Saturday, 14 December 2019

Snow White

Crab apples covered in snow. 



These small wild apples, native to Europe, are truly "the last fruit of autumn" remaining on the branches until well into winter...This image made me think of "The Snow White" fairytale and possible mythological symbolism embedded in this tale...

The short version of the first edition (1812):

A beautiful woman has a magic mirror that tells her every day that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Then she has a daughter who becomes even more beautiful than her. And so, one day the magic mirror tells her that it is her daughter who is the most beautiful woman in the world. The mother gets so jealous that she orders a hunter to take her daughter to the forest and kill her. Instead of killing the daughter, the hunter releases her. She wonders through the forest and eventually stumbles across 7 dwarfs who let her stay with them. The next day, the mother finds out from the magic mirror that her daughter is still the most beautiful woman in the world, which means that she was not killed by the hunter. So she decides to kill her daughter herself. She has two unsuccessful attempts, until finally disguised as an old woman, she manages to kill her daughter with a poisoned apple. The dwarfs put the daughter into a crystal coffin. She lies there until a prince comes by, sees her, falls in love with her, even though she is dead and takes her to his castle. On the way there she is revived when the bit of the poisonous apple is dislodged from her throat. She marries her prince, happy end.

So in the original story it is the mother and not the step mother who is jealous of the girl and who kills her with the apple...That is very interesting...

Every year, a beautiful mother, disguised as an old woman, kills her even more beautiful daughter with an apple. The dead daughter then lies dead in a "crystal coffin" until a young prince comes by and revives her. Two of them then get married. Except this is not the happy end...

The beautiful daughter becomes a beautiful woman and has even more beautiful daughter, who she kills out of jealousy, with an apple, disguised as an old woman...And so on and so forth...Endlessly, year after year...

What we have here is the story of Earth going through seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring...

Beautiful young Spring Earth becomes bountiful Summer and Autumn Earth. Still beautiful, but in no way as beautiful as the Young Spring Earth...

Because of the cyclical nature of the solar year, Autumn Earth is the mother of Spring Earth of the next solar year. As Autumn ends, and the crab apples are the last fruit left on the trees, Autumn Earth turn into Old Hag Winter Earth, who "kills" her own younger self...

Dead Earth lies in her icy coffin until Young Spring Sun arrives. He sees beautiful Spring Earth under the ice, falls in love with her and revives her. Spring Earth, marries Spring Sun...

But seasons pass, Spring Earth turns into Summer Earth and then into Autumn Earth and then into Winter Earth...And the story repeats itself...Luckily, every spring, Young Sun arrives to save the day 🙂

Why apple? The falling of crab apples, last fruits, means the end of the fertile part of the year, the end of Living Earth (spring, summer, autumn) and the beginning of the Dead Earth (winter)...Hence the apple given by The Hag, The Winter Earth, is the thing that kills Spring Earth...

Why hunter as the man who should kill the daughter? Because Sagitarius, the Hunter is the first winter month. It marks the beginning of the fur hunting season in Europe...I wrote about it in my post "Hunter".

Almost identical story in verse was published in 1833 by Aleksandr Pushkin. It is called "The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights". It was based on stories he heard when he was a kid, the stories which can be found in several Russian folklore collections... 

That this indeed is the story about the death and rebirth of Earth which is going through the seasons can be seen from several other very similar stories preserved around Eurasia....

In the Greek story, the girl is called Myrsina (Myrtle). Myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was actually personification of Young Earth...



She is not killed by her mother, but by her two sisters. Three sisters are three faces of Mother Earth. In Slavic mythology they are Vesna (Spring Earth), Mokosh (Summer-Autumn Earth) and Morana (Winter Earth)...

The two older sisters are not asking the magic mirror who is the most beautiful. They are asking the sun...With the same result: the youngest one, Myrsina, Aphrodite, Spring Earth is the most beautiful...

The two sisters take Myrsina to the forest themselves, pretending that they are "reburying their mother". They bring with them funeral bread, sweet boiled grain called "Kollyva" and fruit and nuts. All these are in Greece usually prepared for funeral feasts. But in Serbia they are also prepared for Christmas (Winter Solstice) which is as much a celebration of the birth of the new sun as it is a mass for the dead. Dead ancestors and the dead nature...

Myrsina is left alone in the forrest to be eaten by wolves...Wolves are the symbol of winter. In Serbia Winter starts with St Mrata and ends with St Sava, the Wolf saints...

She was told how to escape by trees :) They instruct her to get the funeral bread and roll it down the mountain. Where the bread stops she will find her shelter... Do we need any more fertility symbols?

Myrsina does not stay with 7 dwarfs or seven knights, she stays with 12 months...The full solar year. And she doesn't get killed by an apple. She gets killed by a ring, the full circle, full cycle. In Slavic mythology this is "kolo", wheel, Solar Wheel, Solar Year...

She is placed in a golden casket where she lies dead and beautiful. Enters young prince, who falls in love with the dead girl, takes her ring off and voila! The girl is alive again, they get married etc etc...

Interestingly in Slavic mythology, Spring Sun who revives Spring Earth is called "Jarilo" (pronounced Yarilo). His name means both young, and raging...Jarilo sounds suspiciously similar to Ares (the god of rage), the lover of Aphrodite...

The same story just with a different names was recorded in Albania. Except the girl doesn't end up with 12 months but with 40 thieves...The story is called "The jealous sisters". 

In Armenian version of the story, the girl is called Nourie Hadig, which means "a tiny bit of pomegranate". 



Pomegranate was another plant sacred to Aphrodite, directly linked to her role as Goddess of Fertility, which is the main attribute of the Spring Earth...

This is also plant which Persephone eats in the underworld after she is taken there by Hades...Persephone, Demeter, Hekate from the story about the abduction of Persephone, is the Greek version of Vesna, Mokosh, Morana. I talked about this in my post "The abduction of Persephone"...

The mother (it's the mother again) doesn't ask the mirror or the sun who is the most beautiful woman in the world. She asks the new moon, the symbol of the passing of time...

The evil mother actually orders the father to kill the girl, which he disobeys and lets the girl go. She eventually ends up in a house "with a sleeping prince" 🙂 whom she ends up taking care of for 7 years...

After 7 yeas the prince wakes up, and marries the girl. But then she gets tricked by her Gipsy servant to put on the poisonous ring made by her mother, which kills her. Eventually the ring is removed and the girl gets back to life and so on and so forth... 

Finally there is a story from Italy, where the mother is an innkeeper called Bella Venezia. The daughter escapes and is adopted by 12 robbers who live in a cave which is opened and closed using a secret password 🙂...The mother hires an old witch to kill her daughter, and she does it with a pin...

This part is really interesting. The robbers bury the dead girl in a hollow tree. Clearly a hint and the girl's true identity as the Spring Earth...The rest is the same. Prince finds her while hunting, the pin is removed, she gets back to life, they get married... 

And so the wheel turns, the seasons change...The Spring Earth Vesna (Aphrodite) is lying asleep in her icy coffin waiting for lover Spring Sun Jarilo (Apollo-Ares) to wake her up... In the meantime, make yourself some candy apples. Here is a good recipe 



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