Women Who Run with Wolves

I recently completed my second reading of Clarissa Pinkola Estés book, “Women Who Run with Wolves.” My first read through was quick and for myself. It spoke to me so deeply, that when a friend suggested she wanted to read it as well, we decided to do it “book club” style — reading a chapter for each discussion. It’s taken over a year and a half to read the whole book again, but it has been worth it.

My heroine’s journey—this quest to discover my own self, my divine feminine, my Wild Woman—has been fully supported along the way by this book.

“Wildlife and the Wild Woman are both endangered species.”

Best first sentence of a book, ever.

My heart sang when I read this because it is resonates deeply with my belief that what we do to ourselves is reflected in how we treat the environment. We are de-valuing the wild in nature, just as we are in ourselves.

She goes on to say:
“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 understand 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 wildest women have similar reputations. They all share related instinctual archetypes, and as such, both are erroneously reputed to be ungracious, wholly and innately dangerous, and ravenous.”

To know myself is to know the earth. To revere and honor my own wildness is to extend the same protection to nature. To redeem my own impressions about my wild self being dangerous and ravenous, is to redefine the story we believe about the environment.

She talks about the Wild Woman, not in terms of “Girls Gone Wild,” but wild as in our instinctual nature, our ancestry, our feral-ness. I like to think of it as the soul, the life force, the shakti—the parts of us who keep us telling the truth, asking for what we want, following our passions, dreaming, imagining, creating, loving, and celebrating. As I found in my life, intense school work, familial expectations, demanding jobs, and committing to intense parental responsibilities can tamp down the wild, making it quiet, forcing it into hiding, or even making me afraid of it when it finds a fissure in my world and then explodes out of control.

Over the last few years of my life, I feel like I’ve slowly been meeting the Wild Woman who lives inside me. There’s part of me that is afraid of her — she’s messy, selfish, emotional, crazy. What will she ask for if I fully give her a voice? But when I do tap into her, even for brief moments, I feel free, alive, awake, real, raw, sensual, creative, and passionate. I’ve had enough tastes of my Wild Woman to know I want more access to her. Clarissa describes the direction my life feels like its going:

“And when we pick up [the Wild Woman’s] trail, it is typical of women to ride hard to catch up, to clear off the desk, clear off the relationship, clear out one’s mind, turn to a new page, insist on a break, break the rules, stop the world, for we are not going on without her any longer.”

I cleared off my desk (quit my job), insisted on a break (I have time to myself during the day), and am turning a new page (this pleasure project for example). Have I uncovered my Wild Woman fully? Not even close! But every passing day, month, year, I feel like I’m able to access her in my “deep life” more easily…to incorporate her more fully…to utilize her wisdom. And I feel more balanced when I do. For as Clarissa says, “…a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life.”

I am taking Clarissa’s advice:

“Psychically, it is good to make a halfway place, a way station, a considered place in which to rest and mend after one escapes a famine. It is not too much to take one year, two years, to assess one’s wounds, seek guidance, apply the medicines, consider the future. A year or two is scant time. The feral woman is a woman making her way back. She is learning to wake up, pay attention, stop being naive, uniformed. She takes her life in her own hands. To re-learn the deep feminine instincts, it is vital to see how they were decommissioned to begin with.”

Last Halloween, I spent a long weekend with a group of women in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Out alone on the land, I listened to what the place had to say to me. I had quit my job 6 months before and was starting to feel antsy not knowing what I was “supposed” to be doing with my life. I got a really clear message that I needed to spend fall and winter tending the fire under my cauldron. I was to only say yes to things that would be ingredients for my brew. I was to surround myself with wise women and men who could help me stir the pot. The only requirement was that I kept the fire burning underneath — to sit still, feed the fire, and wait to see what would be created through the cooking process.

Clarissa talks about this in terms of feeding the Wild Goddess. She says, “Firstly, to cook for the [Wild Goddess], one lays a fire—a woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves. It is actually this passion which causes the cooking, and a woman’s original ideas of substance are what is cooked. To cook for the [Wild Goddess], one must arrange that one’s creative life has a consistent fire under it.” So I have spent the last 12 months tending my fire, adding fuel, and being vigilant so that the fire stays lit.

So, what is cooking in this cauldron of mine? Clarissa might describe it as my “medial woman”: “The medial woman stands between the worlds of consensual reality and the mystical unconscious and mediates between them. The medial woman is the transmitter and receiver between two or more values or ideas. She is the one who brings new ideas to life, exchanges old ideas for innovative ones, translates between the world of the rational and the world of the imaginal. She ‘hears’ things, ‘knows’ things, and ‘senses’ what should come next.” I like the idea that to become a medial woman (or a shapeshifter as I like to call it), you must transform yourself under the long, hot burn of your passion’s fire.

