I grew up watching the Wizard of Oz, in fact, it was my absolute favorite movie as a child. As I began my spiritual journey it became obvious to me this story is a telling of the journey we all experience as we begin to search for the Truth. This post explains the major symbols of the story of The Wizard of Oz and how they correspond with the stages of awakening as I have experienced them. I write this in hopes that it sheds some light on your journey (and brings some new meaning to the classic story).
Kansas/Dorothy’s first lesson- The story begins with a conflict, Dorothy’s dog Toto has bitten Mrs. Gulch on the leg and Dorothy wants to protect Toto, her loving companion. She pleads with her family to help her, but when Mrs. Gulch argues the Law would take the Dog away, her family agrees and decides Toto must go in order to be “right” and in accord with the Law. Dorothy sees this as morally wrong, and this is her trigger to begin to question what is right and wrong- in other words, question the reality around her. It was traumatic to lose her dog, and in her desperation, she began to look for another way- by quite literally running away once Toto returned after escaping Mrs. Gulch’s basket.
The Rainbow- Dorothy singing about “somewhere over the rainbow” represents the veil between reality and illusion. She knows something feels amiss in the place she calls home and feels the pull to see or experience something beyond her current experience. This also represents her willingness to see things a new way, a vital step in the acceptance of Truth.
The Cyclone- The event that causes conflict within and pushes us to redirect and follow a new path. This usually feels chaotic, uncontrollable, and can be painful but does not need to be experienced as such. Ultimately, this is the unforeseen event in our lives that literally forces us down a new path as we begin to reassess our life priorities and what makes us happy. The cyclone for Dorothy brings her to Oz to begin her journey of discovery.
Munchkin Land/The Munchkins- The state of innocence represented by our childhood. This can be described as an ideal state, one in which we are quick to forgive, do not judge, are in constant wonder and awe while joyfully experiencing life. At the beginning of our own journeys we often revisit childhood memories to remember a time of joy, simplicity, and innocence- a time before we learned the ways of the “reality” of the world, when we knew what was, as the munchkins describe: “morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely . . . True!” We now desire to return to this innocence and feel the certainty of truth, but first we must undo, unlearn, and let go of the limiting beliefs we have since childhood held to be true.
Glinda the “Good” Witch- One of our Guides along the journey. Glinda will be mentioned in stages as this is how Dorothy needs her on the journey. Her first interaction with Glinda gives her the safety/protection from the Wicked Witch of the West through the Ruby (silver) slippers. Glinda also shows her the way to Oz, by following the Yellow Brick Road. This represents the trust that is needed along the journey- signs and messages will be presented to us and we must trust them (and ourselves) to follow them. Glinda reminds us we are always protected and safe (the witch is powerless while the slippers are on Dorothy’s feet) and to continue on the way shown us. She will not always be with us (physically) on the journey but is always with us in spirit.
The Wicked Witch of the West- The witch represents our ego- or our ego self (commonly referred to as shadow self). These are all of our limiting beliefs, fear, and doubt that come up as we embark on this journey. The witch complicates Dorothy’s journey and is constantly keeping track of her progress, terrified she will succeed. This symbol evolves along with Dorothy.
The Yellow Brick Road- Our chosen path to Truth. We chose our path, and it is laid before us, often filled with challenges, twist and turns, but always leading to the same place. Once we begin the journey the only choice we have is one of moving forward or delay- the path is set.
Toto- Now is a good time to bring your attention to Toto, who is almost always right at Dorothy’s side. Toto represents our inner guide, our own intuition that guides the awareness of truth. Toto is a huge symbol as the story moves forward.
The Scarecrow- Dorothy meets the scarecrow at a fork in the road- now she cannot just follow the path but must choose which way to go. As she asks Toto (her inner guide) which way to go the Scarecrow responds, but Dorothy does not know where this voice is coming from. Toto begins barking at the Scarecrow and Dorothy must accept reality is different than she once thought- a talking scarecrow? Impossible! But Toto urges her to see this a different way. After helping the Scarecrow down off the post she invites him along on her journey to Oz so he can get a brain, or in other words find his mind. The Scarecrow represents the first stage of awakening- a choice between illusion or “wrong” minded thinking and accepting reality or the “right” mind. Our journey must begin in our mind as we learn to choose again, to view events in a new light, and surrender to not really truly knowing anything. We accept our True Mind and can move forward on the journey learning to discern truth from illusion.
