Mythology is filled with examples of sister or brother pairs, one dark, the other light, who take diametrically opposed positions in society, representing the ego and shadow aspects needing reconciliation within an individual. Eve and Lilith, Psyche and Orual, Inanna and Ereshkigal are examples of sisters who hold different counterpoints to each other’s gifts - one living the upper world, the other in the underworld: one resonating with the world of matter, the other preoccupied with spirit and mind. “Forever separate, forever bound, in life these pairs are often torn apart by intense envy, jealousy, competition, and misunderstanding” (1).
Romulus and Remus, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Parzival and Feirefiz, represent the motif of the two ‘hostile brothers’ (2), where one may ultimately murder the other. However, if we are willing to value and integrate a trait from our hidden and denied (internal) shadow sister/brother – the thing we do not want to be - rather than trying to kill it off, we expand our sense of self and develop previously neglected skills – whether boldness or quietness, gentleness or aggression, passivity or leadership.
In fairytales the stepsister represents the opposite and shadow aspects of the heroine , such as the hardworking Cinderella (who marries the Prince) and her lazy stepsisters. In the fairytale ‘Mother Holle’ the diligent sister is rewarded with gold, while the lazy sister is covered in black pitch. People may long for illumination, but who dares to admit their own laziness when it comes to doing the hard work of exploring the Unconscious?
1. Abrams, J., & In Zweig, C. (1991). Meeting the shadow: The hidden power of the dark side of human nature. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, p. 63 -72
2. CW 11, paras. 132-3
Cain slaying Abel by Unknown c. 1900
A post I wrote for @jungsouthernafrica
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