Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul Hardcover – Oct 28 2011
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In the first work by poet and psychoanalyst Estés (Women Who Run with Wolves) in a decade, this brilliant treatment is much larger than the sum of its parts. Estés's understanding of Our Holy Lady ("she wears a thousand names") is disturbing and enlightening; she presents a figure who reflects and elevates the essential and inherent qualities of humanity. Through sacred traditions, personal stories, prayers, and images, Estés makes visible the ancient and modern fiercely loving force of the Divine feminine-the Compassionate Mother. "The ultimate Mother Who Gave Birth to Love... bends to tend to the needful soul," Estés writes. Like the traditional prayer Memorare, through the technology of mind and heart, this book calls readers to awaken with full consciousness "to Her within us: acting like, thinking like, loving like the Holy Mother does."
-Publishers Weekly, November 2011
About the Author
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, is an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition). In addition to her international bestseller Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Estés is a managing editor and columnist writing on politics, spirituality, and culture at the newsblog TheModerateVoice.com, and she is a columnist at The National Catholic Reporter online.
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So...Instead it makes more sense to me to speak about what happens when one meets the book, encounters the author's voice, and through her enters the presence of the Strong Woman she so passionately introduces now to the rest of the world. Regardless of our faith or lack thereof, our gender, our culture, or our political creed.
I started to preorder this weeks ago out of curiousity, but largely skeptical. Discussion of the mother archetype and such religious themes carries echos of familiarity from either my upbringing or academic past. Some have been decidedly not pleasant. And for the most part I would say I'm not very comfortable "believing" in them -- particularly if I sense persuasive efforts to press me into cooperation with a view held by one particular organized or institutionalized version. My preferred entrance into the spiritual, sacred, or holy is more easily recognized in the nonverbal world of nature. Nonetheless, I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from several other works from Dr. Estes. These convinced me that her newest book, UnTie the Strong Woman, might be quite different than my expectations. Indeed, it is not like any other book I have ever encountered.
In brief, because there is so much for each person to individually discover on their own, and not wishing to spoil any secrets I will just say that I was awe-struck by the following:
1. This book and its message radiates beauty. From cover to cover. Not just the dust jacket. But a collection of beautiful color images generously dispersed throughout the book that clearly amplifies the stories, the intention, the quality, and wisdom that the author has refined over years in order to communicate her passionate love for Our Lady, Blessed Mother, the Source with many names.
2. The hope and realness that permeates shared portions of Dr. Este's personal journey, revealed more here than I've seen in previous books. And even more ... the genuine respect, compassion and love she passes along to her readers. I've not found any boasting -- but instead a quiet, persistent, incredibly skilled poetic manner in which she gives flesh and blood to her conviction that the Blessed Mother loves the Wild Soul in all beings.
3. It has a unique design and quality that meets me where I am at the moment and expands tenderly to reach my soul. It doesn't have to be read cover to cover. More like interacting with the Dao De Jing or creating a sand-tray. A story that fits is often right where it falls open, as if it calls.
I'll want to visit over and over. Am thinking this is a text to be treasured the rest of my lifetime. I feel no coercion. Refreshing, even when it reaches to the dirt, grit and blood of life and death -- lending meaning and greater purpose to some of humanities darkest hours and its most joyous celebrations. Though in my younger years certain words/phrases used to flow easily from my mouth, too easily, too empty and too trained so that I rarely am comfortable uttering them now ... this is one occasion in which they feel required. Hence, while reading this book I feel I am indeed "Standing on Holy Ground", experiencing sacred cries and community across centuries and cultures. UnTie the Strong Woman -- it is a Gift to us, to me. One I know I will be sharing.
The preceding review is for the printed hardcover book. The CD audiobook is clearly and closely related, but in my view a work all its own, with some important gifts and differences from the printed text. It is NOT simply a recording of the author reading her book page after page. I find substantial value in the character and art work of both. Unfortunately, Amazon is organized in such a way that we cannot enter separate reviews for both works. Thus, for those interested, please look under comments for information about the CD collection.
It is not an easy book to read, mind you, but that has less to do with the book (I suspect) and more to do with what the author might call "the overculture" in which we swim, the shaped expectations for immediate access or sound-bites imprinted into readers today. Untie the Strong Woman is an important text to receive, in the end. It is one that will take me years to read well, which I do commit to completing/receiving. I'll share here only a couple `two-cents' worth of what I mean, or why.
