Inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, I have returned recently to the story of La Loba, Wolf Woman. This story is symbolic of the depths to which shamanic, indigenous, and nature-based healing can take us and serves as a portal to all people who desire to feed their souls.
This is the story of La Loba…
There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen. As in the fairy tales of Eastern Europe, she seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to come to her place.
She is circumspect, often hairy, always fat, and especially wishes to evade most company. She is both a crower and a cackler, generally having more animal sounds than human ones.
They say she lives among the rotten granite slopes in Tarahumara Indian territory. They say she is buried outside Phoenix near a well. She is said to have been seen traveling south to Monte Alban in a burnt-out car with the back window shot out. She is said to stand by the highway near El Pase, or ride shotgun with trucker to Morelia, Mexico, or that she has been sighted walking to market above Oaxaca with strangely formed boughs of firewood on her back. She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.
The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world. Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures: the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow. But her speciality is said to be wolves.
She creeps and crawls and sifts through the montanas, mountains, and arroyos, dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing.
And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong.
And La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon.
Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of a ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.
So it is said that if you wander the desert, and it is near sundown, and you are perhaps a little bit lost, and certaily tired, that you are lucky, for La Loba may take a liking to you and show you something- something of the soul.
~Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. p27-28
THE INDIGENOUS SOUL
We are living in a time where wisdom and right use of power are in danger of being lost. La Loba represents the force that is helping to carry these teachings into the future, helping humans to remember their “indigenous souls” -the invigorating embrace of the deepest soul-psyche, the ancient and vital spirit, the intuitive, daring, fierce, and dream-like part of each of us. It is the inner-child, the songstress, the storyteller, the ravenous lover, the raw feeling of naked skin and black soil and giving birth and holding your grandmother’s hand as she takes her last breath. The wild landscapes of the earth still exist, as they still exist within our bodies, within our psyches, within our soul-scapes and within our dreams. Though not often advirtised, shamanic medicine (including most nature-based indigenous healing lineages – Chinese, Korean, Mayan, to name a few) is capable of guiding us back to balance – a balance of the practical intelligence of the mind with the intuitive knowing of the heart…
The shaman’s of old and the modern shamanic practitioner ride the sacred drum beat, the beat of Mother Earth into the other reality in order to retrieve lost or wandering “soul essences” of the patient. Often traumatic events happen in our lives, especially when we are vulnerable and so open as children, that cause essential parts of our soul to flee. This is a compensatory behavior in order for the person to stay “intact” because the situation is often too much handle. While we continue to live our lives we often wonder why we cannot connect to our joy or our creative lives or our passion. Sometimes we simply can’t seem to make the changes that we want to in our lives. Like the bones that La Loba collects, the shamanic practitioner is guided by Spirit, power animals and allies to find and collect soul essences, return them to the patient, so that he or she may once again “come to life”. A soul retrieval gathers these lost or “disassociated” parts of ourselves so that we are able to access them again; this is for the purpose of being able to fully live our lives, grasp our dreams, and remember our authentic natures.
WOVEN WILLFULLY LIKE BONES AND WATER
Derived from teachings in Chinese and Native American medicine, the bones represent lineage, DNA, reproduction, memory, ancestors and progeny, past and future. The bones come from the western direction, the place of water, and all that water represents. Water is the blood of the earth, both of which are closely linked to Time, based on Mayan cosmology. Bones are the body’s foundation, just like our ancestors are our spiritual foundation. This story reflects the importance of connecting to our ancestors, to honor, to listen, and to show our gratitude for their subtle, yet constant guidance. So much of healing pertains to breaking the ancestral patterns that are binding us to lives we can’t enjoy, while also tweaking our ear to hear in between the sounds to our beloved ones who came before us. They know. This is another aspect of soul retrieval as well as other soul-centered modalities. We can easily see how patterns are passed down from parents to children, generation after generation… abuse, addiction, even what job we choose or the man we marry. And yet, our ancestors also pass down our greatest gifts to us, sometimes buried in the trash heap of self-destructive patterns. We must hold our nose and begin to dig. The fertile, black soil is waiting for you to sow seeds of light. La Loba is an old shamaness. She works with her ancestors (bones), her power animals (wolf, crow), and most importantly with Great Spirit (song) to bring essences together to make whole again.
This is a story, a myth, a fairy tale. It is magical realism- so is it real? The real answer lies in Paradox, the portal to the Great and Beautiful Mystery. We are called to invite the dream like innocence and curiosity back into our car driving, internet surfing lives. Magic is alive, it lives in all of us. Belief is alive. But you don’t have to believe me. The indigenous art of healing is based on experience. It is still around because it works. Simple like the time you played in the mud and loved it all over. Simple like holding hands. We live in a time where many prophecies are being fulfilled. We live in a time of endings and beginnings and where there is a web of light connecting people at the speed of light. This is a time of the emergence and convergence of everything that humans have learned since the beginning. The prophecy of the Condor and Eagle states that after so very long, the rational, intellectual, masculine consciousness will fly once again with the intuitive, heart-centered feminine consciousness. This is happening right now. Ancient technology is weaving and coding with modern technology. Culturally, we are soul starved, and deep in our bones, we know it. And now is the time to seek, or perhaps to get “a little lost”, to find oneself “wandering in the desert” so that something or someone might find you and show you, return you, from bones to aliveness.