Today, let’s begin with a beautiful love story from Navajo myth today: The story of Changing Woman and her husband the Sun.
Becoming more and more lonely, one day Changing Woman went to one of the sacred mountains to sit in the sun. There, she felt mysteriously attracted to all and to everything, beginning to feel ecstatic, and so she stayed for four days. She laid her body on a rock “with her feet to the East and her legs spread comfortably apart. This way she could relax as she observed the sun make its path across the sky. That way it could shine its warmth fully upon her.” As the sun appeared, he fell in love with her deeply and by the forth day, she was pregnant and bore him a son.
The sun was passionate in love with her, and wanted her to live with him and be continuously together, but each each time he would embrace her, so that he pulls her in forever, she refused. Their bond started becoming more and more tense, and the sun, as powerful as he is, started becoming really impatient and even more possessive. She loved him too, and wanted him and desired him, and naturally would do anything for him – but something always pulled her away. In some versions of the myth, their bond became unhealthy because of these tensions.
At last, Changing Woman faced her beloved and agreed to live with him and marry him but only if he built her a house in the West. In this way, she would be surrounded by wildlife, animals and nature, and her quiet loving time, while he was away until the mornings. At first, the sun took this as if she didn’t love him enough, so he asked why would he build her a house there, didn’t she want to be with him all the time?
“I will tell you why.” she said to him.
“You are male and I am female. You are of the sky and I am of the earth. You are constant in your brightness, but I must change with the seasons. You move constantly at the edge of heaven, while I must be fixed in one place … Remember, as different as we are, we are of one spirit. As dissimilar as we are, you and I, we are of equal worth. As different as we are, there can be no harmony in the universe unless there is harmony between us. There is to be no more coming from me to you than there is from you to me.”
The sun sulked at first, became moody and gloomy, but finally agreed because he understood she was right. He built her a beautiful house in the West, that shimmered in the golden light that stretched over the waters at sunset when he returned from his journey across the sky. In this place, they came to each other like the eternal lovers. In this place, they’ve loved each other continuously and passionately ever since, in beautiful harmony above, as in beautiful harmony for all of us here below.
There are many layers and beautiful nuances to this story, and one of the main ones is that the young maiden has come into her own individuality and stood up for and expressed her own needs. Only then, we can thrive in a truly intimate relationship. It is easy for us to become stirred entirely by the wildish soul of our lover, and while this is absolutely needed – to be merged fully and allow love dissolve all boundaries of us – we also need to be recognized, respected and accepted, for who we truly are in our individuality.
A woman needs to retain her sense of self. The connection to the place of her, where she feels she belongs and is her home. Her soulskin.
Love is virginal. It is like truth. It recognizes the truth of us, and while engaging with us, stirring us, shifting us, it doesn’t take away our essence. It is true to itself, just like we must remain true to ourselves, in love and for love.
The feminine and the masculine aspects of love.
The masculine aspect of love is the sun, the fiery sword that becomes the action, the word, the prayer, the seed, the penetrative power which initiates, which says “I love you. I want you. I need you.”
The feminine aspect of love is the mystic, the healer, the pulling you in. She is the moon, the darkkess, the wetness. She is the yearning, the longing, the moist soil, the bottom of the wells, the wombed room, the cup to be filled, the tides pulling in towards herself, the desire, the dreaming. She is the memory itself. She whispers in a voice only the soul of her beloved understands and she says, “I am waiting for you. I am longing for you.”
She is nature itself, the good mud and fertile soil of earth. And he is the hands that dig in searching for her. Once he fills her with the waters of his love, her soil is now moist, ready to birth.
And then comes love. Soul touches soul on the lips, and a new soul is born: the soul of the relationship.
The need to retain our sense of self.
For a woman to love, to nurture, to create and to be sensual, she needs to first nurture and keep the flame of her heat underground. It is what feeds our internal wildlands of the emotional, spiritual, psychic and physical. When we feel disconnected from ourselves, we must find ways to reconnect again.
She must remain in her autonomy and have her boundaries respected. She must be able to have the freedom to express her boundaries and her desires and needs – and to be seen for who she truly is. She must stay in her soulskin – in the place within her where she feels she belongs, loves, connects, intuits and creates intentionally and with purpose.
As women we get lost sometimes because we give so much, and we nurture so much. In the times you feel lost remember what you loved doing once upon a time. Dance, move your body, move your hips, allow yourself to be stirred entirely by your wildish soul. Experiment, connect to the senses, begin sewing, cooking, gardening, climb some trees – whatever you do, do some soul spinning. And sometimes, all we need is rest, a good rest, a quiet rest by ourselves, by nature which is what we are essentially made of anyway.
We must also have the needed environment that supports us in our true self, in our heat. Otherwise we freeze like Andersen’s Little Match Girl. When we feel we are not valued, not appreciated, not seen and not heard, we begin to feel cold. This coldness grows to ice, and then to freeze. The fresh waters that once nourished us to tenderness and cleared the pollution from the swamps, are gone. And the warmth we once we felt in our heart is gone too. We become a desert with no life and no love to give. We become a tundra, too frozen with no life and no love to give. We have used all of our matches to warm things and people that never gave us anything in return. We forgot to keep some matches for ourselves too so that we can light up our stove during our natural cycles of winters.
We are all Changing Woman.
A woman is the changing of the seasons and the cycles of the lands. Changing Woman embodies all of us – all of our parts she carries simultaneously.
Our natures are changeable and this is beautiful, precious, and sacred in itself. We wax and wane. We laugh and cry. We are cool toned while burning fires inside. We are the salted bared skin on the beach while also the scent of the back legs of the red fox at night. We are bonding while away. We are lingering while separating. We are ecstatic while longing, desiring towards the distance of the I don’t know. We repulse and surrender. And yet the waning holds the waxing, and the waxing holds the waning. These are the cycles of our land.
