Singing Over One's Bones

Monday, July 02, 2007
Many years ago when I lived in the panhandle of Idaho, not far from the Canadian border, I found myself looking into the eyes of a beautiful female Timber wolf. Her name is Mika, which means “Angel” in Osage Indian, and she “works” for the Wolf People in the hills near Lake Cocolalla, gracing and educating interested visitors with her kisses and mesmerizing light yellow eyes.

At the time of my encounter I was much younger and the wolf weighed only ten pounds less than me. At 110 pounds she could have been intimidating, but her eyes and demeanor let me know she meant no harm and loved people.

Wolves fascinate me for many reasons, but I’m most fond of two noble characteristics--they mate for life and stay loyal to their pack. Many selfish people I’ve known could learn a lot from emulating a wolf. In fact, I’ve known many people to be more “beast-like” than a wolf.

Maybe this is one reason why Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, hit so deep in my center. Ms. Estes is a Jungian psychologist and cantadora, and she reveals many old folktales in her work. But one stuck ever since my eyes and mind devoured its words.

Ms. Estes relates an ancient oral tale of La Loba, also known as La Huesera (The Wolf Woman or The Bone Woman). La Loba is an old, fat, and often hairy woman who lives in a hidden place, from where she awaits lost or wandering people. She makes animal sounds, and she has one goal.

La Loba’s sole purpose is to collect bones, mostly the ones that are in danger of being lost to the world. She collects many types from various creatures, but she sifts through dry river beds and mountains searching mainly for wolf bones. Once she’s found enough to complete a skeleton, La Loba lays the bones out in her cave and sits by the fire composing the correct song for each complete set of bones.

At just the right moment, La Loba stands over the bones, raises her arms, and sings. As she sings her long song, flesh begins to grown on the bones, and fur grows atop the flesh. Eventually, the creature’s tail curls upward, it begins to breathe, and it opens its eyes. Ultimately, the wolf runs out of her cave and down into the desert canyon. At some point along the wolf’s running path, she transforms into a laughing woman, running toward the horizon.

This tale represents the archetype of the wild woman, not the crazed meaning of wild, but the natural state of a woman’s self—running free, living loyal and strong, being her true self.

I’d like to think that writing gives us a little edge in the gift of this song. In writing we sing something of ourselves. We expose a little of our own graceful, strong, and natural selves.

Have you read Women Who Run with the Wolves? What story sings over your bones?


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