All through Latin America, a myth is told about the woman weeping upon the river bank in the dead of night. She weeps eternally, for she has drowned her children in the dark waters below.
Well, now, that’s a lovely myth, you say!
Ah, the beauty of myths—the true ones have teeth to them.
And while La Llorona has gone through many, many iterations over the centuries, and a litany of “meanings” have been ascribed to it, for the women I know especially (myself included), this myth tells the tale of the drying up of a woman’s soul.
In the gifted most specifically, it speaks to the dearth of creativity.
The outer parameters of the story tell of a beautiful young woman who marries a prince, bears him two children, then he tosses her over for another. In her grief and despair, she throws her two sons into the river where they drown, then she dies on the banks above them. When she gets to the pearly gates, St. Peter tells her she can indeed enter, for she has suffered much, but only when she retrieves her dead boys.
So, she can be heard weeping, weeping in the night as she seines the waters for her sons.
In myths and dreams and great stories, all of the characters are parts of oneself. The evil husband represents the Jungian animus in a woman’s psyche—the male side, whose function is to carry out her creative ventures. And this one has been corrupted—by the culture, by the complexes in the psyche, by, well, whatever comes from without and poisons from within. Rather than support the feminine dreams and desires, he tosses them aside.
And in those same venues, babies and children represent the new, the creative, the ideas originating from deep within a woman’s soul.
You know—that book you long to write, the painting you seem to take up and cast off, the whatever that speaks to you in whispers, longingly in the night . . .
And when a woman doesn’t honor that—“I’ll write it once I get x, y, z finished,” or, “Why yes, once the kids are grown, I’ll take up my art again,” or any variation on this theme—the deep river within her becomes polluted, the animus, destructive, and the babies within her breast sink into the murky depths.
And just as with any river rife with pollution and death, the whole universe suffers.
As part of one larger whole, we are meant to give our gifts to this world.
In the just released I Just Came Here To Dance, the La Llorona myth is told on Diana’s porch. Although one of many, it’s one that sticks with Paula Anne as she tries to make sense of the shambles her life has become.
Having sent her son to camp for the summer, her first reaction to the myth is that she drowned her own boy. Metaphorically, of course. But she first thinks that because of her season of insanity, her child has suffered.
Not until almost the end does she realize that yes, her boy has been wounded in the life she chose, although not by her trying to figure it out. But rather by all the years she has spent living in and denying her own polluted waters.
That’s what caused her to shiver at the story, although she didn’t realize it at the time.
And isn’t that how we do? Something chills us to the bone, and rather than facing the biting wind, bending forward into the dark and cold, we run the other way . . .
That’s the best prescription I know for neurosis, for finding ourselves weeping, weeping in the night, our fingers relegated to sweeping the dark waters for discarded ideas of the soul.
We weren’t meant to ignore our gifts. Nor our dreams, our desires, the things that call to us in the night. Those things that are ours alone to do. That is a method straight to soul killing if ever I knew one.
As Diana counsels Paula Anne, do you believe God puts a deep desire into your heart, with no means to attain it? Something that is truly not yours to do?
Now that would be a capricious God, indeed.
What is that thing that you are called to do, and which you’re just not quite getting to? You know, you will when you retire. When the kids go to college. When your house is just oh-so perfectly clean, when the days get longer . . .
What is that thing that calls to you over the polluted river running through your soul?
There is one prescription: Still those voices of doubt. Banish the excuses. Feed yourself the sustenance needed to give you strength.
Just begin it.
For as the Philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”