Monday, April 13, 2015

The Hero and Her Burning Skull of Fire

By: Maria Bhadra Kali Little, March, 2015

The story of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga, in the adaptation, "The Doll In Her Pocket: Vasilisa the Wise," from Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run with The Wolves, is a great and empowering tale of a young woman’s heroine’s journey.
  • The story includes several significant and well-known archetypal characters.
  • It masterfully blends in lessons and values gained through Vasilisa’s hero’s journey.
  • It follows the hero’s journey steps and pattern flawlessly.
This story is essentially about a girl learning to listen and trust her intuition, and inner guide. Vasalisa transforms from being too kind, naive, and overly accommodating to her abusive stepmother and stepsisters, to discovering her own personal strength, and inner worth after an audacious adventure through the eerie woods, and the several tests given to her by the horrifying, and ever powerful Baba Yaga; the wild and ferocious supernatural forest guardian woman, who possesses the ever burning skull of fire.

Vasilisa's journey takes her from her home with her unkind superficial family, to the woods with Baba Yaga. Her pocket doll (which represents her intuition/inner guide) a gift from her long dead but nurturing mother, leads her to master all of Baba Yaga's impossibly tedious tests (if she had failed it would result in her death and eventual consumption by Baba Yaga) and return home with the skull of fire. In the end, the skull burns the eyes out of her cruel and cowardly relatives when they stare into its flame.

This tale reminds us to be kind, but not to lose sight of our own wisdom, personal integrity, and the value of listening to the inner self. Also, it reminds us of exactly how powerful inner sight and wisdom is, as represented in this ancient Russian fairytale, by the ever burning skull of fire, whose light will turn all fraudulence to ash.

Estes analyzes several different fairytales or stories from different cultures around the world, some of which were taken by the Brothers Grimm and turned into common fairytales we know today. The reason Estes' interpretations and ideas around the stories are so important is that she is looking at the roles of women and how their power has been stripped away from society and its stories. She wants the feminine to be reclaimed by all women and society. She looks at archetypes and really takes apart each story piece by piece in an engaging and accessible manner; she brings to life versions of common stories that may have never been heard or properly understood.  

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