A black night threatened to kill King Arthur unless he returned in seven days with an answer to the question "What is it that women most desire?"
So, King Arthur spent the entire week asking every woman he encountered the question. They all had different answers, but none of them rang true to him in his heart. When the seven days were up the king rode into the forest with great sadness and a heavy heart. As he neared the black knight’s castle he heard a sweet voice calling to him. He turned and instead of seeing a beautiful maiden, saw a dreadful, hideous creature. Her crooked nose was covered with warts, her chin was hairy and turned the other way, but her voice was sweet and sincere. And although Arthur could hardly stand to look at her he listened to her. "I know why you are here," the hideous Lady Ragnell said, "and I alone know the answer you seek. I'll give you the answer, but you must agree to do anything for me in return." Of course King Arthur agreed. Then Lady Ragnell whispered the answer, so that even the trees could not hear her. "What women most desire," she said, "is sovereignty."
King Arthur reported to the black night and his life was spared. He quickly returned to Lady Ragnell to keep his end of the deal. She told him what she wanted of him.
"I want one of your brave, true and handsome knights to marry me of his own will," Lady Ragnell said. King Arthur did not know how to answer her. He knew that she had saved his life and he needed to honor her wish, but he also knew that if he forced one of his knights to marry her, he would be taking away their sovereignty and this would not work. Nevertheless, he told her he would honor her wish and rode back to the round table to tell his knights the story. One of his knights, Sir Gawain, said he would marry her. King Arthur was touched but told him that he would not allow it until Sir Gawain actually saw the Lady for himself.
So, all of the knights rode out into the forest to see Lady Ragnell and when they saw her, they all turned away in disgust or pity. But Sir Gawain looked into her eyes and saw something more. He did not turn away but talked to her with respect. He told her that they would marry that very night. The marriage happened, and all the court was appalled but pretended as the ceremony and feast went on as if nothing seemed strange about this newlywed couple.
When it was time to go back to the wedding chamber, Sir Gawain sat down near the fire and started thinking about the day’s events. He heard Lady Ragnell’s voice saying, “Dear husband won’t you even turn around to look at me?” He turned and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and with a gasp he asked her where his wife was. “It is me, I am your loving wife,” the beautiful woman said. She explained to him that she had been cursed with a spell from a witch and that she was only partially healed at this point. She could stay beautiful in the day (for all to see), or at night (when he could have her like this for himself). It was up to Sir Gawain to make the choice. He mulled over his decision and then replied, “Dear Lady, it is you who must live with the choice so it is you who should make the choice. I will be happy with whatever you choose.”
Suddenly there was a flash of light and crack of thunder and the witch's spell was completely broken. Lady Ragnell turned to her husband. "In giving me my sovereignty you have broken the entire curse" she exclaimed, "I can now be my true self all of the time!"
So what exactly is sovereignty? And what does this story have to do with mindfulness?
The definition of sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies or the state of being free from the control or power of another. This story relates to mindfulness in so many ways.
Because we are all connected in some way it is important to recognize that what we say and what we do affects everything and everyone around us--that is, we are keepers of our own sovereignty, and that of others. Being mindful means we respect and are non judgmental with people we interact with. This doesn't’ mean that we can’t have opinions about things but that our opinions don't rule our actions. Giving others sovereignty is seeing the best in them instead of the worst and allowing mistakes to happen while seeing both the good and the bad.
Let me explain it one other way. In Marie Kondo's, "The Art of Tidying Up" on Netflix she talks about how the things in your house either spark joy or diminish joy. This is true with our interactions with others also. When we allow others their sovereignty--to govern themselves, make their own decisions and assume the best of them--we spark joy. The way I see it, joy equals sovereignty. It’s not only what women most want but it’s what we all want from each other.
What did you learn from the story? What connections can you make to your life? What role does sovereignty play in your relationships?