Role of the Characters & Events in The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lilly©, rev. 3
Dave Monroe. Updated Oct. 19, 2016
In the late 1700’s, much like today, capturing the German public’s attention while competing with many other periodicals, broadsheets (newspapers), flyers and speakers was difficult for a writer. Goethe and his friend Schiller had a significant following in literary circles. Schiller’s essay on the Aesthetic Education of Man beautifully articulated Goethe’s own views on how man could become more enlightened and find his life’s purpose. Goethe was inspired to create a fairy tale as a better vehicle to reach the German population. In this effort, he was actually bringing together all of his own life-experiences and thoughts into a coherent self-summary. He had recognized his own level of conscious awareness.
The characters will be introduced in the order in which they enter the story.
The Twice-High Giant.
Larger than life, less then fully alive. The Twice-High Giant has not grown beyond satisfying his immediate sustenance needs. His form is a contradiction of nature; a shadow that is stronger then his somewhat nebulous body. He helps others when it also helps him. Although we are given to understand that he can aid others in crossing to the world of spirit, we see no example of this kindness offered at dawn (when he is not awake and hospitable) or in the evening (when some are reluctant to travel). He represents a lesser version of the physically-oriented man.
Astrologically: Natal Saturn without aspects or angularity.
Will, of the Wisps.
A single Wisp is introduced into this retelling. His name is Will. A ‘will o’ the wisp’ confounds our sense of reality, represents mystical happenings, and may offer hope. Will realizes that not everyone reacts to his ‘dropped’ gold in the same manner. Many are delighted with how it can change their immediate life. Others are not so infatuated with gold and find other uses for it, such as the Snake. Hearing that Lilly brings change into the life of others, Will seeks to understand just what “change” is, what it can do, can he be changed as well as being an agent of change through his dropped gold?
Astrologically: The Part of Fortune.
His daily routine; work for food. The Ferryman seems to have few interests in life. He carries people from the Land of Dreams and the Spirit World into the physical or sensual world. Yet he himself does not initially appear to be spiritual or magical in any way until the Wisp attempts to continue his journey without paying the Ferryman’s fee.
Astrologically: Mercury, the Ascendant-Descendant axis.
The Wisp often sheds gold nuggets. The Wisp also licks and ingests gold (and other metals) when he finds it. Gold has two properties within the fairytale; it imparts Wisdom or, more commonly, it brings about changes in the daily lives of others due to its monetary value. Much of the Wisp’s gold seems to bring daily change without wisdom. The ‘gold’ that the Kings bestow on the Youth-turning-Prince is intangible wisdom, more than just physical gold. That wisdom, with his own learning and attitude, helps the Prince to ultimately gain understanding, bravery and intent.
Astrologically: The Sun and the sign of Leo.
The Green Snake.
The Snake’s curiosity exceeds her body length. Her acquired love of Gold has awakened wisdom and purpose in her life, and has increased her curiosity. She becomes a facilitator for change in the life of others. She is totally aware of a greater role for her, a role involving sacrifice. She has always been able to span the river as a temporary bridge to permit others to cross to and from the spirit world. This can only be done at noon and at midnight.
Astrologically: Venus at an angle. An alternative case can be made for the Snake to represent transformation — Pluto and Scorpio would be considered.
The Kings represent authority and guidance. They represent a portion of the one great King. The Old Man with the Lamp provides three words to the Prince from the alter. The brevity of his message lends importance to those words. These are repeated before each King, prompting them to offer their own message.
1) To the Gold King the word Wisdom is spoken. The reply, “Understand what is highest.”
2) To the Silver King the word Appearance is spoken. The reply, “Feed the sheep.”
3) To the Bronze King the word Strength is spoken. The reply, “Keep the sword on your left, your right hand free.”
Astrologically: These coded words astrologically relate to 1) the MC, 2) the Ascendant, and 3) the Descendant. The MC is our goals, life purpose and intent. The Ascendant is our appearance, attitude and actions taken. The Descendant represents how we reach out to others, hence, the right hand has to be free to do so. Collectively, the Kings represent the astrological chart’s active zones and an active, involved life.
The Old Man with the Lamp.
The Old Man is the ‘director’ of the story. He is spirit living in the physical world. In addition to his knowledge of almost everything, he has a lamp with its own outstanding qualities. The Lamp can spread light where other light exists, does not cause a shadow, and cannot shed light in the dark unless darkness comes while the Lamp is lit. The Lamp also spreads gold where there is stone, silver where there is wood. When the Old Man is needed, the Lamp twinkles.
