Moon Lesson • Running with the Wolves
The January Full Moon is most often called the Wolf Moon. Other names include Old Moon, Ice Moon, and the Moon after Yule. This last name is attributed to Anglo-Saxons who named this moon because it is the first full moon to rise after the Winter Solstice which occurs around December 22.
But, again, more commonly known as the Full Wolf Moon, this moon marks the time of year when wolves are particularly loud and vocal. Wolves howl to communicate over long distances. It is a way of saying “here I am” to the rest of the pack or “stay away” to intruders. During the denning season in spring and early summer, wolves only howl to pack mates. As the late summer moves towards fall, wolves call more and more to neighbors and enemies. By the time we reach breeding season in January and February, a chorus by a pack of wolves can last from 30 to 120 seconds or more...that’s a significant difference from the average 3-7 sec howl any other time of year. So wolves are particularly loud and vocal in the first few months of the year, thus the Full Wolf Moon.
As people, we too begin to vocalize with passion in January. We cast our new year’s resolutions. Our words often focus on changing rather than reclaiming. In fact, we can go so far as to set ourselves up for failure by making near impossible claims to never do x, y, or z again. Then over the course of the year, defeated, we let those words quietly fade away.
On this Journey, the Full Wolf Moon opens the gateway to the element of Air. The element of Air will be the framework for the next three lessons carrying us through the winter into spring. Along the way we will breathe new life into our hearth and homes, create purposeful breathing room in our calendars for self care and self study, and we’ll give voice to the quiet but beautiful truths we discover. In Yoga, we practice pranayama (purposeful manipulations to control and transform your energy). Your prana (your energy/life force/breath) is the same as the air around you — it can be cool, hot, warm, comforting, disturbed or disturbing. But most consistently, your prana, like air, is always moving and always changing. In Shamanism, the element of Air and spirit Wind are sisters. And sister Cloud would be considered a very close cousin. We can see and feel the impact of this powerful element, but the true magic is what happens when we attempt to control or contain it. The alchemy of controlling or containing Air is a practice worth honing — with proper disciple, it creates Space.
Space in your body. Space in your mind. Space between your thoughts and words. Space in your calendar. Space in your home. Space for nourishment.
So let’s begin.
* * *
Wild Woman, run free. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says in her book Women Who Run With The Wolves, “The wild woman nature carries the bundles for healing; she carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She carries the medicine for all things. She carries the stories and dreams and words and songs and signs and symbols. She is both a vehicle and destination.”
The journey of the Wild Woman is about coming into your power. The nature of this archetype is like that of the Wolf. Wolves trust their instincts, make quick smart decisions, and growl, if need be, to protect what’s theirs. If we take lessons from Wolf, we learn to trust our intuition, reclaim control over our lives and create sacred space when needed, by any means necessary. This wilding passion can guide us as we reconnect with the power of own natural rhythm and cycles — both inner (menstrual) cycles and those of the world around us (the seasons). This connection opens us to our deepest instincts for healing.
“It has been said that there is a kind of growling that rises up in the throat of a woman as she comes into herself. Sometimes this manifests literally, and other times it is simply a feeling of fierceness that comes when a woman gives herself permission to express herself more freely. Either way though, growling, whether literal or metaphorical, has to do with allowing the instinctive wisdom to rise up from deep within the self and come through uncensored. And it is this feeling we have taken to calling “owning our inner bitches”. Bitches, you say?! Yes, Bitches! Canines are fiercely loyal, immensely nurturing and they have the capacity to be fierce. Wolves make clear boundaries, and will growl when threatened. Women also have this capacity, and like the wolf, we too must express our instinctual nature in order to protect our wild souls.” - excerpt from Moon Mysteries by Nao Sims and Nikiah Seeds
* * *
Many different cultures have worshipped the nurturing she-wolf as a symbol of fertility. The most famous myth about this is the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, who were the founders of the city of Rome. They were said to have been abandoned as small children, after which a wolf found them and raised them as her own cubs, demonstrating the loving-kindness of wolves, as well as the wild nature of making one’s own way. It is through this story and many others like it that we can easily see why, in ancient times, the wolf was honored as a symbol of motherly sacrifice and fertility.
