In late August 2022, Patricia Martin of the C.G. Jung Society of Chicago interviewed me about my experiences with Marion Woodman from 1988 to 2011. Our enthusiastic conversation brought memories of the many ways Marion transformed my life, but the story began in 1988, decades before this interview.
“Want to go to a workshop with Marion Woodman about the Black Madonna?” a co-worker asked in the fall of 1988. “I’m going with a few friends.”
Something in me said yes although I didn’t know these women well or much about the Black Madonna. I longed for something more in my spiritual practice and psychological understanding—more feeling, more body, and less focus on abstract ideas and philosophic study. Why not try it? I’d been moved by Marion’s books Addiction to Perfection (1982) and The Pregnant Virgin (1985), but had no idea what to expect from a workshop.
The weather at Kirkridge, a retreat center in northeast Pennsylvania, was November drab with low grey clouds. I felt distant from my traveling companions, self-protective, and alone.
The first night, about 50 people gathered in a windowless room with chairs arranged in a semi-circle. A sixty-year old woman entered with a bouncy bubble haircut, a pastel angora sweater, practical shoes, and a large handbag. She looked around the room, smiled, and stood beside the podium. When she kicked off her shoes, she had my full attention.
“I like to feel grounded,” she said. So do I.
The next day, she discussed three levels of the feminine—Maiden, Mother, and Crone. I listened carefully. That afternoon Marion invited us to do “body work” after dinner. My traveling companions wanted to go out to eat and find a movie.
“I’ll stay for the evening session with Marion,” I told them, but I felt edgy and slightly threatened when I walked into the large darkened room with strangers lying on the floor.
“Find a place to lie down on the rug with space around you,” Marion said. “Grab a pillow over there.” She pointed to a pile of pillows. “Get comfortable.” I found a vacant spot in the middle of the room.
“Start at the crown of your head and notice each part of your body,” Marion instructed. “Relax your forehead, your eyes, your jaw, your neck, and slowly scan down to your toes.” She spoke slowly and quietly, giving us 10 or 15 minutes to explore our bodies and relax.
“Notice where you feel less alive or present. Now choose a recent dream image and hold the image in a spot where your body is tight or uncomfortable. Breathe into it.”
I imagined an opening rosebud in my clenched belly and breathed deeply. For the next 15 minutes, Marion reassured us in her deep gentle voice. “Pay attention to your dreams tonight,” Marion said when the exercise was over. That night, I fell asleep imagining the sweet scent of roses.
The next morning we talked about the Black Madonna which I discuss in the interview below.
“Your hand shot up when I asked for dreams,” Marion said later. “I had to call on you.”
Here’s the maddening part. I have dream notebooks going back to 1967, but I’ve never found that precious dream. I remember a goddess-sized, larger than life, dark skinned woman, and I’m still exploring the Black Madonna. Maybe that image was all I needed.
I hope you enjoy this 35 minute podcast of the interview with more stories and memories about the most influential woman teacher in my life and the lives of many others. You can also watch the interview on video on youtube.
I’ll return to writing about India, but wanted to share this interview and article while they’re fresh. For more details about some of the experiences I discussed with Patricia, see Falling in Love with Marion Woodman. You’ll also enjoy Marion Woodman and the Princess Who Said No.