Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lessons from the Pied Piper

The oldest picture of the Pied Piper as copied from the glass window of Marktkirche in Hamelin by Freiherr Augustin von Moersperg, circa 1300.

Growing up, I first discovered the story of the Pied Piper in the Brothers Grimm book my parents presented to my sister and me when we were young. In it, we learned that the Piper was called to rid a village of its rats by playing his magical pipe. Upon doing so, the villagers refused to pay him, prompting the Piper to lead away their children in an act of vengeance.

Recently, I circled back to the Pied Piper story as I was reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes's "Women Who Run with the Wolves" in an attempt to view the story through the lens of Jungian archetypes. Estes does not tell the story of the Pied Piper, choosing instead to share the Hans Christian Andersen story entitled "The Red Shoes".

In the story, a young girl falls in love with a pair of red shoes and begins to think of them above all else. In time, she meets a man who slaps the soles of the shoes (other versions feature a piper which lulls them into action with his music) which launches them into continuous motion. The young girl cannot take them off and is resigned to a life spent in servitude to her dancing shoes. One day she finds herself so weary that she begs an executioner to cut off her feet so as to be free from the cursed shoes and, as a result, spends the rest of her life as a cripple.

Estes introduces the story as a cautionary tale designed to teach young women the importance of cherishing one's soul worth and one's life's path and why it is so crucial to resist those who might try to seduce, threaten and rob one of it.

Continuing my reading of Estes's work, I appreciated how she was able to dissect each story and expose the Jungian archetypes at play, including the seductive Piper.

The Pied Piper is a powerful archetype and can be incredibly destructive if one never learns to stop the enchanting music he weaves (don't mean to pick on men...can be seen in women, too). The Piper will work to lull you to music which is not your own, seducing you to follow a path which is not your, and if you heed the call, could ultimately drive you to exhaustion and a crippled soul. Whew! I consider it one of the most dangerous archetypes out there. Still, on the flip side, the Piper can also serve as a powerful teacher by reminding you to honor your sacred contracts in life, relinquishing them for no one and no thing.

I've met the Piper in my own life and the meeting will forever stay with me because I came very close to entering into a life not meant for me, even though it sounded so pretty. I don't regret the encounter because I learned much from it, most importantly that I had a sacred contract somewhere else that I couldn't explain but had to follow. And the courage to walk away from someone else's music to follow my own has led me to a rich life with deep soul blessings.

The additional lesson of the Piper is this: you can't blame the Piper for choosing to follow his/her pretty music and giving up your power in the process. You can't cry "victim" but you can begin to claim responsibility for having a need to follow the Piper in the first place. My hunch is that it has much to do with not accepting one's soul contracts in life, even if they don't feel comfortable at first.

Caroline Myss has done some incredible work on breaking down archetypal patterns in her book "Sacred Contracts". In fact, I believe that sometimes we come into contact with others who remind us of the value of our own lives and the contracts we have undertaken, even if there is some pain involved. Pain, methinks, is the reminder that there is dis-ease afoot and lessons to be learned.

So, in my own life, I've met the Piper and learned some powerful lessons that forever changed me. The music stopped before any permanent damage was done and I find that I've embraced my life's purpose with more vigor than I had before. The Piper was the most dangerous figure/archetype I've ever met, leaving me with gratitude for the experience. I was lucky -- it was only a brush with the archetype and nothing more. In the end, my life was revolutionized and fruit grows where there once was much pain.

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