Saturnism In The Emerald City: The Alchemical Symbolism Of Return To Oz
Even the most painful-to-watch, trashy piece of cinema can be littered with accidental (or, perhaps, intentional) symbolism enough to trigger a serious acid flashback or psycho-spiritual experience otherwise unlabeled. Barbarella, for God’s sake, is a pretty profound (well, ‘thoughtful’, say) exploration of a woman’s emerging sexuality and her embrace of the power it gives her. But I think a better, and safer place to start touching on this subject is with, say, a children’s movie, or book series, or both. Something ubiquitous, something American, something…
Ah, the land of Oz! Now, there’s a fine place to start. A good old-fashioned American fairy tale, L. Frank Baum’s book series was no doubt introduced to many of you readers out there as it was to me— that is to say, by way of one miss Judy Garland and a little dog who is now very long-dead. It may then have faded in and out of your consciousness over the years, or it might have captured your imagination so utterly that you read all the books and indulged in every adaptation, and could school even me on a Gnostic interpretation of The Wiz. I, personally, am more in the former camp: Dorothy’s plight didn’t connect with me as much as Alice’s bad trip through Wonderland, but now, after seeing the children’s/horror movie Return to Oz, I’m starting to wonder what I was missing all these years.
Though I expect those interested enough in this subject to have seen Return to Oz or to be interested enough to at least read a synopsis of it, I’ll probably re-describe a few scenes here or there just for context. Now, if you’re not familiar with Return to Oz, it’s based on the second and third books in the series, The Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. In order to combine these two stories for the screen in a meaningful and interesting way, Disney included a frame story about electroshock therapy. I’ve seen on the Internet theories that this film is about MKULTRA because of scenes like this, and you can look them up if you’re so inclined, but this is a problem I have noticed time and time again, if I may make a brief aside: deep psycho-spiritual symbolism becomes conflated with conspiracy theories and people run around crying about illuminati symbolism in movies and music. The fact of the matter, though, is that an ‘illuminati’ is naught but ‘one who is illuminated’ or ‘enlightened’, no matter how thoroughly the word has been made to mean something different. By any reasonable definition of the term, I am an illuminati. The fact that the occult symbolism present in these films has become acquainted with conspiracy theories and misinterpreted religions does not lesson the wealth of meaning and depth of necessity behind the understanding of these symbols.
On a basic level watching Return to Oz, it’s highly evident for any adult watching the film that Dorothy, who has been treated with electroshock therapy for insomnia in the wake of her initial Oz experience, is experiencing a fantasy which occurs during her ECT therapy— a bridge, if you will, created by her consciousness, to explain the gap caused by the seizure of her treatment. It is also, of course, this fantasy which helps her to resolve the issues which have brought her to therapy; in this coming-of-age movie, Aunt Em’s chief complaint is not so much that Dorothy is wide-awake at one in the morning, but rather that Dorothy cannot be of use to her around the house or the farm on days when she’s been sleepless. This marks that the chief concern of the film is not, say, Sarah’s of Labyrinth’s blossoming sexuality, but rather Dorothy’s integration from the play-world of childhood to the functioning, working world of adults.
After finding a key labeled ‘Oz’ with the help of a chicken who has not that day laid an egg and, later, being taken for ECT, a ‘power shortage’ which occurs at the exact moment of Dorothy’s treatment proves the catalyst for her escape. In this, she is guided by Ozma, who, as the anima mundi, is a key character throughout the course of the film but not highly present throughout. In the initial earth-bound sequence she appears to Dorothy in mirrors, providing her company and giving her the pumpkin which will later form the basis of the sulphuric Jack Pumpkinhead, who we’ll get into a little later. It is Ozma who leads Dorothy from the asylum after relieving her of the equipment which had deafened her; the girls run out into the rain, pursued by the woman who will in Oz (Dorothy’s psyche’s interpretation of the unconsciousness and its experience with it) come to represent those parts of the shadow which would utterly possess Dorothy and destroy her conscious awareness. This is, however, something we’ll broach later as well.
