In this quarantine, one of the books I had the good fortune of checking out from the library before it was shut down is Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It’s a beautiful book full of womanly wisdom. If you enjoy fairy tale analysis and learning about indigenous cultures and empowering perspectives of womanhood, femininity, creativity, and body image, I highly highly recommend it.
These are a few excerpts that have touched me. I thought I’d share them, and perhaps they might inspire you as they have inspired me.
“Fairy tales, myths, and stories 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 which we all are following are those of the Wild Women archetype, the innate instinctual Self.”
“The word WILD here is not used in its modern pejorative sense, meaning out of control, but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life, one in which the criatura, creature, has innate integrity and healthy boundaries.”
“A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving. Yet, separation from the wildish nature causes a woman’s personality to become meager, thin, ghosty, spectral. We are not meant to be puny with frail hair and inability to leap up, inability to chase, to birth, to create a life. When women’s lives are in stasis, ennui, it is always time for the wildish woman to emerge; it is time for the creating function of the psyche to flood the delta.”
“Often the creative life is slowed or stopped because something in the psyche has a very low opinion of us, and we are down there groveling at its feet instead of bopping it over the head and running free. In many cases what is required to aright the situation is that we take ourselves, or ideas, our art, far more seriously than we have done before. Due to wide breaks in matrilineal succor over many generations, this business of valuing one’s creative life–that is, valuing the beauteous and artful ideas and works which issue from the wildish soul–has become a perennial issue for women.”
The shadow life occurs when writers, painters, dancers, mothers, seekers, mystics, students, or journeywomen stop writing, painting, dancing, mothering, looking, peering, learning, practicing. They might stop because whatever they just spent long with did not come out the way they had hoped, or did not receive the recognition it deserved, or countless other reasons. When the maker stops for whatever reason, the energy that naturally flows to her is diverted underground, where it surfaces whenever and wherever it can. Because a woman feels she cannot in daylight go full-bore at whatever it is she wants, she begins to lead a strange double life, pretending one thing in daylight hours, acting another way when she gets a chance.”
“The cultural power OF the body is its beauty, but power IN the body is rare, for most have chased it away with their torture of or embarassment by the flesh.
It is in this light that the wildish woman can inquire into the numinosity of her own body and understand it not as a dumbbell that we are sentenced to carry for life, not as a beast of burden, pampered or otherwise, who carries us around for life, but a series of doors and dreams and poems through which we can learn and know all manner of things. In the wild psyche, body is understood as a being in its own right, one who loves us, depends on us, one to whom we are sometimes mother, and who sometimes is mother to us.”
A woman must be careful to not allow overresponsibility (or overrespectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
“All women have personal stories as vast in scope and as powerful as the numen in fairy tales. But there is one kind of story in particular, which has to do with a woman’s secrets, especially those associated with shame; these contain some of the most important stories a woman can give her time to unraveling. For most women, these secret stories are embedded, not like jewels in a crown, but like black gravel under the skin of the soul.”
“Secrets, like fairy tales and dreams, also follow the same energy patterns and structures as those found in drama. But secrets, instead of following the heroic structure, follow the tragic structure. The heroic drama begins with a heroine on a journey. Sometimes she is not psychologically awake. Sometimes she is too sweet and doesn’t perceive danger. Sometimes she has already been mistreated and makes the desperate moves of a capture creature. However she begins, the heroine eventually falls into the clutches of whatever or whoever, and is sorely tested. Then, through her wit and because she has people who care for her, she is freed and stands taller as a result.”