Much of the work I’ve been studying and practicing keeps pointing back to the body as a source of wisdom, intelligence, and understanding. Clarissa talks about this too. “…women are said to carry la luz de la vida, the light of life. This light is located, not in a woman’s heart, not behind her eyes, but en los ovarios, in her ovaries, where all the seed stock is laid down before she is even born.”

I’m learning to use my body to help understand and move through my emotions. I’m letting it guide me in figuring out what I want (and don’t want) sexually as well as using it as a creative writing partner for the eco-erotica stories. I believe that a woman’s creative center, and where the shape-shifter lives, is her pelvic bowl. I can imagine our little ovaries shining a warm light down in the bowl, illuminating the ideas and desires that we’re gestating.

And I love how Clarissa articulates what this journey feels and looks like:

“One of the most amazing things about this long initiation is that the woman undergoing this process continues to do all the regular living of topside life: loving lovers; birthing babies; chasing children; chasing art; chasing words; carrying food, paints, skeins; fighting for this and the other; burying the dead; doing all the workaday tasks as well as this deep, faraway journey.

A woman, at this time, is often torn in two directions, for there comes over her an urge to wade into the forest as though it is a river and to swim in the green, to climb to the top of the crag and sit face into the wind. It is a time when an inner clock strikes and our that forces a woman to have a sudden need of a sky to call her own, a tree to throw her arms about, a rock to press for cheek against. Yet she must live her topside life as well.

It is to her extreme credit that even though she many times wishes to, she does not drive her car into the sunset. At least not permanently. For it is this outer life that exerts the right amount of pressure to take on the underworld tasking. It is better to stay in the world during this time rather than leave it, for the tension is better and tension makes a precious and deeply turned life that can be made no other way.”

Clarissa offers the seven year stages of a woman’s life to “provide both tasks to accomplish and attitudes in which to root herself.” I found that these are highly applicable to my journey (so far).

0-7 age of the body and dreaming/socialization, yet retaining imagination
7-14 age of separating yet weaving together reason and the imaginal
14-21 age of new body/young maidenhood/unfurling yet protecting sensuality
21-28 age of new world/new life/exploring the worlds
28-35 age of the mother/learning to mother others and self
35-42 age of the seeker/learning to mother self/seeking the self
42-49 age of early crone/find the far encampment/giving courage to others
49-56 age of the underworld/learning the words and rites
56-63 age of choice/choosing one’s world and the work yet to be done
63-70 age of becoming watchwoman/recasting all one has learned
70-77 age of re-youthanization/more cronedom
77-84 age of the mist beings/finding more big in the small
84-91 age of weaving with the scarlet thread/understanding the weaving of life
91-98 age of the etherial/less to saying, more to being
98-105 age of pneuma, the breath
105+ age of timelessness

At the end of the book she offers the simple and perfect wolf’s rules for life:

1. Eat
2. Rest
3. Rove in between
4. Render loyalty
5. Love the children
6. Cavil in moonlight
7. Tune your ears
8. Attend to the bones
9. Make love
10. Howl often

As I continue to know and dance with my Wild Woman, I resist the urge to drive off into the sunset, or disappear forever into the forest permanently. I live my everyday life, appreciating the role of tension in this catalyzing process. I’m slowing down and living fully in the stage of life where I find myself. I listen to the wisdom of my body, make love often, and remember to howl at the moon.

(Photo Source)

Two gifts from snake

On a recent trip to Colorado, I had an experience with a snake that will forever change my understanding about the true nature of the world and my place within it. The snake gave me two gifts: belief and a story. I want to preserve both the interaction that led to the first gift as well as the second gift itself.

I’ll first start with the interaction that led to the gift of belief….

**********

After setting up the site that would be my solo home for the next 20 hours, I headed for the nearby creek to wash my hands. A snake darted out of my path and stopped about four feet away from me with its head in a sunny spot beside a tree. The snake was about the width of two pencils and about a foot long. It’s brown body had two yellow stripes that ran along it’s length.

I stopped to admire the snake and recalled the suggestion from Bill Plotkin in his book “Soul Craft” to talk with animals — if you are patient and dedicated, he says, they might just talk back.

