Grief is a sacred journey

Let the Warm Love Flow: Messages from Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman 2007

Marion Woodman 2007

Marion Woodman’s last letter came in February 2011, almost three years after my husband Vic’s death.

I first met her in 1988 when I went to my first workshop with her. We had corresponded since 2003. In the last years, her neat and orderly letters became scraps on the back of an envelope or old greeting card. Lines wandered about the page, but she was still there with wise intuitions, reflections, and guidance.

When I needed encouragement to finish my book, Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief, she wrote, “DO IT!” When I needed comfort, she held my raw grief tenderly and wrote of her own marriage and how hard it would be to go it alone.

In her last note scrawled on the back of an old birthday card, she said she was determined to write to me. Her note ended with this: “As you bring to consciousness your feeling and try to work with it. Be Gentle with yourself. Let the warm love flow.”

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Photo of Vic and me on Sophia altar at Body/Soul Rhythms Workshop, 2007

She was saying goodbye and leaving me with a tough assignment. It’s easier to notice and criticize what I lack or where I fail. But without nurturing myself with love and gentleness, what’s the point of this life?

In 2004, I dreamed of Marion as an ancient Crone handing out cookies to a crowd. Her big belly laugh filled the dream space. I told her the dream at a workshop while we sat in a quiet room, knee to knee. I described the thick blue eye makeup, wild gray hair, and messy maroon lipstick of Dream Marion. As I told Marion the details, she obviously enjoyed being a spiritual clown and wise fool. She laughed from the belly, just as she had in the dream, but instead of cookies, she shared sweet understanding and insight.

She fed me sacred soul food.

With Marion, 2005

With Marion, 2005

Marion taught me to honor the Sacred Feminine. She was devoted to Sophia, St. Anne, and the Virgin Mary, but she found wisdom in all world religions and myths. She nourished me with C.G. Jung, Marie Louise von Franz, and her own books. She recited poetry and Shakespeare by heart and found archetypal wisdom in fairy tales. Through dance, art, ritual, and sound, she helped me connect psyche and body. She was the feminine inspiration I craved after years of studying male philosophers with male teachers.

A few of many Marion Woodman books on my shelves

A few of many Marion Woodman books on my shelves

 

 

Thank you, Marion, for standing next to me in the underworld of grief after Vic’s death. Thank you for believing in me and helping me believe in myself. Thank you for teaching me what an authentic woman can be and give. If she dares.

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Marion Woodman is an author and retired Jungian analyst who founded Body/Soul Rhythms with Mary Hamilton and Ann Skinner. The Marion Woodman Foundation continues to support this work. l hope you will enjoy this three minute video of Marion and my blog called Falling in Love with Marion Woodman: 2003.

24 Comments
  1. Dear Elaine, a different Marion, spelled with an “o.” Thank you for introducing me to this wise woman. I read the blog from March 12, 2013 and enjoyed the YouTube video as well. I especially liked your descriptive phrase of Marion as a combination a “spiritual clown and wise fool.”

    You are both bold souls.

    • You’re another wise woman, Marian–with an a. I realize I’m older now than Marion was when I first met her at a workshop on the Threefold Feminine (Maiden, Mother, and Crone). She no longer teaches, but she made a lasting contribution to Jungian Psychology and to many women and men.

  2. What a great woman. You were so lucky to have her for a friend. You do let the warm love flow, Elaine. And the joy. It’s all over in your messages and in your hugs. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Robin. I love those words, “Let the warm love flow.” We can do it, knowing that love and grief move together. Marion clearly knew that and helped me understand.

  3. Wondering, Elaine, if you had to choose one book for a woman to read regarding the feminine and spirituality, what would you recommend?

    • What an excellent and difficult question, Jessica. You send me running to my book shelf. Hmmmm… One book. I suggest two small ones: Coming Home to Myself, Marion Woodman and Jill Menick and Knowing Woman, Irene Claremont de Castillejo. The second is a little old-fashioned in language, but it had a great influence on me. I’m glad to loan it to you and talk to you about it. The first is quotes from Marion Woodman arranged under various topics. I’ll see what else I come up with.

  4. How nice to ‘see’ you and Marion holding each other!

    • I love this photo, Peggy. Marion was willing to pose with any students who wanted a photo with her. A generous wise woman.

  5. Absolutely fascinating and inspiring. You certainly are blessed Elaine to have such wonderful spiritual friends.

    • When we go looking for those wise women, they’re out there. A friend invited me to a Marion woodman workshop in the mid 1980s before Marion was well known. That weekend changed my life. Marion is a Canadian–she worked in Toronto and lives still in London.

