I have launched a project for myself that I am calling the Fairy Tale Spreads. I have long had a fascination and appreciation for fairy tales.
First as a child, I dreamt of unicorns and dragons and witches and princesses thanks to these tales my mother read me. As I grew older, I revisited them from a feminist perspective and found them to be lacking. But now that I am older, I find myself back at the doorstep of the old storyteller again. And this time, I am looking at them with a more discerning eye. I am looking for the lessons that I see in them and pulling those lessons out to transform them into fairy tales.
First I look at fairy tales as the teaching tales they were meant to be. The Brothers Grimm wrote dark, depressing stories that had sexual overtones to some and even delved into cannibalism. Children died in their tales. Happily Ever After wasn't a founding principal for the tales that they gathered and rewrote. Of course, once they realized that parents were reading their stories to children, a few tales were retired from publication. You can find these tales once again thanks to Grimm scholars.
In the Grimm Brothers' version of Snow White, the evil stepmother determines that her stepdaughter is dead after eating the lung and the liver that she believes to have belonged to Snow White. But as we all know, the huntsman spared Snow and killed a young bear instead. Cannibalism indeed! Snow finds a small house and is accepted by the seven men living there. The queen finds out and tries to kill the young woman again. Not with the poison apple of the Disney movie. No, the queen laces Snow's dress too tightly causing her to pass out from lack of oxygen. But true love wins out in the end and Snow White lives to marry a prince. But what are the messages you get from this tale?
Oxygen plays a huge part in this story, doesn't it? The queen wants Snow's lung. The queen laces Snow up until she faints. It is symbolic of the fight between a mother and a daughter. Sharing space is sharing air. The queen doesn't want Snow stealing her air... stealing her thunder as it were. I see Snow White as being about a young woman who learns how to be out on her own. Being away from her overprotective father gives her the opportunity to work and learn about herself. The wicked stepmother, to me, represents that natural defiance that happens when a daughter and a mother begin to do the territorial fighting.
My mother and I were extremely close. She was my best friend. But when I hit about 15-16, I began to struggle against my identity of being Marilu's daughter. I needed to be Stephanie. Me. I needed to make and break my own rules. I needed to make mistakes and learn from them without Mama's help. So we struggled with our relationship for a bit. In my heart I knew that I would never not need Mama, but I needed to look into the mirror for myself to find out who was fairest in my land.
In Snow White the mirror, to me, represents many things. Reflecting on ourselves. Looking at others through the mirror. Mirrors are popular divination tools as well as ways to scare ourselves. (Anyone ever play "Bloody Mary"?) And what about the ways our society tells us we should appear? If we are to believe the fashion industry, women need to be six feet tall, 110 pounds, and blonde. Men must be muscular and dark. But is this what you would spend your life fighting to be? What a fashion mogul sees? I didn't think so.
So I decided to apply this lesson of the fairy tale to a Tarot spread. I wanted to find out how we look at ourselves. What reflection do we see? What do others see in our mirror of ourselves? And how can we break our obstacles that we set up for ourselves? I decided that the magical mirror of the stepmother would be the vehicle for this tarot spread. To do that, I needed questions as well as a physical shape.
Here is the " Mirror, Mirror" spread. It is the first of my Fairy Tale spreads. The design imitates a handheld mirror.
This is the spread as it stands today.
- Holding the Mirror (Foundation - what I've brought to this moment in my life)
- Dark Mirror Image (Dark self - flaws I need to address)
- Bright Mirror Image (Bright self - potential I need to use)
- Breaking the Mirror (Obstacle - What do I hang on to that I need to shatter so I can move on?)
- Looking in the mirror (How I see myself)
- Looking out of the mirror (How I see others)
- Mirror, Mirror On The Wall (The final piece of advice)
- Reflections (How others see me)
- Missing Piece (What do I overlook about myself?)
This article was previously published in Tarot Musings and on Arwen's website, and appears here with her permission. Article (c) 2005 Stephanie Arwen Beck.