The Tin Man- Dorothy encounters some rather mean apple trees and her mind (the scarecrow) is able to outwit them into getting some apples to eat. She begins to gather the apples and stumbles upon the Tin Man who is rusted and forgotten. The Tin Man represents our heart- the part of us we long to follow but have forgotten in the midst of making our way through the world. We must awaken our heart and begin to listen to its wisdom once again as we continue along the journey. Our heart knows what is best and as we invite it along with us on our journey we join our Mind and Heart into union, but not without some challenges…
The Wicked Witch and the Fireball- Now that Dorothy has claimed her Mind and Heart the witch (our ego) comes in to try to stop or at least delay the next stages. Literally saying “you think you have come a long way already? Well you have just begun!” Seeing that her Mind and Heart have joined her, the ego throws a tantrum. The witch threatens both the scarecrow and the tin man, then throws fire at the scarecrow to try to scare Dorothy back into her wrong minded thinking. As the mind is dwelling in fear (scarecrow desperately trying to get away from the fire) the heart (tin man) calmly puts out the fire as the witch leaves. As the fear settles, the three companions continue on their journey, now aware of more of the witches (ego) tricks to attempt to keep them from moving forward.
The Forest/Meeting the Lion- This stage of the journey represents “cleaning out the cobwebs” or in other words facing our fears and learning to see through the darkness to the truth. At first, Dorothy is very scared and asks about what they might encounter in this dark forest, scarecrow points out “it’s probably going to get darker before it gets lighter.” The tin man is somewhat calm in proclaiming some wild animals they may see because the heart knows it is safe and that love conquers all fear- the light will dispel the darkness. However, we cannot change what we do not acknowledge, as the three join together, singing of the “Lions, Tigers and Bears” they may encounter, they are attracting the situation to overcome together. At this point, Dorothy becomes aware of the reality she is creating but has not yet accepted her responsibility of it.
The Cowardly Lion- Our first attempts to dispel our ego end in a battle, we think we must fight our way through the darkness and get rid of it once and for all. When we come face to face with one of our greatest fears, we must have the courage to look at it, not fight it, and rather stand up for the Truth. The lion provokes the scarecrow and the tin man to fight, in which they say to the other “why don’t you teach him a lesson?” Toto (Dorothy’s inner guide) begins barking at the lion- telling the mind and heart to be still rather than fight while the truth of the Lion is revealed. The lion goes after Toto and Dorothy simply smacks him on the nose to stop him- representing trusting the intuition and having the courage to standup to the shadows/fears presented to us. The lion joins them on the journey representing the need to be courageous in every “challenge” we encounter by joining with our mind, heart, and inner guide.
Poppy Field- A distraction and temptation to lure us away from completing the journey. The witch (our ego self) creates a state in which we are comfortable right before we reach what we believe to be our goal. Having moved through most of the fear, let go of most our old beliefs, we have settled down and come to a time of rest. It can be very tempting to stay here, and sometimes we fall back asleep to the illusion. Dorothy and the lion (her courage) fall asleep right before reaching the emerald city. But the scarecrow and the tin man (mind and heart) are not so quick to do so. The distraction/poppies do not affect them and they cry for help, they urge Dorothy to keep moving, to not give up, and to continue the journey. Enter Glinda: one of our many guides. Glinda creates snow to reveal the meaninglessness of the poppy field, and gently wakes us up to continue on the path. Now, Dorothy has rested and has her mighty companions by her side.