Astrologically: The Sun at the MC angle. Unlike the Kings, he is a role model for conscious awareness in physical life. He is Goethe within his own story. He also symbolizes ‘renewal’ at the end of the fairy tale, when he reverts to a younger age. This form of renewal is cyclic, recurring at times such as the New Moon recurs each month.
The wife of the Old Man serves as a long-suffering victim of circumstances. Her patience is equaled by her building despair and her agreeableness to help when asked. For her, troubles add to the issues she struggles to resolve. Those struggles seem to take second place to the services she brings to others. Service and persistence brings a final and rewarding conclusion for her problem. She reflects the variables of those around her.
Astrologically: She is the Moon in a twelfth-house setting.
We meet the Youth walking along the same path as the Woman. He seems dazed and uncaring at first until his story is uncovered by the Woman. His love for the Beautiful Lilly drives his life and every breath. His impatience and choice to not seek understanding brings a crises into his life. Each part of the story drives him to extreme highs and lows. He creates his own crises which is overcome due to the grace bestowed by others on his behalf.
Astrologically: The youth-Prince is the Ascendant in the chart, the Tarot’s ‘Fool’.
The benevolence of others who know of a greater purpose for him brings him to a fuller understanding of life, love, and the process of truly living. Once his eyes and mind are opened in the temple ceremony, he awakens. The ritual nature seems important in this awakening process. The experience of the temple’s surfacing and opening up to the world bring challenges to him which he can now address as a service to others.
Astrologically: At this point, he becomes Jupiter at the Ascendant.
The great attraction in the fairytale is the Beautiful Lilly who dwells in the Land of Spirit and serves as the object of the Youth-Prince’s consuming passion. She lives in the Spirit world where different laws and understanding exists, yet is very much aware of physical life and the Prince’s shortcomings and potential. In one way, Lilly has the knowledge of the Old Man while lacking his familiarity with manipulation of physical-world properties. Lilly looks forward to a physical life with the Prince but is concerned about his ability to fully play his role.
Astrologically: Lilly represents the spiritual Venus of relatedness, balance and bridging between the physical and spiritual worlds.
With the Prince’s final impulsive act of touching Lilly in the Spirit World, which kills him, Lilly knows that she cannot help him in her world. She remains seemingly unconcerned until a solution is presented by the Snake’s actions and the Old Man’s appearance. As she and the group return to the physical world, her interest in helping the Prince and the Old Man grows. She witnesses the efforts to save the Prince, the profound changes wrought thru the ritual, the bestowing of understanding, and the Prince’s demonstration of growing maturity and responsibility to serve others.
Astrologically: At this time, in the physical world, Lily represents Venus and Mercury.
Other components in the fairy tale.
At the beginning of the fairy tale the Temple is underground, located on the ‘physical world’ side of the river, quietly awaiting resurrection to the surface and visible world. This change for the temple structure is bound to those who have use of the temple for a purpose. The temple is a place of ritual, a recognized process for raising one’s understanding and commitment to personal change. Later, the temple takes on a visual role for those open to starting along a path of conscious awareness.
Astrologically: The temple represents Saturn and the process of learning.
Everyday materials (the Ferryman’s hut) form the alter, becoming what is needed to serve the purpose of ritual which leads to balance, understanding, personal growth through commitment and intent. The altar’s color is silver, the color of the Moon. The short purpose of the altar is to imbue an awakening of personal qualities upon the Youth-to-become-Prince. It is from the alter that the Old Man with the Lamp gives his three important words to the Prince and those gathered about. The words from the Alter represent an opportunity to find oneself.
Astrologically: The Alter represents Saturn and Mercury, structured speech.
The mastery of the Old Man in directing the affairs of others and bringing the temple to a place of accessibility is based on balancing the physical-sensual world of feeling and intensity with the rationality of the spirit world. The Youth-Prince himself represents a final achievement of balance, and with the union with Lilly a greater form of balance for his/her soul-selves. The Woman finds that patience and service result in the reestablishment of her physical hand as well as her youthful renewal and re-binding with her husband.
Astrologically: Balance is the Moon and Sun at the new and full Moon phase as it relates to physical life. Note that Venus can also represent balance, but more as the relationship between one’s own life and overall spiritual purpose.
The Wisp comes to understand that change has many dimensions. It can bring immediate help for physical needs by being an invaluable resource. Others are averse to receiving gold. For some gold is different, having a spiritual value of leading to change (the Snake changes after ingesting gold, and is willing to sacrifice for the good of all).
Astrologically: Transiting Moon at an angle, or conjoining the North Node. The Part of Fortune represents change also in terms of how the Moon and Sun work together such that the chart’s Ascendant can best express one’s wholeness.
The bridge of the Snake.
