I dreamt of my stepmother a few nights ago. She was sleeping in the dream, but then awoke, and threw a bunch of shotguns on the floor. It was unusual for her to appear in my dream, but she often shows up when I am pondering the role of the so-called “evil” Witch and Stepmother characters in fairy tales, which I was doing the day before the dream. The Witch and the Stepmother in fairy tales are the shadow feminine.
The shadow feminine is the unconscious aspect of the heroine. The part of herself that she projects onto those around her and they are to blame for her lack of progress. The Witch and Stepmother initially served a purpose. They are the part of us that learned the rules in childhood in order to protect us. When you were ten and languishing in front of the television, they sounded the alarm, “Mom will be home soon. You better get up and finish your chores before she gets back or she is going to be angry.” They were your protectors.
The Wicked Witch was a Warrior in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy saw herself as a helpless Victim when her house landed on the first Wicked Witch and killed her. Then, later in the story, she was devastated when the Wizard told her she had to kill the second Wicked Witch in order to get home. How could she, a helpless little girl, kill anyone? She couldn’t even imagine it.
As Dorothy and her friends approached the Witch’s castle, the Witch in defend and protect mode, repeatedly tried to stop them. Finally, the Witch took Dorothy and the Lion hostage, had the stuffing pulled from the Scarecrow, and damaged the Tinman by having him dropped from high in the sky.
The Witch made Dorothy work in the kitchen and caged the Lion. She repeatedly tried to steal Dorothy’s silver shoes, which eventually made Dorothy so angry she threw water on the Witch, which melted her. This is symbolic of the emotions that can melt the defensiveness and protection we have utilized throughout life. Acceptance of the difficult feelings as they arise will melt the inner Witch. This also moved Dorothy out of the Victim role as she integrated the anger the Witch carried and accepted it as a part of herself. This empowered her to act on her own behalf.
Cinderella played the Victim role with her Stepmother and Stepsisters who endlessly taunted her. They constantly created extra work for her, so she could never rest. They ridiculed her and made her feel as though she was never enough. She would never meet her Stepmother’s expectations in order to be free to do as she pleased.
These women are the inner voices that tell us there is always more work to be done. They are the beliefs we carry regarding inadequacy. They are what keeps us from living the life we desire as our true selves. Those ideas prevent us from following our hearts.
The Witch, Stepmother, and Stepsisters in the fairy tales are the inner voices that keep us from stepping into the fullness of our being. They keep us playing Victim roles and interpreting what happens through that lens. They mire us in giving and receiving blame and guilt, which keeps us under their ever watchful eyes to do more and try harder to be enough.
The roles the Stepmother and Witch played in childhood are not necessary as an adult. Cinderella defied her Stepmother when she went to the balls. The Prince challenged her parents when he insisted she try on the slipper. The Stepmother was the voice that said she had to play smaller the first two times she tried to leave home. The parents continued to ridicule her the third time as the Prince took her away from the home in which she wasn’t seen or valued for who she was.
Dorothy discovered at the end of her journey that she had the power to go home inside her all along. We also have the strength to face our inner critics in whatever form they take. We have the ability to step out of Victim and Warrior roles and into a new story. The power to live the life we long for, following our hearts, and sharing our gifts, is and has been inside of us all along. All we have to do is click our heels together and we are at home in our true self.