Deviations from Conventional Jungian Method
With this general attitude toward Jungian interpretive methods in mind, I'd like to turn to general interpretive methods in my revisioned approach to interpretation (and then to the text itself). I won't reiterate many of the points that Betts makes with which I am in general agreement. All I will say preliminarily is that Betts, in presenting a solid, classical Jungian interpretation of the fairytale, errs (in my opinion) in typical Jungian over-amplification. To be fair, part of this over-amplification is done in the name of edification . . . and Betts admits to this. But as Betts also prefaces his interpretation with a warning (or multiple warnings) about over-amplification as a typical interpretive error, I was a little surprised to see how much (in my opinion, unnecessary) amplification he proceeded to do. He reads extensively from a symbol dictionary and a couple other symbolic theory texts.
I was also "trained" to use symbol dictionaries and apply conventional Jungian methods. But I see these things as habits that must first be learned and must secondly be unlearned after a more instinctual interpretive expertise is developed. In both dream work and fairytale interpretation, I see amplification as either 1.) a purely academic exercise best left to academics and academic discussions, or 2.) a technique employed only in absolute last resort. Jungians, in my opinion, have a fetish for amplification that seriously impairs their ability to understand texts. Symbols in both dreams and fairytales are often purely intuitive and only very, very rarely have historical or academic attributes to their construction. Yes, we can apply the comparison of such amplifying texts . . . but this is an academic exercise and not some form of interpretive divination. Bett's foray into the Jungian indulgence of amplification is much more academic, in my opinion, than his general approach to the podcasts. Only an indoctrinated Jungian would assume that such amplifications are appropriate for newbies or truly essential to the interpretation of folk texts. This is a quaintness of Jungians, and I don't mean to say it is unendearing . . . in the sense that a stuffy and erudite professor is not unendearing in his or her obsession over academic minutia. I like to see someone in love with the toys of their obsession. Jungians are too identified with the senex to use such a term, but what I think we should see in the Jungian tendency to over-amplify texts is a devout "geekiness". Jungians are simply amplification geeks. And I like geeks. I think we all have to exercise some geekiness in order to be human. It's a form of enthusiastic innocence.
I certainly don't mean to condemn Jungian geekiness or scold Jungians for ever getting their geek on. I wish merely to point out that this geekiness is one of those puerisms that Jungians (who wish so badly to be senexes) have a hard time seeing for what they really are. And that is a shame, I think . . . because while Jungians have remained in senexy stuffiness and self-importance, the rest of the world has started to find that geeks and geekiness are lovable. Wake up call to Jungians: it's OK to let the geek out of the closet! While we were following our bliss into our navels, the rest of the world loosened up and found something wonderful we have always denied ourselves.
So, primarily, I will not amplify symbols in "Nixie", but instead analyze them in terms of their innate logic and intuitive physics and structure. What amplifications I do pursue are intended specifically for the indoctrinated Jungian reader and involve academic discussions pertaining specifically to Jungianism.Millers and Hunters
Betts does address these fairytale occupations as meaningful and interpretable types, but I'm not sure he zeros in effectively on the significance of these common fairytale occupations to psychic structure. He begins in a way I would agree with, but quickly segues into symbol dictionary amplifications that strike me as off topic. So I will recreate this in my own style. What we generally know about a miller in the fairytale universe is that he (millers are generally male in these stories) grinds or mills grains to make flour . . . and flour is necessary to make bread. Bread is what "everyone eats", a dietary staple. Bread is one of the dietary staples that is unique for being processed. It is not merely taken directly from nature, perhaps cooked, and then consumed. It must be farmed (planted and harvested), milled, mixed with water and yeast, baked, and then
eaten. Bread is therefore a symbol for "life", where "life" here means living in the world or promoting human culture. It can also be seen as an interesting symbol of human consciousness, because it not only combines the toil of the farmer and miller and the expertise of the baker, but it relies on the magical or "spiritual" assistance of yeast to make the bread rise (in the case of leavened breads, at least). This means breadmaking can be seen as an alchemical work where the "alchemist" perfects what nature has created . . . but not without the spiritual element of "grace" descending into the opus. Most Jungians are familiar with the Rosarium Philosophorum emblems Jung analyzed in "The Psychology of the Transference". We should then recall the dove-spirit descending over the union of Sol and Luna . . . and later the same dove-spirit as the Holy Ghost descending over the crowning of Mary in the Annunciation emblem. That dove-spirit is equivalent to the "yeast" that goes into the construction of our consciousness.
