I have to admit I loved Maleficent the first time I saw the Disney movie back in 1959. I loved her even more when I took my daughter to see a Disney retrospective at Lincoln Center in New York City in the early 70s--before VHSs. My 3-year-old daughter decided she loved Maleficent, was going to dye her blond curls black and then went about terrorizing the other kids at the playground by jumping up and shouting, "I am Maleficent!"
As a mythologist and symbologist, I love seeing the symbolism of the 13th Wise Woman mesh with Maleficent, the spirit and protector of her land. As a young fairy, Maleficent is beautiful, kind, funny, courteous, strong, and powerful. She also has an open heart, developing a friendship with Stefan because of his own original kindness to her.
Maleficent is a unique fairy, with strong horns on her head and giant eagle wings to soar. Horns symbolize supernatural powers, the power of the soul arising from the head. Horns are attributed to all Mother Goddesses, often symbolized by the lunar crescent, the power of the eternal change. Maleficent's horns are magnificent, attesting to her generative power and life force. This connects her to the Moon Goddess as well as the Earth Mother. No other fairy has them. Her wings are another indication of her spiritual origins. And eagle wings are attributes of Wisdom and Spirit.
So we see that Maleficent is a nature spirit who guards and protects her land from the greed and violence of the patriarchal king. Of course, as history has shown us, patriarchy won hands down on that battle. Just look at what our patriarchal culture has done to nature and to our world. Since the Industrial Revolution, it has raped and pillaged the land and the people, all for greed and domination.
Unfortunately, Stefan desires that patriarchal power, just as the king desires to destroy and conquer Maleficent's land. Despite their loving connection, Stefan is willing to do anything to achieve that power, most hurtfully when he goes against his love and his heart. No wonder he goes crazy! Stefan is the most stereotypical character in the story, seemingly a mouthpiece for the nastiness and craziness of the patriarchal paradigm. But it's hard to have any sympathy for a mindset that only wants power. Both Stefan and the earlier king have no connection to the feminine--we barely see Briar Rose's mother, Stefan willingly gives his daughter over to the 3 fairies instead of defending Aurora himself, he disregards the Queen completely in his madness and his fear when she is dying, and when Aurora comes back to him, he locks her in a room instead of welcoming her.
This is a mindset where there are no redeeming feminine feeling values, creating an imbalance that needs to be rectified. Everything is tuned to violence, and perceptions are based on fear and projection because Stefan has stolen Maleficent's wings and imprisoned them. He has repressed his own feeling life and now it is turned against him and his kingdom. His power cannot last in such a state.
After Stefan's betrayal, Maleficent is devastated by the loss of her wings, and so takes on Diaval, the Raven, as her companion and her wings. Diaval is a marvelously sympathetic character to both Maleficent and Aurora. Who would have thought that old grouchy cartoon raven would be so wonderful! Ravens are magical birds with the ability to shapeshift--they are birds who are connected to birth and death, magic and mysticism. Two ravens were Odin's messengers--Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory). Ravens are Moon birds and companions of great magicians, giving them the intuitive information they need to make decisions and create spells. Diaval does this for Maleficent.
The scene where Maleficent arrives at the christening has been modeled on the cartoon version, and it is well done indeed. But when Maleficent curses the baby, she is the one who changes the curse from eternal sleep, giving Aurora the chance to awaken with true love's kiss. But after Maleficent's experience with Stefan, she does not believe in such things, and so she feels her revenge will be satisfied.
I love the fact that Maleficent and Diaval find the 3 fairies and Aurora right away instead of on her 16th birthday. These fairies want to help Stefan--an apt symbol of how patriarchy uses feminine gifts for its own purposes. The 3 fairies are dim-witted and self-absorbed and seemingly have very little to do with raising Aurora--another result of suppressing the feminine. Patriarchal women often forgot how to nurture life! That is left to Maleficent and Diaval, an interesting and quite accurate archetypal transformation. This is the beginning of the healing between Aurora, who symbolizes the new feminine feeling life, and Maleficent, who personifies Nature.
Angelina Jolie is a perfect Maleficent, facing Aurora wih a cool distain that is just masks her wounded love nature. She falls in love with Aurora. And Aurora falls in love with her. Maleficent is afraid to love again but Aurora's trusting nature sees Maleficent's beauty and kindness beneath her gruff exterior. And we see the truth of Maleficent's love when she tries to revoke her own curse. But to her sorrow, it holds.
As the curse takes effect, we see some role reversals from the original story--giving us a clue of what is to come. It is Maleficent who must make her way through the iron thorns that Stefan has erected around his castle to save Aurora, braving pains and burns to get inside to the sleeping Aurora. She is the one who brings Prince Phillip to Aurora's bedside to break the curse. But how can such young 'love' be true love? It is not tested yet. It is all projection and expectation.
True love's kiss can only come from a complete knowing and acceptance of a person's soul. And so it is so satisfying that it is Maleficent's kiss that awakens Aurora, just as it is so perfect that it is Aurora who frees Maleficent's wings and brings about Maleficent's healing. The Divine Feminine can only heal us and be healed through our human feminine nature and consciousness.
Aurora is the vehicle of Maleficent's transformation and healing. Aurora--the new dawn--brings about a healing in the kingdom as well, uniting both her father's world and the world of Faerie.
This is a story about reclaiming the 13th, disregarded fairy--the Wise Woman of the Moon. I hope women everywhere reclaim their own 13th Fairy and renew their connection with the Divine Feminine. It will bring healing to all our lives if we do!