La Loba – The Bone Woman

In the long ago when the world made sense and humans didn’t do so much talking, wolves ran free across the world. Then the new people manifested from some hidden old greed-land, that the badger folk forgot to close the door to, and they decimated the people of the old ways, killing their stories which were also their souls. Killing off the wolves if the wolves were their totems. Scared of everything.

There are hides and hollows and hedges in the world where the otter people and the raven people still live, keeping the stories of the long ago alive for those willing to listen.

The story of La Loba is that of an old woman living hidden in plain sight in places that everyone knows that most people don’t know. Clarissa Pinkola Estés says, “She’s been seen travelling south in a burned out car with the back window shot out… or riding shotgun with truckers”[1].

When she’s not getting up to mischief with other animal people La Loba gathers the bones of the long dead wolves that lie white under moonlight, scattered across the ancient land, until she has a complete skeleton. Then throughout the depths of night she works her magic, finally giving her breath. Come dawn the wolf is enchanted into life, yips with laughter, licks her face, pauses for mere seconds before running, wild and delighted, toward the tree-line.

When I first learned this story I thought it just another folk tale because I didn’t understand. Now I do. She has been in a desert that sooner or later we all travel. A seemingly barren place that, in truth, is not. Finding sustenance there can only happen with familiarity and through the teachings of the old people who know these stories.

La Loba is in every woman, as is the wolf, as is the free woman she becomes.

The many mythic people in my story are to remind us that we are all still in the long ago. That the people in mythworld are very real and that we are being fooled by creatures not always like us. Not always with our stories or our best interests at heart. That we have as much right to be here as they do. That they should not fear us just because they do not recognize the way of us.

We must protect La Loba wherever in the world she turns up. Offer her a whisky and a place beside the fire. A bed for the night in exchange for what’s in that pouch hanging off her belt or what she’s got clutched tight in that fist. Or in her remembering. Or maybe just because of the relief we feel when she comes to our door in the first place.


I have unlocked the stories in my bones. Memories of ancient primordial forests in which I hunted, making love beside a vast still lake.

Remembering that my dead mother’s skin still lies there, remembering running silently between towering spruce trees in the snow, following the reindeer along deep ancestral tracks. My father was born on the pelts before the fire pit in a house made of earth, his mother and aunties chanting birthing spells low in their throats, and the small wide eyed children of the horse keeping vigil until the heavily tattooed old woman bites the cord. His child is me. A thousand generations ago you and I were there. Nothing has gone. Life has changed and many have suffered an unbearable isolation because no one has reminded us of who else we are other than beyond the current skins we wear.

A walking man explained the Celtic word hiraeth to me as homesickness, a longing, deep and inexplicable because we don’t know what home is. The suffering this causes. Dispossession is in our marrow and that fear, beneath the surface we present to the world, of lovelessness and plastic and asphalt, crowding us into a corner from which we cannot escape.

Initiation is a mapped and charted experience that many people do not understand or recognize when the experience is not on their terms. You will be woken up. When wolf mother takes us in her jaws and pulls us into the myth we must realize we are helpless. Myth is not fallacy. Myth is as real as the skin that keeps our rawness clothed. Joseph Campbell, in Hero With a Thousand Faces, explains initiation as firstly a Threshold. We die to who we have been. And yes, always tragically. We cross into the Liminal World and become lost. This could last a lifetime if we lack the necessary insight to realize what is happening. We need to be on the lookout then, as we travel the days and nights of desolation and confusion, for the signs of the Return. We must keep our ears pricked and our tails bushy. There must be a Return. Someone to know us. To be met and the purpose of this new life be revealed.


When we consciously recognize the place in which we currently live as the liminal world of not-life we may very well be ready to return. We will know. We will meet the Gatekeeper. This could be someone already there or someone new. They will complement the true us. This is not like any other compliment. The person is recognized for the depth of them and how far they have climbed from that pit. Words will liberate the dark night of the soul. The Gatekeeper gives the keys to a new life. Do we have the guts to walk through? To accept the change with only courage? To leave that lost place, savage forest, mist of futility, cave of self-doubt and take the challenge of being raw, temporarily blind and furless?

No one can hold us should we choose to make this choice, to wear the next mask and to clothe ourselves in this new garment of self. We don’t have to cleave to the identity that we thought defined us. Life is art. Life wants experience through who we are and what we do. Wants the lone wolf to run with the pack.

My most recent initiation took nine years and I didn’t know until I reached the other side.


[1] Women Who Run With the Wolves, Random House, 1992

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