I offer that alchemical amplification to help orient the specifically Jungian reader, but I'd like to point out that no academic amplifications were needed to construct a viable interpretation of the miller symbol. The next thing to note is that in the breadmaking process mentioned above, the miller plays only a specific role: the transformation of the harvested grains into flour. So this is neither harvesting nor baking/selling. He is taking something harvested in its natural form and grinding it down into a more refined form in which it acquire greater cultural usefulness and palatability. It is sort of like a sublimation (in the Freudian rather than the alchemical sense) . . . where the ego is taking "raw instincts" (or perhaps more accurately, "affects") and processing them into a refined form. After this, the process of baking (which is a bit more like art and involves the "spiritual"/inspirational yeast) will transform the flour into consumable cultural stuff. Perhaps the miller is something like boards that rate movies, television, and video games. He gives these products a cultural definition, a way for others to make a quick assessment of the value and content of the product. There are no doubt numerous other ways to "intuitively" interpret the miller symbol, but instead of riffing on them, let's see what additional clues the text gives us.
We can logically assume that the miller grinds grain using a large stone driven by flowing water that turns a water wheel (Betts talks about this process in his podcast). So something dynamic and flowing is being harnessed to refine grain into flour through an apparatus that translates the force of the water into milling. Psychologically, we would call this "libido", even if that term is not generally acceptable outside of depth psychologies. What we can say is that this flowing water is perceived as Other, as a natural resource, and as only useful through the conversion of energy we could call "egoic". What's more, the eponymous mill pond through which this water flows and pools (I'm not sure if a mill pond comes before or after the water wheel) is occupied by a nixie . . . which could thus be seen as the occupying "agent" and owner of this water or its dynamism. Or, equally, we could say that the nixie is a kind of colonizer or even parasite of this water. The process of using "libido" in this way causes a "pooling up effect". It is not perfectly efficient or innocuous to the natural environment. And the nixie represents the "spirit" that causes water to pool up in the mill pond and is also responsible for the success or failure of the work the miller does. We will have to decide these things based on later cues in the story.
For now, we can be certain that the nixie has power over the occupational success of the miller. We could stretch this a bit to say that, since the miller can mill as much grain as the flowing water driving his millstone allows, any disruption to this flow would damage his financial wellbeing. And since the story begins with his financial wellbeing taking a turn for the worse (his "drive" is depressed), we know this has happened. We also learn that he can reinstitute this wellbeing by making a devil's bargain with the nixie. It's a devil's bargain, because the miller is deceived and ends up losing something of even greater value than his "productivity".
There are numerous real-life parallels we could introduce to psychologize this narrative so far. For instance, we could say that the miller was a pretty reliable guy who worked hard and stayed inside the lines of social mores. But then things just stopped falling "naturally" into place, and he grew dissatisfied with his life. He fell into the projective trap of trying to remedy this with an extramarital affair that promised to be a "good bargain" (i.e., sexual excitement without any serious consequence). But whether his wife found out about the affair or the miller-personality simply recoiled with the "morning after guilt" of his sinful Fall, the event ended up being a "never again" experience. That is, he never learned why it really happened or what made him dissatisfied with his life. He "pulled himself up by the bootstraps" and got his head on right . . . and repressed the moment of shame and weakness.
Another psychologization might generally hold that the miller always had a Demon in his personality that resembled and is embodied in the story by the nixie. So long as his ego functioned in society adequately, the Demonic presence was unconscious and operated more or less innocuously. But when his social egoism no longer produced comfort and satisfaction, he was tempted to make a bargain with the Demon whereby it would drive the ego (possess is a more accurate word) and protect the miller socially . . . but only at the expense of any new developments in his personality. He initially underestimated the value of such new developments, and by the time he realized he was desperately in need of them, he was fully possessed by the Demon. He knew that if his heroic attitude ever got too uppity (too close to the pond), the nixie would seize and devour it. So he always repressed it.
. . . . .
We could also look at the milling symbol in a Freudian way. "I ain't no miller, no miller's son, but I can do your grindin' 'til you miller man come" (as we might imagine it rendered in a blues double entendre . . . I found the very lyric in the Bo Carter song "All Around Man"! (http://blueslyrics.tripod.com/artistswithsongs/bo_carter_1.htm#all_around_man). In this case, his "depression" could more literally be impotence. There are many viable interpretations.
This all seemed to work surprisingly well until the miller's son (who perhaps the miller initially worried he would be unfit to father?) came of age. Then the miller-father had a terrible time relating to the sexual; awakening of his son . . . and projected all of the pent up guilt and censorship onto his son's passage into manhood and into the "world of women". The miller's son, then, develops a kind of sexual/relational dysfunction . . . but it manifests very differently than it did for the father. The son, just emerging from the turmoil of adolescence, has become identified with the sexualized shadow that the father could never deal with in himself and ended up projecting. Instead of a prude, the miller's son has become a Don Juan, a womanizer.
