Tomorrow at GWL we welcome musician and storyteller Lesley O’Brien for an incredible, unique Story Café special. Inspired by my research of Lesely and her love of travel, culture and exploration (and being ever eager to learn more about women of the world and different cultures myself), I read up on some of her personal favourite stories from around the world and there was one in particular I‘ve just fallen in love with.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ La Loba: Wild Woman, Luminous Wolf is an enchantingly gorgeous, mythical tale set in the barren wilderness of Mexico’s northern deserts, where there lives a mysterious woman of many names and identities who devotes her life to the collection of precious and endangered things, such as the bones of once sacred animals. One day, she decides to attempt to resurrect the unrestrained spirit of life itself from the depths of the Underworld. The story is a continuation of Estes‘ long held fascination with the wild woman archetype and the raw, natural power of female intuition and instinct.
La Loba, known to local superstitions as Soul Stealer, is a fascinating, powerful character of unreserved knowing and passion. There are myths within myths surrounding her, her identity and overall purpose as a woman; some purporting that she entangles passed souls with intricately, magically woven dream catches and restrains them within the flickering flames of her fire, itself the centre of a dark cave filled with her timeless collection of bones; old and new, snake, deer and, most treasured of all, wolf.
Her supposed preoccupation with the icon of the wolf runs parallel with the wolf’s long held connotations with nature, the wild and, through such channels, womanhood and life itself. The wolf is the often the symbol of wild nature incarnate, carrying her deepest secrets, stories, dreams, words and songs. In literature and tradition world over since the dawn of time, nature and life have been associated with womanhood; mother nature carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She is the essence of the female soul, the key to new life and rebirth.
And so, La Loba presides nearly omniscient amongst the mountains, sand, dried up river beds and craggy outlooks of the barren Mexican desert searching for the bones of wolves. To La Loba, animal and wilderness are both allies and teachers and through her connection to nature and subsequent deeper understanding of life and everything beyond, she seems to be able to see not just through her own two eyes, but through the eyes of a thousand others. When she has assembled enough bones to compile an entire skeleton and has lain them before her in perfect reconstruction, she sits by her fire and thinks about what song she will sing. When she has, and the ritual, guttural song fills every cavity of the cave, the bones of the wolf begin to fuse and flesh and the muscle becomes covered in thick fur. Slowly but surely, La Loba sings life back into the dead, and the wolf is reborn. With a curl of its tail and eyelid, the wolf leaps up as the very ground of the desert shakes beneath the cave, as though La Loba’s voice is the voice of life and nature itself, and the wolf sprints away across the canyon.
As it runs through a shimmering river, moonlight dancing across its new fur, and the deep song of the cave fades away, fading backdrop of deep song, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing, jubilant woman who runs free and unconstrained through the desert; her desert.
Estes finishes the story by telling us that in these regions of Mexico, even today, it is said that if you happen to find yourself lost wandering the desert around sunset, you are actually lucky, for La Loba may take pity on you and show you something priceless, something spiritual — something of the Soul.
The language is sumptuous, the woman is wild and wonderful and powerfully raw, and Mexico’s old traditions and rich superstitions are a riveting, beguiling backdrop that gives the country life as a character of its own.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a Jungian psychoanalyst and ‘cantadora‘ – a keeper of the old stories. She was raised in the now near extinct oral and ethnic tradition of the Magyar and Mexican Mestiza heritages. Her incredible works focus on explorations into the nature of the wild woman archetype, and her aim is to help those captivated by her rich stories to discover and reclaim their passion, creativity, and power, just like La Loba herself.
Definitely one of my favourites of the year.