The Story of Bluebeard and the Feminine Warrior
Some of you are struggling through some difficult days right now. And some of you are coming out of some difficult days, with the memories of those hard times still very fresh.
This is the Feminine Warrior’s path–to face adversity, experience it down to our core, tear out bits of our hearts in grief, somehow survive it, and then heal, grow and strengthen from it.
The Feminine Warrior’s path shows up over and over again in our childhood movies, be they Cinderella from my era or Little Mermaid and Mulan from my daughter’s. Problem is, I’m not sure most of us really get the real point of these stories–the importance of facing and pushing through enormous fear, pain and struggle to survive–and instead get caught up in the “happy ending.” So unfortunately, all these stories did for me was set me up to have unmet expectations about life and love.
That changed when I read the story of Bluebeard in my adulthood– a marvelous myth that Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about in her insightful book, “Women Who Run with the Wolves.”
Bluebeard was a very rich man with a large castle, but was considered to be quite ugly because of his blue beard. He also had a strange run of bad luck with women, having married several times with each wife disappearing after a month or two of being with him.
Being a ladies man, he set his sights on some neighbor girls and began wooing them. But the two older sisters sense danger and so turn down his attentions. The youngest daughter, however, convinces herself that he is quite charming and rich and that it would be a good match. The elder sisters try to convince her that their concerns should be taken seriously. But of course, being young and not yet attuned to Intuition and Wisdom, she allows him to woo her and promptly marries him.
Shortly after they are married and she has moved into the castle, he says he must go away for a few days. He hands her a ring of keys and tells her that the rooms with all the riches are hers to explore and that these keys will open all the doors. He then holds up one tiny key on the ring and warns her that she must not open the door that this key opens.
She agrees and watches him ride off.
Once gone, she sends for her older sisters to come join her in the empty castle. When they arrive, the young bride shows her sisters the keys and they merrily go through the castle room by room, exploring all its wonders.
Finally in the dungeon, they find a door that none of the allowed keys will open, and they realize the forbidden key must be for this door. Tentatively she turns the key in the lock and pushes the door open.
They scream–in the room are the decaying bodies of all his previous wives. The young bride tries to lock the door so she can forget what she has just seen, but she finds that the key now has blood on it. They try to rub the blood clean from the key, but cannot. She places the key in her pocket and runs to the kitchen to wash off the blood, but finds that the key has wept tears of blood into her pocket and stained her dress. She is hysterical–despite the washing, the blood does not come off.
At that moment she sees the dust in the distance of her husband on horseback, and she wails that now soon she too will die.
When Bluebeard arrives, he demands to get all of his keys back, but realizes immediately that she has broken his rule and must die like the rest of his wives. His wife begs for her life, for a short reprieve, which he gives her. The older sisters are on the lookout for their brothers, who arrive with swords just moments before he kills their youngest sister. Bluebeard is cut to ribbons and left for the buzzards.
It’s a dramatic story, deeply steeped in metaphor and symbolism. But for our purposes, let me focus on the three sisters and their representation of Feminine Intuition and Wisdom.
There is a time early in life when the Feminine Warrior does not yet take her intuition seriously–perhaps it hasn’t even revealed itself yet and is still inaccessible. Some of us come to recognize our intuition earlier than others. But at some point, most of us do experience it. It might show up as an uncanny ability of knowing something without knowing how we know it. Or maybe it’s nothing more than a vague sense about something. Some of us even have fantastic abilities to genuinely see into the future, and we learn over time that we can make wise choices based on that deep knowing.
The youngest sister embodies this period of time in our spiritual development. She convinces herself that Bluebeard is not the dangerous man that her older sisters believe him to be (i.e., she denies her sisters’ wisdom and even ignores her own inklings.) Her older sisters, however, have more experience with their intuitions and have learned to trust them. They represent the Feminine Warrior when she is more mature, more self-trusting, more attuned to her Knowing.
The blood on the key represents Knowledge. Once we know something to be true, we cannot un-know it. The young bride tries in vain to undo her knowledge–tries to deny what she has just seen and the staggering implications–in her attempts to make the key look the way it did before she saw the room. It cannot be done, and in fact, the enormity of the Truth continues to spread through her, as represented by the key weeping blood onto her clothes.
Such a powerful, visual metaphor.
I was in my late 30s when I read this story, and it played a pivotal role in my own journey as a Feminine Warrior. It validated my powers of intuition, which I had had since I was quite young. I was always the Truth Speaker in my house, and got soundly criticized for saying things I “shouldn’t” say. It took a toll on me.
After reading this story, however, I finally began trusting my Intuition a lot more frequently, and doing so always creating far better outcomes for me. I stopped allowing others to convince me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Invariably, I discovered, I could see a Truth that those around me found too painful or frightening to see, and so once again, people tried to quiet me. I did learn to not speak every Truth I saw, but I no longer discounted them, either.
I have heard of the same struggle going on for hundreds of women I’ve worked with over the years. So I thought I’d share this with you as something to consider.
Are you attuned to your own Inner Wisdom and Intuition?
Do you sense things about people or situations that turn out to be completely correct?
Do you talk yourself out of your fears or force yourself to doing something you know is not right for you, and then later berate yourself for not listening to your Inner Knowing in the first place?
These are crucial warning signs that you are not trusting your Inner Wisdom and Intuition they way it needs to be trusted. Do not look away from the bones and blood that are in your life. As horrible as they may be, Truth is the only path to Empowerment. You cannot be empowered if you tell yourself lies.
The Truth at least allows us to take corrective action. Lies only make us weak and vulnerable.
What steps will you take today to begin trusting your Inner Wisdom–the Intuition that every Feminine Warrior has?