It’s time for another Spellbook Saturday feature, one that’s long-overdue: Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. Sharing legends and fairy tales from the perspective of a Jungian analyst, Dr. Estés examines the ways in which women (more on this) may connect to our instinctual, subconscious selves for a more vibrant and nurturing life.
Have you ever come across one of those books where you feel you have either heard enough about it or have a vague enough understanding of the thesis, and so you don’t feel obligated to read it? I’m sure I can’t be alone in this hubris, but I wish I hadn’t let that prevent me from reading this book for quite so long– though I also think it came to me exactly when I needed it.
I remember first seeing the book as a child, the bold bronze print standing out on my mother’s shelves, and I imagined it to be some grown-up version of the feminist fairy tales she told me.
More than 20 years later, I brought the book with me on a long-weekend getaway, where I imagined I’d flip through a few pages during quiet moments. Instead, I was immediately pulled in by both the subject and Dr. Estés’ voice– she is a natural cantadora storyteller. Through analysis of folklore, chapters address such topics as “nourishing the creative life” and “the retrieval of intuition as initiation”– respectively, La Llorona and Baba Yaga, the later of which was, unsurprisingly, my favorite.
Given my love of folklore, an interest in Jungian theory, and my strong feminist leanings, it is no surprise that I enjoyed it, but I was surprised to find myself so deeply moved by Dr. Estés’ writings. My primary complaint is that the text seems to hold no space for any identity outside of a gender binary. This may be a function of time– one forgets that this book is nearly 3 decades old, so timeless are its messages– but I found repeated assertions of the experiences of “all women” and hetero-normative assumptions about romance and partnership a bit jarring as a contemporary reader.
However, during a time such as ours, when the toxic effects of the patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy should be plainly visible to all, Dr. Estés’ writing offers an exploration of the ways in which feminine-ism— that is, a rejection of the historically-lauded, patriarchal ways of relating to ourselves, each other, and the planet– can be deeply nurturing to all genders and identities, and can and should be appreciated by all.
Have you read Women Who Run With the Wolves? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!