Clarissa Pinkola Estés  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. (born 27 January 1945) is an [[American poet, psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist best known for Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, (Ballantine 1992/ 1996).

She was raised in a now nearly vanished oral and ethnic tradition. She grew up in a rural village, population 600, near the Great Lakes. Of Mexican mestiza and Magyar heritages, she comes from immigrant and refugee families who could not read or write, or who did so haltingly. Similar to William Carlos Williams and other poets who worked in the health professions, Estés is a certified Jungian psychoanalyst who has practiced clinically for 38 years. Her doctorate, from the Union Institute & University, is in ethno-clinical psychology, the study of social and psychological patterns in cultural and tribal groups. She often speaks as "distinguished visiting scholar" and "diversity scholar" at universities. She is the author of many books on the life of the soul, and her work is published in 33 languages. Her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 145 weeks.

She is controversial for proposing that both assimilation and holding to ethnic traditions are the ways to contribute to creative culture and to a soul-based civility. She successfully helped to petition the Library of Congress, as well as worldwide psychoanalytic institutes, to rename their studies and categorizations formerly called, among other things, "psychology of the primitives," to respectful and descriptive names, according to ethnic group, religion, culture, etc.



As post-trauma specialist, she began her work in the 1960s at hospitals caring for severely injured children, 'shell-shocked' war veterans, and their families. Her teaching of writing in prisons began in the early 1970s at the Men's Penitentiary in Colorado; the Federal Women's Prison at Dublin, CA, and in prisons throughout the Southwest. She ministers in the fields of childbearing loss, surviving families of murder victims, as well as critical incident work. She served at natural disaster sites, developing post-trauma recovery protocol for earthquake survivors in Armenia, and teaching citizens deputized to do post-trauma work on site. She recently served Columbine High School and community after the massacre, 1999-2003. She works with 9-11 survivor families on both east and west coasts.

Estés served as Governor's appointee to the Colorado State Grievance Board 1993-2006. She currently is a board member of Authors Guild, New York; an advisory board member for The National Writers Union, N.Y.; an advisory board member of The Coalition Against Censorship, NY; and as a board member of the Maya Angelou Minority Health Foundation at Wake Forest Medical School. She is an advisor to El Museo de las Americas, Colorado; a contributing editor to The Bloomsbury Review; and a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Estés, a former hard-scrabble welfare mother, is the recipient of numerous awards including the first Joseph Campbell Keeper of the Lore Award for her work as la cantadora; and for her written work, the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis; and The Catholic Press Association award for her writing. She received the Las Primeras Award, "the first of her kind" from the Mexican American Women's foundation, Washington D.C. She is a 2006 inductee to the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

Social justice

Estés' Guadalupe Foundation currently funds literacy projects in Queens, NY, and in Madagascar, and Central America -- providing printed local folktales and healthcare and hygiene information for the people in their own language; these texts are then used for learning to read and write. Estés testifies before State and Federal legislatures on welfare reform, education and school violence, child protection, mental health, environment, immigration, and other quality of life and soul issues.


"We are all los inmigrantes, the Soul is The First Immigrant: The Soul cannot be held back by any imaginary boundary drawn against it; not by mountain ranges, not by rivers, nor by human scorn. The Soul, goes everywhere, like an old woman in her right mind, going anywhere she wishes, saying whatever she wants, bending to mend whatever is within her reach. Wherever she goes, the Soul brings new life." from 'The Dangerous Old Woman'

"There is no ethnic group on the face of this earth that has not been slaughtered; viz Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Britons. When, after a conflict, the best balanced leaders who have a stake in the future of all persons, are bypassed, and instead power is seized by the angriest and most grudge-holding, whose greatest stake is in the past… without new consciousness, and without strong reconciling actions, thus erupts a horrible recycling of living out the least of what is human in this world." from "Letter To The Prince on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht"

"There are not two 'm's to governing, as many PolySci courses have taught: 'Money and Management.' There are three m's. The third one is Mercy. The third "M" constitutes the difference between a country and a corporation." from testimony before Federal Ways and Means Committee on Social Programs, Washington, D.C., 1996

