Today is Wolf moon and if you know anything about me, you know that I love wolves. I was first captivated by wolves as a very young child and they have visited me in my dreams throughout my entire life. When I first moved out to the cabin a wolf appeared close by and I took it as a very good sign that I was in the right place at the right time. Last summer (ten years later), I saw another grey wolf standing out back next to my goose tractor. S/he was very still and relaxed and after looking at each other for a few minutes s/he quietly stepped into the woods and disappeared.
I first read the story of La Loba, or “Bone Woman” in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Este’s seminal book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, and like many women, it touched me to the core. The story I share here is my interpretation based on my own intuitive experiences with La Loba.
You may have heard of her. You may have seen her in your dreams or caught her reflection in a still pond looking back at you. Or while sitting around a fire you may have heard the faint, faraway sound of her singing carried on the night wind. If you are really lucky and have ever been to the wild and loneliest places in the deserts and mountains of northern Mexico, you may have even caught a glimpse of her—a silvery gleam in the eye or a flash of shaggy tail under a rough skirt that is frayed at the edges. She has many names but I am told that her people refer to her as La Huesera, “Bone Woman,” or La Loba, “Wolf Woman.”
She is very, very old. She is small, hunched over, deeply wrinkled, and has gnarled and bony—but surprisingly strong hands. She works tirelessly at her one important task: to search and find and gather bones—especially wolf bones. Each day, she wanders and walks, eyes to the ground, searching. And when she finds one, she picks it up, tucks it into the folds of her skirt and lovingly carries it home.
She does this endlessly and when she has finally collected an entire wolf skeleton, she carefully assembles it, each bone in its place on the ground. And when the Moon is full and the air is thick with magic, and breath, and completion, the old woman sits by her fire deciding what song she will sing. When she is ready, she stands and raises her arms above the skeleton and sings her chosen song, quietly at first, then louder with each repetition. As she sings, she prays, and in the flickering flame of the fire and the silver-white light of the Moon, you begin to see the wolf skeleton slowly begins to flesh out. She continues to sing and soon the skeleton is fully fleshed out and tinged with fur. She sings some more, and louder, and soon there is a tail… and ears… and whiskers… and claws… and a moist, black nose. She sings some more, her hands and arms gracefully moving, and finally the wolf begins to breathe… As the Old Woman reaches the end of her ancient song, the wolf opens its eyes, gets up… and begins to run. And as it runs, if you are lucky and the Moon is bright, and if you squint your eyes just a little, you might see that the wolf is suddenly transformed into a woman, who continues to run, wild and free, laughing into the night.
Pinkola-Estes, Clarissa. (1992) Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman archetype.