  6. I do appreciate so much this post. I have read her books years ago and have a deep appreciation for all things Jung. I also enjoyed the video. What an inspiration she is and an old old soul for sure.

    • I agree, Mary. An old, old soul. I love many things about Marion, but this comes to mind. She taught workshops with two other women–a voice coach and a dance therapist. Even though most came to work with Marion, it was clear that Marion saw herself as equal to her co-teachers. She was a collaborator in the best feminine, related way. Even in her later years, she stayed, listened intently, and watched everything while the other women taught. I always admired that recognition Marion gave others–both women and men.

  7. Hiya Elaine,

    How very special that was to read. And it made me realize I have someone very much like her in my life as well. Though she’s not an actual friend, I think of my therapist as one of those people who really saved me after Alan’s death- and not just with coping with his death itself, but by helping to discover a part of my soul I never knew was there. She empowers me every time I leave our sessions…and in some ways, I hope I always have a reason to go back to her! Thanks for helping me to put that into words-for my own self-realization. Love those a-ha moments!
    Hope you have a great day,
    Marisa

    • What a gift, Marisa. In the midst of the hardest times, these gifts emerge. I hope we can go to our therapists as long as they help us lead a full conscious life and face what blocks us. Your therapist is around the same age Marion was when I first met her. For most of our relationship, Marion was the therapist and teacher. She shared more of her personal life in later years after she met Vic and I met her husband Ross. Yes, I love those a-ha moments. Seems you are being initiated into the wise feminine within yourself. Let’s both have a great day on that note.

  8. I really enjoyed this post as well, Elaine. How wonderful to have counted Marion Woodman among your friends.

    I met her once at a week-long Jungian seminar in New York. Along with her message, we used dance to get in touch with our selves.

    I am so thankful to her for introducing me to Allan Shore’s work, who later became my correspondent: he read my work and sent me his own articles to enhance my knowledge of the importance of the mother in the developing child’s first years of life (Attachment theory).

    But even more than that, during a difficult time in my teaching/administrating, I had had an experience when driving to work where my left foot was putting on the break involuntarily as I used the right to accelerate, jerking the car back and forth, to y consternation.

    She had been an English teacher and understood immediately. So kind and wise, she responded, “Sometimes the body just tells us “Enough.”

    • You also have wonderful messages from Marion. Yes, “Sometimes the body just tells us ‘Enough’.” I’d studied Jung and Jungians as well as much philosophy and meditated since 1970, but Marion brought in body and the feminine. I so needed and craved that. I loved moving with Ann Skinner and Mary Hamilton and Marion. Three wise women and three wonderful heart teachers. Terrific that Marion made that connection for you with Allan Shore. I’m not familiar with him. She was so generous in that way–what she knew, she shared. I remember that. And she is not past tense, but probably past tense as a living presence in my life because she doesn’t teach anymore or write letters. I was at a workshop with Marion when my mother in 2007 died after many years of dementia. I write about that experience in my book. I had stacks of mother issues to work through.

      Thanks for your comment and for telling me your connection with Marion. We strengthen the net.

  9. Hey, Elaine, thanks for this lovely tribute to Marion Woodman, who you introduced me to! Her workshops and writings have been so nourishing over the years…

    • Yes, they have been, Gita. We still have the writings, but not the workshops. It was lovely seeing her in Toronto with you and L and V. Sweet memories.

  10. Thanks for sharing Marion Woodman’s words with us, Elaine. As you know, I, too, have the judging mind and need to nurture myself more with kindness and love.

    • I think most of us do, Lynne, especially women. Marion struggled with this herself, so she knew the issue from the inside.

  11. Wonderful post, photos and comments. You are so good at stirring our memories, minds and creative juices, while sharing your own self and journey.
    Thank you, Elaine.
    P

    • Thank you, Patti. Sounds like you’ve had a rough time, although I haven’t read the details. I always appreciate hearing from you.
      Warmly, Elaine

  12. Lovely to discover this post in honour of Marion Woodman on your site. How fortunate you are to have met her. I have all her books and over many years, when appropriate, have recommended her work to clients.
    I recently found this wonderful video – https://vimeo.com/34545062 – an interview about her analysis with Dr E Bennet in London.

    • Thank you, Ashen. I loved Marion’s books, but the strongest draw for me was her week-long Body/Soul Rhythms workshops with Mary Hamilton (dancer) and Ann Skinner (theater and voice). Each was initiatory and transforming. Many years later, I’m still integrating what happened at those workshops. I know this video of an interview with Marion. You’re right. It’s wonderful. I’m glad videos are available since Marion lives a secluded life now. I often paraphrase her story about her soul animal in her work with Dr. Bennet. Marion often spoke of him as well as writing about him–a man who taught her so much about the feminine and about the soul.

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