocious bear. Girls especially, are not encouraged to nurture this in themselves. I certainly repressed this side of myself. Similarly the speedy and tricky hare, although an aspect of the Great Mother, is not honoured. So it is with all the animals that Prince Ivan encounters. But the all animals  beg him to spare them, as they will be useful in his journey later. When we have mastered our inner animals, we no longer fear them and can use them appropriately. We can also have compassion for others who are held captive, or in thrall to them.  These aspects are in control rather than the person. We see this in the addictions and in the violence, which beset us.

We need a Teacher for this work – a Being who knows and understand the path, who has fought his or her own demons, and who can mirror back to us, these ’animal’ aspects of ourselves, and guide us towards mastery. We are given practices, just as Cenerentola was given by the Dove of the fairies, so that slowly, over the years, we can re-claim our royal nature.


From Princess to Queen: the evolution of the Feminine.

In an earlier Blog, I posited the notion that the Princess Zezolla had brought about her own ‘descent’ to the cinders, in the story of Cenerentola.  Her act was similar to the act of burning the frogskin, in the story of the Frog Princess. Zezolla had in fact ‘burned’ her previous life as a princess, to sit amongst the ashes of this life, to quietly work on herself, amongst the cinders.

Someone in a recent workshop, was very disturbed by this and really disliked and resented the princess for, using, manipulating, and even tricking the men in her life, like her father, and even the servant of the King, so as to promote her own evolution.

This caused some interesting discussion in the group and, so I would like address this and  delve more deeply into this topic, as it is in fact very important.

In the opening scene of the story, Princess Zezolla is mourning the death of her beloved mother. Her father the prince adores her and sees the world through her eyes only. This is a telling phrase – for it is not appropriate for a father and a prince to see the world from the vantage of his young daughter, who represents his soul. He no longer has a mature and evolved feminine side or soul.

This would appear to reflect an aspect of the patriarchy which sees the feminine as young, childlike, and virginal. It is not fashionable to be rounded and voluptuous of body; women try to look like young girls, even when they could be grandmothers. This really infantilises the feminine and is open to issues of power and control of the feminine by the masculine.

It reminds me of a male friend who used to smile benignly at my interest in mysticism and the inner life. I was metaphorically patted on the head and told to go out and ‘play’. It was patronising, and the relationship could not sustain this attitude. The patriarchy is afraid of a fully evolved and powerful feminine, like the Goddess Freya, or even Hestia.

So there is something in the Prince (Zezolla’s father) who allowed the glorious feminine side of him to die. In this way Zezolla ‘lost’ her mother. The only thing for her to do was to disallow her father to ‘use’ her in this way, by  projecting his ‘soul’ onto his daughter.

Thus Zezolla persuaded her father the prince, to marry her nurse / governess – this would seem to be an appropriate match for him, given his level of evolution. He was not up to marrying a princess, although a prince should really marry a princess. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the patriarchy.

Zezolla, in truth, has ‘burned’ this part of her life, so that she could be free to develop and evolve in her own way, to become the Queen she really is. This is her way of burning the frog-skin.

All characters in this story are aspects of the one, of Zezolla herself, and so of us all. The feminine must not be seen and related to as a young, innocent girl, to be bought off with trinkets, lovely food and pretty clothes. Neither must the feminine in us be used, like the trophy wife in the Frog Princess story. The frog-skin, in the life of a virgin daughter must be totally disposed of – burned, so that she can sit amongst the ashes or cinders, in the central hearth or heart, as ‘Cenerentola’, totally herself, without pretences, without airs and graces, in mastery of her self, her ego. In this way, by doing her daily practice, which was given to her by her Teacher – The Dove of the Fairies, she becomes Queen and is recognised as such by the young King. Note that she becomes a Queen in her own right and not simply because she has married a King.

The masculine must not be allowed to dominate and control, and take over the process, as the young prince did, in burning his wife’s frog skin, in the story of the Frog Princess.