The Emerald City- The emerald city is guarded/access is only granted to those deemed “worthy.” It is important to note in the book all of the citizens of the emerald city were required to wear green lensed glasses (which made the city appear much greener than it truly was). This city represents the dogmatic nature of religion and the access to truth. We are told how to live/what rules to follow, we view the world around us through the lenses we have learned/what was told to us from those wiser, those with the access to the truth. Dorothy believes “The all and powerful Oz” is the only way home. Dorothy thinks they reached the end of the journey and that all of her problems will be solved. The wizard will tell her what to do and she will have the answer to get back home. Dorothy and her companions are first treated as honored guests, pampered and welcomed. When she requests the assistance of the Wizard she is first turned away- then sent on a quest to kill the Witch. At this point in her journey, she has stopped listening to her inner guide and began to look outside of herself for answers, not realizing until this point her intuition has severed as the best guide. The four leave the emerald city on a quest the wizard thinks is impossible- casting out the people he deems troublesome to his carefully crafted rule over the city.
The Haunted Forest and the Flying Monkeys- Our fears and expectations returning to "haunt" us. Now Dorothy is lost and confused. She expected the emerald city and the wizard to provide all of the answers and yet she finds herself in another scary situation. The four enter the haunted forest and the witch sends her flying monkeys (old fears returning) to separate Dorothy from her trusted companions. Dorothy is now in a place of deep doubt, and is more confused than ever because she has come so far yet right now feels she has made no progress…
The Witches Castle- This is Dorothy’s “Dark night of the Soul.” She feels as though she has been abandoned, the scarecrow, tin man, and lion are all lost in the haunted forest and she is stuck in the castle surrounded by her fear. Toto even seemingly leaves her and runs away, to which she is happy he escaped but this only brings on more fear of the impending doom of the death promised by the witch. This is symbolic of the final letting go of fear. Toto- or her inner guide- did not leave her and nor did her companions, she simply allowed the fear to overcome her and forgot for a moment how strong she has become. As her Mind, Heart, Courage, and Inner Guide return to her awareness (breaking down the door of the prison she has held herself within) she lets go of the last of her old beliefs, she lets go of the fear, and trusts herself.
Defeating the Witch- The companions all search for an escape from this prison, they know it is possible and just need to work together to find it. Cornered by the guards, the Witch confronts them and sets fire to the scarecrow. Dorothy acts instinctively, grabbing a bucket of water and throwing it to put out the fire. This melts the witch- which represents our final letting go of the ego controlling our life. The purity of water symbolizes our conscious decision to no longer fight the ego and simply accept. Dorothy did not need to fight the witch, but in choosing to “save” her mind by putting out the fire she chose to no longer give into the fear of the shadows of the ego and instead to trust her mind and heart to show her the way.
The Wizard- Despite having overcome the witch on her own, Dorothy returns to Oz to present the witch's broom and collect the reward to return home. The wizard demanded she prove herself worthy, and now that she has, he cannot make good on his promises. Toto reveals the illusion of the wizard to Dorothy and this is the first step in claiming her own power, but she is not quite ready. She still thinks something outside of her is what will take her home, so she forgives the misleading wizard and follows him to his hot air balloon to return to Kansas.
The Balloon- All loaded up and ready to go, literally seconds from taking off, Toto runs away from the Balloon. Dorothy goes after him and the balloon leaves without her. Toto, our intuition, will always guide us away from the untruths of dogmatic religions and remind us the truth is held within. The trip home promised by the wizard was false, one final lesson for Dorothy to finally claim her power within.
Glinda and the slippers- Glinda, our guide, returns for a final message- The truth and power is within you, and it was there all along, but you wouldn’t have believed it if I told you. You had to experience the journey to claim it.
Dorothy- Dorothy is YOU! The observer, the conscious awareness, the decision maker. When Dorothy awakens back in her bed in Kansas she recognizes all of the people from her "dream" and also realizes she never actually left. She was always safe at home, protected, healed, and whole. As we awaken to our reality, the True reality, we recognize we never truly left (but only thought we have) and are connected with everyONE within the dream.
Dorothy found the truth within, with a little help along the way from her companions and guides. We are all on the journey home. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere. There's no place like home, won't you join me?