Anger and the Crescent Moon Bear

With the help of my treasured woman friendship, I have been slowly digging through a book called Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It is a book for all women, already wild and those missing the wild. She is a cantadora or one who hands down myths and stories by word of mouth, a storyteller. There is nothing more to say about the book besides -- bring it into your life.

One of my favorite stories she tells in this book is one of the Crescent Moon Bear and it's relation to anger and marking boundaries around rage and forgiveness. I will relay the preamble and story itself to you in this blog and then follow up with more discussion on anger in the following blog. This is worth any woman's time to read because anger is not a "safe" emotion in our society.

"You have an attitude, you are sassy, you are fiery, you are bitchy, you are a fighter, you don't take shit from anyone, no one messes with you, you're intimidating, you need to calm down, relax, take a chill pill..." Sound familiar? Anger in a woman in our society is "not beautiful," "not the way we should be." This is not the '50s, but there is still a pretty strong stigma. So what is it about anger or rage? And why is it seemingly the most difficult emotion to translate? "Don't be angry" never helps, or others gawking at how angry we can be makes us feel worse about ourselves. Maybe you lost relationships over your anger, woman and men alike shunned you for saying the wrong thing.

Anger is fire, a PITTA emotion caused by many a situation, but also our food and drink choices. The follow-up blog will be about eating a pitta pacifying diet and the right action to take when anger knocks on your door. The story details a wife seemingly learning patience to deal with her husband, but as Estes explains the larger transmission is what a woman must do in order to heal the angry self through restoring order in the psyche.

When was the last time you read a short story? Break the spell...

"... there is another aspect to mastery, and that is dealing with what can only be called women's rage. The release of that rage is required. Once women remember the origins of their rage, they feel they may never stop grinding their teeth. Ironically, we also feel very anxious to disperse our rage, for it feels distressing and noxious. We wish to hurry up and do away with it.

But repressing it will not work. It is like trying to put fire into a burlap bag. Neither is it good to scald ourselves or someone else with it. So there we are holding a powerful emotion that we feel came upon us unbidden. It is a little like toxic waste; there it is, no one wants it, but there are a few disposal areas for it. One has to travel for in order to find a burial ground...

Tsukina Waguma: The Crescent Moon Bear

There once was a young woman who lived in a fragrant pine forest. Her husband was away fighting a war for many years. When finally he was released from duty, he trudged home in a most foul mood. He refused to enter the house for he had become used to sleeping on stones. He kept to himself and stayed in the forest day and night.

His young wife was so excited when she learned her husband was coming home at last. She cooked and shopped and shopped and cooked and made dishes and dishes and bowls and bowls of tasty white soybean curd and three kinds of fish, and three kinds of seaweed and rice sprinkled with red pepper, and nice cold prawns, big and orange.

Smiling shyly she carried the food to the woods and knelt beside her war-weary husband and offered to him the beautiful food she had prepared. But he sprang to his feet and kicked the trays over so that the bean curd spilled, the fish jumped into the air and the seaweed and rice spilled in the dirt, and the big orange prawns went rolling down the path.

'Leave me alone!' he roared and turned his back on her. He became so enraged she was frightened of him. Time after time this occurred until finally, in desperation, the young wife found her way to the cave of the healer who lived outside the village.

'My husband has been badly injured in the war,' the wife said. 'He rages continuously and eats nothing. He wishes to stay outside and not live with me as before. Can you give me a potion that will make him loving and gentle once again?'

The healer assured her, 'This I can do for you, but I need a special ingredient. Unfortunately, I am all out of hair from the crescent moon bear. So, you must climb the mountain, find the black bear and bring me back a single hair from the crescent moon at its throat. Then I can give you what you need, and life will be good again.'

Some women would have felt daunted by this task. Some women would have thought the entire effort impossible. But not she, for she was a woman who loved. 'Oh! I am so grateful,' she said. 'It is so good to know that something can be done.'

So she readied for her journey, and the next morning she went out to the mountain. And she sang out 'Arigato zaisho' which is a way of greeting the mountain and saying, 'Thank you for letting me climb upon your body.' She climbed to the foothills where there were boulders like big loaves of bread. She ascended up to a plateau covered with forest. The trees had long draping boughs and leaves that looked like stars.

'Arigato zaisho,' she sang out. This was a way of thanking the trees for lifting their hair so she could pass underneath. And so she found her way through the forest and begun to climb again. It was harder now. The mountains had thorny flowers that seized the hem of her kimono, and rocks that scraped her tiny hands. Strange dark birds flew out at her in the dush and frightened her. She knew they were muen-botoke, spirits fo the dead who had no relatives, and she sang out prayers for them: 'I will be your relative. I will lay you to rest.'

