Once upon a time there was a queen with a son and a daughter, Prince Danila Govorila and Princess Catherine. The queen was dying, and, having not gotten to be queen without making a few enemies, a witch with a grudge against her family decided to pay her out. She went to the queen disguised as a wise woman and gave her a ring, saying, “give this ring to your son, and tell him he will prosper as long as he wears it, but he must only marry the woman who the ring fits.”
The queen told her son this, and then died. Time passed, the siblings grew up, and who should the ring fit, but Princess Catherine?
The prince was determined to marry his sister, and she knew she would be forced to. So, she went to some wise women for advice, and they told her to make four dolls and put them in the four corners of her room. She married her brother, but when the wedding night came, she stayed in her room, singing a charm to the dolls while her brother called her to bed.
When Danila summons his sister to the bedchamber after the wedding, the four dolls in the corners of the room begin to sing:
“Cuckoo, Prince Danila,
Cuckoo, he takes his sister,
Cuckoo, for a wife,
Cuckoo, earth open wide,
Cuckoo, sister fall inside.”
The dolls caused the earth to open up and swallow Catherine in the nick of time, and she found herself in an underground kingdom. She walked, and came to a cottage on chicken legs, where she was greeted by a beautiful young woman who happened to look rather like Catherine, herself. “My little dove, my heart is glad to see you, I will welcome you and fondle you while my mother is out. But when she comes back there will be trouble for both of us, for she is a witch.”
So Catherine hung out with the witch’s daughter. The witch would come home, and the daughter would hide Catherine, transforming her into a needle in her embroidery. The witch would say she smelled humans, and the daughter would come up with some excuse: some old women stopped by for water, some old men wanted to warm their hands, etc. until Baba Yaga managed to catch them unawares. She was going to cook Catherine, but Catherine lay in the roasting pan so that the witch couldn’t fit in in the oven. Every time the witch told her to move, she moved to a different position until the witch lost her patience and said “Sit this way, watch how I do it!” and lay down in the roasting pan. Catherine and the witch’s daughter shoved the witch into the oven and ran off.
The roasting didn’t stop the witch. The daughter threw her brush behind her and created a marsh, but the witch clawed through it. They threw down the comb and created a forest. The witch got through. They threw down the gold-embroidered towel the daughter had been working on, and a sea of fire appeared. The witch fell in and burned.
The girls made their way home, and they looked so alike that Danila Govorila could not tell them apart, so he arranged to have a bladder of sheep’s blood under his clothes and make it look as though he were stabbed. His sister rushed to his side and was discovered.
Fortunately for Catherine, though, the magic ring fit the witch’s daughter’s finger as well as her own, and so the prince married Catherine’s friend, and Catherine married someone who wasn’t so much related to her.
This Russian fairy tale tells of the powerful union between brother and sister that must confront the incest taboo in order to freely move into an adult marriage relationship. The ring fits the sister because like mother, sister is a defining anima figure for the brother. She is an early personification his inner feminine figure but the incest taboo must be honoured for him to be able to move past the sister image to his beloved in the world that is without his inherited kinship ties. The four dolls as Jung suggests:
“form the marriage quaternity, the aim being to prevent the
incest by putting four in place of two. The four dolls form
a magic simulacrum which stops the incest by removing the
sister to the underworld, where she discovers her alter ego.”
Jung often wrote of the ‘brother-sister incest’ Adult partners partially mirror our relationships with siblings of either sex. However it is the opposite sex siblings that have constellated the anima/animus images and for a time carried the projection of the other which in turn impacts the formation of our adult relationships.
The incest taboo has allowed the sibling partner to hold these internal images for the other until they are ready to take the underworld journey that separates them and frees them for a relationship that is external to the family. The sibling in this way is an outer representation of the inner task of beginning to contain the feeling life in order to be better able to discriminate. Violating the taboo ruptures this ability to discriminate and separate keeping us bound to the dark brother or sister in every relationship.