Good wish or bad witch?

What’s the difference between a wicked witch and a fairy godmother?

Cinderella and her (rather witchy) Fairy Godmother

Cinderella and her (rather witchy) Fairy Godmother

A wicked witch, as opposed to other witches, works magic to have power over others, to force them to do her bidding against their will A good working definition of evil is power over others, making others do what we wants against their will whether by magic or at gunpoint.  In many stories, such as Snow White, the witch appeals to the vanity or innocence of the victim in order to kill her, but to do it in a way that is a result of the victim’s action: Snow White accepts a comb,  a corset, and a poisoned apple from her disguised stepmother. The stepmother gives up the last of her beauty in order to kill Snow White, but she is unable to do so, showing the limits of the power of evil. Sleeping Beauty does not die, but only sleeps, and her family with her.  Cinderella’s stepmother is no match for the good luck her fairy godmother brings her. Cinderella does the rest on her own.  Baba Yaga does no evil against Vasalisa because Vasalisa’s doll tells her how to behave.

A fairy godmother changes the conditions so that the people who are wishing can do what they want to do.  The fairy godmother does not take action to make the wish come true, but only gives the wisher the items that are missing–a dress and a ride, all illusion– and sometimes only advice. The fairy godmother does not make the prince fall in love with Cinderella–that is Cinderella’s job, and it comes from her being who she is. The dress got her in the door, but then she had to play her role.

Evil Stepmother from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Evil Stepmother from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The magical helper often tests her client with impossible tasks to see if the client will use the magical abilities–or friends–she has acquired.  Even the requests for a pumpkin, mice and lizards required some creative resources from Cinderella.  The fairy godmother does not create anything, but only changes the appearance.

How many of us have evil wishes–I wish he would fall in love with me, I wish she would lose her job, I  wish they would act differently?

Not only is forcing others evil, it is ineffective: a man convinced against his will is unconverted still.

The key to granting our wishes is to change ourselves. When we provide our own conditions-changing magic, it looks from the inside like we are doing all the work of making lifestyle changes, learning patience, taking the longer view, giving up outrage and powerlessness so that we can take action.

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga from Vasalisa The Beautiful

It is our work, part of becoming who we are meant to be, of creating our own destiny. Cinderella’s patience and good humor while she was forced out of her rightful place as a daughter in her father’s house was her choice. It made her life bearable when others were doing their best to hurt her. She built her own magical power by doing the work, even mundane housework, by keeping a positive attitude and doing her best.

Snow While on the other hand, succumbed to evil because she did not listen to the warnings of her advisors and she did not pay attention to her own experience. Innocence is always lost, and the loss of instinct for danger is a bad sign.  It is interesting how male characters often appear as rescuers, but they are seldom if ever able to keep the wisher safe from herself.

Consider the father of Rapunzel who is forced to give up his child because of an imprudent wish made by his wife. I wonder what might have happened if they had just asked the witch for some of her greens?

Magic and miracles are not events, as they are portrayed in fairy tales; they are the results of process, of changing perspective, of making response-able choices and keeping hope strong–all the qualities of a good witch.

Are you a good witch or a bad wisher?

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