Mini-Review: Women Who Run with the Wolves
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Another book I often suggest to clients, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. offers the wisdom of the “old stories” for a vast range of circumstances and life stages. This book provides opportunities for initiation through story at important life points, as modern Western society often lacks intentional ways for understanding seasons and milestones of life and in many ways even fights them.
Dr. Estés, a Jungian psychoanalyst, poet, and cantadora, or keeper of the old stories, as she describes herself, maps a path to restoring women’s vitality by reconnecting with the natural instinctive psyche. Parallels are drawn between the destruction of the planet’s wilderness and the way the feminine instinctive nature has been “looted, driven back, and overbuilt.”
The stories, collected folktales from cultures around the world, are skillfully curated and retold by Estés for modern women she describes as living in a blur of activity, pressured to be all things to all people. Drawing on her study of wildlife biology, and particularly wolves, Estés provides a guide to unearthing what is knowable about the instinctual nature, as part of and in connection with the wild natural world, not separate from it.
The book’s pharmacopoeia of stories brings to bear powerful archetypes that stay in memory to help remedy a gamut of predicaments. There are stories for navigating grief and rage; for recognizing, nurturing, and paying attention to intuition; and for becoming canny to threats to one’s safety and wellbeing (maturing, awakening, and walking in power, rather than remaining a “blueberry-eyed sweet muffin” as Estés so memorably puts it in the tale of Vasalisa).
Estés describes drawing from her Mexican-Spanish and Hungarian ethnic traditions to use los cuentos (the stories) “for assisting the life of the soul” because las historias son medicina – the stories are medicine. These are stories for learning and healing, wisdom for many stages in life and as an antidote to modern disconnection from nature’s cycles.