Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés Phd
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés Phd

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • More than 2.7 million copies sold! • “A deeply spiritual book [that] honors what is tough, smart and untamed in women.”—The Washington Post Book World

Book club pick for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.

Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345377449
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/16/1992
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 6.33(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.69(d)

About the Author

Clarissa Pinkola Estés is an American poet, author, and spoken word artist.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Singing Over the Bones


Wildlife and the Wild Woman are both endangered species.

 
Over time, we have seen the feminine instinctive nature looted, driven back, and overbuilt. For long periods it has been mismanaged like the wildlife and the wildlands. For several thousand years, as soon and as often as we turn our backs, it is relegated to the poorest land in the psyche. The spiritual lands of Wild Woman have, throughout history, been plundered or burnt, dens bulldozed, and natural cycles forced into unnatural rhythms to please others.

 
It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner wild natures fades. It is not so difficult to comprehend why old forests and old women are viewed as not very important resources. It is not such a mystery. It is not so coincidental that wolves and coyotes, bears and wildish women have similar reputations. They all share related instinctual archetypes, and as such, both are erroneously reputed to be ingracious, wholly and innately dangerous, and ravenous.

 
My life and work as a Jungian psychoanalyst, poet, and cantadora, keeper of the old stories, have taught me that women’s flagging vitality can be restored by extensive “psychic-archeological” digs into the ruins of the female underworld. By these methods we are able to recover the ways of the natural instinctive psyche, and through its personification in the Wild Woman archetype we are able to discern the ways and means of woman’s deepest nature. The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people. The old knowing is long overdue.
 
The title of this book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, came from my study of wildlife biology, wolves in particular. The studies of the wolves Canis lupus and Canis rufus are like the history of women, regarding both their spiritedness and their travails.
 
Healthy wolves and healthy women share certain psychic characteristics: keen sensing, playful spirit, and a heightened capacity for devotion. Wolves and women are relational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mates and their pack. They are experienced in adapting to constantly changing circumstances; they are fiercely stalwart and very brave.
 
Yet both have been hounded, harassed, and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors. They have been the targets of those who would clean up the wilds as well as the wildish environs of the psyche, extincting the instinctual, and leaving no trace of it behind. The predation of wolves and women by those who misunderstand them is strikingly similar.
 
So that is where the concept of the Wild Woman archetype first crystallized for me, in the study of wolves. I’ve studied other creatures as well, such as bear, elephant, and the soul-birds—butterflies. The characteristics of each species give abundant metaphoric hints into what is knowable about the feminine instinctual psyche.
 
The wild nature passed through my spirit twice, once by my birth to a passionate Mexican-Spanish bloodline, and later, through adoption by a family of fiery Hungarians. I was raised up near the Michigan state line, surrounded by woodlands, orchards, and farmland and near the Great Lakes. There, thunder and lightning were my main nutrition. Cornfields creaked and spoke aloud at night. Far up in the north, wolves came to the clearings in moonlight, prancing and praying. We could all drink from the same streams without fear.
 
Although I did not call her by that name then, my love for Wild Woman began when I was a little child. I was an aesthete rather than an athlete, and my only wish was to be an ecstatic wanderer. Rather than chairs and tables, I preferred the ground, trees, and caves, for in those places I felt I could lean against the cheek of God.
 
The river always called to be visited after dark, the fields needed to be walked in so they could make their rustle-talk. Fires needed to be built in the forest at night, and stories needed to be told outside the hearing of grown-ups.
 
I was lucky to be brought up in Nature. There, lightning strikes taught me about sudden death and the evanescence of life. Mice litters showed that death was softened by new life. When I unearthed “Indian beads,” fossils from the loam, I understood that humans have been here a long, long time. I learned about the sacred art of self-decoration with monarch butterflies perched atop my head, lightning bugs as my night jewelry, and emerald-green frogs as bracelets.
 
A wolf mother killed one of her mortally injured pups; this taught a hard compassion and the necessity of allowing death to come to the dying. The fuzzy caterpillars which fell from their branches and crawled back up again taught single-mindedness. Their tickle-walking on my arm taught how skin can come alive. Climbing to the tops of trees taught what sex would someday feel like.
 
