Embracing “The Madness of Mis”: Irish Mythology and it’s Significance to Our Becoming

Lately I’ve been quite intrigued by learning more about Celtic mythology and culture. Perhaps this is because I want to learn more about the trail of genetic and cultural make up of my son…Perhaps it’s time I make my peace with notions of what patriarchy looks like (aka white, western man … looking kind of exactly like my husband, only… in reality he’s the opposite of all that. But, I digress). Regardless, I have become fascinated by the stories and their significance in my own life.

In the book I’m currently reading, If Women Rose Rooted, I came across the Irish story of  “The Madness of Mis” and I simply fell in love with it. So far, it’s my favourite one I’ve listened to. In this story, Mis becomes so overtaken by grief that she transforms herself into the ultimate wild woman. Her transformation into her true self is complete only when she is nurtured to Life by a loving man.

I fell in love with the story of Mis because it is so reminiscent of my own journey of descent into madness

Unlike in our Western culture where descending into madness is certainly considered a negative thing, in Celtic myths madness occurs often and it is a precursor to transformation — like an initiation, of sorts. I wholeheartedly get that. In these stories, the sleeping mad woman lives deep within each of us and she comes out when she can no longer tolerate the intolerable brutalities around her. In her breaking out, she becomes a welcome expression of our own internal rage (madness). 

What an empowered, complete, compassionate way to conceptualize madness! 

Instead, in our culture, we are drugged to become numb. We become an embarrassment to our families and loved ones. We are considered “crazy”, perceived as having something wrong going on with us for feeling too much. So we conclude that our feelings must be shut down; we must continue to go to work and shop.  

I appreciate this Irish myth because it points to the fact that people who go mad in our maddening society are not the crazy ones — in fact, they are the sane ones. They are the ones who can sense what’s going on in the world around them and they deeply feel sadness, anger, grief, rage at the violations of the human species, animal species, and the planet Earth overall. These sensations often cannot be rationalized, reasoned, or managed — there simply isn’t any way to do that. The sensations inside are animalistic — they are part of what makes us alive; not what runs the economy. 

Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to handle those overwhelming sensations in our body, because we are generally taught to just ruck it away neatly somewhere — after all, it simply isn’t appropriate for a lady to feel rage! And so we end up thinking there is something wrong with us; we are crazy. In an effort to fix our broken selves, we turn to modern medicine and psychiatry to seek help. What we get in return are countless (in my experience meaningless) diagnoses, Soul-numbing drugs, and a recipe for general numbness to the intolerable.

If the ostrich hides its head in the ground, it thinks noone else can see it.

For those of us fortunate and persistent enough to not succumb to the overwhelming pressures of psychiatry and medicine (aka pharmacology) for too long, we must find ways to transform ourselves so that we can begin to make peace with everything that’s going on inside and around us. The only way for those of us who really tried everything is to embrace the mad woman. To allow her the space she needs to live in darkness, so that she may show us the light.

This can only happen if allow ourselves to enter into the dark spaces within where all the sensations are, and listen with our bodies. Our bodies are the ones sensing the sensations, therefore it can only be through our bodies that we feel and then heal. That’s the animal nature of our being.

In order to come out transformed, we must be courageous enough to be willing to shed the unfitting skin of our former life — the life that simply no longer fits us. We have to become willing and able to shapeshift into who we are, before culture indoctrinated us and broke us into something we were never meant to be to begin with. 

If you feel the mad woman rising within you, know that you are not alone. Know that she is powerful. She has the wisdom of all our ancestors inside of her. There is no sensation that you cannot move through. There is nothing that scares her, but remaining trapped in a life that isn’t meant to be — a life that doesn’t feel “mine”. She is there to release you from the conditioning that has numbed your Soul. She is there to remind you of the powerhouse that lives within you. She is there as a reminder of all you are, of all you can choose to become and embody. She is there to set you free. 

Only question is: Are you willing to give her space? To lovingly embrace her? To allow yourself to become her wildness? Once you recognize the gift that she is to your becoming, you’d not be afraid of her. You’d love her, unconditionally, and allow her to guide you into becoming yourself. 

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