Anyone Read ...

Friday, 26 December 2008

... Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes? This was recommended to me by my art therapist. I've been immersed in its 500 pages ever since I got it a couple of weeks ago. Through this book Estes talks about aspects of the female psyche, from a Jungian perspective, using fairytales to do so. It's really quite wonderful, true, resonant, and I recommend it for all women.

I would especially like to know if any of you "I believe in God and Jesus but sheesh, the church as it stands basically sucks as badly as our culture" women out there have read it and what you got out of it. It really is helpful for me at the moment, a bit of a roadmap, if you will, into those aspects of my psyche that have been buried or wounded or lost. Here is the blurb:

'The wild woman carries with her the bundles for healing; she carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She carries the medicine for all things.'

Women Who Run With the Wolves shows how feminine wildness is both a positive and a necessary quality for women to carry and cultivate. Clarissa Estes argues that woman's genuine nature has been repressed for centuries by a value system that trivialises emotional truth, intuitive wisdom and instinctual self-confidence. A Jungian analyst and storyteller of many years standing, Dr Estes draws on a huge range of myths and stories to teach us how we can reclaim, and rejoice in, our true feminine power. By relating the messages of time-honoured stories such as Bluebeard, The Red Shoes and The Woman with Hair of Gold to our contemporary lives, she shows us how we can awaken within the depths of our souls one who is both magic and medicine.
Note: Estes, when talking about the "wild woman", is not talking about women who run off crazy manic having sex with people on the side of the road and being totally out of control. She is talking about the nature of women which has been suppressed in favour of women who are good, nice, who don't rock the boat and who die a little bit to themselves in the process. This book is about all the elements of femaleness, of reclaiming back what is rightfully ours to begin with.

For a while I had this bizarre idea drummed into my head by cultural Christianity that to be strong within myself, to listen to those aspects of myself that are deep and knowing, was to deny God in some way. It was as if those aspects were automatically put into the same basket as "trusting in yourself" in the negative way that the Bible talks about when we trust in the negative and destructive aspects of ourselves as somehow being able to bring forth life when really they bring forth death. I think we're all pretty damn familiar with that, right?

Of course, the problem with Churchianity's approach to women in that way is that denying the good, knowing parts of ourselves, the way that God has made us, is to allow to happen the very things they are so petrified about. The good, knowing parts repressed can certainly become negatives, while the negative, tricksterish elements of our nature which are in every single human being on the planet, are therefore allowed to run riot. Telling women to suppress their womanliness creates women whose shadow sides are given full rein to kill them off quicker. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise cultural Churchianity? I have? Okay, as we were then ...

The bringing out and demonstration of different aspects of my soul into the light is what I love about this book. Estes really brings all of this stuff out where I can examine it. It's been a real illuminating trip for me so far. I highly recommend it for any woman who is struggling to reconcile what she knows with what the culture tells her, who wants to grow, to redeem her wounds, heal, get emotionally healthier. I don't think this is anti-God work. I think this is totally God-honouring work, being who we were created to be. Not some kind of lifeless puppets that sit around in our crap waiting for a great cosmic God to come from outside to fix us up. Not that there's anything wrong with that and sheesh, I bloody well wish s/he would do it more often than s/he (seemingly) does. But this for me is the opposite side of the coin. This is just doing the necessary soul work that is contained within the bounds of living inside of ourselves, properly, not abdicated.

Do yourself a favour. Then tell me about it when you've done it :)


  1. Sounds like a book I may have to get up the energy to read.
    Like you, I've come to this place in my life where I can't stand anything to do with cultural christianity.
    I am sitting here tonight, reading your blog, and feeling like maybe I need to somehow go back to pretending I fit into the christian thing...cause at least then I could pretend to myself that I'm not horrible lonely sometimes.
    God had to take me and shake me to finally hear Him tell me, that He wants me to be me. It took my life exploding in six different directions to get rid of enough junk to even hear that.
    So I sit here tonight, reading, crying...asking myself if it's worth it.
    I've had some major confrontations at work this last few days, and I'm so tired of trying to be have my boundaries be in place, to be healthy. It feels like too much work to be healthy right now.

