Every Hallowe’en – at least since I became a parent – I have done the easy thing. I wear black, which I wear nearly every day anyway, and slap a witch’s hat on my head and voila!
This year though, this year called out something else in me. I have long felt a fascination with wolves and their spirit and their nature. So this year, I hung my witch’s hat by the door and went full out wolfie!
My birthday is two weeks after Halloween and 49 is swift approaching. I will welcome it with all the lines and loves and memories and wisdom it affords me. I’ve found the courage to embrace myself, shadow and all. I do what is best for my pack always. I am a longtime devotee of the works of Joseph Campbell and Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Myth and legend are important in developing who we are. The hero’s journey, full of challenges and victories and archetypes, help sharpen our identities if make the time to listen. If we have the courage to explore, welcome experience with openness.
One of my favorite poems, is The Wolf’s Eyelash by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
The Wolf’s Eyelash
If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.
“Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out,” they said.
“Why not? Why should I not go out in the woods tonight?” she asked.
“A big wolf lives there who eats humans such as you. Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out. We mean it.”
Naturally, she went out. She went out in the woods anyway, and of course she met the wolf, just as they had warned her.
“See, we told you,” they crowed.
“This is my life, not a fairy tale, you dolts,” she said. “I have to go to the woods, and I have to meet the wolf, or else my life will never begin.”
But, the wolf she encountered was in a trap, in a trap this wolf’s leg was in.
“Help me, oh help me! Aieeeee, aieeee, aieeee!” cried the wolf. “Help me, oh help me!” he cried, “and I shall reward you justly.” For this is the way of wolves in tales of this kind.
“How do I know you won’t harm me?” she asked – it was her job to ask questions. “How do I know you will not kill me and leave me lying in my bones?”
“Wrong question,” said this wolf. “You’ll just have to take my word for it.” And the wolf began to cry and wail once again and more. “Oh, aieee! Aieeee! Aieeee! There’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool?”
“Oh you wolf, I will take a chance. Alright, here!” And she sprang the trap and the wolf drew out its paw and this she bound with herbs and grasses.
“Ah, thank you kind maiden, thank you,” sighed the wolf. And because she had read too many of the wrong kind of tales, she cried, “Go ahead and kill me now, and let us get this over with.”
But no, this did not come to pass. Instead this wolf put his paw upon her arm. “I’m a wolf from another time and place,” said he. And plucking a lash from his eye, gave it to her and said, “Use this, and be wise. From now on you will know who is good and not so good; just look through my eyes and you will see clearly. For letting me live, I bid you live in a manner as never before. Remember, there’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool?”
And so she went back to her village, happy to still have her life. And this time as they said, “Just stay here and be my bride,” or “Do as I tell you,” or “Say as I want you to say, and remain as unwritten upon as the day you came,” she held up the wolf’s eyelash and peered through and saw their motives as she had not seen them before. And the next time the butcher weighed the meat she looked through her wolf’s eyelash and saw that he weighed his thumb too. And she looked at her suitor who said “I am so good for you,” and saw that her suitor was so good for exactly nothing. And in this way and more, she was saved, from not all, but from many, misfortunes.
But more so, in this new seeing, not only did she see the sly and cruel, she began to grow immense in heart, for she looked at each person and weighed them anew through this gift from the wolf she had rescued. And she saw those who were truly kind and went near to them, she found her mate and stayed all the days of her life, she discerned the brave and came close to them, she apprehended the faithful and joined with them, she saw bewilderment under anger and hastened to soothe it, she saw love in the eyes of the shy and reached out to them, she saw suffering in the stiff-lipped and courted their laughter, she saw need in the man with no words and spoke for him, she saw faith deep in the woman who said she had none, and rekindled hers from her own. She saw all things with her lash of wolf, all things true, and all things false, all things turning against life and all things turning toward life, all things seen only through the eyes of that which weighs the heart with heart, and not with mind alone.
This is how she learned that it is true what they say, that the wolf is the wisest of all. If you listen closely, the wolf in its howling is always asking the most important question – not where is the next food, not where is the next fight, not where is the next dance? – but the most important question in order to see into and behind, to weigh the value of all that lives, woooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool? wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool? Where is the soul? Where is the soul?
Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin. Go out in the woods, go out. Go out in the woods, go out. Go out in the woods, go out.
(Estes, Ph.D., Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.)
Indeed, Where Is the Soul? The heart is a wild thing.
So Where Is the Mythos? Where Is the Hallowe’en in all this? Well, Ireland is the birthplace of Hallowe’en. And a particular legend caught my attention this year: The Werewolves of Ossory. Please read and enjoy. Enjoy Hallowe’en and all the fun it brings.
Be wolf or fairy or monster or witch…whatever celebrates you and the shadow side we all have. I wish you a happy and safe Hallowe’en full of harmless frights and goodies!