Shaggy Top – by Jipala R. Kagan
published in Wisdom Magazine, June 2014
I spent the last few years searching for a particular fairy tale. My search was at a dead end until my mentor told us a fairy tale at the end of a supervision class one night. I could not believe my ears. She was telling the very story I had been searching for. It’s called “Shaggy Top”.
Once upon a time, there were a queen and a king who wanted to have a baby. Fortune did not favor them, so they adopted a little boy. One morning the boy was in the front yard of the palace, throwing a golden ball up into the air and catching it over and over again. A beggar women and her daughter stood at the gate, watching the boy.
The queen came out to chase them away. The beggar’s daughter said that if the queen invited them into the palace and fed them and gave them drink, the beggar woman would tell the queen how to have a child. So the queen invited them in, she fed and watered them.
When the beggar woman was leaving, she told the queen that before she went to bed she needed to wash herself in one vessel, then wash herself in another vessel, and pour all the water under the bed. When she woke up in the morning there would be two flowers. She should eat only the pink one.
That night the queen did as the beggar woman said. When she awoke, there were indeed two flowers under her bed. One was pink and one was ugly, spiky green and black. The queen ate the pink one, and it was so delicious that she could not help herself from devouring the ugly one as well.
In nine months time, the queen gave birth to two girls. The first came out riding on a goat, talking, with a wooden spoon in her hand and tufts of hair all of her body. She was named Shaggy Top. The second girl was a pink and beautiful baby. She was named The Princess. The two girls grew up to be the best of friends.
One night trolls were dancing in the garden of the palace. Shaggy Top went outside to chase them away. While she was outside, The Princess peeked her head out to see what was happening. Instantly a troll lopped off her head and replaced it with a calf’s face.
Then Shaggy Top and The Princess traveled by boat to the island of the trolls. Shaggy Top found The Princesses head and put it in its rightful place, on top her sister’s shoulders.
Next they went to and another island which was ruled by a recently widowed King and his son, The Prince.
The King fell instantly in love with The Princess upon first sight and asked Shaggy Top if he could marry her. Shaggy Top consented upon the condition that she would get to marry The Prince. The King agreed to her stipulations and a grand double wedding was held.
As the royal procession was making it’ s way up the hill, Shaggy Top turned to The Prince and said “ask me the question”.
“What question?”, he answered.
“Why do I ride this goat?”
He asked her “Why do you ride this goat?”
She answered, “It is not a goat, it is a beautiful steed”, and the goat turned into a beautiful black horse.
Then Shaggy Top said, “Ask me why I carry this wooden spoon.”
The Prince asked her. She promptly answered, “It is not a wooden spoon, it is a golden fan”, and it was. Then Shaggy Top herself transformed into a exceptionally lovely maiden, even more lovely then The Princess.
That’s the end of the story.
This tale has quickly became a favorite bedtime story with my children. Recently, my kids were speculating on how Shaggy Top looked when she became beautiful at the end of the story. I answered that I would like to think that she had a lot of character —black hair, a long distinct nose. One of my children questioned if these were characteristics of beauty.
I explained that difference makes someone even more beautiful. Bravery and boldness are exceptional qualities to have. I do not think she believed me. She was imagining herself in the role of The Princess.
I wondered why this particular tale had remained in my consciousness from childhood, after I had read hundreds of other fairy tales. I think it is probably because this is one of the few fairy tales in which the main character is an ugly young girl, and she is not evil. I am captivated by this process of transformation, and the fact that obvious outward characteristics are not always reflective of inner beauty.
I have spent a great amount of time wondering why difference is not more accepted at this point in our culture’s development. Given the number of people that appear to be different or who act differently, I would assume that as a society we would be more adjusted and comfortable with difference.
But as a society, “normal” is still what we strive to attain.
Most people are not comfortable with the autistic child at the restaurant who is making noises and rocking, or the man with a disfigured face, or the person who looks equally like both a male and a female, so much so that you can not tell which she/he is. These things still make me uncomfortable at times, and I continue to wonder why. Am I afraid of my own differences becoming public? It is fear of the unknowable? Anxiety arises in me when everything is not as I expect it to be. It is unsettling, but is that a good enough reason for me to label it bad or not want to view it ?
Not really. I think that we are all secretly afraid of being different. It is just that most of us can hide our differences.
When I was in Tenth Grade World History class, a friend of mine and I did a project on the similarities of imagery in different world cultures. We found that many different cultures simultaneously developed iconography such as snakes and water that represented very similar notions — even though the cultures never had proximal contact. The concept stuck with me. It was not until ten years ago that I found the word that I was looking for then, “archetype.” Carl Jung’s definition of archetype is a collective pattern or thought inherent in people’s psyches.
This explains why there are certain patterns that are present in all people and why people respond similarly to certain situations and stimuli. Each human has a taproot into the same collective unconscious, meaning we share similar behaviors, thoughts and patterns of living. We respond to stressors and joys in “alike” ways. We all search for an explanation to justify our existence.
This also speaks to why there is a micro-cosmic reflection of the macrocosm. The pattern that is within us, of balance and/or imbalance, is projected outside of us onto the environment and culture that we collaborate with. This is why we see obvious imbalances in our environment that we harbor within our own selves. For example, Genia Pauli Haddon’s concepts of Yin Feminine (receptive and nurturing movement), Yang Masculine (focused and direct movement), Yin Masculine (steadiness and resourceful movement) and Yang Feminine ( pushing and exertive movement).
