Women Who Run With the Wolves Book Club: Chapter 5

For those who have read this blog long enough, you’ll remember my long, colic-filled days with Emily and Andrew.  And now it’s started with Amelia.  So, yeah.  Excuse my tardiness.

As chapters 5 and 6 of WWRWtW are rather lengthy, I am breaking them up into two blog posts.  Chapter 6 should be available sometime tonight or early tomorrow.


Chapter five introduces the story of skeleton women.  This story illustrates how relationships develop in Wild Woman’s world.  I found this chapter, with Estes’ commentary, full of gems and will touch on three things in particular that struck a nerve.

“We have erroneously been trained to accept a broken form of one of the most profound and basic aspects of the wild nature.  We have been taught that death is always followed by more death.  It is not so, death is always in the process of incubating new life, even when one’s existence has been cut down to the bones.” (p. 142)

In our society, it can easily be argued that our current obsession with maintaining youthful looks until absurd ages (think about plastic surgery) is a sign of our immature relationship with the life/death/life cycle.  Even the Lion King attempts to explain to its young audience that the Circle of Life is what brings about life, death, and life again (see this scene).  (Read one of Wolf’s many fantastic articles regarding this occurrence in our culture.) In the past year, I have become quite accepting of death and what it means in the long-run, or how my bones can create new life elsewhere.

Yet, Estes uses this quote to explain that our fear of death extends to something greater than birth and death, but to relationships in general.  If we are in a Manawee relationship, can we accept that it will undergo change: it will be born, some things will die as people change, and then a rebirth will occur.  This cycle is repeated over and over again; it’s the couple’s responsibility to recognize and accept this part of their relationship if they ever want to achieve depth and substance in their partnership.

Divorce, Or the Urge to Run Away

“For most, when first confronting Skeleton Woman, the impulse is to run like the winde, and as far away as possible.  Even running is part of the process.  It is only human to do so, but not for long and not forever.” (p. 150)

The past two years have brought great change to my relationship to Ben.  As we’ve both expressed doubts in the religion we were once unified in and thereby shed much of our cultural expectations for who we are, what we were meant to do/be, and how we lived our live, we have encountered each other’s Wild Selves.  It has been scary.  On more than one occasion, one or both of us have attempted to run away.  We have thought about divorce.

But we couldn’t.  Why?

“We see this odd phenomenon in all love affairs: the fast he [or she] runs, the more s/he picks up speed.  When one or the other lover attempts to run from the relationship, the relationship is paradoxically invested with more life.  And the more life that is created, the more frightened the fisherman becomes.  And the more he runs, the more life is created.  This phenomenon is one of life’s central tragi-comedies.”  (p. 151)

This has been true of our relationship.  It seems the harder we try to get away from each other, the more invested we become in our relationship.  Because we’ve met the Skeleton Woman/Man in each other and, though frightened, we are curious.  Much like in Manawee’s tale, we are curious about each other’s wild side and wish to know more as scared as we are and, believe me, we are both scared as hell.

“There is a vast difference between the need for solitude and renewal, and the desire to “take space” to avoid the inevitable intercourse with Skeleton Woman.  But intercourse, meaning exchange with and acceptance of the Life/Death/Life nature, is the next step in order to strengthen one’s ability to love.  Those who enter into relationship with her will gain an enduring skill for love.  Those who won’t, won’t.  There is no way around it.”  (p. 154)

Accepting the Not-So-Good Parts of Each Other

This intercourse requires so much more than merely agreeing to disagree with each other’s differences, it means getting to intimately know all of our differences, all of our dark behaviours.  It means knowledge and acceptance of the not-so-positive parts that reside within each of us.

