There is a story told by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes, of a mysterious solitary woman who has many names and identities and who devotes her life to the collection of precious and endangered things, such as the bones of once sacred animals. We all know of this woman, and in the barren wilderness of Mexico's northern deserts she is known as La Loba.
One day, this woman decides to attempt to resurrect the unrestrained spirit of life itself from the depths of the Underworld. To La Loba, animal and wilderness are both allies and teachers, and through their eyes she sees through the eyes of thousands. And so, with their aid, she roamed the desert mesas and dry canyons, searching for the bones of a wolf. When she has gathered up enough of these sacred bones to assemble an entire skeleton, she returns to her fire and lays them out in front of her in perfect reconstruction.
And then she sits and thinks about what song she will sing. When the song comes, the ritual sounds and rhythm echo into the desert night, and the bones of the wolf begin to fuse and flesh and the muscle becomes covered in thick fur. Slowly but surely, La Loba sings life back into the dead, and the wolf is reborn. With a curl of its tail and eyelid, the wolf leaps up as the very ground of the desert shakes, as though La Loba’s voice is the voice of life and nature itself, and the wolf sprints away across the canyon.
As it runs through a shimmering stream, moonlight dancing across its new fur, and the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing, jubilant woman who runs free and unconstrained through the desert; her desert.
Dr Estes finishes the story by telling us that in these regions of Mexico, even today, it is said that if you happen to find yourself lost wandering the desert around sunset, you are actually lucky, for La Loba may take pity on you and show you something priceless, something spiritual — something of the Soul.
La Loba is not myth. She lives within each of us. You know this to be true, for you can feel this in your bones.
In some she has awakened a deep gift. You will know these men and women by their air of otherness. They walk with the lightness of foxes and are rooted deeper than trees. When they speak there is a green-ness to their words and they hear more than is ever spoken. They may be found on a lamplit midnight street, in the busy-ness of an airport concourse, in the aisle of a superstore, in the car next to you on your morning commute.
They are gathering the bones; the sacred wisdom and knowing which society has forgotten, cast off and buried. And when they have gathered them all, they will piece them back together. And then, maybe then, they will sing a song of re-membering.
And something sacred, something forgotten, something buried will be awakened. And will once again run free. Gifted back to this time, this Earth.
You will know the bone gatherers, the singers of songs, when you see them; their eyes gleam with the light of the stars of the midnight sky. They have been touched by life and death and are unafraid of shadow.
And if you meet one, they may show you something priceless, something spiritual – something of the soul.
Artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet.