The little date tree which the Dove of the Fairies gives Cenerentola is a powerful symbol of the sacred. There are stories of wish fulfilling trees which reveal much of their meaning.
There was a man crossing the desert, on a long journey, in the heat of the day; seeing a tree in the distance, he made his way to it so that he could enjoy its cool shade. He fell asleep under the tree and awoke refreshed but very thirsty. He wished for something to quench his thirst. Immediately he saw wonderful ripe mangoes in the tree and reaching upward, was able to pick and eat the juicy mangos. When he had eaten his fill, he was very happy and this made him think about happier t times and the beautiful roses that used to grow around his parents’ house. He thought that if he could smell the fragrance of these roses once again, he would indeed be happy and content. Immediately he had this thought, the man saw in the tree above him, the exact same roses that he remembered from his parent’s garden – the same colour, and shape, the same fragrance. But then he thought that it was really impossible for the tree to have both mangoes and roses growing on it. As soon as he doubted, the tree and all its goodness vanished.
This was the Wish Fulfilling Tree, which exists in the realm of Creative Imagination – it is very real, but when we doubt it, it is no longer available to us. While under its branches, we can achieve anything we wish for.
So, the little date tree which Cenerentola was given by the Dove of the Fairies, could well be a Wish Fulfilling tree. The Dove of the Fairies gave her this tree so that she could learn by her practices to have access to the inner realm whenever she wished, where she could with practice, live in this realm and evolve into the Queen she really was.
There is another great tradition in which a date tree is held as sacred:
In the Koran it is said that Mary gave birth to Jesus under a date tree – verse 19:22-26
And it came to pass on the third day of their journey, while they were walking, that the blessed Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and seeing a palm tree, she said to Joseph: Let me rest a little under the shade of this tree. Joseph therefore made haste, and led her to the palm, and made her come down from her beast. And as the blessed Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm, and saw it full of fruit, and said to Joseph: I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm. And Joseph said to her: I wonder that thou sayest this, when thou seest how high the palm tree is; and that thou thinkest of eating of its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water, because the skins are now empty, and we have none wherewith to refresh ourselves and our cattle. Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm: O tree, bend thy branches, and refresh my mother with thy fruit. And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who bad commanded it to stoop. Then Jesus said to it: Raise thyself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from thy roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from thee. And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced with great joy, and were satisfied, themselves and all their cattle and their beasts. Wherefore they gave thanks to God.”
This means that the date tree is considered a very sacred place, a place under which the spirit (the Divine Child) can be brought forth and nourished. The dates and the water beneath the tree nourished and sustained both Mary and her baby.
There is a clear parallel to this Koranic verse in the account found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew which is included in the apocrypha. In other words, this story of Mary giving birth to Jesus under a date tree, was known well before the Koran.
‘Then she conceived him; and withdrew with him to a remote place. And the throes of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this, and had been a thing quite forgotten! So a voice came to her from beneath her: Grieve not, surely thy Lord has provided a stream beneath thee. And shake towards thee the trunk of the palm-tree, it will drop on thee fresh ripe dates. So eat and drink and cool the eye. Then if thou seest any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent, so I will not speak to any man to-day’.
It is interesting to note that some palm trees bearing dates, grow in rivers, or close to springs in the Middle East. Symbolically the spring beneath the date tree, bearing dates, is of the greatest significance. As we have seen in the fairy tales, the spring of fresh water, relates to the water of life and the quest for unity with the Divine. The date and the palm are sacred in Christianity. The palm branches carried on Palm Sunday originate in the triumphal entry of Christ into Jeruslaem, so it seems that the palm tree was also there at his birth. As we have seen in a previous blog post, the ash which is used on Ash Wednesday, is the ash from burning the palms on the Palm Sunday of the year before.
In other fairy tales, the hero (the masculine) on his inner journey, is given Teachings and practices, they manifest as a flying horse or steed, as we have seen – the beautiful brown horse in the fairy of the Dawn, the little humpbacked horse, and even the stone ram. But it appears that when the feminine is on her journey, a different process occurs – she is given a ‘date tree’, through which she gains access to the sacred inner realm of the creative imagination. Her practice in this realm manifests and supports her evolution. This is a powerful process, which is explored in Cenerentola. Her journey is quite different. As Robert Johnston has said, men must find the grail castle and ask the ‘grail question’, which is ‘Whom does the Grail serve?’ Only if he answers correctly can he gain access to the holy grail. But women live in the grail castle and their journey is different. Cenerentola is the only one of the fairy tales which I have come across, which actually shows this process and we do well to examine it deeply.