Power of Stories
‘Earth People’ Volume 2 Number 5)
Playing: 'Love Her Madly'
By: The Doors
are many types of stories, Dreamtime stories, Fairy stories,
Horror stories, and Mythological stories just to name a few.
However when one looks at all these stories one begins to
realise that all of them are trying to do the same thing, they
are trying to express the workings of the human unconscious
psyche, who’s language is symbolism and metaphors.
first storytellers were actually the shamans, the first humans
who through visions or dreams had an understanding of the basic
processes of the psyche. As with all the deep understandings of
life, and these truths about the stages that the psyche goes
through during a lifetime, they are only expressed in symbolic
form. Once one begins to discover the keys to these symbols one
understands more about the unconscious workings of the human
psyche, and thus understands life. As a result of this
understanding one finds that life takes on new and vibrant
experiences, and both the good or uplifting experiences and the
painful depressive ones become ecstatic.
recently came across a book that was such a best seller that I
found three people, with whom I have contact, who own a copy of
the book. It was obviously a best seller because it was dubbed
as a book to empower women, and this it can do. But although it
is talking to women about the female psyche, I found it
described the psyche of all humans. As I read through ‘Women
Who Run With The Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I found it
described in great detail some of the psychic transformations I
had been through myself. Therefore the ‘Wild Woman’
archetype that she speaks about is not only contained in female’s
psyches, but also in males’. It is the most basic of psychic
phenomenon. It is our connection to Mother Earth, who can teach
us about the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
realised that there are only three ways to come to an
understanding of these matters. The first, and traditional way,
is when the story itself is told with the depth and conviction
of the ancient and traditional storytellers. In this case the
story speaks directly to the soul, which understands fully.
This, in my opinion, is the best way, however there are two
problems here. Firstly, today the stories have been so washed
down, changed and rearranged that only the bones of the stories
are left, and in some cases the bones have almost gone too. And
secondly, the conviction of the telling has been reduced to
entertainment to compete with television, or so seriously told
that “You just have to believe”. As some of you may realise
I do not believe in belief, I believe in experience. As Joseph
Campbell has said:
say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t
think that’s what we are really seeking. I think what we are
seeking is an experience of being alive, so that life’s
experiences on the physical plain will have resonances within
our innermost being and reality, so that we feel the rapture of
second way is very long-winded and complex, and relies on the
gifted people like Clarissa, Joseph Campbell, and the one from
whom both have learnt much, Carl Jung, to discuss, in detail,
the symbolism of the stories. This way speaks to the conscious
mind, and as I have noticed with people who have read Clarissa’s
book, they don’t always fully appreciate the connotations to
life’s experiences. Or maybe they see it as another
interesting book. If they truly understood the connotations,
they would not be seeking help from people like myself; they
would be out helping others learn how to live life.
brings me to the third way of understanding life; and it is through
the experiences of life, which is very painful at times. This
way is through trial and error, or trials and revelations.
the ultimate way of understanding, which is the way that I
finally understood, is through all the different ways. However
as my own experience shows, my society was not giving me any of
the first two ways. And it was only when my trials had got so
painful that I wanted out, that I started searching, as so many
are today, for the answers to life’s questions.
I would like to try and give you a brief account of a story that
I found in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s book ‘Women Who Run With
The Wolves’. Clarissa gives a very in-depth break down of the
symbology, but I will try to give you the main points. The story
is a story about love, the union of male and female, not only of
an actual male with an actual female, but also the inner male
and female within all of us. It is a story about facing, the
Life/Death/Life nature of love, the life giving, life taking
away, and life renewing power of Mother Earth. This story is
from the old Inuit of the circumpolar region, and it is called:
fisherman had accidentally strayed into a bay that all others
knew was haunted. His hook drifted down through the water, and
caught, of all places, in the bones of Skeleton Woman’s rib
cage. The fisherman thought, “Oh, now I’ve really got a big
one!” In his mind he was thinking of how many people this
great fish would feed, how long it would last, how long he might
be free from the chore of hunting. And as he struggled with the
great weight on the end of his hook, the sea was stirred to
thrashing froth, and his kayak bucked and shook, for she who was
beneath struggled to disentangle herself. And the more she
struggled, the more she got tangled in the line.
hunter turned to collect his net, so he did not see her bald
head rise above the waves, he did not see the little coral
creatures glinting in the orbs of her skull, he did not see the
crustaceans on her old ivory teeth. When he turned back with his
net, her entire body, such as it was, had come to the surface
and was hanging from the tip of his kayak by her long front
cried the man, and his heart fell into his knees, his eyes hide
in terror on the back of his head. “Agh!” he screamed, and
knocked her off the prow with his oar and began paddling like a
demon toward the shore. And not realising she was tangled in his
line, he was frightened all the more for she appeared to stand
on her toes while chasing him all the way to shore. No matter
which way he zigged his kayak, she stayed right behind, and her
arms flailed out as though to snatch him down into the depths.
he wailed as he ran aground. In one leap he was out of his
kayak, clutching his fishing stick and running, and the coral–white
corpse of Skeleton Woman, still snagged in the fishing line,
bumpety-bumped behind right after him. Over the rocks he ran,
and she followed. Over the frozen tundra he ran and she kept
the man reached his snow-house and dived right into the tunnel
and on hands and knees scrambled his way to the interior.
