The legend of Siegfried is fascinating as much for its context within the events of that time as the story it told. It’s not that old. Its origins are in the Volsung sagas of 600AD or there about and the story didn’t acheive popularity in its own right untill 1100 or so..
witch burning had already begun.
‘Whilst the ancient powers faded a wonderous tale arose that captured the hearts of the people; a blacksmith who slew a dragon and won a legendary treasure….” U. Edil
what was cursed and all…
yes, yes, we’ll get to that.
The story of Siegfried is symbolic allegory for the violent collision of Norse and Christian cultures much as the epic of Gilgamesh (http://andywhiteblog.com/2015/06/21/the-fate-of-gilgamesh/) was the last offering of the matriarchal Sumerians before being entirely overun by the Assyrians and their one god Marduk.
In both cases an epic tale sprang into being that tells of what happens when people fail to accomodate one another. They read like a curse upon the times, a judgement made, not by any one person, but by the collective imagination of an epoch.
One version of the story of Siegfried has him a king’s son raised secretly as a blacksmith after the throne is taken by Saxons. One night a star falls to earth. He runs over only to find someone else has also seen it and arrived at the same time, Brunhilde, queen of Iceland..
who just happened to be passing..
The story of Gilgamesh, another proud and warlike king of a New and Shining Age, contains a very similar scene. This king dreams he is walking about proudly amongst his people when a star falls on him. He couldn’t lift it off. All the people gather around and worship it.
”the star means the immortal soul of man…. the eternal kernel of the human psyche, the eternal man within us. And so he is now to follow his unique destiny instead of fullfiling a collective roll…’ M.L. von Franz
Gilgamesh gets the message and goes journeying for the elixir of immortality. Over in Europe, Siegfried doesn’t do quite as well…
A collision of cultures is a bit like the the meeting of different ecosystems..
”Naturally occurring ecosystem boundaries sometimes form a unique habitat to which species are specifically adapted.” C. Banks-Leite
conjuncted systems do more than co-mingle. They can produce new life.
The same is true between individuals..
‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’ C. G. Jung.
But sometimes it doesn’t quite work out like that.
especially if you have a foreign policy to rival Genhgis Khan.
Siegfried decides to forge the star into a sword.
Not a good move…
In ancient times swords were imbued with mystery and given names. They absorbed the power of the Gods and the souls of their victims. The nearly alchemical processes involved in their production were a kind of magic and many believed swords were sentient, that they had their own life. Forging the star into a sword is placing the numinosity of the Self and the autonomy of the Psyche in service of the Warrior archetype…
which is asking for trouble.
Siegfried’s wars are liable to become holy.
He calls out Fafnir, a scaly dragon and defeats Her much as Gilgamesh defeats the great Humbaba/ Cybele, Great Mother of the ancient world…
Fafnir had treasure, the cursed horde of the Niebelung, gold that will make you wish that you had never even heard of it, much less nicked the lot..
Fafnir’s treasure is what every great She-Beast stands guard over, the Principle of Relatedness. Its cursed because if you try and force relatedness or possess people you produce the opposite. Being-with has to happen by itself. You can’t make people get along, make them love you, or make them stop. And wanting it all for oneself is precisely what destroys a person.
Both the stories of Gilgamesh and Siegfried, poised as they are on the tectonic plates of history, express a solemn truth. You cannot kill off the She Dragon and snatch treasure guarded by the Living Dead without consequences.
even if you did bathe in Her blood.
”when the curse begins to bite, beware, for it will find your weakness and through it destroy you.” the Niebelung king.
Siegfried confuses his persona as warrior with the numinosity of the Self which he now experiences as his possession rather than as a transcendent principle.
”Some say that the fish contains the sea. I say the sea contains the fish.” C. G. Jung.
His bathing in the dragon’s blood has also made him invulnerable so there will not be a lot of getting through to him. This kind of inflation, the lion’s share of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is not as simple as thinking you are better than everyone else. It has to do with being defended against influence and identifying oneself with archetypal structures of the Deep that then puff the personality up out of all proportion.
Siegfried is beginning to experience himself as the right hand of God. A split develops between him and his shadow, Lord Hagan, who condenses the Niebelung curse into an evil potion that makes Siegfried forget about Brunhilde. So Siegfried’s inflationary appropriation of The Treasure, his belief that he is its master and that the psyche is simply what he knows of it has a terrible impact on him. He feels fine, fantastic actually, but he’s lost something, some soul connection. He’s forgotten who he really is. To re-member is to become whole. To forget, more than loss of memory, means to fragment and fall apart.
Siegfried, King Gunter, and the young prince Gizelher, Gunter’s little brother, make a blood pact between them to try and paper over the cracks forming in their relationships with one another on their way to Iceland so that Gunter can propose to Brunhilde.
The threatened ego structure is resorting to magical thinking in order to hold itself together.
if you don’t step on the cracks the bears won’t get you..
but Hagan is excluded and grows more vengeful.
The four men present themselves to Brunhilde…
”you don’t know who she is, she’s not quite real, too good to be true.. and there is something wrong somewhere.” B. Pasternak
The men speak big, but they are in a sorry state. King Gunter, in the role of executive ego, has his shining, amnesiac persona Siegfried fight for Brunhilde’s hand in his place by use of magic, whilst Siegfried’s discrimination is entirely lost in his slavish devotion to ‘his Duty’ and even steals Brunhilde’s magical belt given her by the Old Gods. This constitutes further appropriation of the Unconscious for personal gain, a trend that will mature centuries later in the cult of Bling, rampant materialism and knee-jerk warfare.
”Man is infected with the leprosy of collective thinking and has become an inmate of that insalubrious stud-farm called the totalitarian State.” ~Carl Jung, CW 14, Para 194
And so instead of the Hierosgamos, the sacred wedding between heroic personality and the Unconscious in the fullness of all her Maidenly Power we have a parody instead, represented by a farcical double wedding between people who don’t know what is going on.
Gunter, having faked who he is, marries confused Brunhilde. And Siegfried, having forgotten who he is, marries deceptive Krimhilde, Gunter’s dark sister, who has drugged and deceived her beloved with magic potion.
Things can only get worse, hey?
Siegfried is murdered by his shadow, Hagan and Brunhilde throws herself on the pyre.
And they all did not live happily ever after.
No, there was the mailed fist in the velvet glove of Entrenched Feudalism, the Black Death, and a thousand years of Crusade that got itself all confused about the nature of Treasure.