Do you feel it in your bones? A sense that something has shifted, that the world has turned? The dark is far from over, but it’s no longer rising. Something new is coming; something new is ready to be birthed.
But there you are, still in the darkness; still hunkered down in the cave. And caves, as I wrote in If Women Rose Rooted, are ‘the black, chasmal mouths of the Otherworld; the gateways to transformation – the deep and enduring transformations which are delivered from exposure to the darkest of places. The night-filled, fecund womb-places of the Earth – out of them we are reborn.’
The darkness undoes us. Dismantles the ego, takes us apart, breaks us into pieces – precisely so that we can begin the long, hard work of putting the fragments back together again, rebirthing ourselves into a new pattern. ‘In that place of destruction, gestation and rebirth, we begin to learn the answer to the biggest question of all: if we strip away everything we are told we must be in the Wasteland, what is left? When everything we once valued is taken from us, what then do we become?’
Old Bone Mother lives in a cave; she understands the dark. She knows that there are dangers to be found. One of the greatest dangers lies in the fact that it is all too easy to get stuck there. Again, to quote from If Women Rose Rooted: ‘We may focus in too tightly on the intensity of our grief, sinking into it, drowning in it. We may talk of little else, we may become self-absorbed, self-pitying, navel-gazing. This is another of the ways in which our society tricks us, for we have become a culture of narcissists, excessively focused on the perfection of our own pain. But this is a time to resist the urge to protracted self-pity, because it is all too easy to lose ourselves in tending our own emotional wounds; it is all too easy never to move on. It is true that we have to do a good deal of inner work before we have anything meaningful to offer to the outer world; it is true too that we must recognise our wounds and incorporate them into the ground of our becoming. But we need also to stop licking them. We are more than the sum of our wounds. We need to focus on coming back to our bodies, beginning to repossess our instincts, beginning to reclaim our deep connection to the land and its non-human inhabitants. This is how we heal.’
Who is Old Bone Mother, and what does she have to do with all this?
Old Bone Mother is an archetype, a potential; we find her in the old folktales. In the person of Baba Yaga, with her forest hut which runs on chicken legs, and is surrounded by a wooden fence topped with skulls. In the Siberian story of the dead hero who is taken to an old woman in a cave; she sleeps on his bones, and so brings him back to life. In the Mexican story of La Huesera, who takes bones back to her cave and sings them back to life.
Bones are the essence of us, and they always speak the truth. The childish bones buried beneath The Juniper Tree; The Singing Bone with its story of murder and treachery. You can’t fool the bones, and you can’t fool Old Bone Mother. She’ll lead you to the cave; she’ll sleep on your bones; she’ll show you the way to tend your wounds, how to grope your way gently back to wholeness. Old Bone Mother knows all the tricks of the healing dark. But Old Bone Mother knows we sometimes need a little tougher love. She knows when it’s time to let you go, when it’s time to kick you back out again. Back into the world, back on the path, on out into the promise of returning light.
It’s time to begin rousing yourself now; it’s time, slowly, to begin to wake up.It’s time, like the light, to be reborn.
You’ve been touched by Old Bone Mother. You’ll be all right.