“For some, it is easier to think higher, more beautiful thoughts and to touch those things that positively transcend us than to touch, help, and assist the not-so-positive. Even more so, as the story illustrates, it is easy to turn away the not-beautiful and feel falsely righteous about it.” (p. 155)

“What is the not-beautiful?  Our own secret hunger to be loved is the not-beautiful.  Our disuse and misuse of love is the not-beautiful.  Our dereliction in loyalty and devotion is unlovely, our sense of soul-separateness is homely, our psychological warts, inadequacies, misunderstandings, and infantile fantasies are the not-beautiful.  Additionally, the Life/Death/Life nature, which births, destroys, incubates, and births again, is considered by our cultures the not-beautiful.

“To untangle Skeleton Woman is to understand that conceptual error and to set it aright.” (p. 156)

I have many not-beautiful parts, as does Ben.  But as we delve into those and meet Skeleton Woman again and again, we recognize that our relationship will only remain surface-level if we refuse to greet and intimately know those parts.  We cannot achieve a transcendent love without truly understanding Skeleton Woman.  And that is scary.

Yet, as I’m slowly understanding within the parameters of my relationship with Ben, it is worth it.  The beautiful parts of ourselves that have been exposed because we’ve encountered Skeleton Woman/Man have opened up new aspects in our relationship and have brought us closer together.  It’s an amazing experience.


While I can’t go into this thought deeper, I would like to put it out there: how does this story apply to other relationships?  Like, your parent/child relationships?  How could these change if we greet and accept the Skeleton Woman/Man in all of us?



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2 responses to “Women Who Run With the Wolves Book Club: Chapter 5

  1. I can relate to how petrified our fisherman is. But, after closer inspection (that is, swallowing the instinct to flee, be repulsed, destroy, etc.), the Skeleton Woman is something strange and beautiful, a *something* that we find we fished for all along.

    I feel this way most about my romantic relationships, likely because I am still in the process of discovering them and obtaining them. My kids and I have a relationship I am quite comfortable with, so right now, there is less sorting through the bones with them. But I didn’t always feel that way about my kids or any of my relationships.

    One thing I have noticed is that not everyone (indeed, very few) is receptive to the discovery of the Skeleton Woman. I’ve spent some quality time with her (quite some time alone and with my thoughts) so the instinct to run is not so strong anymore. In me, at least. In others, well, that is a different story.

    Ultimately, embracing the Skeleton Woman changes all of my relationships for the better. It can be a rough ride, as you have said, but boy is it worth it.

  2. I had troubles with this chapter from the relationship perspective (probably because I have troubles with relationships), but there were many sections that resonated with me on other levels.

    “There is a saying that when the student is ready the teacher appears. This means the interior teacher surfaces when the should, not the ego, is ready. This teacher comes whenever the soul calls–and than goodness, for the ego is never fully ready.” (page 153)

    I’ve heard the teacher saying before, but this is the first time I’ve thought of it in terms of the soul calling. I’m having many experiences that make me say,”Well I wish I’d known that several years ago,” but the truth is my soul wasn’t ready for it several years ago, and it is now. And I am ready if I just get the ego out of the way.

    “To return to an alert innocence is not so much an effort…as it is standing still long enough to let the spirit find you. It is said that if you lie still, sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.” (page 161)

    I love the idea of innocence involving not only not causing harm, but also helping to heal. And that trust isn’t about trusting other people to not hurt us, but trusting that wounds we receive can be healed. As someone with some major trust issues, this was enlightening for me. I don’t have to trust that I won’t get hurt. I can trust that however I am hurt that I can be healed, that “all can be used as life’s energy.” (page 163). We usually hear about being given bad experiences to test us and help us grow. Perhaps they are merely saying the same things, but this wording speaks more to my heart.

    As a singer and voice teacher, I loved the section on drumming and singing (pages 168-171). I personally believe that it is not just symbolic, but actual physical changes occur due to the vibrations. “It is told that all creation was accompanied by a sound or a word said aloud,” (page 170). I don’t know the science to explain it, but I believe that when God said, “Let there be light,” it was not just his intention that brought that about, but vibrational properties of how it was said.