Careful, children: according to Hans Peter Duerr, that “wild woman” might eat you.

Past Puritan contributor Aleah Sato discusses her poem, “The Wild Woman,” from Issue 16: Winter 2012, and the wild women that inspired it. 

“… These fears that fell to my lot out of every day stirred a hundred other fears, and they stood up in me against me and agreed among themselves, and I couldn’t get beyond them. In striving to form them, I came to work creatively on them; instead of making them into things of my will, I only gave them a life of their own which they turned against me …”

Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

La Loba, Kali Ma, Artemis … The feral woman presents herself as both mysterious, embodying the sensuous in her ability to shape-shift and multiply the mysteries inherent in being alive, yet terrifying to our comforts and sensibilities.

The author Hans Peter Duerr, in his book Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization, wrote of flying women—fearsome witches—at the intersection of hallucination and reality. His fascination was with those nightmares of the Black Forest and their spells looming over villagers. He wrote of women as bats, as misguided peyote eaters, as daemon others searching for lost souls and delicious babies, of the men who could not resist these women’s freedom and tempestuous nature. The dark woods planted strange imagery in the archaic mind, minds that persisted when the dark woods became societies of science and industry.

The Wild Woman rose up through my research in the mythic wilderness of landscape and dreamscape. Less reflective of dualism and the body/mind split, The Wild Woman is a woman who refuses to succumb to the boundaries of society—but more to this, she defies what is real. The pursuer is I, you, we.

Defying the female or feminine as subject, the poem explores the aspects of Self that we attempt to capture in order to undermine: the belching, growling, belly-moaning, irritable and free-floating tendencies that exist but are avoided. “Everyone dies trying to tame her,” as the poem opens—that is, a lifetime is spent pushing out the nature of being alive: pain, aging, and mortality.  The Wild Woman is our essential life and death. Trembling, we see her collecting our bones and moving our ashes from home to some cosmic narrative.

The Wild Woman speaks to the paradox of our struggle to be released from what we think will also save us. Ultimately, it is the struggle that makes us fully realized. It is in being the pursuer and in knowing what we seek that we are most fragile, human.

Aleah Sato is the author of Badlands and Stillborn Wilderness. Her not for profit, The Wild Muse, connects women who have experienced trauma and addiction to the triad of nature, the arts, and healing. She can be reached via email, or through her blog, Jane Crow Journal.

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