Ozma is slightly older than Dorothy, taller and more traditionally beautiful by modern American standards (indeed, she more closely resembles Alice than the girl who she guides!). This implies that Ozma, being the anima mundi, is a sort of feminine Adam Kadmon; she provides at once both the blueprint and the ideal, both the guiding force and the destination. As says Jung in his essay The Spirit Mercurius, specifically section 9, “Mercurius As The Arcane Substance”, “Mercurius, it is generally affirmed, is the arcanum, the prima materia…he is also the ultima materia, the goal of his own transformation[.]”
Thus, it is Ozma who is the cause of Dorothy’s falling into the flooding waters of the unconscious, here represented by a furiously flooded and fast-moving river which rages as a result of the storm: this is naught but speculation on my part, but the fact that Ozma falls in first and forces Dorothy to reach out to try to help her seems to me a conscious ploy on the part of the anima mundi to trick Dorothy back into Oz, all, of course, in the name of the greater good. Regardless of intention, Ozma’s falling into the water causes Dorothy to dally enough that, startled by the sudden arrival of her shadow and forced to confront the black-clad woman who (staunch, humorless, domineering, old by Dorothy’s standards, and cruel because she works in an asylum) represents everything that is boring and undesirable about the world of adults, she is forced to make a choice: Dorothy may either be claimed by the shadow then and there, or fall into the waters of the unconsciousness with her anima mundi, and, very wisely, she opts to do the latter, indeed is shown willingly diving into the water, which sweeps her up along with her friend, and, upon subsuming briefly the both of them, allows to surface only Dorothy. Ozma, being the Mercurial spirit, is both that which is dissolved and that which dissolves; she is the aqua regia and that which is changed in it, and so she resumes her liquid form upon submergence in the water. We will also note here that the shadow in this form is not able to follow her and is not accepted by the water: Dorothy is separated from it temporarily, in the same way that Jung postulates the shadow to be the gateway to all other facets of the unconscious.
After resurfacing and managing to wiggle into a floating cage in which she manages to find shelter for the night, Dorothy floats across a vast sea beneath a full moon, Luna being a key symbol in relation to the feminine principle. Representing the matter which reflects the light of Sol, or consciousness, Luna does indeed represent feminine consciousness to a limited extent (although Jung was not correct in the extent to which he thought this true, but that is an essay for another day) and we will see her again at the film’s end, for she represents most truly a gateway between the conscious principle and the unconscious principle. Her appearance as this gateway is brief, and in the next scene we see Dorothy awakening in her cage which, floating upon the water, is revealed to bear a label for a company whose most legible word is ‘KANSAS’; Dorothy is a slave, in the Nietzchean sense, bound to the material reality of Kansas and all its normal rules and moralities, but this symbolic Kansas itself dwells within a muddy pond, we soon see, and this pond dwells within a desert which cannot be touched. In this cage, she awakens with, not Toto, but rather her chicken, which, earlier, in the waking world, found a key which will prove important in Oz. The hen’s name, ‘Billina’, is not delved into much in the film, but in the book it is explained that, as a chick, it was unclear whether Billina would be a hen or a rooster, and was thus christened ‘Bill’, but Dorothy insisted on the name change when it became apparent she was the egg-laying sort. This animal, which, like all unconscious principles, was of indistinct gender until it became developed, will later prove the key of Dorothy’s salvation, and foreshadows it with the laying of an egg, an act which Billina could not manage at home in Kansas. Billina, who produces the eggs and thus is the seemingly inconsequential device that will eventually cause a rebirth and, after being reborn (spoiler alert!) will choose to stay behind in Oz while the more developed Dorothy returns home, represents Dorothy’s ego. This is even more evident when, in an earlier scene and the bird’s introduction, she tells the lazy hen that if she does not produce, Aunt Em will stew her up for supper: that is, Dorothy’s lazy ego is unproductive and useless about the farm, and must change or die.