Still, she climbed, for she was a woman who loved. She climbed till she saw snow on the mountain peak. Soon her feet were wet and cold, and still, she climbed higher, for she was a woman who loved. A storm began, and the snow blew straight into her eyes and deep into her ears. Blinded, still, she climbed higher. And when the snow stopped, the woman sang out 'Arigato-zaisho' to thank the winds for ceasing to blind her.

She took shelter in a shallow cave and could barely pull all of herself into it. Though she had a full pack of food, she did not eat, but covered herself in leaves and slept. In the morning, the air was calm and little green plants even showed through the snow here and there. 'Ah,' she thought, 'now, for the crescent moon bear.'

She searched all day and near twilight found thick cords of scat and needed to look no farther, for a gigantic black bear lumbered across the snowfall, leaving behind deep pad and claw marks. The crescent moon bear roared fiercely and entered its den. She reached into her bundle and placed the food she had brought in a bowl. She set the bowl outside the den and ran back to her shelter to hide. The bear smelled the food and came lurching from its den, roaring so loudly it shook loose little stones. The bear circled around the food from a distance, sampled the wind many times, then ate the food up in one gulp. The great bear reared up, snuffled the air again, and then disappeared into its den.

The next evening the woman did the same, setting out the food, but this time instead of returning to her shelter she retreated only halfway. The bear smelled the food, heaved itself out of its den, roared to shake the stars from the skies, circled, tested the air very cautiously, but finally gobbled up the food and crawled back into its den. This continued for many nights until on dark blue night the woman felt brave enough to wait even closer to the bear's den.

She put the food in the bowl outside the den and stood right by the opening. When the bear smelled the food and lumbered out, it saw not only the usual food but also a pair of small human feet as well. The bear turned its head sideways and roared so loudly it made the bones in the woman's body hum.

The woman trembled but stood her ground. The bear hauled itself onto its back legs, smacked its jaws, and roared so that the woman could see right up into the red-and-brown roof of its mouth. But she did not run away. The bear roared even more and put out his arms as though to seize her, its ten claws hanging like ten long knives over her scalp. The woman shook like a leaf in high wind but stayed right where she was.

'Oh, please, dear bear,' she pleaded, 'please, dear bear, I've come all this way because I need a cure for my husband.' The bear brought its front paws to earth in a spray of snow and peered into the woman's frightened face. For a moment, the woman felt she could see entire mountain ranged, valleys, rivers, and villages reflected in the bears' old old eyes. A deep peace settled over her, and her trembling ceased.

'Please, dear bear, I've been feeding you all these past nights. Could I please have on of the hairs from the crescent moon on your throat?' The bear paused, this little woman would be easy food. Yet suddenly he was filled with pity for her. 'It is true,' said the crescent moon bear, 'you've been good to me. You may have one of my hairs. But take it quickly, then leave here and go back to your own.'

The raised its great snout so that the white crescent on its throat showed, and the woman could see the strong pulse of the bear's heart there. The woman put on hand on the bear's neck and with her other took hold of a single glossy white hair. Quickly, she pulled it. The bear reared back and cried out as though wounded. And this pain then settled into annoyed huffs.

'Oh, thank you, crescent moon bear, thank you so much.' The woman bowed and bowed. But the bear growled and lumbered forward a step. it roared at the woman in words she could not understand and yet words she had somehow known all her life. She turned and fled down the mountain as fast as she could. She ran under the trees with leaves shaped like stars. And all the way she cried 'Arigato zaisho' to thank the trees for lifting their boughs so she could pass. She stumbled over the boulders that looked like big loaves of bread, crying 'Arigato zaisho' to thank the mountain for letting her climb upon its body.

Though her clothes were ragged, her hair askew, her face soiled, she ran down the stone stairs that led to the village, down the dirt road and right through the town to its other side, and into the hovel where the old healer sat tending the fire.

'Look, look! I have it, I found it, I claimed it, a hair of the crescent moon bear!' cried the young woman. 'Ah good,' said the healer with a smile. She peered closely at the woman and took the pure white hair and held it toward the light. She weighed the long hair in one old hand, measured it with one finger, and exclaimed, 'Ah. Yes! This is an authentic hair from the crescent moon bear.' Then suddenly she turned and threw the hair deep into the fire, where it popped and crackled and was consumed in a bright orange flame.

'No!' cried the young wife. 'What have you done?!'

'Be calm. It is good. All is well,' said the healer. 'Remember each step you took to climb the mountain? Remember each step you took to capture the trust of the crescent moon bear? Remember what you saw, what you heard, and what you felt?'

'Yes,' said the woman, 'I remember very well.' The old healer smiled at her gently and said, 'Please now, my daughter, go home with your new understandings and proceed in the same ways with your husband.'" (1)

  1. 375-380 Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
  2. Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash