Sunday, August 7, 2011

BHJ: cont. Eighth Gate: HUNTRESS

Dear Birth Peeps

I’ve been away for a few weeks. . . hunting! I missed you. Today we meet again at the Eighth Story Gate: Gate of the Huntress. You can see the Huntress or Seeker standing before a golden Eagle who’s wings are spread. The Huntress is looking out, looking far and wide, to see patterns and the whole picture, to “see” and to understand her story in the context of her past and future, how it relates to stories from seven generations past, and within the context of birth in her culture. She has moved from her personal story to her story within a collective story.

What brings a story-teller to the Gate of the Huntress, the Story Hunter?

Hunger. A gnawing hunger to know Who she is, Who birthed?, and how her birth experience relates to her past, her future, and in general to the larger picture of birth in our culture. When she becomes Hungry for personal freedom, soul food, and “truth” she either starts learning to hunt or finds a mentor/elder/story-listener who knows how to hunt and “apprentices.”
As the story-teller approaches this Gate, her questions move away from “Why did this happen to me?” or “What should I have done differently?,” or “What should I do differently next time to prevent or avoid [fill in the blank]?”.

A new question, a deeper question, a soul-question, begins to form; it’s a question that no one “out there”, no book, no research, can answer for her. Hunger awakens the inner-Huntress and the story-teller begin to stalk her mind, her habit thinking, beliefs, her heart, her story. Finally, with her attention turned inward, with her Ear turned inward, she may begin to hear the answer within.
In due time, many story-tellers feel the pangs of hunger and begin to “seek,” but . . . if they don’t know how to “hunt,” or if they get distracted by life, or perhaps confuse “hunting” with gathering more information (a task of the Medical Gate), they never pass over this Threshold.
Not every story-teller makes it to, or through, this Gate. Many birth stories arrest, for years, even a lifetime, at one of the previous Gates. This happens because:

(1) The wounded story-teller either believes that the birth is now in the past and it’s time to move on, or, she turns her attention to gathering information for the do-over birth (either her own or every one else’s!!). Either way, she quits self-inquiry not knowing what delicious insights lie within reach and thus, settles into a previous Gate.

(2) The story-teller is proud as a peacock for making correct choices that brought about her desired birth experience; she is no longer in inquiry. She knows, therefore, her search and her journey are over.

(3) Our culture has few “elder birth story-listeners” who know the Gates, the tasks at the Gates, and the Medicine for story-tellers. In the absence of elders, the floundering half-initiated, who is trying to make it all the way “home” on her own after the Ordeal. . . often believes what she “knows” is all there is to know, and she quits searching or she meanders between the former Gates, losing her way.
Of course, with sustained self-inquiry, a story-teller could do this on her own. But without a birth story process, ritual, or story-listener, it may take more timeto get through the Eighth Gate. It took me eight years to get through this Gate—trying to figure it out on my own. Perhaps with One Who Knows, it could happen sooner.

Here’s why it matters: Culture, including our birth customs, in this generation and the next, is shaped and reinforced by stories and story-tellers. When the majority of birth story-tellers (I assume it is a majority, but who has counted!) are still in Gates 2 to 6 or 7, they are actively, though unwittingly, teaching and conditioning the next generation of parents and birth peeps from stories with “incomplete understanding.”

Why a birth initiate need a story-listener, One Who Knows, during her Return.
Imagine a child, abandoned suddenly in the wild. Alone and hungry. Very hungry. Every attempt to hunt fails because s/he doesn’t know the terrain, the habits of the prey, how to use the tools of hunting. But hunger persists, and so the young hunter keeps trying and learning, until finally (unless starvation wins out first) s/he understands in a grand way. . . and finally succeeds.
Ideally, in traditional cultures, youth were taken to the wild by an elder hunter and taught, in a systematic, holistic manner about the terrain, the habits of the prey, the tools of hunting, and an inner awareness of themselves as hunter in relationship to the prey and environment. Within a much shorter time the child gained skill and the risk of starvation in the process was minimal.
This is one of the models I am proposing to change birth in our culture.

Only a Huntress can teach another to hunt.
Hunting is not a theory, it’s not something you learn from a book. It is embodied knowledge, and it’s knowledge that is passed on. And this is what Virginia and I are offering in BFW Birth Story Listening course. We believe that when our culture has “trained” birth story-listeners, more mothers, fathers, and birth peeps will make it all the way “home.” When this happens, the personal and collective birth story in our culture will change.

Are you hungry for more?



  1. I seriously LOVE these posts. They are so incredibly powerful. Thank you Pam

  2. You excite my soul!

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  4. I love your post. Thank you. I just came home from a four day women's retreat, a combination of embodiment practices, dance and The Work of Byron Katie. One day I saw a Judge-your-neighbor worksheet with the question "who have you not forgiven completely?" and I realized it was my midwife. I had not forgiven her for raping me of my innocence, my own power, my willingness to go there totally. I never wrote a worksheet. But that morning I danced all the suffering that was inside me, I expressed it through my body. I expressed all the anger, all the guilt, all the unanswered questions. I expressed what it felt like living with the story "she should have done something different". And then I could naturally also express what it was like living without that story. I expressed all the compassion I had learned because of what "she did" (and I, and our birth culture). And I truly, for the first time, felt what a gift that was. Compassion.
    In love,
    Alessandra Sarelin, Finland

  5. Thank you each and all for your comments, for being hungry and being moved. Soul Hunting is a quiet affair, typically quite alone or with other mindful hunters who would not startle the mind or prey.

    The Huntress is in her body, in her senses. She knows when to be still, watchful, blending into the environment, and she knows when to act, to spring into action,! Hunting is not a theory... it is very much a walking between two worlds... hers and her prey's.