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Anima & animus in fairy tales

ln many instances, to escape the unconscious in a certain aspect is just as heroic a deed as conquering the dragon. It is quite difficult enough just to run away, escaping back into the human realm. Throwing things backward without looking is the pagan gesture of sacrificing to the unnamable, the untouchable chthonic god, the gesture of worship to the dark powers which you cannot look at, cannot face. This is important to know psychologically, because we are so caught up in the Christian attitude of having to "face" everything.

There are dark things which have numinous qualities which we cannot face; we can only sacrifice to them, which is to recognize their power.

In psychotics, for instance, there are things so dark that it would not be wise to pull them up and look at them. So the princess cannot face this terrible Div [the evil spirit who lived in the pool, changed himself into a beggar and went on to pursue the king's daughter], but she sacrifices to him without looking at him. She sacrifices three items which reflect her feminine persona: the flower, the comb, and the mirror, as well as salt. It is said that roses have thorns because there is no love without thorns – that is, negative remarks and feelings.

The shadow is a positive function; it has a vital instinct which can help.

We could say that the shadow is positive as long as it stays in the inner world and does not act up in the outer world, where it is the province of the persona to move and act and protect one. The Div comes up against the girl's own negative feminine side, which stops him for awhile; it gives him "a lot to chew on." What does that mean in practice, to give the shadow something to chew on? Animus possession may take the form of criticizing everybody and everything – and the damnable thing about the animus is that he is quite right, but likely to be wrong in the specific situation. A way to stop the arguing and criticizing is for the woman to look at her shadow.

Then there is an impact inside which is very helpful to the woman in sorting out what 'she' really believes.

Women don't have such a desire as men have to be perfect. But if there is a strong animus, then there is a correspondingly strong shadow, and by confronting one with the other women have a chance to become conscious. In other words, if a woman has a strong animus, and can overcome her reluctance to knowing her shadow, she can develop a degree of male objectivity about what goes on in her and thereby become conscious. If she cannot, she will suffer endless relationship problems.

There is always a step in the individuation of a woman where she must give up the magic power she possesses over men on account of the projection of their anima.

She must sacrifice her identification with such projections if she wants to acquire an individual personality. Jung once said that where love is lacking, power jumps in. A woman with a strong animus has a prestige persona which she tries to protect. That is power. Salt has a double aspect. In alchemy, salt is the symbol of wisdom, but it also has a stinging quality of bitterness – the bitterness of the sea comes from the salt in it. Wisdom, wit, bitterness and Eros – all that is associated with salt. Jung says this has to do with a specific feminine feeling of love: when a woman is disappointed in love, she becomes either bitter or wise, developing a sense of humor or a certain wit.

Eros is always combined with disappointment – anyone who really loves must risk disappointment; the wisdom of love comes in accepting the disappointment without bitterness.

The comb has to do with putting one's hair in order – it is an object symbolically associated with organizing one's thoughts. In our story the comb transforms itself into a mountain, which is a good way to express what a woman must present to the animus to chew its way through. The mirror is an instrument of reflection. It literally reflects back to us what we can see of ourselves on the outside, how we appear to others. At the same time, when we reflect on ourselves, on our reactions to others and their reactions to us, we have the chance to know ourselves better.

When a woman comes to grips with her animus, when she reflects on his influence in her life, he drowns in her reflections, while she herself is saved from drowning.

Only by sacrificing what we have can we know what we have. Real sacrifice is made with the same definiteness and lack of bargaining that is involved in throwing something away. We can do this only if we are forced to by a greater power in us – a power stronger than the ego – that gives us the necessary strength. We experience this power as an inner imperative which tells us that we "must." In Jungian psychology we understand that as a message from the Self, the regulating center of the psyche. The sacrificer and what is sacrificed are one and the same: it is always the Self.

When the girl sacrifices what is precious to her, she has a chance to realize the true meaning of her life.

Source - Marie-Louise von Franz, Animus and Anima in Fairy Tales (‎Inner City Books 2002), pp. 35-38.

Art: Pavlos Samios, 'Combing Her Hair'

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