What the ancient Greeks called muthos was very different from what we nowadays call “myth”. For the Greeks a muthos was a true story, a story that unveils the true origin of the world and human beings.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, speaks of her reasons for using narrative, including fairy tales:
“In this [story-telling] tradition a story is 'holy,' and it is used as medicine. The story is not told to lift you up, to make you feel better, or to entertain you, although all those things can be true. The story is meant to take the spirit into a descent to find something that is lost or missing and to bring it back to consciousness again.”
That which is being retrieved in the tale of the Handless Maiden is women’s spirituality and subjectivity, which has been lost in patriarchal culture.
The fairytale of the Handless Maiden is part of a collection gathered from peasants by the brothers Grimm in about 1812. Fairy tales, when looked at symbolically, guide us to understand the unconscious reasons for our collective and personal problems.
Although this Tale is essentially about the predicament of women, men are equally represented, and transformed. The feminine body, that of the Handless Maiden, is mutilated at the beginning of the narrative, and healed by the end. This suggests that the patriarchal assumptions which initially wounded her have been made conscious, and healed through the achieving of her subjectivity/individuation. This is done through different feminine modes of restoration - meditation, solitude, prayer, virginity.
The final achievement, as posed by the narrative, is a coniunctio, or marriage. This coniunctio can be read on various levels; within an individual psyche, between men and women, and as commentary on gender relations in our culture.
In addition to Jungian thinkers, I call upon the work of contemporary French philosopher Luce Irigaray. This creates a unique and very contemporary analysis, which goes to the heart of many of our most perplexing questions, especially as women. Both men and women are welcome to this talk. Attendance is essential for the women joining the workshop, as all the foundational concepts are covered in the talk.