It’s also the hardest of all to actually read. It’s mostly written in metaphors and heavy symbolism, which I’m really no good at deciphering. I take things at face value and often refuse to read between the lines because of the ambiguity.
If you’ve seen Lars Von Trier’s film Melancholia you’ll have worked out that the planets were not really crashing it was a metaphor for the depression she was succumbing to. It took me two days to work that out and it came to me in an epiphany.
Being such a literal person, getting into the book was really tough. But now I’m in, and it’s exceptional.
The author Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a Jungian analyst, which is why she’s so excellent at all this symbolism stuff. She also analyses stories originating in remote villages and communities through generations, folklore if you like, to find the hidden story in them – she’s even been to Australia to learn from our Aboriginal communities about their storytelling of the dreamtime.
I’m only 70 pages in, and most of those pages were spent describing who the Wild Woman is, where she lives, what she represents, how we can her, or parts of her and why she’s absolutely necessary for a woman’s psyche. For most of this section I had to keep reminding myself that she’s not an individual, she’s my base nature, my mum’s, sisters, and yours.
We’re now on to storytelling. Pinkola Estés believes in the symbolism of stories and what stories teach us consciously and subconsciously.
We read a story that would have been told sitting around a campfire or mother’s kitchen centuries ago that has been passed down through the generations and Pinkola Estés spends a chapter unpacking the symbolism and metaphors. They each teach us something different about our nature.
The Furry Bag and Hot Sex
She is refreshingly funny. At one point I was reading about female fertility and the symbolism attached:
“The light is located, not in a woman’s heart, not behind her eyes, but en los ovaries, in her ovaries, where all the seed stock is laid down before she is even born. For men, exploring the deeper ideas of fertility and the nature of seed, the cross-gender image is the furry bag, the scrotum.”
Another: “The naïve or injured woman is then too easily lured with promises of ease, of lilting enjoyment, of various pleasures, be they of elevated status in the eyes of her family, her peers, or promises of increased security, eternal love or hot sex.”
At page 50 odd, the book is compelling. Not least because I’m learning about underlying meanings and symbolism but also because when reading it, my heart quickens and I feel something awakening in me or that I’m on the verge of an epiphany.
I love endnotes, they’re almost a value add. I can dig deeper, delve more. I always read them and quite often research them. The one frustrating thing about the book is that the endnotes don’t appear at the end of the page but have an index chapter at the back of the book. It’s a large book so I find myself flicking front to back a lot. Having said that
Pinkola Estés introduced the index chapter with this:
“Sometimes endnotes such as these are called los cuentitos, little stores. They are the offspring of the larger text and are meant to be a separate work of art in and of themselves. They are meant to be read straight through, if one wishes, without referring back to the larger text. I invite you to read them both ways.”
So perhaps I’ll do just that and in the meantime I’ll keep flicking.
The book proper, without the indexed endnotes, is 464 pages so I’ll likely post more reviews as I go along.
In the meantime if you’ve read it, please leave a comment and let me know how you went with it. If you haven’t and want to read it – here’s where you can buy it in Australia.
Note: I’ve borrowed this image from a blog that also appears to be discussing the book in Japanese.