In the Navajo myth, Changing Woman never dies – she grows old in winter and then young again in spring, and then, again. In the East she is Earth Woman, in the South she is Mountain Woman, in the West she is Water Woman and in the North she is Corn Woman.
In many Indigenous cultures, each day the women are given time for themselves, while the men take care of the chores and children. During these times, the women stay doing “nothing” or whatever they please. They can be in nature, pray, or sit in silence. Their “doing nothing” is actually needed and purposeful – because feminine energy is cleansing, healing and renewing. Just by the mere presence of a woman in a household, the energy is the household is cleansed and with healing. She pulls in the worries of all and of everyone, and through her energy almost transmutes it. So a woman’s doing nothing – is actually doing a lot – and she needs her alone time also, to cleanse her own self. And in the times when she takes care of herself – she is essentially taking care of the whole tribe and community.
When we are away from our soulskin.
In popular folklore, myth and fairyatales such as the ones I discussed in Wild Marriage, the narraties reflected a well known pattern of relationships: a man becomes smitten by a maiden from different world than his, and wants to take her forever in his arms. As romantic as that sounds, a problem arises when the intentions aren’t to truly love – but rather, to domesticate the wild feminine.
Many of the tales of selkies and swan brides, or any other wild marriages between the mortal and supernatural beings, portray the potential dangers that occur when we want to possess something rather than love it. The wildness, as portrayed by the selkie skin, or dress of nymph, symbolizing a woman’s true inner self, is taken away from her with the intention to capture her. These behaviours are usually done because we have fears and anxieties that our beloved will leave us. This where controlling behaviours and power dynamics arise, which lead to unhealthy and toxic relationships.
And what happens when love is captured?
Neither the husband nor the wife are on the same page; their union is doomed from the start and it is made possible only because of trickery. The husband has done nothing to win the heart of his beloved and win such a powerful wife, such as a nymph, selkie, or a swan maiden. And the bride has no choice of her own and is trapped in a world that isn’t hers.
This kind of marriage cannot last in its fractured form; there is an unequal power dynamic and unless the two lovers find a common, more compassionate and understanding land, the marriage will end miserably.
No matter how compliant a swan maiden may be, because they don’t have their dresses, they will always live in unspoken sadness and the marriage itself will be build upon unspoken tension. Her husband will never be sure of her affections because she was basically taken hostage – did she come because she loved him or because he trapped her during moments of intense passions. Her dress and her animal skin are all signs of who she truly is, of her wild nature which is a woman’s true essence; and how is it true love if she abandons herself from the start?
Love is not about taking away one’s freedom; love is free and still we choose to be with one another, rather than being forced into submission; love happens where we are with someone not because we must but because we want to.
In such narratives, he is essentially stealing the very thing that attracted him to her in the first place. He fell in love with who she is, with her dancing, her beauty, her freedom, her unrestrained magical self-expression, and her ever shining light because she was in her true nature.
And yet when we are taken away from our true nature, we will become a pale version of our true self. In real life, something like this would go downhill sooner or later – we will begin to resent one another, manipulate one another, and the man will no longer even be attracted to his wife anyway because she is no longer who she is.
There are marriages that will break apart because of the inability of the pair to integrate into one another’s worlds, explore and accept one another’s true selves, and provide the needed safe space to be their true selves. Love is a seeing not of flesh, but through the flesh. We need to see ourselves and accept ourselves for who we truly are. Otherwise, our worlds become two different, two different paths emerge, and we separate, whether emotionally and/or physically.
The space where love, intimacy and togetherness thrive.
Love rests upon two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. We want to be deeply connected and intimate, while also needing to be our own individuals.
Intimacy itself is a dance – longing and bonding, surrender and repulsion. It is healthy to have some space sometimes – and by space I don’t mean breaking up or cheating, I mean allowing each one of you to thrive individually, sometimes you can stay in different rooms and do your own thing, or each of you can go for walks by yourselves, and then share your experiences when you come home.
This space though rests upon trust – you can’t give each other this if you haven’t earned each other’s trust, if one becomes unfaithful, or if you use this space not for nurturing your individuality and connection to inner self, but rather to become distant, cold and avoidant in your relationship. And this is also something you should both feel comfortable with and communicate clearly and compassionately.
It should come from an intention for deepening with your partner rather than “separating” from them. In other words, the intention of needing some personal space should be because of your intention to deepen your intimacy with your partner, and have a healthier bond, rather than wanting to avoid them, distance them, cheat on them, or bring them ambiguity and confusion regarding your intentions and feelings for your partner and the relationship’s future.
What I love about the story between Changing Woman and her beloved eternal lover and husband the Sun, is the beautiful dance of their love. It portrayes the truly intimate bond we share with ourselves, with our wild side, and with our chosen one. It shows how we mature into women who know how to voice our desires, stay in our sovereignty, know what we really want and need – and from that understanding, find the peace in choosing the right partner for us, and then deepen into true intimacy.
It shows the reclaiming of our power – in our ability to set boundaries, to insist on our needs and desires to be met, to have expectations and to be discerning despite the firey passions stirring within us. It shows our ability to thrive and to birth and to be in our sensual full selves, when we are given the space to do so. It shows the changeable natures and cycles of the land that a body and soul of a woman are. And how through the fiery love of her partner, she births and creates even more – because one needs the other.
And when two worlds meet and kiss, we find that love is not only felt in the hearts, it is known by the hands also. All is born from interdependence. All and everything. Then. Now. Always.
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Cover art by Susan Seddon Boulet.