Have you ever heard the story about the white knight and the witch in the woods? Probably not- it’s one that 5,000 years of patriarchal indoctrination wouldn’t want you to know about. I should warn you, this ain’t your average fairy tale. It won’t tell you what you want to hear and it doesn’t echo what you’ve always been told. It goes something like this:
Not so long ago, there was a white knight who tried to do everything right. He was loved and revered by so many. Nearly every women but most especially damsels in distress, felt seen and understood and safe with him. The damsels even came to rely on him and waited to be rescued. He was rewarded handsomely for having this so-called gift. Other men tried to be like him and all of society told him that what he is doing is necessary and good. In fact, to this day, there were and still are many white knights but this is a story about one in particular.
So this particular white knight was going around from town to town saving these beautiful, sweet, helpless damsels. No one questioned this because it looked like he was “doing the good work”. The moral of the fairytales that he and all of the damsels had been told was that if a woman is a young, beautiful and needy enough maiden, a handsome, good-hearted man will come save you and he will be revered. Now, I know what your thinking, you’ve probably seen this before in whatever civilized society you currently live in. And you’re probably right because this trite narrative has been passed down for centuries but I promise, this one is different.
Now maybe you’re a feminist and maybe you believe that we now have fairytales that seemingly empowering women so you might be wondering: Why did the knight and the damsels buy into this shit? Why were those women still so helpless? But no! You’re not supposed to ask that yet, please, just bear with me. If you can’t tell already, I’m a bad story teller.
So anyways, here is this white knight traveling along, feeling great about himself, accumulating the hearts of all of these maidens. The more he saved, the better he felt. He was really starting to get a reputation for himself. So much so that he started to wonder if maybe this was too good. How could he be having this much fun? But he brushed it off and considered himself fortunate and deserving and special.
But sooner or later, a vague feeling of dissatisfaction crept in, he didn’t feel challenged anymore. That rush he would get when he would first scale the castle walls or break through the locked door and swoop the beautiful young woman off her feet just felt like an act these days. However, he worried about stopping because there were so many women that needed him! He believed there wasn’t a lot of good knights out there and in fact he believed many were probably bad guys. He saw it as his duty to protect these damsels and show them what a “real man” is like. But when he thought of doing this for the rest of his life, he felt a little sad and unfulfilled.
Because you see, this knight wanted equals, people to challenge him and walk through the fire with him. Each time he’d save a new damsel, he would be excited that maybe she could be that for him but they only took and took from him. He quickly grew tired of the whole shtick and felt like he was stagnating. He longed to talk about himself, to have a partner who was curious about him and reflected parts of himself he can’t see. And a few damsels came close to being this. But eventually, they’d leave and settle down with someone else.
One day, the white knight talked to his wizard friend about it. The wizard advised him to just chill out for a bit, be single, maybe go be alone for while in the woods and “find himself.” The white knight didn’t really want to go into the woods because to him, they’ve always been dark and creepy and dirty and wild. He didn’t want to get his beautiful white garb all dirty and plus, any time he spent in the woods would be time taken away from saving another damsel, one who might turn into being a future partner in this life.
Unsure of exactly why, he decided to go. What pushed him towards this decision was less of a genuine curiosity and more of an ego challenge akin to something like “I ain’t scared, I’m a big strong man!” This knight had depth and self-awareness and he knew that something in his life had to change. He wanted to go deeper, into himself and into this life.
The knight galloped off towards the gnarled and twisted woods. The journey was long and he had much time to contemplate his habits about why he chose the people and situations he did. He realized that he was scared of not being the white knight anymore. If he wasn’t needed by anyone, then what is left of him? Who would want him?
It started to grow dark as he approached the forest and he could tell he was a little scared but didn’t want to fully admit it. The full moon was rising and lighting his way. He stopped as he arrived at the edge of the woods, tied up his beautiful white horse, left it some food, took a deep breath and walked in. He walked slowly, deliberately, staying alert and hyper vigilant. He was mumbling to himself “you are a brave knight, you can handle anything.” Then he heard a strange noise coming from deeper in the woods and he walked slowly towards it. As he got closer, it started to sound like every man’s fantasy, a bunch of women moaning in ecstasy but he thought there was no way it could be that and scolded himself for being so pervy. He felt scared because he had heard that the forest was filled with the evil creatures that had been cast out from society.
It was then that he came upon a clearing where there appeared to be some sort of ceremony happening. He could see several figures illuminated by the moonlight. He snuck closer and discovered that it was exactly what he feared: wild women- witches! He’d always been warned about them, told that they were evil and ugly and the devil’s whores. His first reaction was pure terror but at the same time, he found himself mesmerized and magnetized. They looked so beautiful, naked, dancing in the full moon’s light. They touched each other and themselves and seemed completely content, joyful, and free.
Suddenly, one of the witches turned to look right where he was hiding. He gasped as the moon glinted off her eyes and his gaze met hers. It made his heart flutter because he felt more seen in the instant than he ever had in his life and it, quite frankly, freaked him the fuck out. He was so taken by her that he just sat there frozen, staring there with his mouth agape as she got up and started walking towards him.
