“Everyone who can read should read this book.” – Maya Angelou
“Recommended for men who dare to run with women who run with wolves.” – Sam Keen
Summer, 2019. It was an average Saturday in June. I remember feeling nostalgic that day. For what? I’m still not sure, but, looking back, it was the first summer I finally felt like I had changed. In the span of a year, I had gone to university in a different country, didn’t know where home was anymore, fell in love for the first time, and to top it off, subsequently had a breakup for the first time. A lot can happen in twelve months. And, although these were all life-changing events, and I had felt like I grew, there was something missing. More so today than ever before, with technology on the fast track and more stimuli being thrown into our faces every day, sometimes we forget to give ourselves thirty seconds to just… think. Think about who we are, what we want, what we believe in, and the self we want to gradually grow and mature into. Instead of living, we may find ourselves sometimes succumbing to merely existing on this ambiguous, invisible plane we call life. I didn’t know it at the time, but those twelve months of transformation and chaos were much needed. It felt as if I was on my way to self-alignment, but it would take me a little while to get there. I was on track to re-discovering myself, but I needed a little push. That push came as I was in my local shopping mall on that June day, minding my own business, then BOOM there it was. Jutting out of a bookshelf in the back of the store was a tiny, roughed-up black book that looked like nobody had picked it up in a good twenty years. I looked at the title. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.
“Some people will not like it if you take a sniff at everything to see what it is. And for heaven’s sakes, no lying on your back with your feet up in the air. Bad girl. Bad wolf. Bad dog. Right? Wrong. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself” (Pinkola 35)
I cannot stress enough how enlightening and life-changing this book is. It answered many of the questions I was asking when I was searching for how to gain spiritual strength, confidence, and most importantly at the time, better intuition. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a cantadora (a Latina keeper of stories), psychoanalyst, scholar and poet explores the buried qualities of the female psyche that awaken the “Wild Woman”, signalling a return to the instinctive feminine psyche, the fundamental powerhouse of intuition at risk to be lost with the passage of time and societal modernization. She effectively lays out an instruction manual of sorts as to how to access this buried, endangered Wild Woman through traditional storytelling. By using traditional myths and fairytales passed through her family from one generation to the next, a voice is given to this wild nature. The book itself is structurally unique. Pinkola focuses on a central life theme, such as Finding One’s Pack, Joyous Body, The Mate, Battle Scars, and more, within which are stories and themes to help contextualize lessons within the form of fairytales and myths. At the end of each story, Pinkola summarizes the relevance of the story in relation to difficult situations people may find themselves in at one point or another in their lives.
“A woman’s psyche may have found its way to the desert out of resonance, or because of past cruelties or because she was not allowed a larger life above ground. So often a woman feels then that she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woman who will go 501 miles, there is something more. A small brave house. An old one. She has been waiting for you” (Pinkola 36)
I owe it to this book for grounding me, aligning me, and motivating me to become the best version of me I can become. It sounds cliché, I know, but it is true. Reading this book feels like talking to a friend who knows the secrets to life, and is ready to give advice the moment you open to the first page. My spiritual confusion and lack of direction were turned into clarity, focus, and hope, thanks mostly to this book.
However – I would like to argue one point. This book was initially published in 1992. As one can imagine, cultural understandings of gender and sexuality were not nearly as accepting and fluid as they are in 2020. Thus, I would make the point that anyone and anything can run with the wolves, not just women. My takeaways from this book were numerous, namely, how to tune in to one’s instinctual self and awaken the wild creature within us as a lifelong friend and sidekick that will help guide us through adversity, no matter one’s sexuality, age or gender. And so, if you find yourself where I was a year and a half ago and need some help re-awakening your wild nature, please, please, please, read this book. You can thank me later.