Before we begin. We need to understand these stories as our personal journey. Following the signposts left by those who went before us. These stories are not so much a historical re-letting of a Folk tail rather is a description in metaphor of how to complete our journey on earth. A guide to show us the processes and the steps along the way from the other world. Just follow the signposts in the stories.
The signpost points us to Initiation and Rite of passage stories in general. “the way out of the labyrinth is well known we only have to follow the Ariadne thread, the signpost left by those who went before us.” Joseph Campbell
Many stories begin “once upon a time” but what does that mean? We will unpack these stories and understand these stories in a timeless context which I call the eternal.
“Once upon a time” Stories of this type exist outside of the requirements and limitations of time. This timelessness makes them constantly relevant. However, some translation is required for us to cross the bridge of time and space between the eternal and here. Wherever here happens to be, in a world of different languages cultures, and climates. All of which will modify the telling as the teller seeks to make the archetypes relevant for the audience in their time and place.
Here is a powerful teaching poem about being lost and where exactly “here” is.
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.
by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems 1956-1976
The geography of a story. These stories often describe where the story takes place in the world, in a forest, by a river, at a Castle, in a courtyard, and so on. These are descriptions in metaphor of parts of our inner psychic landscape. Indeed the stories share the same space that, physical world occupies it is a space of our emotions and psyche. Understanding the geography of the Psyche can assist in understanding the story.
Who within us is listening? As we listen to such stories a deeper older part of us is listening. An older part of ourselves the part we left behind when we made the journey into life and then again in the journey from the enormous forest to the Castle Quo as laid out in the Iron John story. That older part, our Soul turns events into experiences from our own personal history and then deepening those experiences into meaning. Behaviour in stories is understandable because Soul gives it, an inside meaning. That older part is also our inner child.
One lifetime as a limitation to understanding. In the western world, our biggest limitation is the idea that life is limited to one lifetime and ends at death. This idea in a way denies the idea of a transpersonal aspect of ourselves and the eternal, life, and existence outside of linear time. In nature we would not limit a Pupa (cocoon of a butterfly) to a lifetime without the butterfly why then would we do this to ourselves then? For our own safety, for Ego life ends at death, to be avoided at all costs. In fact that is the prime directive of the Ego “stay alive”. If your reading this thank your Ego for a job well done. However, for the Soul, which is the eternal part of us there is no death, Just a change of state.
The shamanic way. For myself, I call myself a shamanic storyteller because my understanding is that these stories were left for us as a description of the evolution of the Soul’s journey to reunite with our divine part as symbolised by the mystical marriage. In older traditions it was the Shaman who travelled to other worlds to bring back healing and off-world wisdom, I feel we are doing this with these stories and my ever-growing understanding of them. A good part of these stories happens in the other world and between the storyteller and a good story we can travel there.
Some parts of this story happen outside our physical world. That this marriage and indeed many parts of the stories happen in another world outside of time and space. These stories were left for us as guidance and instruction for those ready to come on the return journey. “the way out of the labyrinth is well known we only have to follow the Ariadne thread, the signpost left by those who went before us.” Joseph Campbell
Stories need the skill of a storyteller to give them context Understanding these stories is about giving them contest. Stories are written in a sort of shorthand or code that requires storytellers to flesh them out. That code I have called the bones of the story. To make them relevant in any given time and place, language and culture into a context we can understand is the skill of the storyteller and draw on our own life experience to make them relevant.
To understand the intent of the story we must look at the ending. Stories that end in a marriage, Gold, or a ring are stories that complete the cycle of life’s intention from a Soul point of view. This has been called the Mystical Marriage or Squaring the circle. Squaring the circle was a renascence idea that covered the same territory.
The Mystical Marriage: In one way the Mystical marriage describes the whole point of life from outside of life and time. Certainly, outside of one physical incarnation.
Birth and Parents. As we begin the incarnating process of this lifetime, we first must learn how to use the vehicle we were given, apparently, it takes some years for this to happen. Our parents and the community we incarnate into have a vested interest in seeing that we are socialised acceptably so we can enter the group as a productive member of the community.
A story for both men and women. While these stories seem to describe how a boy or a man might go on the quest to find himself and ending in the Mystical Marriage. The marriage between Soul and Ego. This would seem to exclude women and girls unnecessarily and is false in my understanding. Here is how I see it now, both men and women have Ego and Soul. It is the ego that needs to go on the quest for the Soul. This is the basis for the Heroic journey. This quest culminates in the mystical marriage.
The union of Ego and Soul in which they/we live happily ever after. Until the first disagreement that is. So, this marriage may happen many times in one lifetime may span many incarnations or just one.
To the extent that we describe Ego as He, we are referring to the energetic nature of Ego for both men and women. Goal-directedness, penetrative, risk-taking, curious, and hungry for experiences and adventures of all sorts. This is Masculine orientation which is why the hero is described as “He”. Women go on this journey too even within a female body. While the original narrative seems to refer to males, boys, and young men, it is the Ego as a Masculine aspect that they are attempting to describe not the sexual orientation or plumbing of the protagonist.
The psychodynamics of the story. Whoever in mentioned first in any story indicated the psychodynamics of the story this includes the geography within the story. At the very beginning of the Iron John story, we have “The castle” with a king, the hunger of King Hunter disappearing into the enormous (dangerous and dark) with a hawk and an eagle flying over it.
The Castle and the enormous Forest for instance describes for us our state of collective duality, the state we live in today, the juxtaposition of Ego and Soul. The boy with his golden ball (in Iron John) represents us on our journey through life on multiple levels. Not every part of this story happens in our world.
Metaphor gives the happenings some context Because stories operate outside linear time in the eternal then some descriptions talk about happenings in other worlds. So, we mortals can get an insight into what’s going on. That insight is Souls’ work of making connections in an ever-unfolding revelation as we grow in experience of living into our own story.
The stone castle. Stone in stories always carries the idea of literal truth, the truth of this world, anyway. A castle represents a structure comprised of literal truths which I have called the Castle Quo, the status quo made of the literal unyielding stone-like truths. A castle, like the Ego, is built to keep things safe, to keep some things out and some things in. Keeping those two things separate. Castles often had a mote around them and a draw bridge so that the castle and its inhabitants could close themselves off from the outside world in safety hopefully safe from attack by hostile forces. Separation, boundaries, and definition are the keywords for the castle, Hierarchies order, Law, cause and effect a Newtonian view of the world “I think, therefore I am”.
The downside of this structure is that it may remain long after the original need. Long after the original builders and inhabitants have ceased to exist. This is the stuff of growing up, putting childlike things aside as we grow through the phases of life, as we grow into our story.
This is also the stuff of coaching and psychological work, of triggers and trauma of addiction and depression. This concretising of experience, the building of protective structures.
The Great Mother expressed as the Feminine drives the story forward: The Masculine can only take us so far, then the originator of the story and of all life the Feminine takes over. Ironically, the mother of the child plays a double role, one as the midwife of the status quo, the other as the championing of her children to fulfill their true potential.
Continued Iron John Chapter 01 What is Soul