Something has been tickling at me as I try to follow Vassalisa’s lead in this here initiation story. It's this feeling that she’s not much of a hero: She’s too passive! She’s not running her show, she’s just responding, reacting, following the doll’s direction!!!
You see this at every turn, if you are looking for it. She tries to please her stepfamily until they are sick of her and make an excuse to get rid of her by putting the fire out. She leaves because they tell her she is the only one who can go get fire from the Baba Yaga. She does decide to follow the doll’s directions in the dark forest. That’s true. But when the Baba Yaga gives her undoable tasks, the doll is like “I’ve got this, you just rest your pretty head” and she does! She just goes to sleep! And it’s all okey dokey.
I am having a real problem with this.
I’ve always had a real problem with this.
I used to share an office with a scruffy, brilliant rebel documentary filmmaker, who we will call “Ward Serrill,” (because that is his name.) We were working in a totally fucking insane consulting firm where the inmates were running the asylum and our office in the back corner was like this little island of sanity. People would come in and breathe, and say “Can I just sit in here for a second?” We had a sweet little couch, and a deck of animal cards, and a sleeping polar bear picture that said “Breathe.”
I hung it in the doorway from a string so it would smack people in the forehead as they came in.
Polar bear nothwithstanding, most of the credit for all that great juju was down to Ward. I had some good witchy instincts back then, but I was susceptible to the madness. The runrunrun craziness would infect me and I would start moving faster and faster, on a conference call and answering emails and drafting press releases and scheduling the next thing all at once. I would work myself into a state of blind madness. Total "Tharn", if you are a Watership Down fan. I would be in this frantic state and I would look over at Ward and he would be watching me, head cocked, fascinated in the way that you might be fascinated by a chicken who is holding it’s own leash while running in circles.
“What should I do?” I would say. “Ward, what should I do?!?”
And he would look at me and smile and say “Less doing, more being, baby.”
Easy for him to say.
Also, easy for Vassalisa, it seems. I am so struck by the fact that at the same time my nasty inner critic (who I have named Edith) is all about how “Vassalisa is no hero because she isn’t forceful enough,” I am also finding that force is so overrated in, say, healing an injured body. For the last year and a half, I have been doing all this big muscle work to heal my joints. And when it wasn’t working and I mentioned this to my PT’, I heard “You aren’t working hard enough. You just need to get stronger.” Which was exactly what Edith was on about, so I sort of meekly said “Okay.” Even though it totally wasn’t working.
Now my genius Julia Childs PT has told me to stop doing all that big forceful work and do the little internal work of being able to tell when my core is engaged. Which requires me to calm down, slow down and listen.
And it’s working. I’m actually healing.
So I’m just noticing this little rant that Vassalisa is not doing enough. Instead, she prevails because she learns to trust and listen to her intuition… Her tiny inner self…
Edith: How can that be enough? I mean You are trying to turn your life around. Plus be part of saving the world. You need to make something go boom!
Me: You are right! I need to DO something. What should I do? What should I do?!?
But check out this quote from this great article on witchcraft as the new face of feminism in yesterday’s issue of The Guardian:
“I think one of the biggest conspiracies of a male-dominated society is the suppression of feminine intuition, in that women have been conditioned to second-guess our own hunches, or second-guess our own abilities, all the time. You know when you can just tell someone is creepy, right off the bat? That’s your intuition speaking.”
Suzy X, one of Rookie magazine’s tarot teachers and frontwoman of “witchcore” punk band Shady Hawkins
(Let me just say for the record here that patriarchy/ “male-dominated society” hurts men and women and people of all genders, silences all our intutions, and I am writing for all of us.)
This is new territory for me, but over the years, I’ve gotten slightly more comfortable with being instead of doing… Oh, who am I kidding? I had to be physically immobilized by a double disc injury to begin to listen back in 2006. And then re-visited with another injury in 2013 when I got off track again. But now I am making an active practice of it. I am so in the dark now, but I am friends with it. I filled myself up with the dark. Edith is here, but so is Kali-Maa and between the two, I wouldn’t put any money on Edith. I am in the black part of night, I can’t see where I am, but my inner places, my tiny voice is just loud enough that I can hear it say “It’s okay. Keep going. It’s supposed to be dark. You know as much as you need to, now.”