My journey to the cave of bones becomes evermore fascinating. Yesterday when I met the Cailleach I was aware of La Loba – The Wolf Woman. La Loba's sole work is the collecting of bones. She collects and preserves that which is in danger of being lost to the world (Pinkola Estes 1992). Her speciality is the bones of wolves. When she has collected and assembled an entire skeleton she raises her hands and starts to sing. She sings the bones into being. When the bones once again become living breathing flesh the wolf opens its eyes, jumps up and runs. Somewhere between running, whether by the speed of running, splashing through the river or the glint of sun or moonlight on its coat, the wolf is transformed into a laughing woman running free towards the horizon.
Bones are a source of ancient knowledge, they vibrate to the whispers of the ancestors. Within the ear are three tiny bones – the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). For some reason when I think of these bones I think of the Norse god Thor hammering out his wisdom across Universe to create those lightening flashes of inspiration in those who are awake and receptive. When these tiny bones resonate to sound waves they convey information to the auditory nerve that divides into three or more pathways deep within the brain. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book Women who run with Wolves recounts how ancient dissectionists spoke of how these pathways enabled a person to hear on three levels. One pathway was said to hear the mundane conversations of world. A second apprehended learning and art and a third existed so the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.
Our ancestors and the shamans knew bones were sacred. They knew they provided a pathway to connect to the Universe and the great mystery. When a shaman becomes a healer he or she must become like a hollow bone – a conduit for the source of all creation. Fools Crow a revered Lakota holy man said “We are called to become a hollow bone for our people and anyone else we can help. We are not supposed to seek power for personal use and honour. What we bones really become is a pipeline that connects Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery), the helpers, and the community together.” Fools Crow believed he went through a series of steps in becoming a hollow bone.
Firstly he called in Wakan Tanka to rid himself of anything that would impede him in anyway – doubt, questions or reluctance. He would then vision himself as a clean tube ready to be filled with hope, possibilities and anxious to be filled with power. Clear of any impediments he would experience the power surging into him. Once filled with power he would give the power away to others knowing that as he was emptied out the Higher Power would keep filling him with even greater power to be given away.
Drumming is important in opening up the portals to the spirit world and in becoming a hollow bone. Shamanic drumming corresponds to OM, the primal sound from which the Universe constantly emanates. Scientists are beginning to recognise that the sound or the Universe is linked to the organisation of matter. The mass of the Universe like our bones is not randomly scattered through space. Forces such as gravity drive the organisation of matter so stars get grouped into galaxies, galaxies herd together into galaxy clusters and on an even larger scale scientists think matter in the Universe is arranged into a structure resembling a web with vast regions of emptiness in between strings of galaxy groups. As I try to comprehend this vision an image of Indra's web comes to mind.
So back to bones and something my mind can comprehend. The human leg bone when viewed in half from thigh to knee reveals what might be described as a microcosm of the Universe. At either end is an intricate web of bones connected by a hollow tube. Perhaps within our bones exists an imprint of the Universe. When we drum maybe those intricate web structures resonate with the vast healing energy within the universe and the energy is channelled through the hollow parts of our bones to heal ourself and others.
Oh so many revelations and mysteries from one journey to the cave of bones, something tells me the bones still have more to reveal. Interesting and intriguing that on the day I journey to meet the Cailleach I am also guided to an ancient cup and ring mark on a stone in an old boundary wall close to where I live. I always felt in my bones that the land where I lived was sacred. Interesting too that I should discover Kirkcaldy is an ancient funerary site and a tumulus is a but a short walk away from my garden gate.