Though pretty arbitrary as a parallel, I am going to back this psychologization as at least viable and point to the occupation the son chooses: hunter. He has not opted to carry on the staid family business (as would have been common in the era of the tale's setting). He has become a very skilled and successful hunter . . . much the opposite of his father. The son has taken a reactionary position . . . but he carries his father's disease and relational/sexual dysfunction. He is estranged from his own eros by getting himself ensnared in the "thrill of the chase" repetition compulsion. We have the interesting detail about disemboweling the deer and having to wash his bloodstained hands in the mill pond (realistic, but not really necessary to the fairytale's overt text . . . therefore, a conspicuous psychological detail). That is, the hunter has blood on his hands and is perhaps starting to feel stained from his repetitive pursuits. Each compulsive repetition is leading the hunter closer to his father's curse
Well, that's one way of psychologizing the story so far, but I can think of a number of reasons that this psychologization doesn't hold up for the rest of the story. Foremost among these is the incongruity that this hunter definitely is an animus figure and partner of the heroine. In other words, he is a representation of an instinctual organizing principle, an agent of the Self system. Which means that he is not fully subject to psychologization or the assignment of egoic personality traits like "complexes" and neuroses. Animi figures can
be "diseased" . . . and in fairytale language, this is called "enchantment". I have come to generally understand the enchantment of fairytale animi and Self figures as a matter of conflation with the Demon (see my other writing on the Demon, but if you have read Kalsched's The Inner World of Trauma
, that should get the ball rolling).
We can see the enchantment/Demon possession of the animus as his capture by the nixie . . . but we are also told that the animus is captured because of a sin of his father's. Who then could be the father of the animus? My best guess is that the "father" of the animus would be the masculine figure with which the animus instinct/archetype first imprinted . . . so this would probably mean the literal father of the "invisible" woman whose personality and individuation this fairytale is a construction of. The miller, then, can be seen as this abstracted woman's father or father image . . . and the problem he left her with was an inadequate mirror for her relational masculinity. Perhaps he always terrified her with stories about "those kind of men" that she had better stay vigilant for, the ones who would use her, hurt her, seduce her and leave her. We could guess that this father feared he himself was capable of this kind of womanizing behavior . . . and maybe he even had "illicit" feelings about his daughter's sexuality that disturbed him and which he sought to projectively quash in her "education". So, of course, she has "created" a hunter-animus as a result of her father's "education" of her sexuality or sense of femininity (a femininity that is, by implication, guilty of ensnaring and tempting those bad kind of men). And this hunter-animus, initially a fantasy of the "bad boy", pursues her through the woods like she is some kind of mysterious, uncivilized nymph (i.e., "game") with a sort of regressed sexuality. She is a grown woman who might "act out" like a "lolita". She is, say, in her 30s, but still calls the men she desires "boys". She cannot let herself have a fully adult and responsible sexuality. The fantasy of the dark "bad boy" lover (perhaps demon lover) is the typical counterpart of a woman with this kind of psychology.
And this attracts a certain kind of man, a Don Juan who loves the thrill of a chase after such nymphs. We could continue this active imagination to propose that, finally, like a deer who slips out of the cover of the forest, she is exposed to him and he "shoots" her. But the hunter thought of the whole pursuit as a game in which the "kill" would bring out the sexual appetite of the pursued nymph (it was, in fact her game, after all). She would be a full-grown woman and a great lover to him once "captured" . . . that is the hunter's fantasy or at least the fantasy this woman projects upon this hunter-animus figure. But what he finds (and she finds) is that he has "blood on his hands". She is psychologically virginal, emotionally unprepared, and incapable of embracing her adult sexuality . . . so his capture of the roe ends up being a more literal "killing". He experiences himself as a rapist, an assaulter. He wanted to find and feel her sexual power (the Don Juan personality is actually in pursuit of the anima, the Great Woman . . . and his complex is often a matter of not being able to separate the maternal from this projection), but he ends up finding that she is "impotent" in her own right.
This opens him up to seizure by the Demon. The nixie grabs him and pulls him down beneath the water. It is only when the heroine discovers this that she is faced with the problem that her unwillingness to own her adult sexuality has produced a Demon in her personality that devours and destroys anything "newly born", anything that has the kind of potent sexuality she needs to reach her "Coniunctio". In essence, she comes into the awareness that she has created the animus-as-hunter and lured him into being the kind of man her father warned her about . . . the kind he was terrified he would turn into if he ever lost control. She realizes that she does in fact have sexual power, but that she has used it in destructive and self-destructive ways (like a nixie). Therefore, as heroine, her task is the redemption of the animus from the Demon's clutches. She must first free the animus from the Demon and then transform him into a shepherd, one who tends and holds together animal instincts. He preserves and facilitates in his relationality and eros rather than hunts and kills. With this transformation, the woman's adolescent fantasy of sexuality is put to rest, and she comes into a deeper, more adult sense of self and connectivity to others.