The muddy pool of water recedes around them of its own volition and reveals the rocks of ‘The Deadly Desert’, which Dorothy explains she flew over in the old house during her last transit to Oz. “Anything living that touches it turns to sand,” she says. “If we stay on these stones, we’ll be all right.” It is because of Dorothy’s prior familiarity with Oz that she is able to so easily and quickly traverse a desert which is so treacherous it would kill those who touch it. Those unfamiliar with the ways of Oz—that is, unprepared by classical education, religious faith or intuition to explore the nature of the unconscious mind—would doubtless not fare quite so well. In the deadly desert the stones prove themselves alive and watchful, though, being creatures of stone, we will later find them devoid of all personality or sense of self; like people turned to sand or stone, these beings are little more than part of the unconscious landscape through which the conscious must navigate.
The first thing which Dorothy encounters after her incredibly short trip across the desert is, of course, a tree: specifically a lunch pail tree, which gives her food. The tree symbol is important, and of importance, too, is its nourishing nature, though it is a deep symbol unto itself which Jung has covered thoroughly in his essay The Philosophical Tree. What is important in this context is that, as she dines under the boughs of the tree, an observing rock spirit is shown descending into the earth, and the viewers are then introduced, off-screen, to the ‘Nome King’, who is in this film the embodiment of Saturnine principles; in Jungian terms, this is the sinister affect of the “Wise Old Man” or “Spirit” archetype, which, presenting itself almost always in dichotomy, in this film presents itself in the dual pair of Ozma/Nome King. When we first meet him we do not know who it is that we meet, as is custom in fairy tale and in exploring the unconscious; indeed, we do not meet him at all, and at this stage we hear only a voice while observing the face of his rock-minion. Throughout the course of the film, however, viewers will see the development of the Nome King; as Dorothy penetrates further into Oz and meets more friends (or activates and integrates to consciousness more unconscious psychological principles) and faces greater challenges, the Nome King becomes gradually more distinct, so that by the end of the film we will see his fully distinct personage, a stone emperor seated upon his throne, projected upon none other than the very doctor with whom Dorothy is at that very moment undergoing (or perhaps recovering from) electroshock therapy. For now, though, he is nothing more than a literary device there to set up his fear of chickens and put Dorothy under surveillance, and we are returned to Dorothy, who proceeds to the ruins of her old farmhouse. She sees the remnants of her past journey to Oz and finds evidence of how she has grown and changed before, and is thus assured she can do it again, but she finds that the path she once took, the yellow brick road, has been annihilated and is no good to her anymore. Though it will still lead her to the Emerald City, it is a sign that she will find it altered, and not for the better, for she has outgrown the use of the principles which once lead her there. The Nome King is alerted to the discovery the Yellow Brick Road, and he assures both us and his minion that Dorothy will not get past Mombi, the Wicked Witch of the North, and Dorothy’s shadow.
It is worth noting here that there is also a superficial psychological exploration at work here, as the Great Work is a process of purifying the mind of its woes, and in this film that is fear and distrust of medical scenarios, and the psyche of a child as it seeks to reconcile what its parents are doing to it in the name of better its mental or physical health. Think how terrifying it is, after all, to undergo surgery or ECT as an adult, let alone a child, let alone a child in Dorothy’s era! Note, too, that it is the turn of the century; the world around Dorothy is coming into a new aeon of being, the age of electricity, much as Dorothy is coming into a new aeon of consciousness. This also requires the confrontation of not just the stodgy aspects of adulthood, but also the terrifying aspects, represented handily by the medical analogy.
On finding the Emerald City, Dorothy discovers the fountains have run dry, the plants have overgrown, and the citizens have all turned to stone. A group of dancing girls has been beheaded; we will later find that they have been claimed by Mombi, who possesses a literal collection of heads and changes them at will, a woman divided into body, head and spirit and, being the shadow, thus representing the divided nature of Dorothy’s psyche as she attempts to reconcile it into a whole by saving the Emerald City. Dorothy also re-discovers her first set of friends, specifically the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion, have been turned to stone—that is to say, the principles which served her in childhood have been sapped of their meaning and must be revived, imbued with new meaning, now that she is on the cusp of a new phase of life. Their revival will come in the form of the freedom of the imperiled King, who is in this film the Scarecrow, a principle which had previously ascended in import but was dethroned by new perspective and circumstance, and must be freed if his kingdom is to be revived. To do this, of course, she must adopt new principles—find new friends—and with these new principles and her new self find the strength to honor all that she once was.
