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Seashells, sticks, stones, algae

Santo António beach


Skeleton Woman

In her book ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’, Clarissa Pincola Estes tells the story of Skeleton Woman, an Inuit tale of healing. In this story, relationship cycles unfold through the actions of two people. During one of its key moments, despite his feelings of fear and moved by care, one of the protagonists untangles the bones of the heroine’s skeleton; and in this organisation, in this mend that follows her principles without imposing a new one, by listening and understanding, the cared for bones become one again the skeleton. With this re-arranged structure, the heroin re-establishes a new life, which then, becomes a new possibility, a new way, for both.

Françoise A. Cloutier frames this tale through the process of healing of the abused feminine psyche, interpreted as individual and collective; and explores how relationships, in its broader sense - to oneself, to one’s body, and to the other - are essential in the process of healing. Her perspective can be seen as both female and male. I find fascinating that beyond the fight or flight response that is common in humans, the fisherman of this story seems to display the pattern of behaviour to tend and befriend, identified in women by Shelley Taylor et al. And I can’t help but wonder, to what extent are our innermost behaviours a result of our cultural ground.

I find this story of abuse, rejection and ultimately, overcoming to be a potent teaching on the mending of the relationship with nature: of witnessing the loss and pain, and informed by the awareness of that challenging emotional landscape, to evoke the innermost goodness that entails an approach with respect and care.


And so, a line: an impermanent indication at low tide, pointing a direction; a reorganisation of an inner and outer scheme; a movement towards mending a bond, over and over again: a commitment.





Cloutier, FA (2011). The Skeleton Woman: Healing Through Relating. Association of Jungian Psychoanalysts of Quebec - The Skeleton Woman - Final version - Nov 2011.pdf  

Estés, CP (1992). Women who run with the wolves : myths and stories of the wild woman archetype. New York: Ballantine Books

Taylor SE, Klein LC, Lewis BP, Gruenewald TL, Gurung RA, Updegraff JA. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychol Rev. 2000 Jul;107(3):411-29. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.107.3.411. PMID: 10941275.

Skeleton woman
Land art
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