There are ways to muddle through this snag. We have two main options: 1.) we can see the miller's son as "coming into being" out of the miller's disease (in the sense that the "gods have become diseases") and the miller would then be a representation, not of a personality, but of the disease or complex itself, or 2.) we can see the miller (as natural parent of the animus) as a kind of stunted Self figure. I'm not sure either of these are attractive solutions, but of the two, I prefer the first. We have no reason to equate the miller with a Self figure. There is nothing numinous about him, for instance (as we would normally see with Self figures in fairytales). At least as significant as that reason to discard the second option is the fact that the miller is a man and the heroine of the story is female (the hunter is the contrasexual Other).
I suppose another possibility is to break faith with the story's contract and propose that it is a muddled fairytale, a kind of Frankenstein's monster inadequately cobbled together from disparate and incompatible parts. We see stories like this frequently, but this phenomenon is more common among single-author narratives that reflect the incomplete or inflatedly imagined individuation of the author. In fairytales, time and multiple authorship have usually brought the narrative in line with an instinctual paradigm. But I'll work with the complex but rather intriguing paradigm of the miller as disease/dysfunction and the hunter-animus as the reanimating potential born out of that disease [the section in blue above expands and refines this line of argument
Another thing to consider revising in the meandering attempt at interpretation thus far is the pathologizing psychologization of the miller's son as Don Juan. If he were an ego personality, this psychologization could hold up, but what if we decide to interpret his hunting as an animus behavior and not as a complex [the section in blue above synthesizes the idea of the hunter as both animus and constructed from an inherited complex
]? What does the animus (once activated in a woman's personality) do? It seeks and is attracted to the hero in her, the heroic and adult or fully realized potential in the ego . . . and the animus materializes and develops more definition as the woman increasingly incorporates the heroic attitude into her conscious personality. In this conceptualization, a hunter could be seen as an animus figure, and the deer he hunts is the magical connection and uncanny magnetism of the Syzygy (hero/animi pair). That's a little more abstract than I like to go in fairytale interpretation, but The Nixie of the Mill-Pond is such a devilishly tricky story that some kind of deviation from the norm is called for. It would be nice to find a more elegant solution, but perhaps that is overly idealistic.
If the hunter's forest pursuits are indeed random animus longings for a heroine, then we can still say that his Don Juanism is a factor of his father-derived disease. It is not unusual at all to see portrayals of animus figures as Don Juans. In fact, if Don Juans couldn't carry animus projections so well, they would never succeed in their womanizing. Part of the dysfunction of Don Juanism is a pathological identification with the animus figures projected onto the man (I would here direct anyone puzzled about this to the works of Leonard Cohen, and although it is not one of his better albums, to Death of a Ladies' Man"
There are two subtle tips in the story that help us characterize the hunter. They aren't as substantial as the indicators we might see in most fairytales, but again, this is a very unusual tale. These tips are 1.) that the hunter is exceptionally gifted at hunting, so gifted that 2.) he attracts the attention and blessing of the "lord of the village", who endows the hunter and his wife with a house of their own. This again is quite vague, but it stands out as special . . . and perhaps we could suggest that the "lord of the village" who can exercise such beneficence and reward such skill is a kind of positive masculine Self block off which the hunter-animus is chipped. I don't mean to suggest that a "masculine Self" resides in the personality of the woman reflected by this tale, merely that the hunter is endowed with a higher libido.
We are left now with the interpretation of the image of the hunter washing his bloody hands in the mill pond. Instead of the negative twist I put on this earlier, we could look on the hunter's "catch" less squeamishly and modernly. We could say, then, that shooting his game was like Cupid's arrow shot into the instinctual heart of the heroine. He pursued and pursued her through the forest and finally he "got through" . . . just outside of the forest and next to the mill pond. But of course, it is always just at such moments of animi breakthrough that the Demon retaliates. This is a well-known and often observed occurrence in analysis, and in the language of psychoanalysts and developmental Jungians, it is typically called "resistance to analysis". This is when something in the psyche opposing any healing progress or transformation of personality or individuation event reacts to any glimpse of progress or hope with ruthless, vicious retaliation against the "upstart" ego that considered identifying with the heroic.
What we learn from the story now is that the Demon in this personality construct is the nixie. This Demon is the arch-nemesis of the hero. We aren't given a great deal of information about the nixie, but we can surmise that she is seductive and devouring, especially of masculine energies. If she can possess these masculine energies, she can keep the Syzygy from reproducing, as reproduction disrupts the Demon's control over the personality . . . it is a dynamic state change, and the Demon is dedicated to stasis and controlled repetition.
If we psychologize the Demon here, what kind of dysfunction in the personality might we see? Perhaps a femme fatale construct, the ice queen. She wooes men into her pond with sweet talk or perhaps mysterious helplessness, only to be, in intimacy, entirely incapable of relationship. She is a husk. Perhaps she has many casual sexual relationships but remains terrified of commitment or anesthetized against true intimacy . . . or perhaps she is prudish or "frigid", condemning any man who would dare look upon her with sexual interest. We are not given enough clues to psychologize either way with any conviction.