For some cultures, the wolf is regarded as a sacred animal, and yet feared for its wild nature. It is said the wolf reminds man of their own domestication and their inner struggle to break free from it. I find both views compelling. But what I truly love is a more shamanic look at some old tales — the stories of women and wolves. The connection between the ancient animistic/shamanic ways and that of the goddess are inexorably linked in wild and wonderful ways.
Consider the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The story has connections to the moon, menstruation and the wolf. “The giveaway details are the red garment, the offering of food to a ‘grandmother’ in the deep woods (a grandmother who wears a wolves’ skin), and the cannibalistic motif of devouring and resurrection. In Britain, a red woven hood was the distinguishing mark of a prophetess or priestess. It has been suggested by others that the red hood represented the girl’s first menstruation, and her journey into the woods alone for the first time, was perhaps her initiation into womanhood.” - Moon Mysteries by Nao Sims and Nikiah Seeds.
Below is the story of La Loba, the wolf woman. Her soul’s work was in collecting the bones of wolves and singing life back into them, using her “soul-voice”. This deep singing (control of the breath) conveys the truth of a woman’s healing power over anything that she feels is in need of healing.
She calls herself by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman. She creeps and crawls and sifts through the montañas, mountains, and arroyos, dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing. And when she is sure, she stands over the creature, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong.
And La Loba sings some more and the wolf creature begins to breathe. And still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon. Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of a ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.” - Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
La Loba is powerful and unpredictable and she doesn’t take kindly to bullshit. It’s the only way to do the sacred work of picking up the pieces…your pieces. In this story, bones symbolize the parts of self that cannot decay, that cannot be destroyed, the parts that remain. Bones symbolize the soul.
And I have just one more story to share. This one is about a different bone collector.
Once there was, and once there was not...a woman, a girl, a maiden. In the darkest of nights she was shattered to her core. The pieces of her, every piece a small fragment of bone, flew far and wide finding homes in other people. Broken people. A ghost now, a hollow shell, she summons her remaining energy to cast a spell – the kind all women know in their deepest desperation. She creates the illusion of bones and flesh, of perfect, shining wholeness.
But the spell makes her forgetful and blind to the truth. She stumbles around in the dark, looking for something to quench her thirst — the deep thirst of emptiness. She finds a man, a boy, a lover, and drinks of him. She weaves, unconsciously, a spell around him – the fairy tale of a life, a happy future. But she gives too much and there is not enough to drink to replenish her. The illusion begins to crumble and fall away. To her surprise, all is grey and meaningless. Both she and he are devastated but there is nothing left to be done.
She must move on. As she turns to leave, she catches a spark out of the corner of her eye. One thing that is worth taking up. A tiny fragment upon his chest. As she reclaims it, she recognizes the fragment as her own bone — a small piece of her own lost soul.” - adapted from a story on Livingintheforest.com
Recognize “being lost” is not always an indication that we need to leave to find ourselves. There is tremendous power in learning to create Space for and make peace with our selves right where we are. Each relationship with friend, lover, teacher, or relative and each journey or situation is an opportunity to breath life back into yourself and choose to be whole.
So on this full Wolf Moon, I ask you to connect to your Wild wolf-like Woman and bring her back home!
Before you begin the work of journeying to gather this piece of your soul, your inner Wild Woman, I must introduce you to your anchors for this month:
Ash tree and Cinabrite
Ash tree has always been associated with a certain wildness and the mystical aspects of the divine feminine.
If we look closely at the sacred ash tree it is easy to see that the ash runs deep within the oldest of spiritualities on the earth, and that it touches us at deep primal levels of wildness. In Celtic and Nordic mythology, the ash tree is referred to as the World Tree, or the Tree of Life, with a serpent at its roots that represents the divine feminine, spanning between worlds, the backbone of the universe; the Tree of Life, with its tall branches reaching up into the heavens and its vast root system spread deep below the Earth. In Norse mythology the ash was the tree that could span the universe, linking the three worlds worlds. The druids were said to make carvings out of the roots of the sacred ash tree, which were made to look like humans and used for healing. From a shamanic perspective, the World Tree is extremely important for travel between the worlds, where shamans do their healing work and commune with the spirits.
