Rewild Your Soul
Or, how the Moon illuminates and reminds us to embrace our dual nature
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Do you know what a timber wolf is?
I don’t, but I dreamt of one last week.
In this dreamscape, my husband and I - along with a large group of people made up of some familiar faces from random milieu of my life and others that were total strangers - were making some hurried escape through a wooded area late at night.
I can’t remember what we were escaping. Murderers? Zombies? The law? Who knows.
But as I looked back to ensure that our group was making progress, I saw a lone timber wolf standing about fifty feet away next to a tree, staring right at us.
You may be wondering, if I don’t know what a timber wolf is, how did I know it was a timber wolf standing there in my dream? Well, because in the dream I looked to my husband and exclaimed, “Oh no, a timber wolf!”
Now, I lucid dream a lot. And lucid dreaming, if you’re unfamiliar, is when part of you is conscious of the fact that you’re dreaming. In extreme cases you can even direct your dream self to do things (Hey, open that door, go talk to that woman, etc.). I’ve never been able to do that. My version of lucid dreaming consists simply of awareness that I’m dreaming and an ongoing commentary in one part of my brain while the other part dreams. Kind of like an annoying person who can’t shut up in the movie theater.
So in this case, my lucid self said, “Huh. I didn’t think we knew what a timber wolf was. Is that really a timber wolf, or are we just calling it a timber wolf for some reason? Because honestly it looks kind of like a coyote. But okay, timber wolf it is. What happens next?”
The reason I was particularly worried about the timber wolf is that we escapees had dogs with us. My dog, in particular. And I was terrified that the wolf would attack my dog. And my husband turned to look back at the wolf, and then turned back to me and handed me a gun, and reassured me that there was no way the wolf could do anything to us because - and as I looked around me, it became apparent - we were all armed.
As soon as I realized dream me was holding a gun, lucid me asked, “Do you even know how to use that thing? Oh, it’s just that pull thingie right there and that’s it? Okay, I guess this is legit - Oh, here he comes! Everybody line up now, the timber wolf approacheth!”
And the wolf started to stalk toward us and we all fired our weapons and I woke up.
It was only in the light of the next morning that I realized what I had really dreamt about: the Moon tarot card.
The Moon is one of the most misunderstood cards in tarot, which makes sense since the moon herself is so mysterious. And, in fact, many people will stop there and take that as the message of this card when it shows up in a reading: “There is a mystery, something hidden that you don’t understand.”
But the Moon is more specific than that. Above all else, it is a card of embracing our dual nature.
First, we get two towers on either side of the card, which represent duality more generally. Light and dark, good and evil, love and hate, yin and yang, intuition and intellect, rationality and emotion, all of it.
And then, we get two pretty specific additional examples of the commingling of dualities: in the heavens and on the earth.
This tarot card is so invested in duality that it doesn’t even allow the very heavenly body it is named after to shine on its own! At the top of the card, we don’t just get the moon. We get the moon and the sun caught in what seems to be the moment right before (or after?) an eclipse.
In mytho-psychology, the Sun usually represents our surface-level or public persona - the part of our selves that we show others. In contrast, the Moon represents our hidden persona - secrets, repressed material, our shadow selves - that we tend to keep in the darkness.
(Incidentally, the same can be said about our astrological chart. Our sun sign is our public persona, our ego, or even our idealized self, while our moon sign reflects our self below the surface and our inner workings.)
In the forefront of the Moon card, we get two canines. In some decks, they are dogs of different colors. But more traditionally, one is a dog and one is a wolf. The former, like the sun, represents our tame, domesticated, trained selves. The latter, like the moon it is so often depicted with, represents our wild, primitive, instinctual selves.
Having my wolf-dog dream right around back to school time makes perfect sense to me (especially if you read last week’s newsletter). It is the constant battle between my domesticated, society-friendly, institutionalized self and my wilder, more rebellious, more intuitive de-institutionalized self. And, more specifically, the constant pressure many of us feel to kill the wolf inside of us to save the dog.