Luckily, at this point, the story passes out of its own interpretive forest and become symbolically clear. Not clear enough to make good sense of the elaborate backstory in a psychological way, and perhaps not clear under a conventional Jungian paradigm, but from this point forward, the story behaves precisely and rather neatly like a woman's individuation fairytale. That is, it deals with a conflict between a hero and a Demon over the rescue/redemption of a animus figure.
To get the animus out of the clutches of the nixie-Demon and to find a way to direct libido into the act of living in the world, reanimating the personality, the heroine must complete three feminine tasks. The more classical Jungian take on these tasks that Betts weaves in his interpretation is not, I think, "wrong", but it is a little muddier than I'd like, primarily due to the excessive amplifications. The hero receives sage advice from the wise old woman, a kind of familiar Self figure and teacher of heroes. This Self figure understand the particular weakness of the Demon, which is a covetousness of heroic things. This heroic artifact coveting is the most common manifestation of the Demon during an active and progressing individuation process. It can very easily lead to spiritual or "archetypal" inflation in which the Demon impersonates the hero by usurping the hero's "prestige" in the psyche in order to exercise a Demonic programme of stasis. The solution to this Demonic ploy is to be able to use but then let go of
heroic modes and artifacts, to not identify heroism with such "personal effects" or wardrobe items or trophies (trophies sit perfectly still on a shelf; they are not truly equivalent to the heroic act or attitude itself . . . and this fact can easily become the undoing of the hero who forgets it). Of course, in reality, no one succeeds as easily as the hero of the story does in letting go of these heroic and triumphant modes, but this relinquishment is indeed the way out of inflation . . . the way to outwit the Demon.
This lesson is the wisdom the Self imparts, but there is no indication the hero really understands what is happening. She is merely following the Self's advice. In between full moons, the hero (acting more like an ego here) despairs. She despairs because she doesn't understand the process she is engaged in from a removed perspective (like the old woman has). She doesn't see the forest for the trees. At this point in the story, Betts makes what is I feel a very serious (though seemingly innocuous) interpretive mistake. He suggests that the first two attempts at freeing the hunter from the pond are "failures". To be fair to Betts, the heroine is also concerned that these were failures, but again, that is a perspective that doesn't see the whole picture. In fact they are necessary stepping stones, and we know this must be the case not only because they are advised by the Self figure (who is not guessing, but knows perfectly well they are necessary), but because they correspond to essential stages of individuation development. Of course, we always hope with each breakthrough that that will be enough to get the Demon out of our psychic systems, but this is not ever the case.
The first task is the combing of the hero's "long black hair" on the mill pond's shore with the golden comb given to the hero by the old woman-Self. Betts amplifies the comb symbol as the "rays of the sun" and as a representation of "the feminine". This is a symbol dictionary amplification, and it is really pretty useless. We must think more basically and intuitively here. Hair is often associated with sexuality. It grows rapidly, hairstyle can differentiate not only a woman from a man, but express the "kind" of woman she is or at least her mood. Hair is reminiscent of our "animal instincts", it can get "out of control" if not tended to regularly. Yes, it can also (more abstractly) be associated with thoughts (as it comes from the head) and other symbol dictionary abstractions, but in this story, the problem or dysfunction seems to have a decidedly sexual factor, so I will concentrated primarily on the symbol of the hero's hair as fundamental sexual drive and perhaps also expression (we could compromise and say it is sexual thoughts or an intellectual understanding of sexual desire and relationality, of eros). We could guess that the color of the hair here is black because this reflects the shadow surrounding sexuality in the psychologized ego personality the story constructs. Black is also specifically not "gold", the other most common hair color in fairytales. Golden hair might have more spiritual significance than sexual, depending on the story's context.
The comb, though, is the golden element here, and although it is a common Jungianism to associate gold symbols with "consciousness", or worse, "masculine solar consciousness" (not illogically, but heavy-handedly), there is actually a much better and just as simple equation we can make. Gold in fairytales (as in alchemy) represents valuation. Valuation is achieved through heroic consciousness. It brings shadowed or repressed elements of the instinctual psyche into consciousness as that which is valuable to the organization of personality. The comb is first and foremost a differentiation symbol. It takes tangled, knotted hairs and divides them into differentiated strands. This differentiation allows what is combed through to flow and not strangulate itself. Our unconsciousness is a kind of knotted chaos which we have no idea how to untangle and see order in. The Self's advocacy of the heroic allows us to begin to see the instinctual ordering of the Self system.