    Getting back to something you wrote...about not being lifeless puppets. That grabs me. Cause when God came and visited me, and shook me till I heard Him, He showed me how much He didn't want that kind of nasty obedience...lifeless puppets. He showed me His heart that much it means to Him that we make choices towards Him. It shook me, and confirmed to me the things I was beginning to question.
    So I sit out on the fringes of culture and religion, and wonder if there is a place for me...if so, what does it look like?

  2. So would I be right in thinking you're not that keen on churchianity then?? ;-)
    I have this book. I've had this book for years. And you know what? I've never read it. So reading your post is obviously a sign - I'll put the book to near the top of the list!

  3. tess (& sue) --so funny you say that. this book jumped off the shelves at the bookstore to me a few years ago...i started reading it a few months back and was enjoying it and then...i'm not sure what happened but i put it away. i have, however, recently finished joseph campbell's "the power of myth". it really resonated with me with the archetypal characters etc. i did not find it to be "anti-God" work either (although my Christian roots & upbringing would say different!) it actually helped make more sense of many things such as the Christmas story.

    so, sue, who do you think created that "wild woman" inside of you? i've been getting acquainted with my own in the last few years and slowly but surely God is becoming more real to me than he ever did in "Churchianity"...

  4. I actually read the book some years ago. I couldn't relate to it, unfortunately. Jungian stuff is alien to me. All this is not to say it is a bad book. It is much revered as a classic and has been admired by many more thoughtful persons than moi.
    I highly recommend it for any woman who is struggling to reconcile what she knows with what the culture tells her, who wants to grow, to redeem her wounds, heal, get emotionally healthier. I don't think this is anti-God work. I think this is totally God-honouring work, being who we were created to be. Not some kind of lifeless puppets that sit around in our crap waiting for a great cosmic God to come from outside to fix us up.
    I support all that you have written here. Our journey is to become who we really are, free human beings, in disarming love of God and God's creation. I resent those churchy female stereotypes as you do. Estes' book just didn't bring me along. Perhaps it is my age, my scientific background.

  5. Che - noooooo! Don't go back!!! :) If you go back then you'll just feel even more horrible lonely than you do anyway. We all feel that way, babe.

    I'm with you on how tiring the work to be healthy is :( Especially if it's coming from more than one angle. I pray strength for you.

    Nasty obedience - now, there's a word for it.

    And hey, if it's any consolation at all, I think we can actually come to like being out on the fringes. It's like the desert, teeming with life, we just need to dig. I don't know how it looks either, with is frustrating at times like today when I was trying to explain to my friend what church *could* look like and couldn't find the words to back up my feelings about it :(

    Tess - I'll be interested to hear what you think of it if you do end up reading it. I've got a big pile too - a never-ending one, it seems :) One of my holiday aims is to put a dent in it :)

    Lucy - timing is everything, isn't it? I started reading a Joseph Campbell and put it down for some unfathomable reason, just to nicely bookend our two experiences :) I think it's good to put books down when they're not speaking, even though it feels like it's breaking some cardinal rule somewhere.

    Is that a rhetorical question, who created the "wild woman" in me? I do fulsomely believe it is an outspring of God, definitely, someting that reflects her personality :)

    Barbara - different strokes for different folks, right? I think there are many ways to come to the same thing, and they can all look very different. Hooray for many ways :)

  6. of course it's a rhetorical question, my dear!!! i KNOW you KNOW where that wild woman comes from!

    i, too, say "hooray for the many ways." i am learning to love being able to put some things aside for a time and then pick them back up again OR NOT! i used to make myself read a book from cover to cover even if it was pure agony, just because i had to finish what i started. oh my...that is doofus behavior!!!


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