Excerpted from The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman ©2018 by Danielle Dulsky. Published with permission from NewWorldLibrary.com | January 2, 2019
To be human is to be tasked to create. We are born with the capacity to feel deeply for a reason, with the instinct to make something new out of the old and birth some great majesty from the union between body and imagination. To place restrictions on a woman’s sensuality is also to restrain her creativity, and the Maiden of the Unbridled Sensual has awakened her art through whole-body feeling and the continual validation of her emotions.
In Salome's revisioned tale, the Crone-Mermaid grants the Maiden permission with only a single glance. This odd creature symbolizes the union of playful creativity with seasoned, grandmotherly wisdom. She is the ultimate creatrix, a living and joyous work of art who is the knowing elder. Her very presence as a witness to the beginnings of Salome's self-designed ceremony is heartening, spurring the Maiden forward and reflecting back to her this truth: She is the living, breathing antidote to all that would poison the creative and sensual empowerment of the feminine.
We all have an art that is ours, an embodied action that is generative, that awakens us, shakes us, and makes us as much as we make it. To create is to be brave, to move beyond the fear of ruining the blank canvas, the white screen, the onstage performance, or the shower song. To create is to be sensually alive, to face all our demons in a single creative action, and to harvest the shadows that we ourselves had buried deep within our psyches. All art is born of the fertile waters of passion and pain, and the Maiden of the Unbridled Sensual has been initiated into the tribe of warrior creators, makers of the heathen art and poetesses of the wild word.
Ah, here I am, finally.
I've come, at long last, to the mouth of this primeval cave where the four hungry and licentious demons reside, their clawed fingers embedded deeply into all my protective totems, into every shield I thought would preserve my safety in this life and the next. I don't know what prompted the deception, the great betrayal that robbed me of my sense of self-worth, but I know that now I cannot turn away from the arduous task of reclaiming my dark, lest my art be forever starved, lest my sexuality remain forever frozen.
My bones are aching and shaking. I am entering the Earth's musty womb now, and I see the red eyes of the ghost of the north. She bids me turn back and leave her be. She tells me I lack control and am destined for failure, and she mocks my passion.
"Just who do you think you are?" she asks.
I crouch to all fours like the stalking huntress I am and take her down, bare hands clinging to her veiny throat and vicious mouth spitting straight into her judgmental eyes. Good riddance! This brave heart is mine! I have reclaimed my wild maturity now, my feminine fortitude, and my soul-born courage to find my purpose and let it drive my sacred work to the truest north.
Alas, my celebration is short-lived, for now I must fight the ghost of the east, the white-robed guru who thinks me weak and ego bound, the condescending spiritual vampire who wants to drain me dry and keep me addicted to a distant God. Ha! He tells me my sense of separation is meaningless, for unity is all that is real, but I stand rock-steady on the ancient ground and tell him of my selfhood and my soul-sourced integrity. I speak of my sovereignty. I tell him of the merit of descent, and he shrinks to dust with every affirmation of my body's holiness. This body is mine, and it is holy. I have reclaimed my inner divinity now, my blessed birthright and Earth-sanctioned mandate to be whole unto myself and pray with the body divine.
The air in the space is suffocating now with heat and wild hellfire. The walls are ablaze with an untamed bloodlust, and I worry I've come too far just as the ghost of the south springs forth with blades drawn and wings spread. She tells me my blood is dirty, and my flesh is flawed. "Have you no shame?" she asks. She speaks of shameful encounters I thought were long gone, and she shows me visions of more sacral woundings than I deserved.
I am undone. I fall to my knees and am about to claim defeat, to take my gifts from the north and east and turn homeward, when I feel spectral hands lifting me to my feet. I sense the grandmothers of my line holding me upright when all I want is to sink down, and I find the courage to speak of my truest currencies.
"Listen to me, you beast!" I tell the ghost; my rage is righteous and my body is mine and mine alone. I tell the wild temptress that her blades are not sharp enough to pierce my ever-shielded, always-unruined heart, and I take her down with a single upward flick of my tongue. I have reclaimed my holy lust, my right to dance, and my skin’s sacred autonomy. This boiling blood is mine.
