The Fairy Tale as a Spiritual Journey

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Outside of it’s usual characterization as a children’s story, the fairy tale is often viewed in a couple of common ways.

Academically, the focus is usually on politics, morals, gender and the sorting of fairy tales into types, via tools like the Aarne-Thompson analytic method.

There is also the use of the fairy tale in a therapeutic setting, in conjunction with counseling, and sometimes art therapy.

The fairy tale as art inspiration is all around us in everything from movies, plays, books and paintings and theme parks, to things like Kristy Mitchell’s “Wonderland” photo series, to trends in street fashion and the haute couture creations of designers like Alexander McQueen and Elie Saab and the fashion photo shoots of Tim Walker.

Existing in conjunction with all of these things, but less commonly acknowledged, is the act of interacting with and experiencing the fairy tale as a vehicle for a spiritual journey. This has the most cross-over with the therapy and art categories—indeed these things can often work together, but experiencing fairy tale as spiritual journey can often permeate a person’s life in a more comprehensive way. The person is, in a sense, living in the fairy tale and interacting with its inhabitants. This viewpoint sees the characters of a fairy tale not so much as archetypes, but as actual entities.

This general concept (fairy tale as a personal Story journey) was somewhat dealt with in the 2008 documentary/animation movie “Mythic Journeys”, although the viewpoint there seems to lean more towards the archetypal.

Fairy tales are nothing if not transformational journeys, often begun in the face of some trouble or challenge. Think “Donkeyskin” or “Hansel and Gretel” or “Vasilisa the Brave”. In our own lives, we are often faced with challenges and are sometimes transformed in radical ways.

For my own part, I was moved to begin the 13 Baba Yagas project after several very difficult years. I chose (or perhaps was chosen by) Baba Yaga, a classic entity of destruction, rebirth and transformation. Spiritual journeys are often not easy undertakings and this one has been no different. But, as I move along in the mundane world and the world of “Other”, I appreciate even more the tales and characters of these old stories, stories that refuse to die and are resurrected again and again.