• The Faerytale Apothecary

The Key


Listen to my story of the Blue Prince here

Certain things randomly stick with you.

Certain snippets of conversation, images eyes have cast themselves upon, seemingly inconsequential scenes in films or plays.

I loved the fact that when I moved into where I live now, I needed just one key to get in and out of the flat and the building. I’m not travelling anywhere right now, like so many, so have no use for a car or motorbike key. My ‘office’ such as it is, means I walk from the bedroom to the living room or the park or the cemetery (ahem) but I need no key for these either.

My life revolves around just one key.

This pleases me.

The inconsequential scene that sticks with me? James Spader in sex lies and videotape. Of all the things that happen in this film, his brief monologue on how the more keys you have the more complicated your life, stayed with me these past thirty years.

And it works as a question too, just how many keys do you have on your keyring?

What are they for?

Why do you keep some you perhaps no longer use?

And are they actually all your keys on there or someone elses?

medicine trust story storytelling red nose

Keys play another role in my life, the custom of hanging keys at a doorway. Mine hang on green ribbon with a Hag Stone – a stone with a hole in it found usually on a beach – for protection, for far sight, for solidity of place. What fascinates me about this witchery in relation to the one key principle is that these keys must be keys you have found, been given or long since lost the notion of. It is important that you have no idea what these keys unlock and I find that incredibly intriguing.


I’m also intrigued by the sometimes planet sometimes asteroid Chiron – how it is symbolised by a key. Chiron is our wounded healer self, the self that carries rich medicine within the deep shadows we cannot heal in us personally but can positively gift to others. Only we hold this individual key and it both is our blessing and our heavy weight to carry. The key to how we are in the world, where we may be of service to others depending where it sits in our astrological birth chart, but, the curious catch, to know it is also having to feel into what we cannot perhaps bear to witness within.


Which leads me to stories, of course.


The arguably most infamous ring of keys in the Land of Tales – those of Bluebeard.

If you are not familiar with the story, it tells of a daughter who is wed to a wealthy lord. He welcomes her to his home as bride, gives her the run of the totality of his estate, carefully placing the weight of it in her hand with a cautious and cunning ‘but!’ There is one small, perhaps insignificant key that opens one small, perhaps insignificant door which she must never ever ever unlock nor enter the room thereof.

The obvious, practical first question is why would he give her the key in the first place then if she is not to open the door?

Why not hide it away?

Why not make sure the door itself is safely hidden behind some clever bookcase type contraption or such.

Why give someone a key and tell them not to use it?

Well, he goes on a trip, she finds the door and opens it. She enters the chamber and finds his previous wives murdered and discarded, all piles of bones and dismembered limbs.

We can assume he has had many wives who have disobeyed him.

For of course, disobedience is punishable by death.

The story diverges here depending on the telling, she does or does not enter the room fully rather than hovering in the doorway of it. The blood soaked floor – the blood that is always fresh, never drying out – stains her dress, or she gets it on her hands. Whatever action she takes now in this moment, doesn’t really matter for the small, perhaps insignificant key is stained, marked, pointing clearly at her guilt. She notices the blood but can’t remove it or she doesn’t notice it at all. Her fate is sealed like those of the wives before her, her husband will know she has disobeyed his direct order.

Back to the one key.

Our lives only revolve around one key, be it real or metaphorical.

What happens to her? Is she killed or does she use all her wiles to escape?

I suppose that depends whose side you are on…


For me, this is not a fixed story, it is not a cautionary tale, it isn’t always a husband who hands over the key, it can be a wife, a parent. It always struck me that maybe Blue wants the room to be unlocked, maybe he needs to be proven right time and again, his faith in his inability to trust must be played out until one can come along and show him an alternative. This time things will be different, this time someone will rise to the challenge and rescue him. I also wonder if it is not more about the shame we carry. We want to be truly truly intimate with another, we want to be able to lay ourselves vulnerable and unsure and awkward before them, this means showing our hidden aspects, more importantly our shame aspects, but we don’t know how to do this, so we give the other the key so they might stumble upon it, unlock it for us. The secret is out, we have been able to share the unspoken. The response from the interloper then is not to lie about having trespassed but to hold the gaze and clearly admit the transgression and not shy from what has been discovered.

The Wounded Healer gives the medicine - the key - for it to be mirrored back to them, the other offering healing up in return.

Reciprocity in Wholeness.

Always coming back to the holding and awareness of just one key.

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