She walked closer, never breaking eye contact. Soon, she was right in front of him, leaned in close to his face and kissed him with the softest, smoothest, sweetest lips he’s ever tasted, causing him to involuntarily let out an audible “mmmm.” Before he could even process what just happened, she casually asked what he was doing creepin’ on her full moon sisterhood circle. He explained that he came to the woods to think about his life and he heard their voices so he came to see. She said, “aha… I see. Do you know that everything you love is about to burn?”
This jolted him out of the spell she seemed to have cast on him and he said “What the fuck? Who says that? You don’t know anything about me. How can you give anyone such a conviction? Who are YOU? You’ve been banished to the woods, prophesying from your rickety shelter about the lives of people in the ‘real world’!”
The witch laughed, “I can see you’re trying to insult me but it won’t work. I see right through you. I know you already. Your old tricks won’t work on me. I choose to live outside of the ‘real world’ because there’s nothing real about that from which you came. It’s all an egoic game replayed over and over with slightly different details every generation. And as for my shelter, I burn it along with everything else every new moon.”
“This was a mistake, I shouldn’t have come to the woods to try to figure my shit out. There’s nothing a social outcast like you can tell me about my life!”
“I mean, it’s up to you if you go. But your time is now. I know that because you saw me and I saw you. What’s real in you lead you here to discover the truth. You can go back and try to reintegrate but you’ll never be able to” she said confidently.
He knew she was right. And the truth was, he didn’t really want to leave. He was just terrified because he sensed his imminent transformation. He knew that she would take him on a path through the woods that would change everything about his life as he knows it. He wasn’t sure if he was capable, or ready or if she’d stick by his side or if he’d be lost forever out here.
He sighed and looked up to her in ambivalent submission, displaying a “don’t fuck with me” face. Sensing his trepid willingness and vulnerability. She stepped towards him, cradled his head in her hands, held it to her womb, took a deep breath and whispered, “You’re going to be ok. I’ll show you the way. Whatever you do, just don’t turn away.”
That night as they walked through the forest, she shared the secrets to an enlightened life that all beings must discover somehow, through trial and error, over the span of multiple lifetimes, and by finding teachers along the way. Clearly, I don’t know what that secret is or I probably wouldn’t be telling you this story, but I can tell you what I’ve heard from other travelers. The gist is, in order to obtain enlightenment and transcend your destructive patterns you must either choose to walk the path or be seduced into it. The path contains mile markers that tell you to let go of all of who you thought you were, let those parts of yourself that don’t serve you die, consciously undo your indoctrination, dive down into hell, embrace your vices and use them to empower you. You must discover your own power and use it only for the highest good, harness your truth and have the strength to live in accordance the cycles of nature.
The witch showed the knight all of these lessons that night and he saw what he had to do.But he also saw he had a choice, he had to choose to commit. He had some reservations and asked the witch, “but what about everyone else? What about women who don’t yet know their power or abusive men that will never be enlightened?” She said, “you can’t drag people into enlightenment, they have to come on their own. Any attempt to save anyone else is a distraction from the teachings on your own path. Your feigned interest in empowering women and helping them learn their worth is a façade that I and now you see right through. It’s self-serving. What this world needs is for everyone to rescue themselves first and their example will lead others to the same destiny.”
Suddenly, it all clicked for him. Because what the knight was not understanding before was that he needed to work on himself, save himself, love himself and then he can really be in relationship with an equal which is what he always thought he wanted more than anything in the world. And he still wanted that, but he had a grander vision now. He wanted to be an example for others to choose to walk their own paths to enlightenment.
He bowed to the witch with deep reverence and gratitude. He looked up and said, “but what about you? With all your wisdom, don’t you want to come back to society and help everyone? You being out here in the woods seems like you’re hiding from something.”
“You’re absolutely right; I am hiding from the delusions of society, from toxic masculinity, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism. I have no interest in putting on a mask and following those rules or trying to change them in a socially acceptable way. I’m much happier out here where I can be myself with the actualized, enlightened sacred feminine. It’s safe out here and all of my needs are met. I realized long ago that I can only help those that are willing and ready. Each time people come to me in the woods, they go back and their newfound knowledge ripples out. I know it’s working because more and more of people like you are coming. I have hope that one day we can all live together again and it may be soon but that time is not now. For now, I’ll stay here and you can come visit me anytime you like.”
“But don’t you want a partner, someone who teaches you, challenges you, matches you?”
“I do,” she said as a single tear fell from her face, “but I have that in everyone I meet. I have many suitors that come to visit me from time to time.” As I told you before, this knight was deep and extra sensitive. He could sense that even this wise and empowered witch had a part of her that wanted to be saved too. And he felt a familiar urge to do that for her. He sat with that urge and sat staring at her with purest love he’d ever felt. In that moment, he knew that would not best serve him or her so he decided to do something different than he’s ever done. He decided to save himself.
You see, this fairytale reminds us of an invitation as old as time, to go into the forest of our souls and take a long, hard look. Because each and every one of us is to blame for the oppression and the injustices of the world and each and every one of us have the power to undo these habits within ourselves. We must take our tired bodies to the dark and mangled forest of our hearts, bow down with our hands cupped, and wait for her to fill us with a renewed vision for ourselves and the world.
Or some shit like that…