Excerpts that really moved me while reading. Buy yourself a copy here and we can book talk.
I believe that all women and men are born gifted. However, and truly, there has been little to describe the psychological lives and ways of gifted women, talented women, creative women. There is, on the other hand, much writ about the weakness and foibles of humans in general and women in particular. But in the case of the Wild Woman archetype, in order to fathom her, apprehend her, utilize her offerings, we must be more interested in the thoughts, feelings, and endeavors which strengthen women, and adequately count the interior and cultural factors which weaken women.
The first myth is of Bluebeard who is with 3 sisters. The two eldest do not want to marry him but the youngest agrees after taking them out to the woods for a day to explore. He leaves the castle to his young mistress and gives her all the keys to the house. He says you can go in any room except once. The sisters come over and naturally, they begin to look for the door they’re not allowed to open. Inside they find bodies of his dead wives before. The key has blood stained on it and Bluebeard comes home to find out it has been entered. He says he’s going to kill her too but she runs upstairs and musters her brothers to come help her and kill bluebeard.
This can be related all to the mind. The brothers are the courage to crush your demons. To the naive or noncognizant dreamers, dreams similar to these or a dark man in them are meant as wake up calls. Pay attention you’re in danger! When women dream of the natural predator, it’s not a sole message about the interior life all times. Sometimes it is a message about the threatening aspect of the culture one lives in, whether it be a small but brutal culture at the office, family, religion, or national culture.
Yet even in an oppressive culture, in whichever women the Wild Woman still lives and thrives or even glimmers, there will be “key” questions asked, not only the ones we find useful for insight into ourselves but also ones about out culture. “What stands behind these proscriptions I see in the outer world? What goodness or usefulness of the individual, of the culture, of the earth, human nature has been killed, or dying here?”
The Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation
The Doll in Her Pocket: Vasalisa the Wise
This tale is an old Russian tale. The girl’s mother is dying and gives her a doll. Her evil stepmother sends her to Baby Yaga a mean witch for firewood. It is certain impending doom as the witch says she has to do certain things to retrieve the wood such as clean the entire house and pick out certain things from the dirt. The doll in her pocket helps her to accomplish these tasks. She eventually completes all of the tasks and Baby Yaga gives her a skull with fire in it to return home to the family with, who couldn’t start one for themselves in the days she was gone. By the next morning he skill on the stick watched the stepsisters’ and the stepmother’s every move and burnt into them, and by morning it had burnt the wicked trio into cinders.
The First Task – Allowing the Too-Good Mother to Die
The psychic tasks of this stage in a woman’s life are these: Accepting that the ever-watchful, hovering, protective psychic mother is not adequate as a central guide for one’s future instinctual life (the too good mother dies). Taking on the task of being on one’s own, developing one’s own consciousness about danger, intrigue, politic. Becoming alert by oneself, for oneself. Letting die what must die. As the too-good mother dies, the new woman is born.
A woman must set for herself a something in life that she is willing to reach for and therefore take risks for. It is through this process that she sharpens her intuitive powers.
Sometimes a woman is afraid to be without security or without certainty, for even a short time. She has more excuses than dogs have hairs. She must just simply dive in and stand not knowing what will happen next. It is the only things which will retrieve her intuitive nature. Sometimes a woman is so bound up in being the too-good mother to other adults that they have latched onto her tatas, teats, and are not about to let her leave them. In this case a woman has to kick them off with her hind leg and go on anyway.
The Second Task – Exposing the Crude Shadow
In this part of the tale, the bad rotten stepfamily marches into Vasalisa’s world and begins to make her life miserable. the tasks of this time: Learning even more mindfully to let go of the overly positive mother. Finding that being good, being sweet, being nice will not cause life to sing. Vasalisa becomes a slave, but it does not help. Experiencing directly one’s own shadow nature, particularly the exclusionary, jealous, and exploitative aspects of self (stepmother) Acknowledging these unequivocally. Making the best relationship one can with the worst parts of oneself. Letting the pressure build between who one is taught to be and who one really is. Ultimately working toward letting the old self die and the new intuitive self be born.
In this stage of initiation, a woman is harassed by the petty demands of her psyche which exhort her to comply with whatever anyone wishes. Compliance causes a shocking realization that must be registered by all women. That is, to be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. It is a tormenting tension and it myst be borne, but the choice is clear.
