Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Gypsy shaman's interpretation of Sleeping Beauty

We Borrow the Earth fell off a shelf in a charity shop as I reached up to replace a book next to it. The title was captivating - so I decided the book had chosen me. I knew to ignore what I'd previously heard about Gypsy culture and tradition - the stories were likely overly romanticised and mysticised accounts - and aimed to read without preconceptions as far as possible. Patrick Jasper Lee's personal experiences and thoughts about his culture and history were fascinating and written in a very engaging manner. As a practising Gypsy shaman he has a deep relationship with the Earth, and a lot of his thoughts about our ruptured relationship with our natural world resonated with me.

But I was truly delighted to find he had expressed opinions on fairy tales and their importance in our (imaginative) lives - I'm not sure how often I've read interpretations that haven't been from a Western academic perspective. Below, I've shared Lee's thoughts on Sleeping Beauty.

'La belle au bois dormant' by manu4-20-5 @ dA
"It saddens me to think just how much we have pushed the fairy-tale world underground, this beautiful magical world which once fashioned everyday life and the initiations of our deeper past in Europe. But a student of mine once said to me, 'These Romani teachings of yours reawaken the Sleeping Beauty within me.' This comment could simply sound like romantic fantasy, but it touches the very heart of the Romani shamanic journey. The lady who spoke these words was French, but this phrase also says a good deal about the spirit of the imagination which once thrived in western Europe and which is now very much like a great and beautiful princess, sleeping within us, and also beneath us within the Earth."

'The Sleeping Beauty' by KmyeChan @ dA
"Long ago, Sleeping Beauty, a spirit recognisable to all of us who have European roots, came under the spell of a wickedly clever fairy, whose spirit worked through many gullible sorcerers. These sorcerers threatened to kill the beautiful princess - or to take the beauty of the imagination away. The princess would prick her finger when she was 18 - civilised life would be a test for this natural spirit, nine being a crucial number for testing the soul of a great princess - and she and all her people would fall into a deep sleep in which they would know nothing of their older life, until a handsome prince found his way to the castle, kissed the princess and woke her. Then they would all live happily ever after - or reunite with their imaginative lives again. I believe we are still in that deep hypnotic slumber in our physical world, together with the beautiful Earth spirit, or princess of our land, and I believe that this seemingly eternal sleep affects us when we journey."

'Wild Nocturne' by lauraborealisis @ dA
"The Sleeping Beauty was thus a sad tale expressing the story of the Bari Weshen Dai, 'the Great Forest Mother', who was a beautiful feminine spirit residing in the forests of Europe. Her fate was sealed when the spell was cast. And she still now sleeps, entombed beneath the Earth, and also within us. Interestingly, in the French language The Sleeping Beauty is called La belle au bois dormant, 'The Beauty of the Sleeping Wood'!"

'Forest Thinking' by jslattum @ dA
"I often tell students who come to learn the craft of Romani journeying how we can take on the role of the handsome prince who kisses this beautiful lady. For a greater part of us is sleeping along with her, as we are all entranced by the spell. But when she wakes, in the future, we will wake too, and she will wake, because that is her fate also. No bad spell can last forever. The 'good' image must inevitably follow the 'bad' one! And we will eventually outwit the one who created this powerful soul-numbing slumber. Who knows what will happen when the Sleeping Beauty finally wakes!"

'Spiritual Journey' by Tamura @ dA
"The journey I conduct with students around the theme of waking the Sleeping Beauty is always one of the most important journeys, for it serves to rekindle the student's relationship with Puv, the Earth Spirit, via the Bari Washen Dai. It can help to develop essential assertiveness and also direction."

Patrick Jasper Lee, We Borrow the Earth: An Intimate Portrait of the Gypsy Shamanic Tradition and Culture (London: Thorsons, 2000), 222-224.

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