Illustration: The witch welcomes Hansel and Gretel into her hut, by Arthur Rackham, 1909

{Image description: In the middle of the woods, a very ugly old woman greets stands at the door of her house. Outside, in front of her, are a little boy and a little girl, and they seem cautious, but curious at the same time.}

*

Food, sustainability and resources are the core issues of this tale and reflect the Taurus themes. This sign, the first of the Earth element, is meant to materialize and give real and concrete support to our individuation process, initiated in Aries. Throughout this narrative we follow Hansel and Gretel in the discovery of the most stable and lasting wealth, their own inner resources. Like so many other stories that come to us through oral tradition, this one too has several versions, including some modern adaptations. The best known version is from the Grimm Brothers, first published in 1812 and with several subsequent editions revised by the authors until the final version in 1857.

Hansel and Gretel are two siblings who live with their parents on the edge of a forest. The father is a very poor woodcutter and has reached the point where he can no longer bring home the bread. His wife (sometimes the children's biological mother, but turned into a stepmother in the latest Grimm versions) convinces him to abandon the children in the forest with the argument that it is better to deliver the children to a death that is already certain than for all four of them to die of hunger. The first try of abandoning them, Hansel marks the way back home with white stones that, at night and with the glow of the moon, help the children return to their parents. In the second try the brother uses breadcrumbs to mark their return, but birds eat these and they are lost in the forest.

The story begins with the denial of Taurus’ most basic value, food, our daily bread. Until this need is fulfilled we cannot even begin to think of stability or comfort. But still, after being abandoned, the children long to return to the home that can only offer them discouragement and coldness. Taurus is a sign of the fixed modality, and so we can expect from them the stability and constancy necessary for the seed of Aries to flourish and thrive. On the other hand, they can tend toward laziness and inertia, and this causes them to sometimes stay in situations that do no longer bring them growth or prosperity, just out of habit or to feed an illusion of security.

On the third day in the forest the brothers meet a white bird that leads them to a little house all made of bread and cake. The hungry children could not imagine anything more appetizing and begin to nibble at the walls and roof. From inside comes out an old lady who invites them in and promises that nothing bad will happen to them. But the old lady turns out to be a witch, who imprisons Hansel to eat him later and makes Gretel her slave, forcing her to do all the house chores.

If at the beginning of the story we have the denial of food, which forces the children to separate from their parents, this second part of the story describes the opposite, indulgence and hedonism. The siblings do not return home to their parents, but find themselves again in circumstances where they are still depending on someone, where they are still at the mercy of somebody else. What at first seems to be the solution to all the problems of two children on the verge of starving to death, turns out to be in fact a prison. Venus, the planet of pleasure and the senses, is very appropriately the ruler of Taurus, but Venus also likes it easy and can be quite self-indulgent. One expression we all know of this energy is our society of consumption. Of course it is comfortable and practical to have access to so many amenities and products, but how much do we really enjoy everything we have without becoming its slaves and being consumed by it?

The witch keeps feeding Hansel in the hope of fattening him up. Every day she inspects his finger to see if the child is ready to go into the oven, and every day Hansel tricks her by presenting her with a chicken bone in place of his finger. The way the boy remembers to deceive the evil woman, and thus postpone his terrible fate, is the first step in discovering his own inner resources. At some point the old woman, tired of waiting, decides that, fat or thin, she will finally cook the boy. Patience is one of Taurus' virtues, and the witch's rashness is the key to the children's liberation. She asks Gretel to see if the oven is hot enough and this is the opportunity for the younger sister to show her worth.

Gretel plays dumb and says she doesn't know how to see the temperature of the oven. The witch, to exemplify, approaches the oven and the girl pushes her inside and closes the door immediately, giving the old woman the same fate she planned for the children. The Moon is exalted in Taurus, here she feels comfortable and fulfilled, and the oven symbolizes precisely the Moon, the womb, a state of coziness and protection. But this can become harmful and even fatal, because we are not supposed to stay there forever. If we are not able to recognize our value, our gifts and our own resources, we end up regressing and returning to a state of unconsciousness and complete dependency. This is why the development of Gretel's character in this tale is especially interesting. At the beginning of the narrative she expects from her older brother the protection and guidance that her parents fail to offer, but in the end she makes her own decisions and is the key element in the resolution of the whole conflict.

After killing the witch, the siblings discover that she was guarding a huge treasure of pearls and precious stones. They carry what they can and return home. Now that they have discovered their own abilities and fulfilled their growth process, they find their way back without difficulty. When they arrive they find their father very sad about what he had done to them and learn that their mother had died. The association of the mother, who denies food to her children, with the witch, who fills them with food, is inevitable. From the moment the children know what they are worth, everything that prevented them from growing and finding their ground and their peace of mind disappears.

The purpose of Taurus is to give consistency and sustenance to life, to appreciate it through matter and the five senses, to enjoy and value it. In doing so we find our own sustainability, not just out there, in others and the material things we surround ourselves with to validate our existence, but within ourselves, in the serenity that exists in recognizing our inner resources, which are our greatest true wealth and true stability.

*

2014