When the fire is put out, it helps to snap Vasalisa out of her submission. It causes her to die to an old way of life and to step with shivers into a new life, one which is based on an older, wiser kind of inner knowing.
The Third Tast – Navigating in the Dark
In this part of the tale, the dead mother’s legacy – the doll – guides Vasalisa through the dark to the house of Baba Yaga. The psychic tasks of this time: Consenting to venture into the locus of deep initiation (entering the forest) and beginning to experience the new and dangerous-feeling numen of being in one’s intuitive power. Learning to develop sensitivity as regards direction to the mysterious unconscious and relying solely on one’s inner senses. Learning the way back home to the Wild Mother (heeding the doll’s directions). Learning to feed intuition (feeding the doll). Letting the frail know nothing maiden die even more. Shifting power to the doll/intuition.
Doll is related to the symbols of leprechaun, elf, pixie, fairy and dwarf. Represent a deep throb of wisdom within the culture of the psyche. The inner spirit of us as women; the voice of inner reason, inner knowing, and inner consciousness. The doll is like the little bird in fairy tales who appears and whispers in the heroine’s ear, the one who reveals the hidden enemy and what to do about it all. The wisdom of the homunculus, the small being within. It is our helper which is not seeable, per se, but which is always accessible.
Being bound to one’s intuition promotes a confident reliance on it, no matter what. It changes a woman’s guiding attitude from “what will be, will be” to “let me see all there is to see.”
She learns to rely on the relationship and she learns to feed the doll or inner spirit. The doll indicates which way is “home”
The doll serves as talismans; reminders of what is felt but not seen, what is so, but not immediately obvious. This intuitive function belongs to all women. Not receptivity as once touted in classical psychology, that is, as a passive vessel. But receptivity as in possessing immediate access to a profound wisdom that reaches down into women’s very bones.
The Fourth Task – Facing the Wild Hag
Vasalisa meets the Wild Hag face-to-face. The tasks of this meeting are these: Being able to stand the face of the fearsome Wild Goddess without wavering; that is, facing the imago of the fierce mother (meeting up with the Baba Yaga). Familiarizing oneself with the arcane, the odd, the otherness of the wild (residing at Baba Yaga’s house for a while). Bringing some of her values into our lives, thereby becoming ourselves a little odd in a goodly way (eating her food). Learning to face great power- in others, and subsequently one’s own power. Letting the frail and too-sweet child die back even further.
Baby Yaga’s house is of the instinctual world and Vasalisa needs more of this element in her personality. This house is alive, bursting with enthusiasm, with joyous life. These attributes are the main fundaments of the archetypal psyche of Wild Woman; a joyous and wild life force, where houses dance, where inanimates fly like birds, where the old woman can make magic, where nothing is what it seems, but for the most part, is far better than it seemed to begin with.
Vasalisa stands and accepts the fearsome, the perfect newborn child and the wings of angels within Baba Yaga’s eyes, she accepts this wild Mother divinity, wisdom, warts, and all. Respect in the face of great power is a crucial lesson. A woman must be able to stand in the face of power, because ultimately some part of that power will become hers. She presents herself to Baba Yaga not boastfully or filled with braggadocio, neither running away of hiding. She presents herself honestly and just as herself.
Many women are in recovery from their “Nice-Nice” complexes, wherein, no matter how they felt, no matter who assailed them, they responded so sweetly as to be practically fattening. Though they might have smiled kindly during the day, at night they gnashed their teeth like brutes – the Yaga in their psyches was fighting for expression.
A good deal of literature on the subject of women’s power states that men are afraid of women’s power (witches). I always want to exclaim “Mother of God! So many women themselves are afraid of women’s poewr.” For the old feminine attributes and forces are vast, and they are formidable. It is understandable that the first time they come face to face with the old wild powers, both men and women take one anxious look and make tracks. To be Yaga-ish and good we must be able to stand it. To be strong means meeting one’s own niminosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.