Immediately after discovering the frozen Lion, we are introduced to the Wheelers, who, like everything else in this movie, are fairly terrifying. They are very simply the first line of fear which arises upon discovering one’s principles are no longer suited to the circumstance; they also play into Dorothy’s medical fear, as we will later notice a prominent wheeler is one of the asylum orderlies, who strapped her to the gurney. After being chased by the wheelers across the ruins of the city and into a claustrophobic alcove which seems to be in a particularly neglected state, Dorothy discovers a keyhole in the stones of what initially seems to be a dead end. The chicken who found the key and who draws most of the wheeler’s ire is also the one to suggest they use it, and Dorothy is able to momentarily avoid facing her fears by shutting them out; one wheeler reminds her, though, that she has to come out sooner or later, and he promises that when she does, they will “…tear [her] into pieces and throw [her] into the Deadly Desert,” where her pieces, as we know, will be turned to sand. That is, she will be disassociated by her fears but rather than reconciling the quaternity into a whole and better self, she will be drained of her consciousness. The chicken, her ego, will of course be killed, rather than integrated. Though the wheeler also throws out the argument that she has in her hand a ‘stolen’ lunch pail, this seems like a weak argument, and is reflective of the typical nature of fear— to imbue with meaning a meaningless thing, all for the sake of tormenting and stamping down the consciousness.
We see then that Dorothy’s hiding space is also the hiding space of a deactivated automaton inspired by the ECT machine which is currently giving her the therapy— much like the Tin Woodsman, who lacks a heart, the machine we will learn is named ‘Tik Tok’ is a machine which must be wound up in order to function. Specifically, the clockwork mechanical man’s instructions read that he “Does everything but live,” and that his thinking, speaking, and acting must be individually wound up by the user. Thus, it could be said that Tik Tok has no life force, and is of purely material or statuesque substance which is ‘activated’ by the life force; in alchemical terms, he represents the principle of Sal, which is the receptive, material principle within the self, which will conquer the Sulphuric principle in those to whom the Sulphuric presents itself in a truly negative aspect. The fearful aspect of Sulphur has already appeared once in the form of the wheelers, and Tik Tok, part of the army of Oz, indeed protects her as they progress back through the alcove. Using the lunch pail to raise havoc, he knocks over all but one wheeler, who takes Dorothy to none other than Mombi, who the wheeler himself fears. We see, then, that paltry issues like common medical phobias are nothing at all compared to the greater issues which confront Dorothy, and that the fearful aspect of Sulphur often has more than one layer to defeat before a useful principle may be extracted from its depths.
The Wicked Witch of the North is hosted in a grand palace upon whose door Dorothy must knock to gain entry. Dorothy leads the way within and she and Tik Tok discover the emerald surfaces covered in dust, and that within the gilded halls there lies Mombi. Her outfit of choice is stylistically similar to a peacock’s, with a greater emphasis on black, bringing to mind both the shimmering rainbow one discovers in oil, and all of those many alchemical quotes mentioning the peacock tails and radiant rainbows which arise upon the purification of the blackness. The initial face she wears is youthful and beautiful, gentle and alluring; she takes Dorothy down her hall of many faces to change into a new one, which we will see is that of the cruel nurse who dealt with Dorothy before. These cabinets are opened, notably, by a red key, and it is also worth noting that the persona of this particular witch seems to change with the face she adopts. While of course it is true that the shadow, as Jung once snapped at over-questioning students, simply represents the unconsciousness as a whole, and that all of the unconscious is symbolized by it, it is also true that the shadow represents itself through many different archetypes. Thus, the anima can be just in alive as a woman as it can be in a man; and, because the shadow tends to be of the same gender as the viewer, the shadow here takes the form of the Witch, the ultimate negative and terrifying aspect of womanhood, age and connection to the unconsciousness. This Witch even states that Dorothy’s head might, when she is older, make a fine addition to her collection. The Witch/Shadow suggests she will lock Dorothy in a tower “for a few years” until her head is ready, and then she will take it, and this of course can be read in several ways— as a threat of insanity, as the threat presented to consciousness by ego inflation upon the experience of the Self, or as a threat of what Jung might refer to as possession by the archetype. It is worth noting that, in a few years, Dorothy would likely find herself in more of a Labyrinth-style journey of sexual awakening than of adult responsibility; thus, in running from the Witch, Dorothy attempts to evade the trap of finding the meaning of adulthood in sex or romance, and to remain independent: but, like all inexorable forces the Witch captures up the girl due to Tik Tok’s action winding down as result of his fight with the wheelers, and she seals both Dorothy and her chicken in the tower, as promised.
