Thursday, 3 July 2014

Snow White Decoded

Folk tales and fairy tales somehow survive. They're a remnant of our old oral story-telling, and often contain information that you wouldn't expect. But this is how communities used to pass on all the important information from generation to generation. Far from being simple stories to while away the darknesses of the winter, folk tales and fairy tales can contain some astonishing information.

I propose that the tale of Snow White encodes information about different plants, and possibly holds clues to an ancient initiation rite.

In the original Grimm brothers' tale, Snow White is actually called Snowdrop. That was fairly easy to decode. So we're looking at the snowdrop, and why its powers and properties might be hidden away in a story. This ties in very well with Homer's Odyssey, in which Ulysses is given a plant now generally accepted to be snowdrops. This is to overcome the sorcery of Circe, who has taken away the will of Odysseus' men and turned them all to swine.

Circe it would seem has enchanted Odysseus' men by the use of thornapple. This plant is an anticholinergic and has the effect of making unavailable the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary to thought, memory and movement. The snowdrop contains an antidote to this, galantamine, which stops the neurotransmitter from being used up, leading quickly to a return to normality. Indeed, in the Odyssey, after consuming the moly, Ulysses is able to rescue his men.

Snow White appears to encode the same plant activity. Our heroine is bewitched by a poison apple - which matches thornapple, the intoxicating plant of Circe. She falls into a deep sleep. Paralysis and inability to think and communicate are amongst the effects of thornapple - as is death, since it is highly toxic. It is not a plant to be messed with. The snowdrop is an antidote to this.

So if Snow White is actually a snowdrop, what are the seven dwarves? It's possible that they might represent mushrooms, as these are often encoded as elves or pixies, especially if they have a psychoactive effect. In modern times, the fly agaric is still often pictured with an elf or pixie sitting on the top of it. It's possible that the seven dwarves represent magic mushrooms, which contain psilocybin, which mimics serotonin in the brain and would make the galantamine more effective.

So the story seems to encode information about the snowdrop, thornapple and possibly magic mushrooms. Perhaps it is more than just a herbal though, and could provide an insight into an ancient rite. Perhaps as an initiation or similar, people are paralysed by the thornapple, stripped of their will and even their thoughts. They are subsequently "brought back to life" by the snowdrop, perhaps with a few magic mushrooms to increase the effect, though not enough to cause hallucinogenic experiences.

It's possible that a similar practice existed amongst the Celts. Their method of reanimation was likely being dunked into the Cauldron of Immortality. It's possible that this contained fly agaric in water or alcohol. The muscarine in the fly agaric, soluble in both water and alcohol, would have a very similar effect to the snowdrops, as it is also a cholinergic.

This decoding shows that our ancestors had an intimate knowledge of plants and their effects. Indeed, in rural areas of Bulgaria, there was still folk knowledge of the properties of the snowdrop. This led to an investigation by Bulgarian and Soviet doctors, and galantamine was discovered. It was used to treat polio in the 1950s, and no one treated with it ended up with paralysis, unlike on the western side of the iron curtain. In addition to galantamine, the snowdrop also contains snowdrop lectin, which inhibits protein synthesis and shows promise as an antibiotic.

So next time you're reading a folk tale or fairytale, keep an eye open for any hidden meanings within it. If you find any, please let me know.

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