The Fifth Task- Serving the Non-Rational
Vasalisa asks for fire, and Baba Yaga agrees – but only if Vasalisa will do some household chores for her in exchange. The psychic tasks of this time of learning are these: Staying with the Hag; acclimating to the great wildish powers of the feminine psyche. Coming to recognize her (your) power and the powers of inner purifications: unsoiling, sorting, nourishing, building energy and ideas (washing the Yaga’s clothes, cooking for her, cleaning her house, and sorting out the elements).
Not so long ago, women were deeply involved in the rhythms of life and death. They inhaled the pungent odor of iron from the fresh blood of childbirth. They washed the cooling bodies of the dead as well. The psyches of modern women, are often depriced of these close-up and hands on blessed and basic experiences.
Washing the clothes of Baby Yaga is a fine symbol for a cleansing and purification of the entire bearing of the psyche. To wash something is a timeless purification ritual. It means to purify or to drench with a spiritual numen and mystery. The clothes are like us, worn and worn until our ideas and values are slackened by the passing of time. The renewal, the revivifying, takes place in the water, in the re-discovering of what we really hold to be true, what we really hold sacred.
It is persona, not a mask but a signal of rank, virtue, character, and authority. The outward display of mastery.
By washing the Yaga’s clothes, the initiate herself will see how the seams of personal are sewn, what patterns the gowns take. Soon she herself will have some measure of these personae to place in her closet amidst others she has fashioned throughout her life.
The second thing to clean is her psychic environ uncluttered. She accomplishes such by keeping a clean head, keeping a clear place for her work, working at completing her ideas and projects. For many women, this task requires that they clear a time each day for contemplation, for a space to live in that is clearly their own with paper, pens, paints, tools, conversations, time, freedoms that are for this work only. For many, psychoanalysis, contemplation, meditation, the taking of solitude, and other experience of descent and transformation provide this special time and place for the work. Each woman has her own preferences, her own way. If this work can take place in the hut, so much the better. Even near the hut is better than far away. We are also speaking of keeping unusual ideas clear and ordered. These ideas include those which are uncommon, mystical, soulful, uncanny.
When women have cleared space, the wild nature will better thrive. To cook for the Yaga, 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 Yaga, one must arrange that one’s creative life has a consistent fire under it.
Vasalisa again, via the aegis of intuitive guidance, accomplishes the work, and the Yaga gives her the grumpy and begrudging stamp of approval.. the kind that always comes from old women who have lived a long time and who have seen much, and somewhat wish they hadn’t, and are rather proud they have.
The Sixth Task – Separating This From That
A woman’s psychic tasks are these: Learning fine discrimination, separating one thing from the other with finest discernment, learning to make find distinctions in judgement (sorting the mildewed cron from the good corn, and sorting the poppy seeds from a pile of dirt). Observing the power of the unconscious and how it works even when the ego is not aware (the pairs of hands which appear in the air). More learning about life (corn) and death (poppy seeds).
Yaga is not only asking Vasalisa to separate this from that, to determine the difference between things of like kind – such as real love from false love, or nourishing life from spoiled life – but she is also asking her to distinguish one medicine from another.
Whatever can happen to a garden can happen to soul and psyche – too much water, too little water, infestations, heat, storm, flood, invasion, miracles, dying back, coming back, boon, healing, blossoming, bounty, beauty.
During the life of the garden, women keep a diat, recording the signs of life-giving and life-taking. Each entry cooks up a psychic soup. In the garden we practice letting thoughts, ideas, preferences, desires, even loves, both live and die. We plant, we pull, we bury. We dry seed, sow it, moisten it, support it, harvest.
Through this we acknowledge that the Life/Death/Life cycle is a natural one. Both life giving and death dealing natures are waiting to be befriended, forever loved. In this process, we become like the cyclical wild. We have the ability to infuse energy and strengthen life, and to stand out of the way of what dies.
The Seventh Task – Asking the Mysteries
After the completion of tasks, Vasalisa asks the Yaga some good questions. The tasks of this time are these: Questioning and trying to learn more about the Life/Death/Life nature and how it functions. (Vasalisa asks about the horsemen). Learning the truth about being able to understand all elements of the wild nature (to know too much can make one old too soon).
The black, red, and white horsemen symbolize the ancient colors connoting birth, life, and death. These colors also represent old ideas of descent, death, and rebirth – the black for dissolving of one’s old values, the red for the sacrifice of one’s preciously held illusions, and the white as the new light, the new knowing that comes from having experienced the first two.