Panting and sobbing he lay there in the dark, his heart a drum,
a mighty drum. Safe at last, oh so safe, thank the Gods, Raven,
yes, thank Raven, yes, and all-bountiful Sedna, safe…at…last.
when he lit his whale oil lamp, there she – it – lay in a
tumble upon his snow floor, one heel over her shoulder, one knee
inside her rib cage, one foot over her elbow. He could not say
later what it was; perhaps the firelight softened her features,
or the fact that he was a lonely man. But a feeling of some
kindness came into his breathing, and slowly he reached out his
grimy hands and, using words softly like mother to child began
to untangle her from the fishing line.
na, na, na.” First he untangled the toes, then the ankles. “Oh,
na, na, na.” On and on he worked into the night, until
dressing her in furs to keep her warm, Skeleton Woman’s bones
were all in the order a human’s should be.
became drowsy, slid under his sleeping skins, and soon was
dreaming. And sometimes as humans sleep, you know, a tear
escapes from the dreamer’s eye; we never know what sort of
dream causes this, but we know it is either a dream of sadness
or longing. And this is what happened to the man.
Skeleton Woman saw the tear glisten in the firelight, and she
suddenly became soooo thirsty. She tinkled and clanked and
crawled over to the sleeping man and put her mouth to his tear.
The single tear was like a river and she drank and drank until
her many-years-long thirst was slaked.
lying beside him, she reached inside the sleeping man and took
out his heart, the mighty drum. She sat up and banged on both
sides of it: Bom, Bomm! Bom, Bomm!
drummed, she began to sing out “Flesh, flesh, flesh!” And
the more she sang, the more her body filled out with flesh. She
sang for hair and good eyes and nice fat hands. She sang the
divide between her legs, and breasts long enough to wrap for
warmth, and all the things a woman needs.
when she was all done, she also sang the sleeping man’s
clothes off and crept into his bed with him, skin against skin.
She returned the great drum, his heart, to his body, and that is
how they awoke, wrapped one around the other, tangled in another
way now, a good and lasting way.
people who cannot remember how she came to her first ill fortune
say that she and the fisherman went away and were consistently
well fed by the creatures she had known in her life under water.
The people say that it is true and that is all they know.
begins by saying:
“Inability to face and
untangle the Skeleton Woman is what causes many love
relationships to fail. To love, one must not only be strong, but
wise. Strength comes from the spirit. Wisdom comes from Skeleton
we see in the tale, if one wishes to be fed for life, one must
face and develop a relationship with the Life/Death/Life nature.
When we have that, we are no longer bumbling along fishing for
fantasies, but are made wise about the necessary deaths and
startling births that create true relationship…”
is basically seven parts to this story. The first is The
Accidental Finding of Treasure, where our Life/Death/Life nature
is accidentally pulled up from the unconscious while we are
looking for some excitement. Or discovering another person as a
spiritual treasure, even though one may not realise what one has
next stage is The Chase and the Hiding, which happens when we
see what we really have. This is the scary stage when we run as
fast and as far as we can, but this nature is caught up in our
lives. Our ego is never ready for this moment, but our soul is.
We must bring her home. In outer relationships Clarissa says:
is a time when thoughts are all jumbled together, when one makes
a desperate dive for shelter, and the heart beats, not from
cherishing and being cherished as much as from abject terror. To
be trapped by Lady Death! Ai! The horror of meeting the
Life/Death/Life force, face-to-face! Double Ai!"
the third stage we must have the courage, patients and
persistence to Untangle Skeleton Woman, and find out all about
this nature that is within us all, and that is within the other.
When we care for the not so beautiful, we are rewarded. She is
the inner voice (soul), not the ego (mind). This is when we
learn and should ask ourselves; “What should I let die today?
And what should live?”
fourth stage is The Sleep of Trust. This is the sleep of
rebirth, not of the unconscious. This is the innocence of being
free of hurt, looking through the eyes of the knowing and loving
spirit, not through the eyes of the whipped dog, or an angry,
next stage is the Giving a Tear. This is the tear of passion and
compassion after finding the treasure, the fearful chase, and
the untangling. This is admitting to the wounds. Uniting and
letting the heart break open, not break down. Here Clarissa says
that this is the time of sharing both future dreams and past
sadness, these being the beginning of healing the archaic wounds
with regard to love.
admission feeds the Life/Death/Life nature, causes the bond to
be made and the deep knowing in a man to begin. We all have made
the mistake of thinking someone else can be our healer, our
thriller, or our filling. It takes a long time to find it is not
so, mostly because we put the wound outside ourselves instead of
ministering to it within.
next stage is the beginning of the later phases of love, within
and without. This stage is the Heart as Drum and Singing up the
Flesh. This is the singing up of new life. When Skeleton Woman
sings flesh onto her bones, the one whose heart is used feels
filled with life and creation. Here Clarissa shows her
understanding of shamanism thus:
is told that the skin or body of a drum determines who and what
will be called into being. Some drums are believed to be
journeying drums transporting the drummer and the listener (also
called the “passengers” in story telling tradition) to
various and sundry places. Other kinds of drums are powerful in
made of human bone call the dead. Drums made of hide of certain
animals are good for calling the animal spirits. Drums with
bells attached call child-spirits and weather. Drums that are
low in voice call the spirits who can hear that tone. Drums high
in voice call spirits who can hear that tone, and so on.
drum made of heart will call the spirits that are concerned with
the human heart. The heart symbolises essence. The heart is one
of the few organs humans (and animals) must have to live.”
seventh and last stage is The Dance of Body and Soul. This is
the dance of unity; when we are bursting with life and joy;
dancing with bliss, life, and yes death. When we can ride the
cycles of Life/Death/Life with the passion and compassion of a
spiritual and love warrior.
an actual relationship Clarissa says this:
“Sometimes the one who
is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking
of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series
of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of
love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain
is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to
embrace and at the same time withstand many, many endings, and
many, many beginnings – all in the same relationship.”
I can say after that is that I now really do love life, and I
hope that this understanding of the depth and meaning of stories
can do the same for you.
the fifth principle of shamanism:
Love is to be happy with –
what ever you have or whatever you are.
If you would like
to make a donation to Sitting Owl
please use this button.