In this particular story, sexuality (black hair) is being differentiated (comb) and valuated (gold) as it is integrated into consciousness. This achievement is deeply heroic, and the superficial symbol of a woman combing her hair on the shore of a pond belies the deeper meaning. It is such a huge breakthrough to be able to differentiate and valuate one's sexuality after having that sexuality controlled by the Demon for so long, that it certainly seems like this alone should be "enough" to transform the personality into a functional and healthy system. But this is simply not the case, and that tends to result in a renewed sense of despair. The animus emerges (head only) and then sinks back beneath the pond. In the meantime, the golden comb is snatched up by the Demon. It can no longer be relied on to drive the heroic quest. If we keep turning to this differentiation and valuation of our sexuality with pride and complacency (i.e., as a trophy in the case), the Demon will monopolize it. In fact, despair is a healthier alternative (to what would amount to an inflation). There is no available libido in despair, but at least it's "honest".
The next Self-given task for the hero is the playing (and relinquishing) of the golden flute. Again, the gold is the gold of valuation (and we must be careful not to fall into the Jungian self-deception of thinking that gold symbolizes some kind of conquering heroic consciousness that triumphs over the dark, unseemly, instinctual unconscious . . . a kind of egoic sublimation; if we can understand gold as valuation rather than conquering, we can sidestep the main charge of the bull of inflation that plagues Jungian thinking). Again Bett's quotes the symbol dictionary which too abstractly says the flute is a symbol of the feminine. There is also the temptation to consider the flute a phallic symbol . . . and this could go along with the sexuality expressed by the black hair. But I don't think the phallic aspect of the flute is very important here. One thing Betts touches on but doesn't delve deeply enough (or exclusively enough) into is the idea of the flute as a woodwind. That is, it is an instrument through which breath is blown, and this breath is differentiated into distinct notes. Breath or wind is a common symbol of spirit, and like "animus" itself, it is an animating principle. Here we need to understand that "spirit" is another term for instinct or libido. Jung placed spirit and instinct on opposing poles of archetype, and in attempting to construct this paradigm, he wrote a very curious and searching exposition of the spirit/instinct relationship ("On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8 ). But ultimately, he can't equate spirit and instinct, and his essay reads like an argument with himself in which the little gremlin of genius in Jung's mind keeps whispering, "spirit and instinct are the same thing Carl, ol boy", but Jung's ego voice of reason keeps countering with , "No no. Preposterous! It can't be. That would be indecent!" It is one of those moments in which the 19th century thinker in Jung reared its head and refused to think progressively. It is not hard today (at least if one is not a devout Jungian or Christian) to see that spirit is an instinctual phenomenon. We no longer (at least in the science of evolutionary biology) work under the 19th century materialistic prejudice that holds that instincts are base and animalistic . . . and only culture enlightens the darkened, instinctual mind. We now understand (but are only really beginning to do so) that instinct also drives social organization, cultural construction, empathy and morality, and reorganizations of personality (such as those in individuation). Instinct is, in fact, a complex systemic behavioral organizer and is behind even "elevated" or "transcendent" orderings in the complex system of the psyche. This is why I define the Self in the way I do and frequently refer to it as the "instinctual Self".
What Jung failed to do in his paradigm of polarization of instinct and spirit was valuate
instinct (or "matter"). It is the very thing that the alchemists (at least symbolically) managed to achieve in their magnum opus. The alchemical work is all about valuation . . . not attainment, enlightenment, or even "rebirth". It is about the valuation of Matter (i.e., the Crowning of Matter, as one famous alchemical text is titled). Spirit and Matter are equated. Jung never fully grasped this essential project of alchemy adequately . . . and it is one of the major factors behind his fallacious (however erudite they might be) psychological interpretations of alchemy. Most Jungians don't realize how perverted Jung's overall take on alchemy really was, because they have only read Jungian interpretations of alchemy . . . but non-Jungian explorations of alchemical texts can be extremely eye-opening.
I would argue that the alchemical opus is a better paradigm for individuation (and the subsequent development of Self-facilitating personality that I have called the Work) than Jung's own individuation paradigm. And one of the key superiorities of alchemy is that it is a process devoted to valuation and not enlightenment of attainment or obtaining "wholeness". In alchemy, the task at hand is to take what is already and always present (and left on the dung heap) and learn how to valuate it. The attitude and tool that signifies this valuation of the instinctual or material Self is called the Philosopher's Stone . . . and it is not gold, but something that transforms base matter into
gold. Therefore, it is a valuating mechanism or philosophy . . . and the valuation of alchemy is directed specifically at the element of Earth or at Matter (which we can read in modern language as "instinct"). Thus the task of alchemy is to discover the prima materia latent in all Matter and valuate this prima materia into the Stone. The discovery of the prima materia is the most difficult and vaunted piece of the opus . . . and as the Jungian paradigm has no ability to understand what the alchemists meant by this, it has no chance of fully understanding the significance of alchemy to the process of individuation.
