Singing over the bones

The Day of the Dead is fast approaching. So are the Days of All Saints and All Souls. Around a large proportion of the world, the houses and shops are decorated with skulls and skeletons, ghosts and ghouls.  These are the days where the living welcome the dead into their lives. When we remember.

As I went to sleep a voice in my head said “Bones, bones. You have to sift over the bones, before you can walk fully over the Rainbow Bridge.”
This was not the same voice that says, “I want a tub of chocolate ice cream.” So I listened.

And as synchronicity has it, today’s activity, for the art course I am following online at the moment, was, you guessed it – bones…

I don’t like bones, they spook me. They speak of death and emptiness, they scare me. But yet they call… “don’t forget us, come, come and pay your respects to your ancestors, to your past selves. For those who have the courage to look, to sift the bones and the sand through their fingers, to hold the possibility of death  in their living hands. They will find the possibility of richer life, of wisdom, of healing.”

“Call your soul back from every place that you have left portions of it.” Hiro Boga 

And so I find myself looking back, sifting through the bones, so that I might mourn and release what has past, so that I might fully embrace my present: the person I have become. I find myself paying my respects to my ancestors, my lineage of teachers and mentors, friends and family.
This is not emotional. At least at first. More a seeing and a naming. And yet I find as my list grows each of these selves still has a tug on my heart, a feeling of maybe, what if. When seen so starkly they represent the death of possibility. But they show where the river took a different course, because the rains fell heavier, or less that year.

If things we different, who would I be?

The child of happily married parents who fitted in, sounded right and knew she belonged.
A woman who travelled to hippy communities and founded her own
A woman with a PhD 
A mother of four children 
A carefree spirit, unencumbered by family or spouse
A well-known cookery writer with her own TV show… I practiced it in the playground for years!
An anxious, depressed wreck, hospitalised and heavily medicated
A perfect mother and domestic goddess.

At some point I, and fate, decided that these were not to be the roads I was to travel. Part of me thinks it might be like the film Sliding Doors where all these past selves actually exist, perhaps in tandem, perhaps in other dimensions. I might, without knowing it walk past another self as I walk down the street. How great that sounds.

And so, this year, I draw flowers on the skeletons, to show from the midst of death, from the jaws of the past, springs new life, new colour, new growth. There are flowers and rainbows where death once held sway with bleached bones and dry desert. The rains fall down. The river runs. I walk over the Rainbow Bridge.

Come join me. Do you have the courage to sift through the bones of your past, to see the selves you might have been, to sit and drink tea with them, and then let them go and paint flowers on their faces?


La Loba (Wolf Woman), the old one, the One Who Knows, is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-psyche of women, the ancient and vital Wild Woman. She describes her home as that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet —the place where her mind and her instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thou kiss, the place where women run with the wolves. 

The Creation Mother is always the Death Mother and vice versa. Because of this dual nature, or double-tasking, the great work before us is to learn to understand what around and about us and what within us must live, and what must die. Our work is to apprehend the timing of both; to allow what must die to die, and what must live to live.
You can dent the soul and bend it. You can hurt it and scar it. You can leave the marks of illness upon it, and the scorch marks of fear.

But it does not die, for it is protected by La Loba in the underworld. She is both the finder and the incubator of the bones. 

People do meditation to find psychic alignment. That’s why people do psychotherapy and analysis. That’s why people analyze their dreams and make art. That is why many read Tarot cards, cast I Ching, dance, drum, make theater, pry out the poem, and fire up the prayer. That’s why we do all the things we do. It is the work of gathering all the bones together. Then we must sit at the fire and think about which song we will use to sing over the bones, which creation hymn, which re-creation hymn. And the truths we tell will make the song. 

There are some good questions to ask till one decides on the song, one’s true song:
What has happened to my soul-voice?What are the buried bones of my life?In what condition is my relationship to the instinctual Self?When was the last time I ran free?How do I make life come alive again?Where has La Loba gone to?

Go back and stand under that one red flower and walk straight ahead for that last hard mile. Go up and knock on the old weathered door. Climb up to the cave. Crawl through the window of a dream. Sift the desert and see what you can find. It is the only work we have to do.

From Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes 
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