All four models of energy exist in each one of us. However, the Yang Masculine and Yin Feminine are the dominant patterns that are modeled and expressed in this culture. Yin Masculine and Yang Feminine are characteristics that are under-expressed. This is represented by bigger issues such the reluctance of the culture to embrace the human rights of the gay and transgender population. And smaller expressions such as the distribution of household chores between men and women in working families. This phenomenon is extended out into the environment on a grand scale, when we consider how garbage and toxins are destroying the planet. The need for economic growth — a Yang Masculine energy — is over riding the need to preserve the natural land and seas — a Yin Feminine energy. There is not enough expression of the four models of energy in balance.
In college, my friends and I had a lot of fun creating different personas for ourselves. We would give them names and descriptions, paint or draw pictures of them. Sometimes we would embody them for fun and call each other by our alternate names, act out the characteristics of our alter egos. The Jungian name for this type of exercise is shadow work: exploring the dark parts of the self, the pieces that have been shoved away for various reasons in response to the stimuli of our environments, i.e familial expectations, events and experiences. The pieces that did not fit in our lives. We were asked to put them away by our family, friends, peers and teachers. As we do the work to unearth these buried pieces and integrate them back into our concept of self, we make our-selves stronger, more flexible, clearer and more prepared for life’s challenges.
Doing “the work.” What does that mean? It means the process of unraveling imbalanced patterns within us that are reflected “without” — or outside — us.
Why would an acupuncturist concern herself with these concepts, you may be thinking? Acupuncture is all about energetic movement, literally and figuratively. If energy is prompted to move in a certain direction and the psyche is made aware of this movement through language and metaphor, the spark of “Shen”, or consciousness, awakens, the movement rumbles and starts rolling forward.
Movement happens, it unfolds according to its own compass, similar to unraveling a snarl of yarn.
There are bumps in the road, certainly. It’s a two-step-forward- one-step-back, swaying type of progression. But it happens. This is why I called my practice Transpersonal Acupuncture. I may sound idealistic, but I have seen it happen over and over again — a person’s energy express itself most naturally into the world. Crazy, I know, unbelievable at best. Still possible!
Chaos is the natural state that actually begets change. Emotional crisis, physical symptomology , disease, break ups, lay offs, death of a loved one, surgery — all manner of flux. Then there follows a “crazy” period. We see vacillations of mood and a serious period of questioning our own sanity and self-judgement. We find ourselves comparing ourselves to all the other people who are not experiencing such a mess in their lives. When we get deep enough in this process we probably begin to pray (even if we don’t subscribe to religious practice).
We have to believe that that there is pattern of health out there for us to hitch a ride on. We may begin murmuring prayers all through the day and in the middle of the night. It can get quite rough and the timing will not subscribe to our expectations. Just when we have stretched further then ever we thought we could, then…
Then the patches of gratitude and blue sky creep through the darkness. A moment is carved out to watch the clouds swirling, the water churning and the flowers blossoming. The sky is so blue and so amazingly breathtakingly beautiful. We become grateful to experience the vicissitudes of life.
Once the patterns of movement have incubated for some time, they begin to integrate spirit and matter. The “magic” shows up. There begins a process of creative expression, whether it be art work, dance, writing, or some other form. It is the expression of self and self-work into the person’s life.
We renew our relationship with our own matter and have a deeper connection to the needs of our body. We become more comfortable inhabiting our self and our intuitive feelings strengthen. We can then turn inward to receive direction, make choices and learn to trust our selves. Compassion for our selves and other people grows. As worth increases inwardly it is expressed outwardly. There is a lot less of a need to squander our energy uselessly comparing ourselves to other people, either winding up less or more then them. We can minimize our judgments and criticisms, harness our energy to create, to work, to spend time with our families and friends, to connect and to live life in health and balance.
This process may repeat itself over and over again in our lives. We may run through mini-cycles and then magna-cycles in patterns. We may be incapable of being cognizant of or assimilating these patterns until possibly when we are on our death- bed.
Then, and only then, maybe we can look back into our lives and see that all the events of our lives have rhyme and reason.
Transcendence is about turning the dark to light within us. It is about taking the shadow parts, the dark hidden aspects of our self. It is about weathering the crazy and difficult transition process. It is about the dark coming out into the light, into consciousness, transmutation and integration.
Our physical form does not necessarily alter, as when Shaggy Top becomes beautiful at the end of the fairy tale. But our energetic pattern shifts, and that changes everything. That is health and balance in matter. And because we all share an archetypal energetic pattern, the shifts within us ripple outward and effect our environments and each other. We become more dynamic in the face of adversarial conditions.
There are many ways to achieve these goals. This piece is an attempt at explaining one way, my way: Transpersonal Acupuncture.
To be clear, health and disease can inhabit the same space at the same time. So it does not mean that through this type of work, disease just disappears. However, the energetic pattern and course of disease can be influenced and it may be experienced differently.
A practitioner alone can not make this happen. They can support the process, but at the end of the day, the decisions can only be made by the person themselves.
We as individuals are responsible for our own choices.
Chinese mythology says that the spark of consciousness is ignited when the sperm and egg form a union. The light is nurtured and carried forward in our lives within the housing of our very own heart-beat.
Chinese astrology speaks about how we each have a path that is preordained for us upon birth. If we stray to far from that path or from expressing our authentic selves in life, we may experience dis-ease or the turning away from life.
And this is where we come back to where we began this tale. Shaggy Top, was born odd-looking and out of place, an ugly flower. She transforms herself by integrating her own shadow sides into awareness. She chooses to allow her beauty (that was always within her) to shine out into her life, for all to see. Transform the darkness into the light.