Back to the story. The golden flute not only differentiates spiritual notes, it gives spiritual voices to the musician. In other words, the hero can use the flute to channel her Self-driven longing and despair into an expression. One of the problems of Demonic control over the personality is that no genuine, Self-derived expression is possible under the Demon's regime. But in playing her "Blues" through the flute, the hero gives definition and expression to her erotic/Erotic longing. It exposes her vulnerabilities and capacity and desire for intimacy. The Demon hates this, as the Demon devotes itself to staving off any kind of vulnerability by whatever means necessary.
Whereas the combing of the hair leads to the temporary exposure of the animus's head, the flute playing and sacrifice leads to the exposure of the animus's upper torso. We could say, then, that the differentiation and valuation of the woman's sexuality engaged the head of the animus or the animus's intellect (and hair-combed to head-emerged correlates). But the playing of the flute engages the whole upper half of the animus. The key organ of the animus that comes temporarily out of the nixie's clutches is, I think, the heart. Music engages the heart. The animus resonates with the longing and despair of the hero. These parallel feelings become palpable. And we learn in the end that this particular song and means of communication or "twinning" in the Syzygy is precisely what allows the separated lovers to recognize each other again.
The golden spinning wheel of the third task once again continues the motif of valuation. In this symbol we could say (alchemically) that spirit has been rendered into matter or instinct . . . which signifies a thorough valuation of instinct. We can surmise this because the spinning wheel spins thread, creates substantial, material stuff. This material is something the woman can "clothe" herself in. It is a garment of Self-alignment. The spinning wheel reflects the mandala symbol of the Self's organizing principle . . . and as a curious resonance, we can see the mill's waterwheel symbol redeemed and healed in the golden spinning wheel. A spinning wheel is also an instrument requiring significant physical coordination. I have never had to use one (not surprisingly), but I believe both hands and sometimes at least one foot are involved in coordinated motion to achieve the spinning of yarn. The spinning wheel is also a technological innovation that made spinning yarn more efficient, and innovation is at the heart of heroism. The heroic task in the psyche is the championing of a systemic reorganization that better facilitates the Self and allows an increase in homeostatic balance and equilibrium with environment. The hero is therefore the harbinger of the new order, an order than backs the dynamism of the Self system instead of the static ordering principle of the Demon.
We might also choose to see in the "spinning of yarns" the spinner's ability to tell stories or communicate with language some aspect of the Self's organizational drive. This languaging of Self principles (or functional ego/Self relationship) is what I call Logos creation. To be able to language Self principles is a step beyond the ability to render them as a music of longing and despair. It is not a "superior" development, merely one in which ego consciousness is more fully utilized in the translation and facilitation of the Self . . . so we could say that the ego is finding a way to relate to the Self through egoic consciousness and not merely through affect valuation and numinous intuition.
Betts also brings in symbol dictionary amplification of the spinning wheel . . . which again is a symbol of the feminine. These are not incongruous with what I have written, but some of them are superfluous. What I mean to demonstrate is that such amplifications (e.g., spinning is associated with the Three Fates, etc.) though perhaps academically fascinating are absolutely unessential to the psychological understanding and interpretation of fairytales. We can see that very sophisticated understanding of fairytales is quite possible without this Jungian affectation.
The next stage of the story shows us the rescue of the animus, but only at the cost of an even greater backlash from the nixie-Demon, who throws every last ounce of rage and retaliation at the lovers. I'm reminded a bit of one of my own dreams in which a kiss and intimate contact with the anima that had been put off for so long was finally indulged. At the very instant of the kiss, a huge brutish man who was the landlord of an apartment we were in flew into a psychotic rage in an upper room. It seemed the rage had to do with having lost a precious "bullet" which made this Demon figure feel powerful and secure. The flood of the nixie is a similar reaction to the reunion of the Syzygy.
This flood parts the lovers again and seems to encase them both in a kind of amnesia . . . but they survive because the old woman-Self figure renders them into a frog and a toad, amphibious creatures, creatures of enchanted instinctuality. This is a temporary transformation, a kind of survival reaction to the explosion of Demonically guarded affect. Even the sacrifice of the spinning wheel was not enough. It quells the Demons power and seizure of psychic resources, but it seems that the last ditch effort of the Demon to keep the personality from finding its rejuvenating flow of instinctual libido ends up utterly destroying the glamor and glory of the heroic, introverted fantasy that drives the animi work.