A cluttered room with a dusty window which looks out upon the Nome King’s mountain (Dorothy must reach heights of wisdom in order to find this false king), Dorothy will doubtless find all that she needs to escape within. As she looks upon a dusty old painting of the Tin Woodsman and the King Scarecrow, she is alerted to the sound of a voice calling her ‘Mom’, and so it is that, having penetrated to the very heart of the palace of fear and inevitability, Dorothy discovers the Sulphuric, engendering principle in the form of Jack Pumpkinhead. Though without debate physically terrifying, Jack is adoring of Dorothy and does indeed come to think of her as his mother, notable because Ozma, we will find at the end of the film, is Jack’s true mother; this is an indication of the fact that Dorothy is herself in some way related to Ozma/Mercurius and is also indicative of the strong bond which forms between them. Through this benign Sulphuric principle, psychological fears may be harnessed and understood; reduced to an unnerving but relatively comical amalgamation of parts. Much as she once had to stuff the Scarecrow, Dorothy must put her new friend back together. After asking whether or not she is certain that she is not his mother, Jack relates that his true mother built him to scare Mombi, and put him “in a place where [Mombi] would meet [him]”; Mombi was indeed initially scared, but her fear gave way to the fury of her temper. She was about to destroy him with her stick but decided to test a powder of life which she had acquired from a magician; Jack was then brought to life, his mother vanished, and Mombi imprisoned the pumpkin-headed boy she herself had brought to life with the intention of eating him, before forgetting entirely about his presence because she changed heads and hadn’t worn that particular one since. Jack, then, can be said to consist almost exclusively of spirit, much as the Sulphuric principle, once extracted from the oil of terror, is the engendering and helpful spirit which forms with Mercurius the triad of Sulphur-Mercurius-Sal, here represented as Jack-Ozma-Tik-Tok, itself represented further as Jack-Dorothy-Tik-Tok the moment Jack asks if he can call Dorothy ‘Mom’.
Jack is the one who is able to release Dorothy from the tower and get them back into the gilded and mirrored throne room, so that they may reactivate the deactivated Tik-Tok. Dorothy then must, by herself, steal from the body of the sleeping Witch the red key; as she works at this problem, Sulphur and Salt, with the help of the ego, build a chariot from the contents of the tower, notably using palm leaves and giving it the head of a Gump, an antlered, elk- or moose-like animal, that it might be brought to life by the Witch’s life-giving powder. The chariot is a powerful and common esoteric symbol, embodied not just in the tarot card but also in the Bible time and time again; much as the chariot which swept Elijah up to heaven, this chariot will also be driven by four elements. The antlered nature of the chariot indicates its tie to primitive man, that is, man devoid of consciousness and thus an empty vessel to be driven by unconscious elements such as the ego, the sulphurous and saltine principles, and consciousness, itself, which is but yet another archetype of the unconscious.
After managing to steal the Powder of Life from the locked cabinet of the Witch’s primary head, an act which awakens her, Dorothy reaches the top of the tower and rejoins her friends, gives life to the chariot, and escapes. Flying on wings of palm leaves (the palm being a serious esoteric symbol of Ishtar, Christ and many other archetypes) given him by the alchemical triad, the Gump carries our heroes across the sky. It is notable that in the book, the Gump carries our heroes across the desert, out of Oz entirely, and into the real world, Dorothy’s world. This is because the Gump, the chariot being driven by unconscious principles, represents L. Frank Baum (or perhaps in this case Walter Murch, who wrote the script version), whose psychic landscape is, of course, the land of Oz which Dorothy tames. In the film, however, the chariot simply flies the heroes across the sky, over a forest (an important symbol of the unconscious, as much as any ocean) and explains that he “might not last very long” and doesn’t feel too well put-together, since he is but mortal.
