There are some books you read and enjoy. Then, you pass them along to a friend or return to the library. Sometimes they sit on a shelf gathering dust for longer than you’d like to admit.
But there are other books that you utterly consume. Books that become you. Books that end up dog-eared, highlighted, and annotated into more than the sum of their parts: they become a friend and a mentor and a guide. This is one of those books.
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. is a masterpiece for women of all ages. It includes rich stories to nourish our girls, profound knowledge to share with our sisters, and a deep wisdom that feels like it’s coming directly from the compelling energy of a collective of elder crones.
This book challenged me. It made me slow down and indulge in it bit by bit. For 15 months, I tore off tiny pieces, chewed on them, and then came back for more – all the while thinking “This is what I needed to know. This is what my daughters need to be told. This is why we’re sick and suffering and screwed up.” So much of what was said in this book vibrated in my bones.
There’s no way I can condense all of the layers of piercing information from this novel into a book review. It’s too powerful. It’s too meaty. It’s too much to explain. However, here are some of my most savored lessons from studying this book for 15 months. Information that will now be honored and passed down my maternal line for generations to come.
- We are born with instincts not different from wild animals. These are our “gut feelings” and “instinctual tingles” that people are taught to shrug off – particularly when they go against what is seen to be civilized, polite, or “good.” But these instincts are there to protect us. They are part of our survival. So when we shame them out of our children (and I’m talking specifically about our young girls) by insisting that politeness comes before safety, we leave them naive and vulnerable to attack without the wherewithal to defend themselves.
- The myth and archetype of the “Wild Woman” is found everywhere. It crosses borders, language, and time. Whether she is called “La Loba” or “Humana del Niebla” or “Dakini,” we as a human species have collectively felt the call and connection to this wise woman power for many years. And we all have the ability to channel her.
- Women need to connect to their bodies and their “wolf wisdom” and start to behave in appropriate ways. Wolves don’t come across sick creatures and think of ways they can “save” and “change” them. They stay away. And when it’s time, they let death come to the dying. Wolves listen to and trust their senses. They don’t worry about how they’ll be perceived. Wolves are loyal and loving. They provide nourishment and important experiences for their offspring. They believe in the power and perseverance of the pack. Wolves are unafraid in any way to snarl and snap when it’s necessary. And it goes without saying that there are always going to be times when it’s necessary.
- The author talks about “righteous rage” and how it can embolden us to act in a safe and appropriate manner. She confirms that it is absolutely healthy and natural to be angry at wrongdoing. Anger is a normal and highly necessary emotion that guides and protects us. It can help us to get over barriers and move past lingering fear. Why should we be encouraging our daughters to be welcoming and connected to their anger? Because the world that we live in will eat girls alive who don’t know how to feel it and use it in a positive way.
- And so, so much more…
This book is a beast in the best possible way. Yes, it is intensely wordy. Yes, it takes real commitment to work through all of its content and I’d never label it “an easy read.” However, I do believe that we owe it to ourselves as women and those who raise them and love them to realign ourselves with the wisdom found in it. I’m in absolute awe of the patience and persistence it must have taken Dr. Pinkola Estés to bring this book into creation and I’m deeply grateful for her work. Now, it’s my turn to do my work. And I accept the challenge willingly. Now I pray and hold the intention that women in every stage and every way will receive these lesson into their bodies and their hearts and pull together to reeducate ourselves via the Wild Woman, redefining our beliefs and limits as women who run with the wolves.