Today I wanted to share some thoughts about spirits, glass bottles, and being careful what you wish for.
The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is my favorite book to read before I slip into the dreamworld. Jack Zipe’s 2014 translation recaptures the weird and disjointed nature of the tales that have been polished (perhaps a little too much) over time.
One odd duck in the bunch is “The Genie in the Glass.” You can find a non-Zipes translation here, but it goes something like this:
A student who can no longer afford school must work as a carpenter with his father. The first day they go into the woods together to chop wood, the student — against the wishes of his father — wanders off to find bird nests. He comes across a very large oak tree and hears a muffled voice calling, “Let me out! Let me out!” The voice is coming from a glass bottle tangled in the roots of the tree.
If you just thought to yourself, “Oh yay, the genie is going to grant the boy three wishes!” then you’ve probably watched Disney’s Aladdin. Fun movie. But it ignores one crucial fairy tale fact: spirits who are tricked, trapped, and/or enslaved are typically pretty pissed off. And their wrath is indiscriminate.
At least the Brothers Grimm get that part right. When the boy uncorks the glass bottle, the genie is out for blood:
“You must receive the reward you deserve. Do you think people had pity for me when I was stuck in that bottle? No, they were punishing me! Do you know what my name is?”
“No, the student replied. “I don’t know.”
“I am the all-powerful Mercurius,” the genie said. “I’ve got to break your neck.”
I find the choice of name here quite entertaining. The Grimms worked hard to Christianize the fairy tales the collected. The god Mercury traveled across the continent with the Roman Empire, and somewhere along the roads of time, he turned into a trapped, vengeful little spirit, ready to break the neck of a student who hasn’t learned a little pre-Christian common sense.
In truth, you should be cautious of that sealed bottle you just happen to unearth. Witch bottles were fairly common protective charms back in the day, so even if there’s not a malicious spirit trapped in there, at the very least, you’re bound to dip your hand into some urine and yummy tetanus. My advice is to put the bottle down and just walk away.
But if your curiosity gets the best of you, you better have a game plan. The student in the Grimms’ story is able to trick the genie back into his bottle. Bluebeard’s wife has her brothers come to her rescue. Pandora is able to hold onto Hope. What do you have?
“The Genie in the Glass” reminds me of the 9 of Cups — commonly referred to as the “wish card.” So, I created a tarot spread that mashes the two together. When you feel like the student who must know what’s in the bottle, this is the spread to help you prepare for the uncorking.
- The Student – This is the querent and their current situation. The card may indicate what the querent is lacking or has yet to learn.
- The Glass Bottle – This is the new situation presented to the querent. The unknown. The temptation. Because it holds the spirit, it may indicate the framework of the situation, or the paradigm within which the spirit is working. In practical terms, perhaps the querent is trying to decide whether or not to accept a job offer. The Glass Bottle could represent the values of the company in question.
- The Genie (Worst Case Scenario) – This is the worst possible outcome of opening the Glass Bottle. For those who do not do predictive readings, this card could indicate what the querent most fears will be the outcome.
- The Game Plan (Worst Case Scenario) – How the querent can deal with the negative outcome. How clever can the querent be? What resources are available? Or, what can the querent do to face their fears?
- The Genie (Best Case Scenario) – This is the best possible outcome of opening the Glass Bottle. You could also look at it as the querent’s ideal hopes for the future.
- The Game Plan (Best Case Scenario) – How the querent can greet the positive outcome and cultivate the best experience. Or, how realistic are the querent’s hopes?
- The Father – The father is the voice of reason in the story. At first, the student refuses to listen, but he ends up working to impress his father (and, of course, give him lots of shiny gold). This is the advice card, or the querent’s guiding light.