My own post-World War II generation grew up in a time when women were infantilized and treated as property. They were kept as fallow gardens . . . but thankfully there was always wild seed which arrived on the wind. Though what they wrote was unauthorized, women blazed away anyway. Though what they painted went unrecognized, it fed the soul anyway. Women had to beg for the instruments and the spaces needed for their arts, and if none were forthcoming, they made space in trees, caves, woods, and closets.
 
Dancing was barely tolerated, if at all, so they danced in the forest where no one could see them, or in the basement, or on the way out to empty the trash. Self-decoration caused suspicion. Joyful body or dress increased the danger of being harmed or sexually assaulted. The very clothes on one’s shoulders could not be called one’s own.
 
It was a time when parents who abused their children were simply called “strict,” when the spiritual lacerations of profoundly exploited women were referred to as “nervous breakdowns,” when girls and women who were tightly girdled, tightly reined, and tightly muzzled were called “nice,” and those other females who managed to slip the collar for a moment or two of life were branded “bad.”
 
So like many women before and after me, I lived my life as a disguised criatura, creature. Like my kith and kin before me, I swagger staggered in high heels, and I wore a dress and hat to church. But my fabulous tail often fell below my hemline, and my ears twitched until my hat pitched, at the very least, down over both my eyes, and sometimes clear across the room.
 
I’ve not forgotten the song of those dark years, hambre del alma, the song of the starved soul. But neither have I forgotten the joyous canto hondo, the deep song, the words of which come back to us when we do the work of soulful reclamation.
 
 
Like a trail through a forest which becomes more and more faint and finally seems to diminish to a nothing, traditional psychological theory too soon runs out for the creative, the gifted, the deep woman. Traditional psychology is often spare or entirely silent about deeper issues important to women: the archetypal, the intuitive, the sexual and cyclical, the ages of women, a woman’s way, a woman’s knowing, her creative fire. This is what has driven my work on the Wild Woman archetype for over two decades.
 
A woman’s issues of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness. No, that is what has already caused millions of women who began as strong and natural powers to become outsiders in their own cultures. Instead, the goal must be the retrieval and succor of women’s beauteous and natural psychic forms.
 
Fairy tales, myths, and stones provide understandings which sharpen our sight so that we can pick out and pick up the path left by the wildish nature. The instruction found in story reassures us that the path has not run out, but still leads women deeper, and more deeply still, into their own knowing. The tracks we all are following are those of the wild and innate instinctual Self.
 
I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy tale knock at the door of the deep female psyche. Llamar o tocar a la puerta means literally to play upon the instrument of the name in order to open a door. It means using words that summon up the opening of a passageway. No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively.
 
When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghosty from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her; we know she belongs to us and we to her.

