Sleeping Beauty and the Rose
A retelling by Jessica Rose Booth
Once upon a time there was a beautiful child, named Flora. She glowed with life and vitality. Her laugh lifted the heart of any listener, her song soothed the soul of those most sorrowful and her presence offered a healing balm to any by her side. She didn’t need to work at this magic. It came to her naturally, with ease, just by being who she was in the world. She lived her days dancing in the meadows, feet dusty, speaking the lost language of bees and columbine. Some say she was a little wild and a little soft all at the same time. It was a golden time when the she lay beneath the brilliant sun, light kissed and wind- tousled, soaking into all her being the world around her. She never left the bright cottage by the edge of the meadow. She never went down the twisted path into the dark woods. She never stayed up late at night and knew the expanse of stars or the midnight whispers of the spiders. And in this life, all was good. Time passed in this place and her first blood came. The last day of her childhood was finished.
That night she dreamed a strange dream. In it, she walked down a long corridor of stones and secrets. It felt cold and filled with the grey weight of shadows. At the end of the corridor was a great wooden door. A streak of light snuck out from beneath the frame. Curious, she pushed the door open and found an old woman inside.
“Who are you?” asked the girl.
“You may call me Grandmother Spider, for I spin cloth and stories and dreams” the old woman’s voice crackled with sparks and possibilities.
The young woman knew this was a magic place and a magic dream. ‘What can you tell me, please, dear Grandmother?’ She queried, hopeful for some precious wisdom.
“Only this, child of my child, dream of my dream, you have a choice in the path you walk ahead. Some will say you are under a curse. That you are destined to prick your finger and stay sleeping until true loves kiss comes 100 years from now. And that may be so. And if you choose that road you will be safe and golden, going to sleep in one moment and awaking in the next, in a new world and time with a love you do not yet know. As if by magic. That path takes a certain kind of bravery. To seek new worlds and times. Or you can choose a different path. One I will show you now. In this path, you choose to go willingly into the dark. During your sleep you will walk the shadows, become intimate with the dark, learn the song of the night owls and the wolf. In this path you will walk the dreaming time learning yourself. You may not return from the dark because I cannot see what happens on the other side of mystery. On this path, there will be no true loves kiss or guarantee of waking. It will be up to you, to come through on your own. Think and Dream on this beloved daughter of my daughters and you will know what to do, when you have chosen. “
The next morning, a great carriage rumbled down the twisted path from the dark woods. It stopped at her cottage and she was asked to return to the palace, for indeed she was the cursed princess and it was time for her to choose a suitor.
As she climbed into the carriage there was a small spider spinning a web in the corner, and she was reminded of her dream. She felt the call of new worlds and new times. She could see herself in the life ahead content with children and a partner. Beloved and Loving surrounded by bliss and light. And yet as the carriage rolled deeper into the loamy woodlands, the scent of moss and pine, filled her carriage. She saw the beauty in the dappled light; she heard the whispers of spiders and the strange calls of birds she did not know. There was much to learn in this place she thought, as she spied the red-jeweled glint of wild berries and the orange flash of a fox running. She wondered what she would learn in the dark dreaming and even though she was afraid and could see the full way ahead, she knew which path she had to take.
That night there was a great feast to welcome her home and men and women from all manner of places had come to court her. Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Flora wandered away from the gathering, down the spiral, labyrinthine curve of wide stair steps leading downwards.
She felt the cold and the grey weight of shadows. And found her way to a great wooden door with a streak of light sneaking out from beneath the frame. With a thrill of fear and hope, Flora pressed her body against the door and pushed. It swung open, ponderous and silent. Inside were two spindles and two spinning wheels. One was spinning fine gold cloth as light as air and soft as down feathers. The other was spinning black silk. The shinning gossamer of spider webs twined with the celestial blackness of the sky at midnight. Mesmerized she knew. She walked to the spindle and gave it a willing offering of her blood. As soon as her blood soaked into the wood, a deep bell began to ring, a door opened before her into the underground. As she stepped towards it she turned to take one last look behind her and saw herself lying asleep on the ground.
Touching a gentle hand to her own sleeping cheek, she said farewell to herself and stepped into the dark unknown.
Sometimes she travelled with a spider who taught her of dreams and weaving. Sometimes she travelled with a wolf who sang the song of the wild and the moon. Sometimes she travelled with an old woman who taught the ways of priestess and the ways warrior. For a while she travelled with a band of Fae who taught her the arts love in the most delicious ways. And yet with all the things she learned, she did not know how to get back or how to break the spell. She did not know how to bring her wild, sovereign, shadow self back to her light, healing and vital self. Or even if she wanted to. The dark was so intense, intoxicating, revealing, seductive.
Finally she asked the spider who laughed and told her to ask the rose.
And so she sat with the Roses. Surrounded by the thorns and the prickling leaves, playing with the delicate petals, her breath fragrant and fingers thorn pricked.
She sat with the roses and drummed for the roses. She sang to roses, watered the roses and fed them with her tears and blood and laughter. And finally she saw what had always been there for her.
The rose is both. She is light, vibrant, beautiful, and healing. And she is dark, protective, rooted and fierce. Sometimes she hurts, sometimes she heals. When taken as a whole, flower, stem, roots and thorn- she is complete. All facets and shades of her make up the complexity of her wisdom.
And with this knowing, she walked back to her sleeping self and kissed her lips with loving acceptance of all parts of her.
She claimed her name Rose and simply lived whole. And that is the happiest ending of all.
photo Jennifer Liston @Flickr Creative Commons