As frog and toad, we see that the Syzygy has an instinctual livelihood. They can exist even when they are robbed of their humanness (and we see similar themes in the "Opposites" of alchemy's royal couple). The frog and toad symbol is also a reflection of the beginning of the twinning phenomenon that is always a part of later stages of the animi work, where the animi and hero figures are so much alike that their togetherness or even oneness is undeniable. This is why I have come to refer to the psychodynamic personified in these two figures as a unified Syzygy . . . where division is essentially a dissociation of a primary wholeness. The alchemists also understood this, which is why the Coniunctio is the premise for the conception of the prima materia (the beginning) in the alchemical opus . . . and not some kind of ultimate synthesis, as Jungians often misinterpret it. Jungians note that alchemy symbolizes the opus as a progression of colors: black to white to red. But what is misunderstood in Jungian psychologization of alchemy is that this primary black (Nigredo) comes after the Coniunctio, which is conflated in the Jungian-Hegelian dialectic model with a transcendent synthesis of thesis and antithesis. In actual alchemical symbolism, the work only begins after the Solutio-Coniunctio has dissolved the Sol/Luna pair into a blackened oneness or true prima materia (a "black blacker than black"). This Nigredo stage is no mere "unconsciousness", but is the highly regarded "raven's head" . . . and this raven becomes one of the key emblems of alchemical valuation. It's blackness is the vehicle through which the Stone is whitened and then reddened. Everything in the work depends upon the rendering of the true prima materia, the blackening of the solution into the Nigredo. If this blackness is not properly created, it is said that the entire work must be thrown out and begun over again. This is not the state of mind in which patients enter analysis. Few analysands ever reach what the alchemists symbolized with the Nigredo (and analysis is not adequately equipped to deal with individuals who have entered the Nigredo state).
Only while wearing psychoanalytic blinders can this mainstay of alchemical symbolism be misread as "depression" or "original unconsciousness". This grave error in Jungian interpretation of alchemical symbolism has had a devastating effect on the establishment of a functional Jungian paradigm for individuation. (End rant.)
We could equate this death of the heroic fantasy or transference with the alchemical Coniunctio that is followed by a Nigredo period in which heroic resources and animi attractiveness are no longer "God-given". When engaged in the animi work, we feel the wondrous thrust of the heroic and the melting excitement and magnetism of the animi. We accomplish great things in the introverted world of the unconscious . . . but it is as if these heroic achievements and passionate loves are drawn from borrowed energies. As these forces of attraction to a point of union in the Syzygy come to completion, they are depotentiated of their "divine libido". This is portrayed in alchemy as a stage of Putrefaction, the beginning of the Nigredo or blackening that corresponds to the conception of the true prima materia. Yes, it takes all that simply to get to this point of depotentiated (not entirely Self-sustained or Self-provided) personality. The Demon is no longer in charge, but it feels like the Self has also succumbed to the great convergence of energy and affect in the Coniunctio of hero and animi. In this stage, it is common for a person to have dreams of animi figures dying or parting for a long journey or being sorrowfully lost. There isn't much Jungian writing on this (and the Coniunctio as the alchemists understood it was radically different from the analytical paradigm that Jungians typically project onto this alchemical symbol).
In fairytales, this period of post-Coniunctio separation is commonly portrayed, though (fairytales and alchemical texts share the same psychic, and often historical, universe and many of the same symbols; they are even created in a very similar way, i.e., by multiple authors over many generations as "folk texts" . . . where the author of a specific alchemical text is essentially equivalent to the folklorist's name that is attached to a tale, say a Grimm brother). It's another curiosity (behind which a big chunk of Jungian shadow lies) that, as common as this stage is in fairytales, it would yet be so extensively absent and misunderstood in Jungian psychology. There is a disconnect here. Jungianism doesn't have a paradigm to language this aspect of individuation . . . and because the languaging paradigm is missing, Jungians have gone on as if the languagable thing itself were non-existent. This requires Jungians to ignore one of their core data sources: fairytales. It is one of those instances in which Jungian thinking fails to valuate the very data it initially signified as valuable.
With the demise of the heroic fantasy (which must be sacrificed like each of the golden, magical objects that only tempt the nixie-Demon), hero and animus must be redefined in a more mundane and human way. Therefore, the hunter is now a shepherd. The ex-Don Juan has become responsible for a "flock". And his twin in the Syzygy has become a shepherdess. Betts looks at this turn of events as the lovers falling into a "stupefied and abject shape" in which to herd sheep is equivalent to being sheep. Without intending to cast any criticism at Betts himself, I'd like to point out that this development of personality is simply off the Jungian map and unavailable to the Jungian interpretive paradigm. Insomuch as Betts is and remains a Jungian interpreter, he has no chance of making a viable psychological interpretation of this stage of the tale. And this is one of those times that being a "black knight" instead of a white one pays off. The interpreter has to break with the doting adherence to convention and Good Son persona in order to see outside the Jungian box. Having a bit of pathological shadow identification has the side effect of enabling the heretical insightfulness the shadow has access to. If we are fully indoctrinated and unconscious of the tribal Eros that bonds us to our tribe, we cannot make these leaps. But if we are estranged (intentionally or otherwise) from the tribal Eros, we are freed to some degree by the blinders it insists we wear. Of course, in that "freedom" from tribal Eros, the individual has a much greater predicament to deal with: the valuation of the tribe from the individual's/individuant's perspective. It is easy enough to be estranged, but extremely hard to be estranged and yet to seek to valuate the tribe and supplement or facilitate its Eros.