• The Faerytale Apothecary

The Story Nest

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Sometimes, particularly as things are now, I just want to be picked up and held, to feel I can nestle into a comfort, to feel safe for just a moment, to feel brighter, to feel that warm glow right in the centre of my chest and my whole systems slows, is nurtured, relieved, told right now everything is okay.

In Widdershins by Charles de Lint, Jilly Coppercorn reminds us of the power of fairy tales, of the all important once upon a time, because “...if you can have that, then you can still have hope, because however a fairy tale turns out in the end, the once upon a time beginning at least sets you up with the hope of a happily ever after. In a world of angst and irony, that’s actually a precious thing. At least it is to my way of thinking.”

We hear those four words and immediately something in us is able to let out a sigh, is held in the familiarity of them, knows its okay to let go for a little while, to be suspended in the magic of the imagination - once upon a time.

So we snuggle down, wrap a blanket a little tighter around us, inhale deeper from the mug of cocoa and maybe even, finally, after nights of tossing and turning, relax enough to drift off to sleep.

But fairy tales are so much more than a bedtime story, they can be in their own very special way a wonderful container that will beautifully hold any task we place on them. In their repetition they become a reassuring mantra: “Yes, I know this,” we can say “I know where this story goes, I know what happens, I know I will come out the other side okay for it.” And so, finally we are able to relax and let go. They can serve to remind us of our moral obligations, of how we ought to be and not be within our communities in order to fit in, be received, know how to behave appropriately, or not, as the fancy may take us. They have been proven as an invaluable aid in helping children develop empathy (story magazine has some great hints and prompts if this is of interest). If we place an animistic model upon them, the idea that everything has spirit then they become traditional teaching tales often offering totally different insights. What if for the Field Mouse being told stories really was her greatest joy, or a tree could offer wisdom and advice for those that stopped to listen, or a mountain will reveal hidden gold if asked in the right way.


Central to many shamanic practices is the journey where with a clear mission in mind, a practitioner will alter their state of consciousness in order to travel into the Unseen/Non-Ordinary Reality/Spirit Realm to meet with their Spirit Teachers and Allies to ask for help and guidance. The information is then sometimes brought back to the community in the form of a story, the teaching is often better understood and incorporated into daily life in this way. We are able to suspend our need for clear cut answers and be swept by the enchantments of the storyteller in a way the recounting of the experience often can’t. When we are held spellbound by story it becomes something felt not simply analysed and our whole being is able to absorb what is being offered up to us. I remember in my own journey work my Spirit Teacher once saying to me, when I was trying so hard to not forget anything – “the parts of you in need of the help, healing and guidance will remember all it needs to, don’t worry.” This was when I was asking for information about a dream I had had. The waking me didn’t need the information, it was the dreaming me that did. But it is not all a one way street. Fairy tales give us permission to safely project onto the characters aspects of ourselves we might not otherwise feel okay to face. They offer up a structure in order for us to look directly into the shadows, not with fear but with curiosity, not with shame but with delight, for in a way we know already what we will see. We can give voice in a way we have never been able to before, because, of course, we are talking about the Wolf in Red Riding Hood, not ourselves at all. To take it a step further and embody, enact, role play these characters via a therapeutic setting can bring real and strong changes into our lives.

Fairy tales bring us the treasure we need in the way we need it, they have a marvellous way of adapting to whatever lens we view them through, are solid and patient under our scrutiny, will tuck us into bed or offer themselves up as mirror so we may view the dark places of our internal forests.

Since early March, I have been reading the folk and fairy tales gathered by the Brothers Grimm live on Facebook, it has been a steady anchor in these shifting times and another reminder of how powerful fairy tales can be in holding for us all we are feeling in any moment, offer up new perspectives for our everyday problems, give creative solutions and, as mentioned, somewhere with a voice for our inner turmoil in an abstract yet secure feeling way. And sometimes they simply reach straight to a place within us that craves a little beauty and softness. Being lead so magically back to the stories of Hans Christian Andersen has done that for me. There is something that feels so very special, no that’s no the right word, wonder-filled in reading them aloud.

Like I am a part of something bigger, held in the marvellous cycles and circles of the world, they are steeped in a medicine that fills my heart with joy at the thought of being nestled in them and the child in me whispers, can I be like him when I grow up?

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