The Loss of the Soul

Women Who Dance with Wolves: The Loss of the Soul – Late joining this series? Catch up on Part 1!

Even if living against our real nature for some time is just so tiring, the wild woman inside us cannot be destroyed. This is the way Clarissa Pinkola Estés describes the denial of our female soul and its basic needs in her world bestseller Women Who Run with the Wolves.

She says that we know we cannot breathe any longer if we are occupied by others. We know that there are times we have to cut ourselves off from everything for some time. But she says, however, when the call for returning home can be heard, the parts of our psyche which have been (secretly or not) preparing for the jump, scream out, “Let go of it!”

I am sure you all know the feeling of being stuck in a dead-end-road. Who has never had the feeling of having lost, or having voluntarily given up their soul?

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote down an old story on this topic, called ‘Sealskin, Soulskin.’ It is one of my favourite stories. It goes like this:

The Story:

A lonely man, living in the snowy landscape of the Far North, is hunting for seals. He is watching a group of naked female beings who are dancing in the moonlight. They have taken off their sealskins, leaving them on a rock. As the man has lived on his own for a long time, he takes away one of the skins, to bind one of these women to him. When she wants to go back into the water with the others, she cannot find her skin. So, she has to stay behind. The man promises to give the skin back to her after seven summers if she remains his wife during these seven years.

After some time, the seal woman gives birth to a son, who they call Ooruk. The years go by and the human skin of the woman becomes more and more scaly and brittle until it eventually hangs down her body like rags. Her white skin becomes hollow and grey, she loses her hair, and her once expressive eyes do not reflect her soul anymore. But the man does not return the sealskin after seven years, as he is scared of losing her forever.

One day the seal woman finds her skin under a rock, slips it on, takes her child, and dives back into her old home, a glittering town in the water. Although her original beauty slowly returns and she is happy, she recognizes that her son has to go back into the human world. She takes Ooruk back to the beach, promising him to remain connected with him forever.

Years go by, and Ooruk turns into a splendid and respectable man. Sometimes he can be seen kneeling on a rock, talking to a seal with particularly wise, wild, and soulful eyes. Despite trying very hard people cannot catch the seal.

The Deeper Meaning:

The key message of this fairy tale is the fact that many young women are completely unprepared for the fact that their soulskin might be stolen one day. However, the loss of their emotional and physical freedom, for instance in a restrictive or unhappy partnership, the following difficulties and the consequent attempt to break free can result in a strong spiritual development boost.

This is what happens:

  • The women become aware of what should be the main priorities in their lives.
  • Then they decide to regain something lost (for instance, their freedom, their strength, their intuition, etc.).
  • Then they notice that they have to do something for their own freedom.
  • And finally, after they have decided to free themselves and put it into practice, they undergo an enormous inner transformation process which allows them to develop their hidden powers and medial abilities.

What Do You Correspond With?

Read through my questions and consider the feelings they awaken.

Maybe you would like to write down your thoughts:

  • Have you ever noticed that you had false expectations of life as a young woman?
  • Have you ever given up your freedom, more or less voluntarily, because of naivety, inexperience, or credulity?
  • Have you ever been or are you in a situation where you feared or fear to dry out because your sealskin has been taken or is being taken away?
  • What would have been or would be the price of regaining your sealskin?
  • Did you enter a deep inner process as a result of the loss or giving up your freedom? What did it induce? What changed in and for you?
  • Are you ready and able to defend your sealskin?

The Loss of the Soul as Initiation:

Only if we women dive deep down into our soul, are we able to consciously make contact with our spirituality. There are numerous ways back home, even when the opening which we used to dive down seems closed on the next day.

We just have to find a different one.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series this time next week!

– Ingrid


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