There is an Italian fairy tale that speaks to the Libra evaluation of Self-worth. It is called (appropriately!) Catherine’s Destiny. While I have personally worked with this tale, it is a story for anyone whose journey to greater consciousness has left them feeling outside the mainstream of culture. The times are demanding that we take a leap of faith and bring our gifts back into society.
As many of you know, amongst everything else I do, I work with stories. One of my favorite authors, Charles De Lint, said: "There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body." Stories provide us with maps, so we don’t have start from scratch. We can use the knowledge, wisdom and information that are stored within them. Stories reconnect us to universal patterns which move our hearts and souls, and which offer us guidance about the way we can handle challenges and search for our life’s meaning. Stories are fun and they open up our imaginations, providing us with glimpses of magic and mystery that are missing from our busy, everyday lives. Companions, guides, and precious gifts, stories are rooted in the ground of our being.
The abundant richness of stories is that, like the Holy Grail, which fed each person the food they desired most, every individual takes away something different and needful for their situation. The characters and situations in stories confront us with the dilemmas of human existence, and by seeing how they handle their situation, we can discover new ways to look at our own. There are always multiple answers within each story, because differing situations call for different responses. Stories open us to creative responses that reflect our truest motivations and deepest Self. And when we find the stories and myths that reflect our individual life experience, we have an invaluable tool for re-writing our own life story. For myths and stories want to grow and change, just as human beings must evolve and change, or die.
Long ago there lived a rich merchant who, besides possessing more treasures than any king in the world, had in his great hall three chairs, one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds. But his greatest treasure of all was his only daughter, who was called Catherine.
One day as Catherine was sitting in her own room, the door flew open and in came a tall, beautiful woman holding a little wheel.
“Catherine, which would you rather have – a happy youth or a happy old age?”
Catherine was surprised but then thought that it would be better to bear her troubles now than when she was older, so she said, “Give me a happy old age.”
“So be it,” said the Lady, turning the wheel as she spoke. Then she vanished as suddenly as she had come.
This beautiful Lady was the Destiny of poor Catherine.
A few days later, the merchant heard news that he had lost everything at sea and was now no better than a beggar. He was so despondent that he took to his bed and soon died.
So poor Catherine was left all alone in the world without a penny or a creature to help her. But she was brave and full of spirit, and so she set out for the next town to become a servant. There she met a woman who hired her and all was well for a while.
But one day Catherine’s mistress took a long journey and told Catherine that she was locking up the house so no thieves could rob her. As Catherine sat at the window working, suddenly the door flew open and there stood her Destiny.
“Oh, so this is where you are, Catherine! Did you really think I was going to leave you in peace?” And with that, her Destiny tore up all the linens and broke all the plate and threw them on the floor. Catherine wrung her hands and wept and didn’t know what to do, for she knew that her mistress would blame her. And so she gathered her few belongings and fled.
And her Destiny restored everything to its rightful shape and place, and tidied up before she left. When the mistress returned home, she had no idea why Catherine had left her. She checked to see if she had been robbed, but everything was there. And so after a few days, she found another to take Catherine’s place.
Well, Catherine wandered on and on, not knowing what to do. But whenever she found a new mistress, her Destiny would come and destroy her peace and force her to leave again.
And so for seven years Catherine moved from place to place, always chased by her Destiny. But after seven years, her Destiny seemed to get tired of persecuting her, and a time of peace set in for Catherine. And she found a new position that she liked well.
Now, one of her daily chores for her new mistress was to walk up a mountain and lay on the ground some loaves of freshly baked bread, and to cry with a loud voice, “O Destiny, my mistress” three times. And then her lady’s Destiny would come and take away the offering.
After many years, Catherine found that she was happy, although sometimes she would weep, remembering her father and her old life. One day her mistress found her crying, and when Catherine told her story, her mistress had an idea.
“Catherine, you must ask my Destiny to entreat your Destiny to leave you in peace.”
And when Catherine did just that, her lady’s Destiny answered, “Oh, my poor girl, did you not know that your Destiny lies buried under seven coverlids, and can hear nothing? But if you will come tomorrow, I will bring her with me.” And the lady’s Destiny found her sister and asked her, “Hasn’t Catherine suffered enough? It is surely time for her good days to begin.”
The next morning Catherine hurried up the mountain, and her lady’s Destiny took her to her sister, who lay under the seven coverlids. And her Destiny held out a ball of silk to Catherine and said, “Keep this – it may be useful someday.” And then pulled the coverings over her head again!
But Catherine walked sadly down the mountain, and went straight to her mistress and showed her the ball of silk, which was the end of all her high hopes.
“What shall I do with it? It is not worth sixpence, and it is no good to me!” said Catherine.
But her mistress told her to take care of it, for who knew how useful it might be.
Now soon after this, preparations began for the marriage of the king. All the tailors in the kingdom were busy embroidering fine clothes for the king, but when it was almost finished, the tailor found that he had run out of thread. The color was very rare, and so the king made a proclamation that if anyone happened to possess any of this thread, they should bring it to court and he would give them a large sum.
Catherine’s mistress recognized that her ball of silk matched the king’s wedding suit exactly, and urged her to bring it to the king. So putting on her best clothes, she went to court and looked more beautiful than any woman there. When she presented the ball of silk to the king, it matched exactly, and the king ordered that she be given its weight in gold.
And so a pair of scales were brought out, and a handful of gold was placed on one scale and the silken ball on the other. But lo! No matter how much gold the king ordered placed on the scale, the silk was always heavier still. And the king took larger scales and heaped up all his treasures on one side, but the silk on the other side still outweighed them all. Finally, the only thing left to place on the scale was his golden crown, and at last the scale moved and the ball had found its balance.
When the king demanded to know where Catherine got her ball of silk, she told him her story and how she had once been as rich as he was.
Now there lived at court a wise old woman, and she said to Catherine, “You have suffered much, my poor girl, but now your luck has turned and I know by the weighing of the scales through the crown that you will die a queen.”
And the king heard the wise woman and cried out, “So she shall, for I shall marry her myself, for she is more beautiful than all the ladies of my court.” And the king sent back his intended bride to her own country and married Catherine, who lived happy and content for the rest of her life.
The story of Catherine’s destiny is a Libra story in that it is a story about a woman’s worth to the kingdom- to her society. I feel this story speaks to those women who choose to live life on their own terms, leaving behind the privilege of birth and education, stepping out of the corporate success model to forge a real identity that grows out of life experience and spiritual growth. At this moment in history, it is these women – and those few men who have chosen a similar path - who will bring the silken threads of their lives back into the cultural tapestry to enrich and enhance everyone’s lives.