The Bone Collector: the archetype of ressurection

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In Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés begins with the story of La Loba, the collector of bones. The old woman, the crone, who carries a cure for everything. She stops and digs in the desert for a fragment of wolf skeleton and then, as night falls, she lays out every piece of the puzzle. As she chants and raises her hands flesh and sinew bond to the frame and fur materialises. The wolf breathes into her resurrection. She leaps up and runs towards a horizon. Halfway there she transforms into a laughing naked woman who disappears into the wild.

La Loba, much like Baba Yaga, is terrifying and magnificent as an archetype.  She is powerful and unpredictable and she doesn’t take kindly to bullshit.  If you are lucky you may see her at sunset when you are tired and thirsty and she may take a liking to you and show you something for the soul. In this story bone symbolises the parts of self that cannot decay, that cannot be destroyed, that remain. Bones symbolises the soul. Inspired by  Estés, I would like to tell another story. The story of a different bone collector.

Once there was and once there was not… a woman, a girl, a child, a maiden. In the darkest of nights she was shattered to her core. The pieces of her flew far and wide finding homes in other people, broken people, every piece, a small fragment of bone. 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. Only out of the corner of your eye can you see the cracks show through. The spell makes her forgetful and blind. She stumbles around in the dark, looking for something to quench her thirst – the deep thirst of emptiness. She finds a boy, a man, a lover, and drinks of him. She feeds him more than she has in return and weaves, unconsciously, a spell around him – the fairy tale of a life, a happy future.  She gives too much and drinks all there is until the illusion vanishes, to her surprise, and all is grey and meaningless. Both she and he are devastated but there is nothing she can do to help. She must move on but as she turns to leave she catches a spark out of the corner of her eye: one thing left that is worth taking. She plucks the silver stone from his chest, her own fragment of bone, and leaves the crumbling ruins of the illusion. Slowly she wanders and the cycle repeats over and over. Every encounter seems much the same, every person reveals a little more of herself…

I’m not sure how this story ends. Maybe the girl becomes La Loba, maybe she eventually finds, through gathering the pieces of herself, some kind of wholeness that allows the spell of illusion to be broken.

Astrologically bones are ruled by Saturn and illusions and delusions by Neptune. There is something particularly Saturn in Scorpio about the re-claiming of fragments of bones through intimate encounters – in discovering the self through the mirroring of other people. This kind of projection also relates heavily to Neptune in the 7th house. Those of us with this natal combination are wonderful projection-artists when it comes to relating and relationships.  Neptune also embodies the wholeness of surrender and the final, 12th house, stage of the journey. Neptune’s native sign of Pisces is also heavily connected with Resurrection (Jesus fish). So in this story Neptune is both the obstacle and the goal.

Beginning the journey

The Forest

The beginning of an archetypal journey can be quite muddled. You are scraping through the sediment of the conscious mind, digging deeper into the dark. Sometimes you have to make a mess in order to clean up and this is one of those times. Sometimes you will look back and wonder why you even started down this path in the first place. It would be easier to live a life filled with television or set on the pursuit of a singular goal, or preoccupied by the comings and goings of those around you. Why did I chose transformation? What is the point? Why do I even bother? Such is the nature of despair, among the emotions which will be dredged up in this process. You will look forward and feel that no progress has been made, you will get stuck, you will stumble, that is part of the work. Other times you will reach a calm space, sit down on a washed up drift-wood tree trunk, sip tea from a thermos and look back at how far you’ve come. The further you trudge the lighter and clearer things become, that is, until the path narrows again and you’re back a the trench just like the last one, only this time you have grown more perspective. The following is a mythological interpretation of such a beginning. Take from it what you will. Look into her eyes. Pale moonlight skin. Dark hair and cloak. She reaches out, Come with me, holds out the dark blood apple. We reach for her hands. La Loba. The wild woman. Her face transforms into an old hag. She cackles. Hold on tight as she leads us through the forest, through the desert, through the ice. Drifting through a thousand lands and she still leads us, over a moonlit beach. A fern brushes my face. We are still in the forest. She turns, serpent face. A sly tongue darts out. She hisses. We follow still. The world comes up and washes over us. Transformation swirls inside. My head comes open, spilling out into the night sky and still she leads us – on and on – into the wild. Our wilderness. Wild lands. We open our eyes to pure white. We open again, lids peeling back like curtains to pitch blackness. We continue down the path. She sheds a million faces, reveals a million selves and the woods open up. Giant wings break free of her shoulder blades; tattered black feathers breathe. She takes flight and then turns on us. I am open. Her claws find our backs and we swoop into the sky. We fly forever. We know we will fall soon. She will let us go into our own metamorphosis. We reach the moon before she releases us to the drop. We fall. Fall. Wings break free from where her claws once touched. We cough and jolt simultaneously from our beds. A twig snaps beneath your foot. She is still leading us, on and on, through the forest. We are still starring into the mirror at the wild woman in our own eyes.