Into the dark, they fly, and we meanwhile see Mombi speaking with the imprisoned Spirit Mercurius/Ozma, taunting her with the fact that “there’s nobody left who even knows who [she is].” This is typical of the process of remembering and freeing which is required in dealing with Mercurius. The wheelers pursue the chariot fruitlessly and are themselves stopped by the desert, and our heroes continue on to the Nome King, becoming caught in a storm which causes Jack to briefly lose his head and causes the chariot to fall apart, implying the limited usefulness of the corporeal form in solving the mysteries of the psyche. The Nome King becomes alerted to their presence and presents himself, appearing first as nothing more than a barely-distinct face upon the rocky structure of his mountain palace. Upon being challenged for the throne and confronted about the deposition of the Scarecrow, the Nome King opens up a crevasse which plunges Dorothy into the depths of the unconscious, a fall during which she sees the luminescent colors of gems. She is told by the Nome King that “All of the precious stones in the world are made here,” and that they are all made for him, by his gnomes. Like all depictions of the demiurge or Saturnine principle, then, The Nome King is greedy and convinced that all souls belong to him, and is indeed capable of spinning a convincing argument as to why; it is, after all, his responsibility to oversee the production of these stones. (Stones, of course, are an alchemical concept so prevalent that I assume a reader this deep into this essay will be cognizant of their significance, though I would point out specifically that the roundness of a stone is a symbol of wholeness in explicitly Jungian terms, and thus a symbol of complete selves.) All of the emeralds in the Emerald City, he claims, belong to him, and he, as the Saturnine, chthonic principle, is simply reclaiming what is rightfully his by taking the emeralds of the kingdom back. Dorothy’s journey, then, has effectively become a journey into death, having proceeded from the Mercurial sphere, outwards, to the Saturnine one, which is, of course, that from whence Mercurius is commonly derived. Indeed, it is revealed that the Nome King wears the Ruby Slippers, the means by which Dorothy gets home, and the principle foundation of herself which she must wrest from the grip of the chthonic aspect of the Wise Old Man archetype, but only after she has freed her friend and completed her quest–for he does indeed offer her the opportunity to go home at one particular moment, telling her she will forget all about Oz,and this is the ultimate treachery of the demiurge, and the illusion it perpetuates: the falsity that the material world is the only one which is real, the only one in which we live, the only one of value.
However, much like the demiurge in the aspect of Yahweh, the Nome King is shown as not being completely heartless even in his cruelty, and is a gambling man. In her struggle with the demiurge, who becomes more and more distinct as he is observed, Dorothy and her friends are given three chances to guess into what object the King, the ascended Scarecrow, has been transformed: this proves, of course, to be none other than an emerald, the Stone. It is also worth noting that the Scarecrow’s crown is not gold, but rather silver, indicating that he is of a Lunar/feminine principle rather than the masculine one expected of a King, and this is not without reason. In a fun off-handed scene that comes while the Gump makes his guesses, our characters have tea with the Nome King. Jack at one point asks what they are eating, and the Nome King explains it is limestone pie and “hot, melted silver”. All of this implies that upon the completion of her quest, Dorothy will be moving from the androgyny of childhood (think of the Bill/Billina quandry) to the new feminine identity of adolescence, the initial incomplete brushes with her threatening future sexuality in the form of the Witch notwithstanding. To add to the death motif pervading the final trial, the room which contains the objects through which Dorothy must search is marked at its entrance by a pair of jackal statues; recalling, of course, that great psychopomp, Anubis. Upon the completion of her trial and the freeing of the Scarecrow, the treacherous Nome King, like all demiurges, begins to try to take revenge; but it is through the rebirth facilitated by the ego of Billina, hidden within the pumpkin head of the Sulphuric Jack, that the Nome King meets his destruction, for the egg produced through the extensive work and efforts of the chicken falls from the Sulphuric principle and is the result of the Nome King’s undoing.