There was part of me that read this suggestion and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if that were true? Can people really have conversations with animals? I’ve seen amazing videos (like this one) that present such compelling evidence. But I also had this strong inner skeptic: yeah right, talking to animals is just as crazy as the trees having feelings, or the rocks being “sacred.” The part of me that deeply knows the wisdom that exists in everything from soil to our cells is often drowned out by this loud, persuasive skeptic.

Here I was, in the woods, with a snake, by myself, with no chance of anyone walking by or hearing me. I felt inspired to take Plotkin’s suggestion and to talk to the snake. My one-way conversation went something like this:

“Hello snake. Thank you so much for letting me stay on your land tonight. Hey, I’m so sorry that so many humans are afraid of you. We have treated your kind so poorly. We put you in cages for entertainment or “educational” purposes.”

Then, I remembered another suggestion the book had — ask the animal to share their wisdom with you.

So I continued: “Snake, will you come to me in a dream tonight, and share your wisdom with me?”

And all the while, I’m yammering on, the snake is motionless, just staring at me.

“Snake, your species has been around for millions of years, you have so much wisdom and perspective. Surely, there is much you can teach me. Will you come to me in a dream tonight?”

Then I remembered my alone time the day before, and how I’d called in the spirit of bear who lives on the land. I can find the idea of bears sexually arousing (probably in some part due to this book), but I can find myself thinking erotically about other wild animals as well. It occurred to me to tap into the sex magic of snake.

“Snake, can I fantasize about you tonight? Give me a sign. I’ll count to ten, and if you move before I get to ten, I’ll take that as a yes. If not, I’ll take it as a no.”

“One”

The snake flicked its tongue.

I sucked in a quick break of air, and then the snake nodded.its.head.up.and.down. TWICE.

Then it slowly slithered away.

I watched it go and then felt tears well up inside. I let the tears out, along with the inner skeptic who was keeping me from having the deepest relationship with the natural world as was possible.

**********

So that night, I stayed true to my word. I fantasized about snake.

Now, I’m not one of those people who find snakes really sexy. I like holding them, but you won’t find me at a party, scantily clad, wearing a real boa in place of a feather one. It’s just not the way I’m wired.

So as I thought about snake, while touching myself, we co-created a story — eco-erotica possibly? — that emerged when the snake’s sensuality combined with where I found the most pleasure in my body.

And this is the story….

**********

The snake is small enough to fit in the gap between my big and second toes. As I lie on the forest floor, still barely warm, releasing the last of the day’s rays of sun, the snake slowly climbs onto my body by first entering through this tunnel between my toes. It moves up my foot, draping slightly down along the inner arch. Up over my ankle bone and diagonally across my shin, the snake feels like a smooth rope being dragged across my skin by a lover. I feel the curve its body makes as it navigates the outer edge of my knee. As it moves up my thigh, it dips down tracing a line toward my inner thigh and up my hip, just narrowly missing a caress of my outer lips. It crests over the top of my hip bone and turns sharply towards my pubic mound. Its wandering parts my hair, as if it is moving through soft grass, and it emerges into the soft pool made by my lower belly sunken between my pelvic bowl. It pauses in this bowl, waiting for the tail to catch up with the head. It rests like a twisted ribbon. I am acutely aware of its weight as my inhalation requires the slightest extra effort to compensate, and all my attention turns to feeling it rising and falling slightly with each breath I take.

Just as the resting snake begins to feel at one with my body, I feel the slightest contraction of the snake’s muscles as it begins its journey again. Streaming up the center of my belly, it turns left to synchronize the curve of its body to my breast. It glides tenderly over my collar bone and into the soft pocket beneath my neck as it turns right to cross the other collarbone and heads down and around my right breast. The snake pauses again, nestled in the small valley between my breasts. My awareness is solely focused on its cool touch on my warm skin.

I breathe into the spot where it rests between my breasts. I sigh, and it continues its visit, but even more slowly this time. It’s like the game I played as a kid — one person closes their eyes, and the other slowly tickles the inside of their arm from the wrist to the elbow. The job of the person whose eyes are closed is to say stop when the tickle gets to the middle of the elbow. But this always turns out to be incredibly hard to do… the anticipation, the feeling, the loss of sense of where your body parts are, often results in a “stop” when the tickler is still inches away from the target. The snake and I play our own version of this game. When would it get to my belly button?

The snake moves so slowly, it feels as though my torso stretches on forever. Finally, I feel the cool body cross over my belly button and start making it’s way through the soft grass on my pubic mound. And when I thought the snake couldn’t go any slower, it dives its head down, parting my lips, caressing over my clit, before reaching for the ground between my legs. The body of the snake seems to pass through my lips for a pleasurable eternity. As the snake’s tail passes across my body and onto the ground, I shudder — stirring the intense pleasure that the snake had conjured up.