Untie the Strong Woman is classic Estés: story-formed teachings, poetry, blessings, all interwoven with decades of Jungian-flavored insights into the human condition in its beauty and difficulty. Devotees of her and her work will find nourishment they've hoped for, perhaps even come to expect, with a clear sense of the sound of her voice in their ears. I wonder if some will be surprised, however. The text shows a strongly steeped Catholic voice, though not in any staid-traditional sense. Those on the outside of her circle of devoted students, such as myself, those who are familiar with her Jungian-archetypal work (especially Women Who Run with the Wolves) may read even the obvious subtitle "Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love" without awareness that a Catholic-nuanced "Blessed Mother" and her Holy Child will appear in these pages. Because traditional-association with religion can be so isolating, so misperceived, or even rightly perceived and wounding, some devotees within earth-spirituality circles (let's say) may be faced with the discomforting truths that the Great Mother has indeed spoken within historical traditions--even institutions--of faith, as well as beyond them. Integration of that discomfort into a broader heart, even led by an immaculate heart, may push some readers where they didn't intend to go. Like I said, classic Estés.
The text offers a fascinating bridge between highly literate readers yearning for deeply steeped wisdom and those whom Estés often refers to as rustic, whose wisdom is deeply steeped but not expressed in (or constrained by) precise requirements of high literacy. What I'm talking about here has less to do with being able to read and write or not--often what literacy refers to in public discourse--but the habits of mind and community that come with literate and oral communities. (Read Walter Ong, S.J., if you want details). Untie the Strong Woman refuses to leave the shores of oral-formed community, which tends to be much more immediate, intensely relational, highly affective-emotive, repetitive with refrains (easier to remember that way, without written source-language), integrative of all forms of expression (language, art, poetry, music...), and normed by relationship, not professional expertise or aesthetic. The stories, ex-voto offerings before each chapter, regular prayers and blessings offered are all these things. Yet the text also refuses to leave the shores of literate finesse or habits. There are endnotes, didactic teachings about use of language, citations of other authors on the topic, a rationale for the popularist aesthetics.
Therefore, if you're a reader who wants highly professionalized treatises on different cultural `takes' on the Great Mother archetype, you'll have to cross the bridge with oral forms of expression to receive them. They're there, but in a form you won't expect or perhaps enjoy. You may even be tempted to discount what you read. If you're a reader who wants the stories and archetypal reflections and communal wisdom for life that the Mother offers, you too will have the cross the bridge with professionalized-literate forms of expression to receive them. After all, the blessing "so may it be for all of us" means just that, for us all. Readers of every kind may have to learn broader skills of listening-reading to welcome all, regardless of oral or literate expectation. Sometimes what is most important to receive takes more willingness and heart than 'easy-media' now trains us to allow--cognitively, emotionally, spiritually.
Most of all, Mother Clarissa has extended herself, her essential Self, to enjoin more of us to come sit with her (yes, by the fireside) for the discomforting wisdom the Strong Woman offers a world in dire need of it, of Her. Her wild-hearted compassion leads readers into contexts and communities traditionally bastardized in global media but sanctified and strengthened when surrounded by such embrace. Holy pilgrimage to an immigration-detention center--prison--for instance. Listening-readers gain insight into the origin of Estés own devotion to Holy Mother with stories from her personal narrative. Mother, light, and the waters of a Great Lake birthing a young imagination with tenacity of vision. We listen alongside an activist-voice as well, offering a portion of her book as gentle force in a local parish dispute, potential injustice. Given the iconic book-cover with Our Lady of Guadalupe, we can both smile and cringe that the public-private dispute is far from over.
Here at the end of my two cents' worth, I find myself with a smiling, perhaps impish-query, delightful in its cultural juxtapositions. The Nur community, a Muslim 'community of light' originating in Turkey, honors its teacher with a particular term, bediuzzaman, which means a singular "wonder of the age," a visionary voice and irrepressible teacher in faith, truth, light. As I was driving home from work last night, I found myself wondering whether there's such a word as bediuzzawoman for this visionary voice and irrepressible teacher in faith, truth, and light. I'd have to delve into the etymology to find out whether such cross-cultural word-play would serve uniting purpose, but the shoe fits her vision, her voice, her work, the fruits of her labors, so very well. La Cantadora, from within her own circles; Bediuzzawoman from afar.
In sum, I'm beginning to appreciate the title of Untie the Strong Woman as a communal declaration of its author. It's not an easy book to read, but it's an important one. Here you will find strength of vision, strength of voice, strength for the world to receive. Untied. United. Uniting. Poetic word-play well suited to such a one as Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, for those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and heart to break open for the largest good of us all.
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