I submit to you that, were emeralds here gold, or perhaps even diamonds, the allegory would be all the more perfect when Dorothy’s companions have been turned into green objects in punishment for their incorrect guesses. After rescuing and releasing them, Dorothy and the Scarecrow use the slippers to escape the collapsing mountain— that is to say, upon the restoration of the true King and the completion of the individuation process, Dorothy is transported from her the highest point of her old perspective to a new one, which vivifies her mind and her experience of life. The stone residents of the Emerald City are given heads and returned to life, and the Witch, caged by the Nome King to whom she had been previously seen submitting, is transported, along with Dorothy and her friends, to watch the renewal of the City. Tik-Tok, the material principle, is the last to be restored in this process, implying that, after a journey into the unconscious at a depth so profound that it causes a death/resurrection experience, the very last principle to be reactivated is that of material living.
There is still one more thing to be done: during the celebration, in which Billina is held up on a pillow as a great savior who wears around her neck the key she found, and Dorothy is given a ride upon the back of none other than the Cowardly Lion (lions of course being an important alchemical symbol unto themselves and important in heralding both the King and the Mercurial spirit), Dorothy is given the opportunity to stay and be celebrated, but instead chooses to go back to Kansas— Dorothy chooses to integrate the lessons of her individuation process and take a step towards greater adult responsibility, though laments that she wishes she could be in both places at the same time. It is at this moment that Billina recognizes Ozma, appearing in the mirror in place of Dorothy’s reflection; Dorothy helps her step through the mirror at her request, thus bringing into consciousness and freedom the Spirit Mercurius, who is revealed to be Queen and rightful ruler of Oz; her father was the ruler of Oz before the coming of the wizard, and the girl, then, grew up as Mombi’s slave. But when the Nome King promised Mombi thirty heads to keep Ozma a secret, Mombi enchanted Ozma into a mirror. Thus, the spirit imprisoned in matter is not only freed, throned, and shod in the ruby slippers, but blurs the boundaries between Oz and Kansas by way of an appearance in a mirror, and promises Dorothy that she will check in on her from time to time, and take her back to Oz whenever she wishes; much as the alchemist might seek the guidance of his friend spirit in the course of his great work. Dorothy, of course, makes the return trip home, being collected by light and transported to Kansas, where she is discovered by first Toto (dogs being an important Lunar symbol as well) and then her uncle, lying in woods beside a stream, for water, her passage there, is also her passage back. We next see that the farmhouse has been completed where at the start of the film it was still half-built since the initial tornado disaster, and Dorothy had been previously forced to share a room, meaning she had not established her sense of self; now, in her own room, Ozma, we are told, is “just a reflection” of Dorothy, as the Spirit Mercurius is naught but a reflection of us all.
So, then, if Billina is Dorothy’s ego, and Jack Pumpkinhead is Sulphur and Tik Tok Salt, all of it crowned by Ozma, who represents both the highest self and the Mercurial motivating principle, the question is begged: what does Dorothy, herself, represent? Why, the light of consciousness, of course: she is the awakened figure which moves through the symbolic land of Oz, herself a symbol by which L. Frank Baum navigated the depths of his psyche and the world around him. Dorothy is, herself, but the anima of a greater whole; a thought with implication all its own. For if so great a psychological universe can be present in the projections of a fictional character, what landscape do we project in the world around us all the time, and what landscapes are hidden within the stones buried deep within our hearts?
M.F. Sullivan, occultist and author of Delilah, My Woman is currently hard at work at the new novel Albedo. In the mean time, be sure to check back soon for the Devilry Series, a series of essays about the history of and occult uses of a relationship with the Devil; later on, we’ll touch on the alchemical symbolism of more media, everything from film, to literature, to painting, to comic books, to videogames, to anime. To buy Delilah, My Woman, click here.