Black is a promise that you will soon know something you did not know before.
Red is the color of sacrifice, of rage, of murder, of being tormented and killed. Yet red is also a color of vibrant life, dynamic emotion, arousal, eros, and desire. Red mother is the watcher or things coming through. Red is a promise that a rising up or a borning is soon to come.
White is the color of the new, the pure, the pristine. It is also the color of soul free of the body, or spirit unencumbered by the physical. It is also the color of mother’s milk and the dead.
The Doll and the Yaga are he wild mothers of all women; they provide the penetrating intuitive gifts from the personal level as well as the divine. This is the extreme paradox and teaching of the instinctual nature. It is a sort of Wolf Buddhism. What is one, is both. What is two, makes three. What lives shall die. What dies, shall live.
This is what Baba Yaga means when she says, “to know too much can make one old too soon.” There is a certain amount we all should know at each age and each stage of our lives. Some things must be accepted as being out of reach, even though they act upon us, and we are enriched by them. Some things are God’s business.
The legacy of the wild mothers is depends and intuitive powers emanate from both the human and soulful sides of the psyche.
The Eighth Task – Standing on All Fours
Given the fiery skull on a stick. The tasks of this part of the tale: Taking on immense power to see and affect others. Looking at one’s life situations in this new light.
She has negotiated through the dark while listening to her inner voice, and has been able to stand the face of the Hag, which is a side of her own nature, but also the powerful wild nature. Thus she is enabled to understand awesome and conscious power, her own and that of others. No more “But I’m afraid of him/her/it.” She has coalesced all her power and sees the world now and her life through this new light. let us see what happens when a woman behaves thusly.
The Ninth Task – Recasting the Shadow
Vasalisa journeys toward home with the fiery skull on the stick. Once back home, the skull watches the stepsisters and burns them to ashes.
These are the psychic tasks of this time: Using one’s acute vision to recognize and react to the negative shadow of one’s own psyche with hag-fire.
She carries the blaze knowing; she has those fierce senses. She can hear, smell, and taste things out, and she has her self.
It is true, it is easier to throw away the light and go back to sleep. It is true, it is hard to hold the skull-light out before us sometimes. For with it, we clearly see all sides of ourselves and others, both the disfigured and the divine and all conditions in between.
Can a negative aspect of psych be reduced to cinder by being watched and watched? Yes, indeed it can. Holding it in consistent consciousness can cause the thing to dehydrate.
Read page 106
The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt.
This is how it works: Imagine a smorgasbord laid out with whipped cream and salmon and bagels and roast beef, many things for table after table after table. Imagine that you survey it all and that you see certain things that appeal to you. You remark to yourself, “Oh I would really like to have one of those, and one of that, and some of this other thing”
Some women and men make all their life decisions in this way. We will have to quest for it a little bit – sometimes for a considerable time. But in the end we shall find it, and be glad we took soundings about our deeper longings.
A lover has to be chosen from soul-craving.
One of the most remarkable things about using intuition and the instinctive nature is that it causes a surefooted spontaneity to erupt. Spontaneity doesn’t mean being unwise. It is not a “pounce-and-blurt” attribute. Good boundaries are still important. Being real doesn’t mean being reckless, it means allowing La voz mitologica, The Mythological Voice, to speak. One does this by shutting off the ego for a while and letting that which wishes to speak, speak.
A nurturing person to you. All these human beings could be called little wild mothers. Usually everyone has at least one. If we are lucky, throughout a lifetime we will have several. You are usually grown or at least in your late adolescence by the time you meet them. The little wild mothers guide you, burst with pride over your accomplishments. They are critical of blockages and mistaken notions in and around your creative, sensual, spiritual, and intellectual life.
Hymn for the Wild Man: Manawee
There was a man who came to court two sisters who were twins. But the father said “You may not have them in marriage until or unless you can guess their names.”
Manawee took his little dog with him on a guessing visit. The dog returned back and forth three times met with distractions. First it was a bone, then a nutmeg pie, then a black figured stranger lept out of the path and said tell me those names what are the names of the young women so I may win them!
