Sometimes I am asked to tell what I do in my consulting room to help women return to their wildish natures.
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I place substantial emphasis on clinical and developmental psychology, and I use the simplest and most accessible ingredient for healing—stories. We elicit the wildish Self through specific questions, and through examining tales, legends, and mythos. Most times. These stories comprise a woman's soul drama.
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It is like a play with stage instructions, characterization, and props. I seek to empower my clients by teaching them the age-old crafts of the hands It is also a map for those who follow after us. As you might imagine, work with each person is customized in the extreme, for it is true that people are made one to a kind.
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The craft of questions, the craft of stories, tiie craft of the hands—all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase. I hope you will see that these are tangible ways to soften old scar tissue, balm old wounds, and envision anew, thereby restoring the old skills that make the soul visible in down-to- earth ways. The tales I bring here to elucidate the instinctual nature of women are in some cases, original stories, and in other cases, are distinct literary renderings that I have written based on those peculiar ones given into my keeping by my tias y tios, abuelitas y abuelos, omahs and opahs, the old ones of my families—those whose oral traditions have been unbroken for as far back as we can remember.
A few are written documents of my own firsthand encounters, some from long time passing, and all from the heart They are presented in all faithful detail and archetypal integrity. It is with the permission and blessing of three living generations of familial healer-tellers who understand the subtleties 4 and requirements of story as healing phenomena that I cany these forward. Additionally, here are some of the questions I pose to my analy sands and others to whom I offer counsel in order for them to remember themselves.
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I also detail for you some of the craft—the experiential and artful play that assists women in retaining the numen of their work in conscious memory. All these help to bring about convergence with the precious wildish Self. Stories are medicine. I have been taken with stories since I heard my first. They have such power, they do not require that we do, be, act anything—we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories. Stories engender the excitement, sadness, questions, longings, and understandings that spontaneously bring the archetype, in this case Wild Woman, back to the surface.
Stories are embedded with instructions which guide us about the complexities of life.
Stories enable us to understand the need for and the ways to raise a submerged archetype. The stories on the following pages are the ones, out of hundreds that I've worked with and pored over for decades, and that I believe most clearly express the bounty of the Wild Woman archetype. Sometimes various cultural overlays disarray the bones of stories. Over the course of time, old pagan symbols were overlaid with Christian ones, so that an old healer in a tale became an evil witch, a spirit became an angel, an initiation veil or caul became a handkerchief, or a child named Beautiful the customary name for a child born during Solstice festival was renamed Schmerzenreich , Sorrowful.
Sexual elements were omitted. Helping creatures and animals were often changed into demons and boogeys. This is how many women's teaching tales about sex, love, money, marriage, birthing, death, and transformation were lost It is how fairy tales and myths that explicate ancient women's mysteries have been covered over too. Most old collections of fairy tales and mythos existent today have been scoured clean of the scatological, the sexual, the perverse as in warnings against , the pre-Christian, the feminine, the Goddesses, the initiatory, the medicines for various psychological malaises, and the directions for spiritual raptures.
But they are not lost forever.
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I was given as a child many of what I know to be unvarnished and uncorrupted themes of the stories of eld, many of which I bring to this work. But even story fragments, as they exist today, can foreshadow the shape of the entire story. When such would be effective, I use various forms of exegesis, comparing leitmotifs, taking anthropological and historical inferences into account, and forms both new and old. This method, in part, reconstructs from ancient archetypal patterning learned through my years of training in analytical and archetypal psychology, which preserve and study all the motifs and plots in fairy tales, legends, and mythos in order to apprehend the instinctual lives of humans.
I gain an assist from templates that lie in the imaginal worlds, the collective images of the unconscious, and those drawn up through dreams and non-ordinary states of consciousness. A final polish might be gained by comparing the story matrices with archeological evidence from the ancient cultures themselves, such as ritual pottery, masks, and figurines. Simply put, in fairytale locution, I spend much time raking the ashes with my nose. I have been studying archetypal patterns for some twenty-five years, and myths, fairy tales, and folklore from my familial cultures for twice as long.
I have learnt a vast body of knowledge about the bones of stories, and know when and where the bones are missing in a story. Through the centuries, various conquests of nations by other nations, and both peaceful and forced religious conversions, have covered over or altered the original core of the old stories. But there is good news. For all the structural tumble-down in existing versions of tales, there is a strong pattern that still shines forth. It is not quite so. They have not been destroyed. All one might need, all that we might ever need, is still whispering from the bones of story. Collecting the essence of stories is a constant paleontologic endeavor.
