To what degree we each identify with the masculine and feminine energies varies between every person.
I’m female, and I have a large amount of feminine energy, which I love, cherish and celebrate. But we all need to find a healthy balance of both energies inside ourselves, and sometimes my crazy amount of feminine energy becomes unbalanced.
With a deep connection to change, the unbalanced feminine in me can sometimes lack direction, foresight and follow through. I’ve also spoken about King Energy in combating hyper-vulnerability in my blog, ”How to Harness Vulnerability in a Powerful Way,” I like to use the King to balance the chaos I can sometimes be, because the King represents order. Regardless, as a female with a lot of feminine energy, I need to cultivate the masculine in myself to be balanced.
Stories provide powerful frameworks to help make sense of ourselves and the world around us. The story of Manawee is a mythological story of African American descent from the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It illuminates secrets about both masculine and feminine forces and can be understood either in terms of how they relate to the inner world of every individual, or how they relate in the outer world, in relationships between men and women.
It has helped me, significantly, in understanding the masculine, and how to develop it in myself.
The story goes like this:
There was a man who came to court twin sisters. But their father said, “You may not have them in marriage until or unless you can guess their names.” Manawee guessed and guessed, but he could not guess the names of the sisters. The young women’s father shook his head and sent Manawee away time after time. One day Manawee took his little dog with him on a guessing visit, and the dog saw that one sister was smarter than the other and the other sister was sweeter than the other.
Though neither sister possessed all virtues the little dog liked them very much, for they gave him treats and smiled deep into his eyes. Manawee failed to guess the names of the young women again that day and trudged home. But the little dog ran back to the hut of the young women. There he poked his ear under one of the side walls and heard the women giggling about how handsome Manawee was.
The sisters, as they spoke, called each other by name and the little dog heard, and ran as fast as he could back to his master to tell him. But on the way, another dog had left a big bone with meat on it near the path, and the tiny dog smelled it immediately, and without another thought he veered off into the bush, dragging the bone. There, he happily licked at the bone until all the flavor was gone.
The tiny dog suddenly remembered the forgotten task, but unfortunately, he had also forgotten the names of the twin sisters as well. So back he ran to the twin sisters hut a second time, and this time it was night, and the young women were oilling each others arms, readying themselves for a celebration. Again the little dog heard them call each other by name, so back he ran in a fit of delight towards the hut of Manawee, when suddenly from the bush came the smell of nutmeg.
There was nothing a little dog loved more than nutmeg. So he took a quick turn off the path and sped to the lovely pie he saw cooling on a log. Soon the pie was all gone, and the little dog began to trot home. He tried to think of the young women’s names but again, he had forgotten them. Finally the little dog ran back to the hut, and this time the sisters were readying themselves to be wed.
The little dog realised there was hardly any time left, and when the sisters called each other by name, he put the names into his mind a sped away absolutely resolute that nothing would get in his way. On the way towards Manawee’s hut, the little dog saw some fresh kill on the trail, but he jumped straight over it. He thought for a moment he smelled nutmeg in the air, but he ignored it and kept running. Suddenly, a stranger jumped out of the bush and grabbed him by the neck and shook him so hard his tail almost fell off.
The stranger shouted, “Tell me those names! What are the names of the young women so I may win them.” The little dog fought bravely. He growled, he scratched, he kicked and finally, he bit the stranger between the fingers. The stranger ran off into the bush, and the little dog snarled between his teeth, “Do not come back or you won’t see morning ever again” and he proceeded to half wobble, half run down the path towards Manawee.
Even though his coat was bloody and his jaw ached, the little dog remembered the names of the twin sisters and he limped up to Manawee, beaming. Manawee washed the little dogs wounds, and then raced back to the village of the young women with the little dog riding high on his shoulders. When Manawee reached the father with the names of his daughters, the twin sisters received Manawee completely dressed to journey with him; they had been waiting all along. And all four, the sisters, the dog, and Manawee lived in peace together for eternity.
Each part of the story can be interpreted in different ways, but I use it as a way to understand the Masculine.
The plot of the story is centred around finding out the names of the twin sisters. “In cultures where names are chosen carefully for their magical or auspicious meanings, to know a persons true name means to know the life path and soul attributes of that person.”
Finding out the sister’s name represents finding out their true essence, the deep nature of the feminine. Their father is saying, “You can’t have understanding of the feminine just for the asking. You must do the work first.” So, the Father forces Manawee to guess their names.The path to guessing their names is the path of developing the Masculine.
In the story, the masculine and feminine are both represented as dual natures.
Manawee and his dog represent the dual nature of the Masculine. Every man has a human self and a dog self. The human self in the story is unable to guess the names of the twin sisters, it is his dog-self—his instinctual, wild self—that has keen ears for deep listening and is eventually able to hear their names. Dogs are universal symbols of unconditional love, loyalty, companionship and protection—this is the instinctual masculine.
The feminine in the story also has a dual nature: the twin sisters. Women are said to have an outer being and an inner being.
“The outer being lives by the light of day and is easily observed. She is often pragmatic and a very human. The creature, however, often travels to the surface from far away, appearing and then as quickly disappearing, yet always leaving behind a feeling; something surprising, original and knowing.”
It was only through utilising the dog-self that Manawee was able to guess the twin’s names. Developing the dog-self is the first step to developing the Masculine.
Cultivating the Masculine in Myself. The journey of the dog symbolizes the path of cultivating the instinctual self within the Masculine. On the journey to naming the twins, the dog get’s distracted off the path by the temptations of the bone and the pie. He eventually learns to overcome his temptations when he realizes what’s at stake—Manawee is about to lose the twins to someone else, meaning, he’s about to lose the feminine and all it represents.
This is a universally applicable concept and something I’ve noticed happens often in my life. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been “distracted off the path” on the journey to “naming,” finding, excavating the feminine in myself.
Maybe life just feels too busy, or it simply becomes too hard, or my anxious mind takes over or I move countries, get distracted by a career, love, money. But the masculine also has “right instinct,” and shows tenacity and perseverance; he simply keeps going back and starting again, until he finally overcomes the distractions.
The second step in cultivating the masculine, is developing tenacity and perseverance in the face of being distracted off the path.
The final step to developing the masculine, might be the hardest obstacle to overcome.
Maybe the scariest, most intimidating of them in all, is the stranger who jumps from the bushes. The stranger does not care about trying to understand the duality of the feminine, to him the feminine is a possession—something to control. The stranger can represent either a real person, or a negative aspect of the psyche. And what does the dog-self do? He fights, for his own instinctive life, for what he finds dear, for everything the naming of the feminine duality represents: deep knowledge, deep power, deep life.
This is the final step in cultivating the masculine in the story—to fight and overcome either the negative aspect of the psyche that seeks to hold down the power of the feminine, or something in one’s environment that’s doing the same.
Author: Rachel Browne
Assistant Editor: Kathryn Muyskens / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own