Table of Contents

The Bounty of Wild Woman
Forewordxvii
Introduction: Singing Over the Bones1
The Stories
1.The Howl: Resurrection of the Wild Woman21
La Loba, The Wolf Woman
The Four Rabbinim
2.Stalking the Intruder: the Beginning Initiation35
Bluebeard
The Natural Predator of the Psyche
Naive Women as Prey
The Key to Knowing: The Importance of Snuffling
The Animal Groom
Blood Scent
Backtracking and Looping
Giving the Cry
The Sin-eaters
The Dark Man in Women's Dreams
3.Nosing Out the Facts: the Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation70
The Doll in Her Pocket: Vasalisa the Wise
Task 1Allowing the Too-Good Mother to Die
Task 2Exposing the Crude Shadow
Task 3Navigating in the Dark
Task 4Facing the Wild Hag
Task 5Serving the Non-Rational
Task 6Separating This from That
Task 7Asking the Mysteries
Task 8Standing on All Fours
Task 9Recasting the Shadow
4.The Mate: Union with the Other111
Hymn for the Wild Man: Manawee
The Dual Nature of Women
The Power of Two
The Power of Name
The Tenacious Dog Nature
Creeping Seductive Appetite
Achieving Fierceness
The Interior Woman
5.Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter127
Skeleton Woman: Facing the Life/Death/Life Nature of Love
Death in the House of Love
The First Phases of Love
The Accidental Finding of Treasure
The Chase and the Hiding
Untangling the Skeleton
The Sleep of Trust
Giving the Tear
The Later Phases of Love
Heart as Drum and Singing Up
The Dance of Body and Soul
6.Finding One's Pack: Belonging as Blessing164
The Ugly Duckling
Exile of the Unmatched Child
Kinds of Mothers
The Ambivalent Mother
The Collapsed Mother
The Child Mother and the Unmothered Mother
The Strong Mother, The Strong Child
Bad Company
Not Looking Right
Frozen Feeling, Frozen Creativity
The Passing Stranger
Exile as Boon
The Uncombed Cats and Cross-Eyed Hens of the World
Remembrance and Continuance No Matter What
Love for the Soul
The Mistaken Zygote
7.Joyous Body: the Wild Flesh197
Body Talk
The Body in Fairy Tales
The Power of the Haunches
La Mariposa, Butterfly Woman
8.Self-Preservation: Identifying Leg Traps, Cages, and Poisoned Batt213
The Feral Woman
The Red Shoes
Brutal Loss in Fairy Tales
The Handmade Red Shoes
The Traps
Trap #1The Gilded Carriage, the Devalued Life
Trap #2The Dry Old Woman, the Senescent Force
Trap #3Burning the Treasure, Hambre del Alma, Soul Famine
Trap #4Injury to Basic Instinct, the Consequence of Capture
Trap #5Trying to Sneak a Secret Life, Split in Two
Trap #6Cringing Before the Collective, Shadow Rebellion
Trap #7Faking It, Trying to be Good, Normalizing the Abnormal
Trap #8Dancing Out of Control, Obsession and Addiction
Addiction
At the Executioner's House
Trying to Take Shoes Off, Too Late
Returning to Life Made by Hand, Healing Injured Instincts
9.Homing: Returning to Oneself255
Sealskin, Soulskin
Loss of Sense of Soul as Initiation
Losing One's Pelt
The Lonely Man
The Spirit Child
Drying Out and Crippling
Hearing the Old One's Call
Staying Overlong
Cutting Loose, Diving In
The Medial Woman: Breathing Under Water
Surfacing
The Practice of Intentional Solitude
Women's Innate Ecology
10.Clear Water: Nourishing the Creative Life297
La Llorona
The Pollution of the Wild Soul
Poison in the River
Fire on the River
The Man on the River
Taking Back the River
Focus and the Fantasy Mill
The Little Match Girl
Staving Off Creative Fantasy
Renewing the Creative Fire
The Three Gold Hairs
11.Heat: Retrieving a Sacred Sexuality334
The Dirty Goddesses
Baubo: The Belly Goddess
Coyote Dick
A Trip to Rwanda
12.Marking Territory: the Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness346
The Crescent Moon Bear
Rage as Teacher
Bringing in the Healer: Climbing the Mountain
The Spirit Bear
The Transformative Fire and Right Action
Righteous Rage
The Withered Trees
Descansos
Injured Instinct and Rage
Collective Rage
Stuck in Old Rage
Four Stages of Forgiveness
13.Battle Scars: Membership in the Scar Clan374
Secrets as Slayers
The Dead Zone
The Woman With Hair of Gold
The Scapecoat
14.La Selva Subterranea: Initiation in the Underground Forest387
The Handless Maiden
Stage 1The Bargain Without Knowing
Stage 2The Dismemberment
Stage 3The Wandering
Stage 4Finding Love in the Underworld
Stage 5The Harrowing of the Soul
Stage 6The Realm of the Wild Woman
Stage 7The Wild Bride and Bridegroom
15.Shadowing: Canto Hondo, the Deep Song456
16.The Wolf's Eyelash462
Afterword: Story as Medicine466
Addendum474
Notes479
Education of a Young Wolf: A Bibliography507
Acknowledgments514
Index519
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