The more story bones, the more likely the integral structure can be found. The more whole the stories, the more subtle twists and turns of the psyche are presented to us and the better opportunity we have to apprehend and evoke our soulwork. When we work the soul, she, the Wild Woman, creates more of herself. As a child, I was lucky to be surrounded by people from many of the old European countries and Mexico.
They, and many others—Native Americans, people from Appalachia, Asian immigrants, and many African-American families from the South—came to farm, to pick, to work in the ash pits and steel mills, the breweries, and in domestic jobs. Most were not educated in the academic sense, yet they were intensely wise.
They were the bearers of a valuable and almost pure oral tradition. Many of my family and neighboring people who surrounded me had survived forced labor camps, displaced person camps, deportation camps, and concentration camps where the storytellers among them had lived a nightmare version of Scheherazade. Many had had their family lands taken, had lived in immigration jails, had been repatriated against their wills. From these rustic storytellers I first learned the tales people tell when life may turn to death and death may turn to life at any moment.
Because their transmissions to me were so filled with suffering and with hope, when I later grew old enough to read fairy stories printed in books, the latter seemed curiously starched and ironed flat in comparison. As a young adult I migrated west toward the Continental Divide. And I too, to them. There are many ways to approach stories. The professional folklorist, the Jungian, Freudian, or other sort of analyst, the ethnologist, anthropologist, theologian, archeologist, each has a different method, both in collecting tales and the use to which they are put.
Intellectually the way I developed my work with stories was through my training in analytical and archetypal psychology. For more than half a decade during my psychoanalytic education I studied amplification of leitmotifs, archetypal symbology, world mythology, ancient and popular iconology, ethnology, world religions, and interpretation. Viscerally, however, I come to stories as a cantadora , keeper of the old stories. I come from a long line of tellers: mesemondok , old Hungarian women who might as easily tell while sitting on wooden chairs with their plastic pocketbooks on their laps, their knees apart, their skirts touching the ground, or while wringing the neck of a chicken Both clans storytell in the plain voice of women who have lived blood and babies, bread and bones.
For us, story is a medicine which strengthens and arights the individual and the community. Those who have taken on the responsibilities of this craft, and are committed to the numen behind the craft, are direct descendants of an immense and ancient community of holy people, troubadours, bards, griots, cantadoras, cantors, traveling poets, bums, hags, and crazy people.
I once dreamt I was telling stories and felt someone patting my foot in encouragement. I looked down and saw that I was standing on the shoulders of an old woman who was steadying my ankles and smiling up at me. I believed the old dream-woman about the way it was supposed to be. The nurture for telling stories comes from the might and endowments of my people who have gone before me. In my experience, the telling moment of the story draws its power from a towering column of humanity joined one to the other across time and space, elaborately dressed in the rags and robes or nakedness of their time, and filled to the bursting with life still being lived.
If there is a single source of story and the numen of story, this long chain of humans is it. Story is far older than the art and science of psychology, and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes. A trance-teller learns to be psychically double-jointed through the meditative practice of story, that is, training oneself to undo certain psychic gates and ego apertures in order to let the voice speak, the voice that is older than the stones.
When this is done, the story may take any trail, be turned upside down, be filled with porridge and dumped out for a poor person's feast, be filled with gold for the taking, or chase the listener into the next world. The teller never knows how it will all come out, and that is at least half of the moist magic of story.
This is a hook of tellings about the ways of the Wild Woman archetype. To try to diagram her, to draw boxes around her psychic life, would be contrary to her spirit To know her is an ongoing process, a lifelong process, and that is why this work is an ongoing work, a lifelong work. So here are some stories to apply to yourself as soul vitamins, some observations, some map fragments, some little pieces of pine pitch for fastening feathers.
Stories set the inner life into motion, and this is particularly important where the inner life is frightened, wedged, or cornered. Story greases the hoists and pulleys, it causes adrenaline to surge, shows us the way out, down, or up, and for our trouble, cuts for us fine wide doors in previously blank walls, openings that lead to the dreamland, that lead to love and learning, that lead us back to our own real lives as knowing wildish women.
All these stories present the knife of insight, the flame of the passionate life, the breath to speak what one knows, the courage to stand what one sees without looking away, the fragrance of the wild soul. They are for you to read and contemplate in order to assist you toward your own natural-won freedom, your caring for self, animals, earth, children, sisters, lovers, and men. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door.
If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door. The material in this book was chosen to embolden you. The work is offered as a fortification for those on their way, including those who toil in difficult inner landscapes, as well as those who toil in and for the world.