Legends tell of a queen of great beauty. Guinevere, thought by some to be part mortal, part Fae, a queen who seduced hearts and intoxicated the eyes. Her beauty drew admiration to be sure, of this there appears to be no doubt, but was there more beneath the surface? A greater passion born of the soul that sparks light. For legends also tell of a queen of not just man, but of the land. There is talk of a presence that is of the goddess and a marriage to the landscape, as though her fertile body nurtured the life of not just sons, but a country. In this, she is much more than a mere woman, a queen of unsurpassed beauty that is more that just what one perceives on the surface.
In some ways it seemed perfect that I had been given this role, not because I consider myself a great beauty, as you will see, but because of my love for the land and for my connection to the fairy realm. I am a romantic at heart, and the idea of playing the role of this legendary queen brought back childhood fantasies, but it also brought back fears, also deeply rooted in childhood.
I was relieved, I confess, to see how few lines I would have to speak, daunted by the thespians I knew, by reputation only, who would be glorious in their given roles. Of course, as these rituals are meant to, I was thrown out of my comfort-zone when I was given, after the first act was completed, a role with no previously seen script. Suddenly I was thrown, literally and figuratively into the hunt. I was not only a desirable queen, but a the prey of man in animal form. I was Guinevere and also the boar.
The boar? I thought when I first drew the card. Why? It had never come to me before as a messenger, or had it? I could not, of course, be sure. An ugly animal, I thought, and not very exciting. Here my preconceived notions began to run the circuits of my mind until I turned the card over and read the script. Okay, I had to admit. It was perfect. For me. For Guinevere, who, like the boar, walks between two worlds.
And, I soon learned, if I was to not only play the roles, but become the roles I was assigned, to the best of my abilities, it would take courage. A certain courage that can perhaps be best learned by the boar. This ugly animal that slowly became beautiful to my eyes.
This post, in many ways, comes down to beauty, and our preconceived, learned and unlearned notions of what true beauty is. Beauty is a subjective feature we often assign upon first glimpse. When I looked at the image on my 5 pound bank note, the thought that took form in my mind was, She’s rather ordinary for a queen. In contrast, when I googled images of actresses who have played queens, in particular, Guinevere, I saw great beauty, upon first glance. Yet, I also noted the efforts that went into, for some, to create this illusion.
When Sue, one of the directors of the Silent Eye School, sent me this (very close-up) photograph that had been taken of my face while I was outside waiting in the cold to enact a final ritual, I thought, Ugh! Look at that chin!
Instead of beauty, which she insisted she saw, my eyes fixated on a chin that bore a history that was often uncomfortable. I recalled my husband’s off-hand comment many years ago, that compared my cleft-chin to an unsavory body part, and realized I was still harboring the hurt from his insensitive words. I rooted deeper into the discomfort, urged on by the energy of boar, and discovered that a chin I had once thought cute and unique as a child, also came with an uncomfortable history. An unspoken connection to a stepfather that liked to take ownership for traits that he also shared. The cleft chin, the blue, blue eyes. And, I realized, a dirty family secret had also soiled my perception of self.
As I looked at the photograph Sue sent me, I wanted to pull the mask of boar that hid the forehead that reminded me of my birthfather, the one that could more honestly lay claim to my features, over my chin. It didn’t look at all cute to me, it looks pronounced and ugly. While I was at it, I might as well admit I didn’t care for the smile lines that spoke of age around my eyes.
No, to be sure, I didn’t see a great beauty. But, sometimes, when I look in the mirror, and at a rare photograph of myself, I allow myself to see beauty. I find that it is easier to bask in the soft light that may surround a mirror and take stock, privately, of what you have grown to love about yourself. Realizing, in that personal moment, that you have chose this face, this body, for a reason. And, in that distilled essence, there is beauty. There is perfection.
I believe it is too easy to adopt false notions of perfection. We are surrounded by unachievable ideals. Airbrushed faces and bodies sculpted by an excess of diet and exercise, and the nip and tuck of surgery. We compare these images to ourselves and see the creases in our skin, the bulges of fat instead of muscles. Sometimes we also go to extremes, plucking and coloring hairs to hide what nature intended, buying expensive make-up to conceal and enhance , while paying for expensive and risky surgeries to shape our bodies into something artificial.
So, perhaps we would be better served to ask ourselves not how can I achieve perfection (0r rather my ideal of perfection), but how can I love imperfection (0r my idea of imperfection) in myself and others? I find that when I first look at someone, I still see their outer features and make a judgement upon my own perception of beauty, but quickly this changes. Beauty blossoms into something wonderful and great when a brilliant light shines within. True sensuality is expressed in the woman, perhaps deemed by most too old to be a sexy, who has learned what it means to love and be loved, especially the self.
There is something to be said about taking away the mask we hide behind and truly look at what lies beneath. And, as we do so, to see beauty in all its imperfectly, perfect forms.