It has been said that ash leaves placed under the pillow before sleep would bring prophetic dreams, or ash leaves placed in containers of water would ward off illness. The bark of the ash was said to aid in curing fevers, and to be more potent at the time of year when the sap was flowing. The bark from the root was also said to be potent and used as a tonic for rheumatoid arthritis and liver disorders, probably due to its bitter qualities.
Cinabrite is a gem stone of will power to attain and maintain inner freedom. It allows us to fulfill our dreams. It gives us a strength of purpose, helps us achieve our goals and the power to pursue them. It is a stone of purpose, achievement and problem solving. It is helpful in overcoming habitual negativity. Cinabrite brings energies to assist with breaking old patterns, of sabotaging self and bringing acceptance of success. It is said to help find creative solutions and make changes in one's life. It cleanses repressed emotions, brings peace of mind and calms debilitating emotions. Cinabrite aids self-discipline and will-power. It is a stone that enhances emotional and spiritual growth. It dispels criticalness, promotes patience, perception, and supplements personal power.
Connect with Branch & Stone
Gather your cinabrite stone, if you have one, place it in your right hand (or place in just inside your bra cup near your heart if you’re doing your own drumming), get comfortable and close your eyes.
Begin this journey in your sacred spot. Look for the entry to the lower realm. Journey through the entry into the lower realm and call to your Guide. Ask your Guide to lead you to the sacred grove where you might connect with the Ash tree.
Sit with your back leaning against the world tree and begin to imagine your backbone with all of the nerves that run from the center of it out, connecting with the tree like branches; align your spinal column and nervous system with the heartbeat of the great ash tree, and bring your awareness to its living, breathing, center.
TO DO: Once you have deeply connected with the tree, ask the ash tree to show you the wildness in your heart and how you can manifest it more over the next year.
How does your wild nature strike when your moon time is approaching? Do you become a little more wolf-like at this time?
Use this moon cycle calendar (download and print 12 copies) to track your cycle and discover it’s rhythm in relation to the moon. Understanding your rhythms and your relationship to the cycles of the moon can draw you closer to right alignment with Mother Earth. You will better know when to push forward and when to rest. Tracking your cycle (much like a Wolf tracks their prey) is a concrete way of finding right alignment between you and this Earth. It’s Space like none other.
Even if you no longer bleed, you can still mark the shifts in your underlaying energy/mood over the course of each month. It is a skillful art to pay attention to yourself. Your surface emotions are like Sister Clouds, they are simply passing reflections of your reactions to what’s happening around you. The deeper truth of how you feel is the Air. It’s all around, inside, outside, all consuming, and not easily shifted by the whims of world.
Journey for your Sacred Object
Your sacred object this month will represent you as your wild self, your wolf nature, and your wild strength as a woman and healer.
Journey with your Guide to sit under the Ash tree again and ask that you be shown the sacred object that represents your Wild Woman. Once this object is revealed to you. It’s time to retrieve it in the real world. This might take days, weeks, or even months to finally secure your sacred object. If you have not found your object but know what it is, select a ‘placeholder’ to work with until your true power object is secured.
TO DO: Once you have your object in hand, ask your object ‘what ceremony can I do to consecrate you before you go into the bundle?’ Maybe a soak in water under moon light, maybe smudging with sage, or simply blow three clearing breathes over the object to clear it and bind it to you.
TO DO: Then take another journey with your object to request: “What one word represents my Wild Woman story for this coming year? What one word can I howl to the winds that it might reflect back to me and remind me of who I am and how I choose to move this coming year?” Share this one word with our group on Facebook.
Continue to journey with your object as much as you feel called to this month. Remember that you have the whole month to make a sacred bond with your object before it goes into your medicine bundle, so take that time and sit with it as much as possible.