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When I was a baby, my family took a summer holiday in Florida, to Disney World. Along the way we stopped at Weeki Wachee Springs to view the mermaid show. Although I can’t recall any early memories of Walt Disney World, the experience of watching mermaids swimming gracefully under the water at Weeki Wachee Springs is so firmly etched in my mind that it has become a part of my own personal mythology.
I grew up watching Faerie Tale Theatre and of course one of my favorite episodes was “The Little Mermaid.” I don’t know whether one of the mermaid performers at Weeki Wachee Springs had black hair, but this might explain my early dreams of mermaids living in caverns deep under the ocean, all of them with raven black tresses. It seemed natural to me that the Little Mermaid in the Faerie Tale Theatre version should have black hair.
This belief that mermaids should have black hair, wherever it came from, was so strong in me that when the Disney animated version of The Little Mermaid was released I felt the mermaid named Ariel with flaming red hair couldn’t possibly be THE Little Mermaid. Of course there are so many things wrong with the Disney version of the tale. The Sea Witch is portrayed as an evil villain instead of a wise and powerful witch whose role is to push the Little Mermaid onto her true path, the Little Mermaid’s grandmother and matriarch of the tale is removed from this version all together, and the quest for self is denigrated to a quest for romantic love.
In recent years there have been some truly excellent films that stay true to the themes of transformation, loss of voice=loss of self, finding voice=discovery of self that are central to The Little Mermaid and the Selkie tales that are found throughout the British Isles. My two favorites are Ponyo and Song of the Sea. There is also a lovely film about selkies and the power of storytelling called The Secret of Roan Inish. These three films have resonated with me more than perhaps any other.
The recognition of the films, stories, and images that connect with your spirit are crucial for piecing together the puzzle of your own personal mythology. Long ago, I began to recognize a recurrent them for me. The stories that really spoke to my spirit mostly had to do with transformation of some form or other. I wrote a bit about the loss of self/discovery of self that occurs for women at least three times throughout our lives in my last blog post, “Song of the Sea: Loss of Spirit and Regaining the Voice.”
This is why fairy tales are so important for women. At their root, these fairy tales are all about this transformation that occurs (whether we want it to or not) and are a guide to teach us how to deal with these changes. They offer us kernels of wisdom as to why these transformations are necessary.
Are any of you going through a transformation at this time? What stories can you think of that might offer you guidance and support? I have found it is best to think back to your childhood and make a list of all of the books, films, images (paintings,etc.) that are still so very vivid in your mind. These have stayed with you for a reason. They are a part of your own life story and function as a sort of guidebook to help you navigate your way forward, through the labyrinth that is your inner landscape.
This is part of my own list:
The Little Mermaid
The Selkie tale
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Matilda, by Roald Dahl
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The symbolism of red shoes, the ocean, forest, boxes, magic mirrors, goddess symbol in apples, golden ball
Fairies (I wanted to be a fairy when I was a child, my dream was to grow up to BE a fairy)
The character Eilonwy in The Prydain Chronicles
Juniper and Wise Child
This is just a partial list, but you get the idea. I would love to discuss personal mythology with anyone who needs some clarification, or needs help discovering her story. Please feel free to contact me. There is a contact form on my homepage.
I will also be offering local workshops and some online workshops and video guides too, so keep watching for more information. I am currently working on a book to help women discover their sense of place through personal mythology. More information on that endeavor coming soon!