"As artist-in-residence in schools, I find that whereas children used to dream bear, wolf, tiger as both friends and foes, and often… now, so so many children are dreaming Machine; gigantic stomping splints and walking piers of glittering mutant metal.... " from essay "Wild Wolf/ Wild Soul" in Comeback Wolves, eds G. Wockner, L. Prichett

"Nature and human beings are not separate. You can be sure that when the land and creatures are wounded by humans, that those humans are copying their own psychic wounds into the earth and animals as well; what is wounded and without thought, wounds others..." from essay "Massacre of the Dreamers"

"The wounding of land and creatures reaches to the dream world... and beyond it to impoverish the dreamers as well. Yet there is still time to intervene... but the time is right this instant..." ibid

"All strong souls first go to hell before they do the healing of the world they came here for. If we are lucky, we return to help those still trapped below." from the poem Abre La Puerta in 'Theatre of the Imagination' (Sounds True Audio), also for Kol Nidre at shul,

"Do not lose heart, we were made for these times..." from Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times

"The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands - all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase." from Women Who Run With the Wolves (Ballantine/ Bertelsmann 1992, 1996) (p.14)

"Just because a woman is silent does not mean she agrees…" from The Dangerous Old Woman

"If logic were everything, all men would ride sidesaddle…" from Women Who Run With The Wolves

"Some people mistake being loving for being a sap. Quite the contrary, the most loving people are often the most fierce and the most acutely armed for battle... for they care about preserving and protecting poetry, symphonic song, ideas, the elements, creatures, inventions, hopes and dreams, dances and holiness... those goodly endeavors that cannot be allowed to perish from this earth, else humanity itself would perish..." from The Dangerous Old Woman

''If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman… have faith… there is yet time." from Women Who Run with the Wolves

Notable books

  • Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, (Ballantine 1992/ 1996)
  • The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough (Ballantine 1993)
  • The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About that Which Can Never Die (Harper 1996)
  • Tales of the Brothers' Grimm; 50 page introduction by Estés (BMOC/QPB special edition)
  • Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell. 50 page introduction by Estés (Princeton University Press, Joseph Campbell 100th anniversary edition 2004
  • "La danza delle grandi madri: The Dance of the Grand Madris" (Frassinelli, Milano, Italy) 2007

Forthcoming books

  • The Dangerous Old Woman; forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf
  • La Pasionaria, A Manifesto on the Creative Fire: The Collected Poetry of Clarissa Pinkola Estés; forthcoming Alfred A. Knopf
  • La curandera: Healing in Two Worlds; forthcoming, Texas A & M University Press

Audio works

Her audio works on CDs are published by Sounds True and have been broadcast over numerous National Public Radio and community public radio stations throughout Canada and the USA

  • Warming the Stone Child: Myths & Stories About Abandonment and the Unmothered Child (Audio CDs - 1997)
  • The Radiant Coat: Myths & Stories About the Crossing Between Life and Death (Audio CDs - May 1993)
  • The Creative Fire: Myths and Stories About the Cycles of Creativity (Audio CDs - July 1993)
  • In the House of the Riddle Mother: The Most Common Archetypal Motifs in Women's Dreams (Audio CDs - March 1997, 2005)
  • Theatre of the Imagination (13 part live series, Vol I, Vol II; stories, poetry, commentaries; Audio CDs - October 1999, 2005)
  • How To Love A Woman: Myths and Stories about Intimacy and The Erotic Lives of Women (Audio CDs 1996
  • Bedtime Stories; For Crossing the Threshold Between Waking and Sleep (Audio CD 2002
  • Beginner's Guide to Dream Analysis (Audio CD 2000
  • The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough (Audio CD 1993
  • The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About that Which Can Never Die (Audio CD 1996
  • "The Boy Who Married An Eagle: Myths and Stories About Men's Interior Lives" (Audio cassette 1995
  • "The Red Shoes: On Torment and the Recovery of Soul Life" (Audio CD 1997, 2005
  • "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories about the Wild Woman Archetype" (Audio cassette 1989 the underground bestseller published before the book found a publisher)

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Clarissa Pinkola Estés" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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