“Once, long ago, in a far-off country in a tiny village . . . “
So many myths and stories begin that way, and many folks hear that to think, oh, this is just a fairytale.
And yes, yes it is a fairytale. But the essence of true myths and fairytales slices down into our souls and resonates deeply within.
And that first line is like our heroes in Star Wars entering that bar in the outlands as they start their trek, and finding only aliens there.
Because any good story forces our hero from the warmth of her hearth and into the wild unknown. And that first line of “Once upon a . . .” is meant to garner the same effect—you have just entered the Twilight Zone. Of whatever sort.
So, long ago lived a quite lovely child, so much so that she was known as Vasilisa the Beautiful. Which is a wonderful thing, no? For children are oh-so-beautiful in their own right. Vasilisa’s world of course was perfect, with a mother and father who loved her to the moon.
But life has a way of making left turns, no? And such happened when Vasilisa’s mother died. On her death bed she gave to Vasilisa a most beautiful doll, and told her to always keep the doll in her pocket. When scared or confused, she need just ask that doll what to do.
Of course then came the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Of course they did. When we talk about conflict in books, fairytales show us step-by-step examples of how to create those! These tales are rife with conflict on every page.
And in keeping with that, the step-women didn’t like Vasilisa because she was so sweet and so beautiful and oh-so-wonderful in all ways.
So they sent her out into the dark forest to Baba Yaga’s house to get fire, having let theirs go out for this very purpose.
No one ever came back from the dark forest. And Baba Yaga was known to eat small children.
No lack of conflict there!
As the child navigates the forest filled with monsters and creepy wails, whenever she comes to a crossroads, she asks the doll, who instructs which path to follow.
Now, wouldn’t that be nice!
This myth factors in intrinsically to I Just Came Here to Dance, and at one point, our hero thinks, I wish I had some stupid doll in my pocket to tell me what to do!). It is but one of the myths told on Diana’s porch throughout that novel, but it’s the one that anchors the story, and weaves all the way through until the end.
This is the easy part. Don’tcha just love how myths do that! You’re trucking along on whatever path you find yourself, mastering tasks and learning skills and oh, things are going so fabulously! And hey, “I can do this!” bubbles up from within.
And then . . .
Well, then you get to your own Baba Yaga’s house, whatever that may be in your own story, and it sits atop scaly chicken legs and dances ‘round and ‘round, circled by skulls with fire burning out their eyes and noses and . . .
Hey, you came for fire, no? Thought it’d be easy?
Anyhow, as the trials get scarier and scarier, harder and harder, the prospect of death very real, well, now trusting that doll becomes a hair more difficult . . .
But trust her doll, Vasilisa does. And she learns at every step. And when push comes to shove, she earns the skull burning from within with the very fire she needs to light her home.
Notice, she earns it. Nothing was given in myths and fairytales, until it was won.
Throughout the story, her courage grows, step by step. Her knowledge and mastery flourish, step by step.
And it all stemmed from learning to trust that doll in her pocket, which told her which way to go.
That doll, of course, is the soul of intuition. We all have her in our pockets—whether we pay much attention to her or not.
The question is not whether your intuition is there, but how deeply is it buried. By ego’s voice. By complexes of one kind or another. By the old tapes of society and religion and culture that told you intuition was not to be trusted, as it’s a woman thing, where man’s logic works better. Or from that old white-haired god in sky whom you obey—not the personal divinity in your soul. Or any litany of lies we were raised with.
But it’s there, nevertheless. Always there.
When Paula Anne bemoans not having said doll, Lola the crone answers, “You do, dearie, you do.”
Vasilisa learns to trust hers through literal trial by fire. Which is, of course, always the meaning of the Wicked Old Witch. She forces you to face your internal demons (which mirror her), and master tasks that cause you to grow. She is the seat of creativity, which flies on fire’s wings.
Because that doll of intuition never steers you wrong. You feel it, in your gut, in your heart, in your bones. You feel the right way to go—whether you take the direction or not. There, in the essence of your soul, you know the right move.
The God of your soul is speaking.
Listen carefully. Its voice is never the loudest. Its whispers sometimes difficult to hear. But under the all the noise from a thousand directions, it’s the one that never ceases.
There is a reason the Vasilisa story is known across the world, from ancient traditions in different cultures (although the earliest form comes from Russia).
And there is a reason she is known equally as often as Vasilisa the Beautiful, and Vasilisa the Wise.
From the deepest part of her soul, her wisdom blossomed.
And just as Paula Anne’s does, yours can too.
Can you hear the sounds of the doll in your pocket, whispering the wisdom of the ages to you?