Often archetypes are hard to define. As universally recognizable and yet unconscious patterns of energy, thought, and behaviors, archetypes tend to be defined by their stories, myths, and how they are “dressed” as one Jungian friend said to me. “Undress them and there is nothing there.”
The Wild Woman archetype is no different and potentially more complicated given her vastness and also the degree to which she has been oppressed.
One way to start to understand her is by looking at the word “wild” which is generally defined as:
- Connected to or living in a natural state or in nature or
- Out of control, unrestrained, undisciplined.
This second definition was the lens through which I initially understood the wild woman archetype. I had an image in my head of a child who was behaving poorly and out of control (such as when I was 3 and having a temper tantrum!).
As I learned more I noticed that many of the writings on this archetype refer to the first definition, that is, of simply living in a natural state. I viewed the Wild Woman archetype quite differently from this perspective. It was more about being aligned with nature, natural instincts, cycles of nature/moon/our bodies, and intuition/inner wisdom, as well as knowledge and comfort with the natural world and its life giving, healing abilities.
Then, more recently (particularly since reading Burning Woman), I have added back the second definition in my exploration of this archetype (as in, where do I limit my wildness by keeping myself controlled?).
The opposite of “living in a natural state” could be described as living in a human-built world. The opposite of “out of control” is being controlled (duh), disciplined, following the rules.
The opposites of both definitions lead to a tame, ‘civilized’ state…which is what I feel was drilled into me by society and those close by in order to be acceptable, loved, successful and, especially, safe.
So what is this Wild Woman Archetype?
According to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés in Women Who Run with the Wolves, She is:
“the one who turns like a great wheel. She is the maker of cycles. She is the one we leave home for. She is the one we come home to. She is the mucky root of all women. She is the things that keep us going when we think we’re done for. She is the incubator of raw little ideas and deals. She is the mind which thinks us, we are the thoughts that she thinks. [She lives] At the bottom of the well, in the headwaters, in the ether before time. She lives in the tear and in the ocean…She is from the future and the beginning of time… The Wild Woman carries the bundles for healing; she carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She carries the medicine for all things. She carries stories and dreams and words and songs and signs and symbols. She is both vehicle and destination.”
Ultimately, she is our intrinsic, innate, indigenous, instinctive, wise and knowing nature; our basic nature as women. She is the “female soul” and the “source of the feminine.” As Estés says, “Wild Woman…carries everything a woman needs to be and know.”
It’s hard to get more tangible with her because Wild Woman is not a singular energy. She is vast, with many faces, many names, many overlapping archetypes that spiral around and within each other. You might know her as:
- Fierce Mamma Bear (She who does everything in her power to protect the young, the vulnerable)
- Lover (She who is completely comfortable and free in her body, her sensuality, her sexuality)
- Dark Mother energy (She who destroys, liberates)
- Wise Woman (The Sage, she who accepts herself, knows herself fully, and accesses her inner wisdom)
- Medicine Woman (She who knows how to heal, how to harness the healing power of nature and the spiritual world)
- Primal Goddess energy (She who calls you to aliveness, passion, creativity)
- The Witch, the Hag, the Sorceress, the Crone
You might know her more personally, as I do, as the part of you that wants you to express yourself, create and invent. Or she might call you to fully experience your body, feel alive, fulfill your body’s needs, move, and embody your beauty. You might recognize her in the chills you get up your spine, the gut instincts that guide you, your inner deep knowing.
“The comprehension of this Wild Woman nature is not a religion but a practice. It is a psychology in its truest sense…a knowing of the soul.” ~ Dr. Estés
How does Wild Woman appear to you? How is she dressed?