As I continue to lie on the ground, my mind retraces the snakes path up and down my body remembering the softness, coolness, and weight of its being. Suddenly, I feel the flick of a snake tongue on my left shoulder. Instinctively, I know to move my arms, placing them on the ground above my head. Once I have returned to stillness, a large, dark head of a snake mounts my body from the side, just under my left breast. The pressure of this snake on my ribcage takes my breath away. My body contracts in shock and to hold the weight of this snake, which makes the first snake seem like a mere tickle.

The snake’s long body continues to scale mine. It turns its head towards my feet, slides down the side of my belly, up over my hip bone, and down along my left leg. With all of its weight along my left side, my body wants to roll towards it, spooning myself around it. Instead, I root my right side to the ground, lying solidly on the earth with my heart open to the heavens. Slowly, it slides off my foot and onto the ground, finally losing all physical contact with me. My muscles slowly release and my breathing returns to normal as I readjust to only feeling my own weight against the earth.

A quick flick of the tongue signals his return. This time, I feel the flick on my soft, outer labia. I gasp for air as the snake mounts my body again from between my legs, its slick, cool, heavy body sliding across my pussy. The initial wave of pleasure follows the snake’s head as it slowly climbs up my torso, between my breasts, and up towards my neck.

The snake’s face meets mine and it pauses to look in my eyes. It flicks it tongue a few more times, I let out a moan of pleasure, and the snake shifts towards my right shoulder and slowly proceeds down my right arm and hands that are outstretched over my head. I feel shocks of ecstacy rattle from my pussy to the tips of my fingers as the snake’s long body continues to be pulled between my legs and stretches into my outstretched arms. Finally, the tip of the snakes tail passes through my pubic hair and the absence of its weight feels as present as its body did.

My body begins to rock and undulate with pleasure, just as the snake’s body did as it navigated through the peaks and valleys of my body. I feel the wetness of my pussy along with the wetness of the forest floor as the dew from the night air begins to settle around me. By body longs to move side to side and I find myself rolling onto my belly so my heart can be closer to the earth. As my body continues to pulse and wave, I push my hands into the dirt, lifting my body off the ground and onto my hands and knees.

Coming to rest in child’s pose, I feel myself bowing in sacred reverence to the forest and her serpentine lovers. Cracking sticks and crunching leaves remind me that I am not alone in this forest clearing. I start to breath heavily, wondering what creature is going to visit me next. A man, as dark as the night has become, emerges through the trees. His hair, a bundle of snake-like dreadlocks, are loosely pulled back at the nape of his neck. He is as aroused as I am.

He approaches me slowly, resting as his knees nestle between mine on the forest floor. His hands connect with my hips and my body responds to his gravitational pull. I feel his hard pelvic bones and warm cock pressed up against me as I deeply inhale the scent of his sweat mixed with the cool night air. I arch my back, reaching my heart to the sky, inviting him inside. I exhale as I feel him slide himself inside of me.

He leans forward so his body meets mine. His hands slide from my hips up to my breasts and he lifts me up so we are both upright on our knees, our pelvic bowls nestled together and our backs arched to the black sky. One of his arms continues to cradle my breast while the other hand slides down to hold my pubic mound, my hair resting in the palm of his hand and his fingers on my clit. Our bodies begin to move in unison as he pushes himself deeper into me.

I feel him begin to howl at the moon long before I hear it. His guttural voice echoes off the trees surrounding us. I join him in the howl. Knees on the earth. Chest open to the sky. The union of the divine masculine and feminine. Offering our call of pleasure to the forest.

Our howls are slowly joined by other voices, not so far away. As we howl, the moon breaks through the clouds, illuminating more bodies intertwined throughout the clearing. Lovers weaved in various forms of pleasure and connection, all using earth as our house of prayer.

My call shifts from a howl to a crescendoing of orgasmic pleasure. As I release in ecstasy, I hear the other voices begin to do the same. A chorus of pleasure, echoing off the rocks and trees, reaching all the way to the stars and deep into the earth.

Finally our voices quiet. The dark man and I stay connected. I surrender completely with him on top of me. His weight grounds me back to the earth and I am reminded of the weight of the snake moving across my body. Eventually, I can no longer tell the place where my body stops and his starts. Or where the earth ends and skin begins. I feel his pleasure mixing with mine, and our collective pleasure circling back into the earth — our gift back to the land, the snakes, and all creatures who love this sacred forest.

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