(Un)taming the wild woman within...

There are wolves in the woods. Metaphor, to be sure, of the dangers that lurk. But there is another way of understanding wolves that feels even more significant - especially for women. No one speaks to this more profoundly than wise and wild Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves.

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 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.

Developing a relationship with the wildish nature is an essential part of women's individuation. In order to accomplish this, a woman must go into the dark, but at the same time she must not be irreparably trapped, captured, or killed on her way there or back.

...the wildish nature in women must be preserved--and even, in some instances, guarded with extreme vigilance--so that it is not suddenly abducted and garroted. It is important to feed this instinctive nature, to shelter it, to give it increase, for even in the most restrictive conditions of culture, family, or psyche, there is far less paralysis in women who have remained connected to the deep and wild instinctual nature.

This is important stuff. Do you feel it? If so, I'm guessing you have one of two instinctual responses:

1. You feel the wild part of you that is restrained, penned, bound, and growling to be free. You pace within your cage. You are domesticated, but the call of the wild grows louder and calls to you. You know that it's only a matter of time before you break out and join the rest of your pack. How this will happen is still unclear, but not its inevitability. You can't not run free.

The Wild Woman has been shadowing human women for years. Now we see a glimpse of her. Now she is invisible again. Yet she makes so many appearances in our lives,, and in so many different forms, we feel surrounded by her images and urges. She comes to us in dreams or in stories--especially stories from our own personal lives--for she wants to see who we are, and if we are ready to join her yet. If we but look at the shadows we cast, we see that they are not two-legged human shadows but the lovely shapes of a something free and wild.

2. You feel trapped. There is an ongoing dull ache, somewhere in the recesses of your memory, that gives you dream-like glimpses of wild abandon, of laughter, of deep breaths, of freedom; but you keep waking up. Reality just doesn't comply. You don't know that you'll ever escape your captors. Instead, you hope that someone/something will miraculously open your cage; that circumstances will change; that you might somehow get even a taste of what you secretly dream.

When women hear those words [wild and woman], 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 ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by 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.

There is also a chance that you have been in one or both of these places, remember them well, but frequent them no longer. You've already made the break. You've returned home. You've befriended the wolf within, become yourself, and now dance with other wild women around the fire...

The words may begin private and small, a whimper of a sound growing until they are roaring inside, a roaring not only for oneself but for every woman. After it comes, a woman cannot be tamed back into silence. (Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine)

  • If you feel caged, that is normal. It tells you that something, indeed much, is amiss; that your restraint and silence are the conditions of your captor(s). It's only a matter of time.
  • If you are pacing within your cage, aching to break free, that is normal. It tells you that you are following the scent of your truest, deepest nature. It's only a matter of time.
  • If you have already broken free, encircle the cages of those still bound. Encourage them. Wait with them. Remind them. One day we'll race through the woods as an unstoppable pack. Strong. Powerful. Wild. Free. Ourselves. It's only a matter of time.

This is deeply powerful, deeply spiritual, deeply important stuff. The "dangers in the woods" most definitely lurk. Still, your truest, wisest, bravest, and most wild self knows the way. I'm sure of it...and you.


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