I’m reading a new book: Women Who Run With The Wolves (see my Book Club page for more info) where author and Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés delves into myth, story, dream, and the omnipresence of the wise, Wild Woman archetype that is innate in all women. The book was given to me by a friend from my last job and after ravaging the insights of Campbell, Jung, McKenna, and Postman and eating up the wonderful fiction of Raymond Carver, J.D. Salinger, and George Orwell let’s just say it’s taken me awhile to get to it.
I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. I was afraid I wouldn’t as the Introduction was verbose and a slightly exhausting read but now that I’m getting to the good stuff, my understanding is starting to fall into place. I’m only on the third chapter, but I feel as though I’m being handed a sort of guide for myself as a woman and therefore a guide to life.
When reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, I felt the ever persistent question popping up in my head: “Does all this also apply to women?” and “What of the Heroine?”. I’m still figuring it out. I like to think The Hero’s Journey applies to women as well, perhaps with a few tweaks and modifications. (For example: perhaps there is a Mother Quest instead of a Father Quest). Not to say Women Who Run With The Wolves is a female reflection of The Hero, but let’s just say it brings more personal illumination to the femininity that resides within and is more informative on how to use that energy through understanding certain stories and myths. The pattern in Ms. Estés’ book appears to be sharing a well-known myth/story and then breaking down its symbolism and characters and how it relates to a woman’s life. She also shares Jung’s strong belief that the unconscious is a separate entity of our psyche that communicates with us the only way it knows how – through dream.
In the beginning of the book, Estés parallels the lives, attitudes, and instincts of women and wolves. Both are intuitive, nurturing, intelligent by nature. She tells a story of La Loba – The Wolf Woman, who goes around searching for wolf bones in the desert. She gathers these bones, puts the skeleton together near her campfire, raises her hands and sings a song so that the body, hair, and flesh of the wolf grow back and consequently becomes alive again.
The word “wild” Estés says, has been given such a negative connotation over time. But “wild” does not indicate something as bad, evil, or dangerous. It should not instill fear, but rather remind us of nature untouched and preserved, without interference; Life, body, and mind in their original states. So this Wild Woman archetype should not be feared or thought of as some creature or other to be expunged from the psyche but rather embraced and nurtured so that women may reach their fullest potentials and realizations.
This brings me to my most recent dream –
Last night I dreamt I was in an upstairs area, maneuvering through different towers. But they were all connected somehow. Maybe by bridges or something. There were stairs inside the towers but not many. I only used them to go between the different levels of the individual tower I was in. But going from tower to tower, I have no recollection of how I got there. All I know is that I was.
These towers were packed with people. It was actually slightly difficult to navigate. It was understood that these towers were used for academia and the tower I remember being in had an event I wanted to attend. I eventually got to the area (which was already full with people) and hung around for awhile. But once the speaker started speaking, I realized I didn’t want to be there anymore. So I left. Down the stairs and outside. But outside was different.
I was surrounded by tall grasses and trees, but mostly grasses. There was a slight breeze that I saw in the sway of the stalks. I remember trying to navigate my way home and being confused by each turn I took. I then realized there were two creatures walking about, but I couldn’t see what they were as they were mostly blocked out by the grass. Then I looked straight ahead and saw I was confronted by a Lioness.
When dreaming, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. It was after I woke and remembered the dream that I realized what it most strongly looked like. I never fully encountered the other creature but I remember it being an orange or dark reddish color, almost the color of a fox but a bigger beast. Maybe a tiger without stripes.
The Lioness neared close and bared her teeth. I suddenly became paralyzed with fear. I wanted to run but knew I shouldn’t because I didn’t want to risk her running after me, scaring her with my sudden movements. I was too rooted to the spot anyway. It was then I realized I had to show her I was peaceful and would not harm her. I had to disassociate myself from her viewing me as a potential threat.
I closed my eyes and slowly stretched out my arms to show her I had no weapons, no claws sharpened, no teeth bared and tried my best to slowly breathe. I remember my breaths being shaky as I tried to calm them. I opened my eyes to see she had visibly relaxed. After that, I can’t remember anymore.
I gave this dream a lot of thought this morning and this is my interpretation (which I encourage anyone to comment on if they have a suggestion or idea!):
The towers represent my conscious world in the realm of school/college – that’s what it used to be, anyway. It’s becoming a bit of a common motif in my dreams as it’s something I have not completely resolved in my mind. (I’m getting there! I just haven’t fully dropped it yet) The academic world is the only world I’ve known; When you can say your place in the world is “student”, it’s a big worry off your back and you can live your life a little easier. But when you are unsure of your place in the world, anxiety can be a constant companion as it often has been for me. But these towers are full now; There is no room for me and even when I maneuver and squeeze my way in, I eventually become disinterested. I don’t belong there anymore. [*]
When I descend the tower (descending is a common Jungian motif for descending into the unconscious) outside it is wilderness – unconquered terrain. And I am scared and unsure. This represents my view of the outside world; I feel as though I know absolutely nothing about it. And the encounter with the Lioness is my encounter with my Wild Woman, my feminine wildness. The Lioness is not just a symbol, but she is a part of me. Perhaps she bares her teeth because she is scolding me for being afraid, like a mother wolf scolds her cub for getting into mischief when teaching him how to hunt; Maybe she’s telling me to toughen up. Maybe this is terrain in my psyche I have not entered before and she does not know if I’m an intruder. Friend or foe? I think my behavior towards her is an accurate depiction of how I am trying to make sense of all this; I do not run, knowing it may hurt more than harm. I am slowly opening my mind and my arms to her, despite my intimidation. I am letting her in and I think my unconscious just wanted to confirm and validate that in the only way it knows how – through dream.
It wasn’t until I was writing and recollecting my dream that I realized I have tapped into another archetype/motif – The Ivory Tower
. According to Wikipedia, “From the 19th century…[the Ivory Tower] has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. As such, it usually carries pejorative connotations of a willful disconnect from the everyday world; esoteric, over-specialized, or even useless research; and academic elitism, if not outright condescension. In American English usage it is also used as shorthand for academia or the university, particularly departments of the humanities”
. I am absolutely floored at my findings. I never knew this is what an “ivory tower” meant. The fact that my unconscious already knew the towers were for academic purposes is astounding and to be honest, I am very much in shock. I’m not sure if this finding changes my original interpretation of how I view the towers or how the towers are connected to me…As of right now I think not other that perhaps the towers is how I view academia now; Overpacked, overcrowded, nothing of true interest. Perhaps I now hold a “pejorative” view and that is why I no longer claim allegiance to it. But either way, HOW COOL IS THAT?!