08 October 2013

Reviving Vasilisa

My Firebird painting? Totally relevant.
Trust me. If you copy, please link back.
Warning! This post references a LOT of my much older blogtacular ramblings as well as some outside concepts best explained by others, so it's a little on the link-heavy side. Now on to the updates!

As I posted over on the book of face yesterday, it’s official: I will be a vendor in a Fall Festival hosted by a local Methodist church this weekend! Not exactly my usual clientele, but perhaps they will still like my obnoxiously colorful jewelry with nature and faerie themes. I am leaving my post-apocalyptic paintings and goddess sculptures at home, and instead I will be focusing on showcasing the mounds of jewelry I’ve made over the past year or so. So, if you are in the central Texas region on 12 October, swing by Grace United Methodist Church’s Fall Festival, at which yours truly will be sporting a lovely table with all the sparkly goodies from The Shoppe Between The Trees and then some!

In other news, you may not hear from me towards the end of October and mid November. My unit will be in the field for a large part of the fall, and I will not have access to the endless interwebs (nor, much to my deployed fiancé’s distress, a phone). I will attempt to take a break from the insane amounts of Samhaine and Handfasting related crafting projects I presently have underway to post an update on how the Fall Festival went, but no promises! I have four more Halloween costumes to finish, another dress to make, a dress to re-size, and gods only know what else has slipped my mind. Our guest bedroom has become my room of unfinished crafts.

Bottom Line: posting may be sporadic throughout this Autumn, so I will try to make them worthwhile when I can. Now, onto the good stuff! Today, let’s ponder about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and has caused me much pondering of late.

Давайте поговорим о русских сказках, в частности, Василису Прекрасную! Or, for you non Russian speakers (which according to my stats are the majority of you, but believe it or not my blog does get regular traffic from all over Eastern Europe), let’s talk about Russian fairy tales, specifically, Vasilisa the Beautiful! This is not the first post I have written about Russian folklore, nor is it the first dedicated to that dutiful daughter who faced Baba-Yaga and won. Now, as some of you likely know, I majored in Russian and International Relations in college, and I wrote my Honors Thesis about Baba-Yaga as a symbol of initiation into adulthood. Thus, I have always had a soft spot for old bony-shanks. And, as the Slavic Cinderella, I have always had a soft spot for Vasilisa as well.

Vasilsa and Baba-Yaga represent two opposite ends of the spectrum of womanhood: one is an archetypal maiden; the other, undoubtedly a crone. One is just beginning her life, and the other is both ancient and timeless as death. Vasilisa undergoes a change in the tale, growing from an innocent child into a young woman. She comes from her humble, girlhood roots to earn her right to be an adult, and at the end of it all she is a woman ready for marriage. This is a common theme in Slavic folklore. What you don’t see as prevalent in Russian myth as in some other cultures, are the heroines who are clearly the heroine, but remain unmarried. Cue: Daphne. The endgame of every Slavic fairy tale in which a woman is the lead is marriage. Even in many of the male-centric adventure stories, the heroes complete their three tasks and at the end, they marry the princess. We see this theme repeated in Disney movies, in other culture’s fairy tales, in modern literature; this theme being that You, as a human being, are not complete until You are part of a Married Couple. Obviously I am making some generalizations here—there are plenty of counter examples available, even the Rusalki come to mind, albeit they are not heroines by any stretch of the imagination in traditional folklore—but my point is that, according to myth and other cultural stories, we as humans are not complete until we are aligned and bound to our other halves, and those who remain single—particularly if they are female—are somehow….wrong. Rusalki, the firebird, Baba-Yaga, crazy-cat-lady.

And I don’t necessarily agree.

Sure, Vasilisa is a great heroine, a wonderful role model for obeying her elders even when they are clearly full of crap and do not have her best interests at heart. She’s a great passive character, perfectly passive, even. She obeys her evil stepmother. She outwits Baba-Yaga by listening to the advice of a magic doll, for frak’s sake. But as naive as she may be as a child, I do not think she is necessarily more fully human once she exits the Yaga’s hut and marries a prince. To reference the all-wise Buffy, her cookie dough is done baking when it is done baking, regardless of her relationship status. The end game is to become more fully who and what you are, not necessarily to find that other someone to make you perfectly happy (and then by uniting with them, becoming complete). You are complete when you reach self-actualization, in psychological terms, and it has nothing to do with being single or married.

I know this may sound hypocritical for someone in a committed relationship; however, happy as I am with my fiancé, I am not necessarily a more complete human being now that I have him around. Or, had the case been otherwise, if I had settled on a her instead of a him. Things just happen, and sometimes you find someone who you fit with, who also happens to fit with you, and things work out so perfectly that it would take a clinical idiot to ruin them. I’m lucky enough that I found such a relationship. But I am still an independent, complete person. I am not an independent half. I am not a half of a whole. Neither is he, for that matter. Yes, I believe that he is my soul mate, and that we have lived many lives together already, and that we have been searching for each other unknowingly in this life until we finally met. Yet our being with each other in the present does not invalidate our time before we met. We were as human before as we are now.

Is my cookie dough done baking? Of course not; as long as we live, we are changing. We are in a constant state of flux. We grow, we deteriorate, we decay, and then new growth eventually takes place from the ashes of the old. Whether you are Vasilisa the Beautiful, Baba-Yaga, or Ivan the Fool (perhaps more on that particular hero one day), you are a complete human being simply because you are. You do not need another person to make you whole; you are whole already.

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