The flames cool, and I walk long into the icy depths, long into silence and solitude. I know that the three ghosts I have conquered thus far are nothing compared to the last shadowy elemental of the west, who knows the deepest parts of me, the darkness so hidden that I myself forget its name. I shudder, sure I hear a low whisper-hiss calling me, but find it is only a slow-moving underground river rushing lightly over obsidian. I wait, aware of the nonsensical comfort of this place, but soon lay eyes on my final foe. She ascends from the water like a black-eyed cave selkie, and she reminds me of every lie I ever told, shows me every face I betrayed and brought to tears, and threatens to tell the world my most shameful secrets. She tells me I could never be elevated, never praised for my art, never lifted into the public eye, for then all would be revealed. I would be exposed, and I would be exiled onto a faraway island like a soul criminal.
"You will be seen," she vows, and her threat is the most terrible one I've heard in all my years, for it speaks straight to my soul's greatest obstacle.
I do fear being seen. I fear judgment, and I fear being called fraud, fake, and phony. I fear all that comes from doing my sacred work in the world, and I've let that fear keep me quiet and my art unknown.
My muscles grip my bones, and I wonder if death is easier than fighting this shadow. I start softly, speaking of my muse and beauty, then I raise my voice and howl to the cave creatures that I am worth more than to muddle through and pedal on. I am the vital creatrix with a painted face, and I am not going home without reclaiming all that has been stolen.
"I demand you return my hidden wounds and sequestered shadows!" I bellow. "Give me back my right to be seen and heard!" I demand, and she crumbles into a slippery heap of leathery skin and oil-bubbled water.
It is done. This voice is mine.
I have not reclaimed all that was lost, but I've recovered enough of my buried treasure to continue on, to persist, and to bewitch this world with my art.
And so it is.
You have already imagined your life as an epic novel, my love. Now, imagine you, at this very moment in time, as a beauteous watercolor portrait. Describe this painting, using the prompts I offer here or your own, and consider this artwork a visual and vibrant reflection of your joys and your sorrows, your many pleasures and melancholies. Here, in this moment, you are the Crone-Mermaid, a wise and painted creature who has learned much in her long years swimming in the deep blue mystery. This painting is of a woman who... Her eyes are like... She seems to know exactly what... I would title this painting “The Heathen Who...” My wish for this woman is... Of course, even the most skilled artist could not do justice to the breathing beauty that is you, but, if you feel called, create this artwork now, either by a simple line drawing in your journal or in a more elaborate form. Perhaps let this simple practice be the beginnings of reclaiming your artistry, of rekindling your creatrix flames.
The new moon is a symbol of the Maiden, a lunar promise of hopeful beginnings, a monthly reminder that we, too, can be reborn. We, too, can shed the skins that no longer warm us, the masks that no longer fit, and the veils that hide our worth. Whatever other names we might give to our longing, we all yearn for embodied presence. We have all caught fleeting glimpses of that particular bliss awarded us only when our souls, bodies, minds, and spirits have been bound together in joy, and we have all stood at the water’s edge, like Salome, wondering whether we had the power to give ourselves permission to dive in, to untie the tethers wrapped around our limbs by someone else’s hand. The new moon is a cyclical vow made from the wild feminine to our heathen souls that whatever missteps we may have made in our past, whatever wounds have been carved into our flesh, we can rechristen ourselves with the holy water of our tears and begin again, at long last.
Danielle Dulsky is the author of The Holy Wild and Woman Most Wild. She is an artist, yoga teacher, energy worker, and founder of Living Mandala Yoga teacher training programs. ... @WolfWomanWitch, @NewWorldLibrary
The Holy Wild invites you to create your own spiritual path based on often-suppressed ancient principles and contemporary practices. Using the elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) rather than traditional patriarchal hierarchies, this “holy book” is designed to connect each individual to their universal — but often denied — powers. Wild woman Danielle Dulsky takes you deep as she explores and embraces sacred feminine archetypes such as the Mother Goddess, the Crone, and the Maiden. We hope you will enjoy these excerpts from the book.