The final bridge built by the Snake’s sacrifice follows earlier bridges of convenience which were not lasting. The bridge’s arches and jeweled coloring is meant to convey a sense of a beautiful pathway of understanding between the physical-sensual world and Steiner’s super-sensual or spiritual world.
Astrologically: The Bridge symbolizes Sun and Moon working with Venus to establish balance and understanding between the two worlds.
Crises in a catalyst for change within the fairy tale. A crises can be built up over time, as shown by the Woman’s slowly changing hand. Crises can be almost immediate. This is shown by the Youth-Prince’s impulsive highs and lows which occur in rapid succession.
Astrologically: Crises is symbolized by Uranus.
This may not be exclusive to Uranus. Pluto can impose irrevocable change directly or indirectly in terms of social conditions affecting the individual. Saturn’s long lasting conditioning and pressure to evolve can become suddenly apparent. Jupiter’s opportunities can be passed by, bringing later personal recrimination seen as a crises of sorts.
In the study of charts of those who have had a ‘conscious awareness’ experience, a prior crises (either some time prior, or of an immediate nature) seems almost a ‘must have’ condition in order to reach a sudden cognition of who and what one is, what one’s life-purpose is.
Avoiding the Twice-High Giant is difficult to do at times, as evidenced by the Woman trying to hide under the tree branches to protect herself and the vegetables for the Ferryman. Others seem to seek the Giant (a challenge) as a means of using his shadow to cross the river (avoiding meeting the challenge). The Youth-Prince finds another impetus for confrontation; despair of losing immediate gratification leads to rushing into a poor decision, killing himself by touching Lilly. Confrontation can be more gentle, as shown by Will’s curiosity about how change is managed by others, and whether Lilly can show him how change can be taken in and used differently. In all cases, confrontation or crises precedes change.
Astrologically: Mars symbolizes confrontation in many cases.
The Canary and the Dog.
These two creatures play a role in showing that valued items can be taken, might be restored to us in one form or another. As ‘things’ they demonstrate that there are less important aspects in life that have to be given a proper perspective.
Astrologically: The second house and planets associated with that house.
The words uttered in the temple ritual.
Wisdom, Appearance, Strength. These three words of the Kings are given, and then repeated and linked to greater explanation. At the top of the Alter, only the three words are expressed as if to give them importance like bold words written in the midst of a large white background. As the Youth-Prince is led before each King, additional instructions are linked to each word.
Astrologically: Mercury and Pluto, representing intensity in speech that causes change.
‘Wisdom’ is more than knowledge. It includes experience, curiosity, anticipation as linked to cause-and-effect, maturity, and self-knowledge.
‘Appearance’ relates to what is both visible and what one can envision. Envisioning and intent can create one’s reality, which leads to growth and can help one reach higher goals.
‘Strength’ includes both physical strength and mental fortitude and a believe in oneself.
The Youth-Prince, newly awakened and enthused, offers ‘Love” as an important word. He is rebuked by the Old Man’s rejoinder that Love binds, it trains, and that is better. Commitment to another adjusts attitudes, engenders service and support, enhances relationships. These, perhaps, are the binds that the Old Man refers to.
Astrologically: Sun and Saturn cooperatively.
Clear references are made to ‘time.’ Specifically, noon and midnight play a key role in the passage over the river to and from the world of spirit. Reference is made to dawn and dusk and the use of the giant’s shadow.
Astrologically: The chart’s MC-IC and Ascendant-Descendant angles.
Flowing water, Pisces. It is noted that the river is not compatible with Gold, the metal of the Sun and the sign of Leo. Leo is inconjunct Pisces. In ancient astrology, an inconjunct sign could not see the other sign. The river, in this fairy tale, is clearly a divide between the physical and spiritual worlds. The land of dreams also lies on the side of the river where the spirit world exists. As a general rule, nobody can see others on the far side of the river. Yet, on occasion, one passes over the river to the physical world via the Ferryman’s boat.
Astrologically: Neptune and the sign of Pisces.
Lack of flowers in Lilly’s spiritual world.
This convention of Goethe’s fairy tale surely was not just to deny the Old Woman the three vegetables for the Ferryman. Why would flowers not be present? Lilly’s spiritual world was a localized waiting area, closer to the physical world, designed to facilitate initiates who were not fully attuned to their spiritual wholeness. What was alive in this section of the Spiritual world could not bloom and show its full beauty, or to provide the seeds on a new-life-to-come. The life that was awaiting had to be completed first. Growth in that section was not possible until physical life’s lessons had been fully learned. To compensate for the lack of flowers, Lily’s dress was decorated in many flowers.
Astrologically: The IC angle without planets present, waiting for what comes, for what will initiate a new situation.