During my first semester of grad school, I wrote a paper called “Song of the Sea: Loss of Spirit and Regaining the Voice.” This paper was for my course “Symbols and Archetypes in Stories.” It centered on the Little Mermaid and Selkie tales, unifying them with the common theme of loss of voice/discovery of voice.
I traced the tales from their original oral tradition all the way to contemporary retellings, using a method discussed by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in “Women Who Run with the Wolves.” She refers to her work as “paleomythology,” and uses a technique referred to as “excavating stories.” She strips stories down to their bare bones and then rewrites them in an attempt to restore them as near to their original oral form as possible; whereby the women in the tales are restored to powerful, autonomous beings instead of the damsels in distress they have been denigrated to in more recent versions of folktales.
I am an adamant admirer of Estes and she has been a pivotal influence in my life and how I choose to help other women. As I did research for this particular paper, I realized that Hayao Miyazaki tends to portray girls and women in a favorable light. He rewrote “The Little Mermaid” calling it “Ponyo” and by doing so he perhaps traced the tale back to a much earlier version, closer to that of the selkie tales throughout the British Isles.
In contrast to the Little Mermaid who loses her voice in order to attempt to win the love of a mortal man, Ponyo doesn’t discover her voice until she has taken her destiny into her own hands, making the choice to become human. This cycle of discovery of voice (discovery of self) during adolescence, coming into full power, eventual loss of voice(usually during motherhood), and the journey of rediscovery is necessary for growth and development of all women. This cycle is apparent when one observes the phases of the moon, or studies the triple goddess myths that were prevalent throughout much of the world. I truly believe that all women can relate to these tales and therefore the Selkie tales are a part of the personal mythology of every woman.
I remember so clearly the feeling of coming into womanly power when I was twelve years old. I came into menarche. My body began to change. I felt the fullness of my power, my potential to not only participate in life fully, but to create new life. It was during this time that I developed my own nature based spirituality, very animistic and Pagan. This has continued for me and is a vital part of my identity.
I always had a strong sense of self, that is until I became pregnant with my son. I believe women go through loss of identity three times throughout their lives. The first occurs as we transition from child to woman. The second occurs as our bodies change once again during pregnancy and as we try to adapt to our yet unformed new selves after the birth of our child/children. The third change occurs with menopause as we enter cronehood. So what if a woman can’t physically birth a child, or chooses not to? Does this mean this cycle doesn’t apply? Of course not! Women are so naturally in tune with the moon cycles that these changes occur naturally.
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(The pictures are of me and my son, my Precious Boy. The other two are of me in my spiritual home, England. Estes discusses the selkie story in her book, calling it “Sealskin Soulskin,” and telling us that this story has to do with “homing” and “returning to ourselves.” My home has always been the British Isles. I feel a deep connection with the land, with the sea. I feel I belong to the land. I struggle when I can’t return “home.” This home is a physical place, but it is also my true authentic self. I lost a part of myself when my son was born and I am in the process of journeying to return to myself. In the past I had to physically return to England to feel complete and whole, but it is impossible for me to return at the moment. Instead, I am trying to build a relationship with the land here, in upstate New York. It is physically very similar to the British Isles, but the feeling is different. It is not my ancestral land, as England is. It will take time, but I am working on developing a deep bond with this land as it is now my home. A fantastic book to help with this is “Body and Earth,” by Andrea Olsen.)
I have friends who are my age, but have chosen to remain childless. These women still identify strongly with the mother archetype and have undergone significant transformation during this mid-life phase/time. One has become a doggy mom, choosing to adopt and look after her furry friends in much the same manner as a mom would cater to her children. Another is a cat mom and a teacher. She is motherly with her cats and with the schoolchildren in her care. Another has babied her creative projects, thinking of her completed art works as her children. And yet another is an activist, participating fully in women’s rights movements and ecofeminist efforts. She is a natural leader and is very motherly to the other girls and women in these groups.
So what can one do to find her voice and regain a sense of self? This is the subject of the book I am currently working on and the workshops that I teach. I will discuss vital ways of living a more authentic life and attaining a sense of empowerment and true self throughout the pages of this blog. I will share my own journey, providing tips along the way. I admit this has been a constant struggle for me, but one that has been necessary for my own personal growth and self-development. There are days when the struggle is all too real, and there are days when I feel fully empowered once again and know that I can handle anything that the universe throws at me!
Todays tip: START A DREAM JOURNAL!!!
Start a dream journal. I began recording my dreams when I was around ten years old. It has been a way for me to really get to know my inner world and thoughts. It has helped me to know what is important to me and why. If you are artistically inclined, please include drawings, paintings, collages, in your dream journal. I would start with recording and analyzing dreams, but if you are an old hand at this practice I would recommend taking this one step further by reading Stephen Aizenstat’s book “Dream Tending.” In this book he treats dreams as animate and respects that they take place in an actual otherworld. He believes that we can interact with the dream symbols, treating them as animate and engaging in dialogue with them. I know it sounds weird and “out there,” but don’t knock it until you try it! 🙂
More tips to come next time! Until then, blessed be! 🙂