Dual nature of women
Understanding this dual nature in women sometimes causes men and even women themselves, to close their eyes and hail heaven for help. The paradox of women’s twin nature is that when one side is more cool in feeling tone, the other side is more hot. When one side is more lingering and rich relationally, the other may be somewhat glacial. Often one side is more happy and elastic, while the other is bittersweet and wistful. These “two women who are one” are separate but conjoined elements which combine in the psyche in thousands of ways.
The Power of Name
So men, as much as women, must name their dual natures. The most valued lover, the most valuable parent, the most valued friend, the most valuable wilderman is the one who wished to learn. Those who are not delighted by learning, those who cannot be enticed into new ideas or experiences, cannot develop past the road post they rest at now. If there is but one force which feeds the root of pain it is the refusal to learn beyond this moment. We know that the creature wild man is seeking his own earthy woman. Afeared or not, it is an act of deepest love to allow oneself to be stirred by the wildish soul of another. In a world here humans are so afraid of losing there are far too many protective walls against ring dissolved in the numinous it’s of another human soul. The mate for the wildish woman is the one who has a soulful tenacity and endurance, one who can send his own instinctual nature to peek under the tent of a woman’s soul life and comprehend what he sees and hears there. The good match is the man who keeps returning to try to understand, who does not let himself be deterred by the side shows on the road. So, the wildish task of the man is to find her true names, and not to misuse that knowledge to seize power per her, but rather to apprehend and comprehend the numinous substance from which she is made, to let it wash over him, amaze him, shock him, even spook him. And to stay with it. And to sing out her names over her. It will make her eyes shine. It will make his eyes shine.
Collective rage is well utilized as motivation to seek out or offer support, to conceive of ways to impel groups or individuals into dialogue, or to demand accountability, progress, improvements. These are proper processes in the patterns of women coming to consciousness. These are appropriate to their caring about what is essential and important to them. It is part of the healthy instinctual psyche to have deep reactions to disrespect, threat, injury. Devout reaction is natural and expected part of learning about collective worlds of soul and psyche.
Although a deep purging discharges most of the archaic hurt and rage, the residue can never completely be swept clear. But it should leave a very light ash, not a hungry fire. SO the clearing of residual rage must become a periodic hygenic ritual, one that releases us, for to carry old rage beyond the point of its usefulness is to carry a constant, if unconscious anxiety.
Many people have trouble with forgiveness because they have been taught that it is a singular act to be completed in one sitting. That is not so. Forgiveness has many layers, many seasons. In our culture there is a notion that forgiveness is a 100 percent proposition. All or nothing. It is also taught that forgiveness means to overlook, to act as though a thing has no occurred. This is not true either.
A woman who can work up a good 95 percent forgiveness of someone or something tragic and damaging almost qualifies for beatification, if not sainthood. The important part of forgiveness is to begin and continue. You have the rest of your life to work at the lesser percentage. Truly, if we could understand all, all could be forgiven. But for most people it takes a long time in the alchemical bath to come to this. It is all right. We have the healer, so we have the patience to see it through.
Four Stages of Forgiveness
- to forego-to leave it alone
- to forebear- to abstain from punishing
- to forget – to aver from memory, to refuse to dwell
- to forgive – to abandon the debt
To fully forgive, you are not waiting for anything. You are not wanting anything. There is no lariat snare around your ankle stretching from way back there to here. You are free to go. It may not have turned out to be a happily ever after, but most certainly there is now a fresh Once upon a time waiting for you from this day forward.
It is the old people who are the bones of the entire healing and spiritual structures everywhere on the face of the earth. Look to your people, your life. It is not by accident that this advice is the same among great healers and great writers as well. Look to the real that you yourself live. the kinds of tales found there can never come from books. They come from eyewitness accounts.
The authentic mining of stories from one’s own life and the lives of one’s own people, and the modern world as it relates to one’s own life as well, means that there will be discomfort and trials. You know you are on the right path if you have experienced these: the scraped knuckles, the sleeping on cold ground – not once, but over and over again – the groping in the dark, the walking in circles in the night, the bone-chilling revelations, and the hair raising adventures on the way- these are worth everything. There must be a little, and in many cases, a good deal of blood spilled on every story, on every aspect of your own life, if it is to carry the numen, if a person is to carry a true medicine.