The Moon tarot card shows up in our reading (or dreams apparently!) to remind us that we are neglecting one side of us for the sake of the other. And while asking what aspect of our personality we may need to tame a bit more for the sake of peace and safety in our lives is just as valid a question with the Moon card, in our modern world, it’s the forsaking of our wild wolf nature in the name of upholding societal norms and expectations that’s usually what’s coming up with this tarot card.
Especially for women.
This dream inspired me to dive back into Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (pictured above with the Moon card from Chris-Anne’s The Tarot of Curious Creatures), which I picked up on a trip to London last year.
An ethno-clinical psychologist, mythologist, and poet, Estes opens her book with a bold argument:
It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our inner wild natures fades. It is not so difficult to comprehend why old forests and old women are viewed as not very important resources…
It is not so coincidental that wolves and coyotes, bears and wildish women have similar reputations. They all share instinctual archetypes, and as such, both are erroneously reputed to be ingracious, wholly and innately dangerous, and ravenous.
In a lot of mythology, wolves often represent our earthy, primal, and instinctive natures, which are usually encoded as feminine and needing to be controlled or transcended.
In Roman mythology, the twin founders of the city, Romulus and Remus, were found floating in a basket in the Tiber River by a she-wolf who suckled and raised them as her own. (Of course, a shepherd and his wife eventually adopted them, marking their transition out of this wild wolf world and into the civilized world, which was the necessary first step to building the city of Rome.)
In Norse mythology, the rising and setting of the sun and the moon are controlled by two wolf-brothers, Skoll and Hati. Wolves represent the most primal of nature’s cycles and, interestingly, man’s need to control these cycles: Ragnarok - the Norse end of days - will be characterized by man’s failure to control Skoll and Hati’s insatiable wildness, which will result in the wolves devouring both the sun and the moon, plunging the world into a dark apocalypse.
In Celtic mythology, the shape-shifting goddess known as the Morrigan mimics a sort of evolutionary up-leveling in one myth that has her start off as an eel, then a wild and dangerous wolf, and finally, a domesticated dairy cow.
And in Greek mythology, wolves symbolize beastly, inhumane characteristics. When Lycaeon sought to test Zeus’s omniscience by killing his own son and serving his cooked flesh to Zeus to see if he would know what he was eating (umm, weird flex but okay), Zeus punishes Lycaeon by turning him into a wolf - in other words, the uncivilized, dangerous, beastly creature that he is.
But in Women Who Run with the Wolves, Estes sets out to reclaim the Wild Woman archetype and to encourage women to rewild their souls. She asserts that too many women
…lose touch with the instinctive psyche…and [our] instincts and natural life cycles are lost, subsumed by the culture, or by the intellect or the ego—one’s own or those belonging to others.
A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life-force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving….When women’s lives are in stasis, or filled with ennui, it is always time for the wildish woman to emerge; it is time for the creating function of the psyche to flood the delta.
So here is the challenge: How do we allow the wildish woman to emerge without burning everything to the ground?
Because the Moon card in tarot is traditionally and ultimately about embracing both (all?) sides of us and forging a path that runs down the middle. The path doesn’t fork at some point and make us choose which tower to walk up to. The path is illuminated simultaneously by both sun and moon, so we don’t have to choose sides there either. Which leads me to the conclusion that we don’t have to choose between canine avatars either. Dog and wolf need to walk this path together.
What about ourselves have we labeled as too inappropriate, too embarrassing, too shameful, too wild, too reckless, unheard of, abnormal, unseemly, too scary, too unsavory, too unsettling, ridiculous, irrational, silly, or uncivilized?
How can we acknowledge and integrate those aspects as valid, legitimate, informative, and normal, just like we do the parts of us that society deems acceptable? And how might we start showing up differently, both for ourselves and others, by doing so?
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If you want to learn more about rewilding the soul and women in mythology, I have a dreamy book list for you this week, complete with descriptions and links. Consider it my dream syllabus for a dream class! Some I’ve already read and others I cannot wait to dive into. In fact, if you are interested in a book club situation for any of these books (or others), let me know in the comments!
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