Title: The Secret of the She-Bear
The Secret of the She-Bear is an extraordinary book in which Marie Cachet shares her insights into the meanings of the classic European folk or fairy tales and pagan myths. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand why these tales and myths have recurrent themes (e.g. children being eaten by wolves, bears, and ogres; slaying of snakes), numbers (e.g. 3, 7 and 9 or 10) and settings (e.g. dense dark forests). You will also get a new perspective on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, and the legend of Troy. You will understand how and why children became kings and queens, and why they were carried around and not allowed to touch the ground.
The central thesis of The Secret of the She-Bear is that many of the European pagan myths and folk or fairy tales are metaphorical stories about the process of reincarnation. This process involves three key actors: the mother and her womb, an ancestor seeking reincarnation through a child, and a child developing first in the womb and then after birth up to the “age of reason,” which is approximately 7 years, when the child becomes conscious of him or her self, and seeks to identify him or her self.
As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I found the The Secret of the She-Bear fascinating. All Chinese medical physicians are trained in what we call pattern discrimination. In Chinese medicine diagnosis, we learn to identify patterns of signs and symptoms that signify ecological imbalances in the body. We view the organs and substances of the body as re-presenting elements of the natural world. We see the body as a microcosm of the macrocosm.
Even before reading The Secret of the She-Bear, I knew enough about pagan European science (e.g. traditional European herbalism) to have already realized that it was, like traditional Chinese science, based on pattern recognition. So Marie Cachet caught my attention strongly on page 19 of this book with the following passage:
“Nature has designs of her own, and probably the science of our ancestors was a ‘science of patterns’. They watched and, thanks to the motives, understood the purpose and use of each thing. Sometimes they also understood as well as our modern science, and with our microscopes and our complicated tools we in fact found already understood knowledge that sometimes they actually had understood better. It is because of this science of patterns, and from this point of view on the world, that there exist now in oral and written tradition strong analogies between the ‘things of the world’ of the same shape or design.
I could not agree more. Loss of this science – largely due to the destruction of pagan Europe by Christians – has put us in peril.
For example, the body has a circulatory system that delivers vital fluids to tissues, just as the Earth has a system of freshwater reservoirs (lakes) and a system of canals – we call them rivers, streams, creeks and springs – which deliver the fluids from the reservoirs to localities, making life possible in those areas. In the human body, just as in Nature, fluids flow downwards from top (mouth) to bottom (urinary system).
In Nature, the mountain tops are cool and dry compared to the warmer and moister valleys. Similarly, in the human body, the head is relatively cool and dry, while the pelvis and lower body in general are warmer and moister.
In Nature, wind causes unpredictable and sudden movements of objects. In humans, we who practice Chinese medicine view twitches, spasms, and uncoordinated movements as manifestations of a type of physiological wind.
In viewing the body, we notice other patterns. For example, the whole body consists of a central torso with five projections: the neck and head, two arms, and two legs. Similarly, a single hand or foot also consists of a central aspect with five projections (either fingers or toes). Therefore, in one subsystem of Chinese medicine, each foot or hand is seen as a hologram of the whole body; for example, on either hand, the soft palm corresponds to the anterior torso where we find the soft belly, the harder back of the hand corresponds to the harder back of the torso, the middle finger corresponds to the neck and head, the index and ring fingers correspond to the upper limbs, and the thumb and small finger correspond to the lower limbs.
The torso is also called the trunk from which the limbs project. We find this same pattern in trees, which also have a trunk and limbs.
We see that Nature repeats patterns. Most conventional scientific thinking more or less ignores these patterns, considering them unimportant for understanding how things work. The main exception is found in the relatively new discipline of ecological sciences. Here we finally find people realizing that forests act as the Earth’s lungs, waterways as the Earth’s circulatory system, and so on. In thinking ecologically, we see that if we destroy the forests, we won’t be able to breathe ourselves. If we poison the rivers, we poison ourselves.
This is in fact the traditional shamanic way of understanding Nature and our place in it. As Chief Seattle said, "This we know: the Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth." But with the invention of agriculture, humanity lost brain capacity and gained hubris.
In The Secret of the She-Bear, Marie Cachet shows that pagan Europeans thought like Chinese medical practitioners. Cachet says that to understand European paganism, we need to learn to recognize resonant patterns in Nature.
Let me take a simple example. In European tales and myths, we find the idea of the Tree of Life. In Norse mythology, it is called Yggdrasil. On Wikipedia, Yggdrasil is said to be an immense mythical tree that connects the 9 (mythical) worlds of Norse cosmology. The idea is that this idea has no connection with reality. “Its just a myth,” they will say, which we have all learned means “its not true or real.” In other words: Myths convey no knowledge (truth), they are just fiction (false). Whether intentionally or not, this evaluation of European mythology clearly suggests that, before being “saved” from their ignorance by Jewish monotheism, ancient pagan Europeans were a stupid lot who had a lot of interest in and reverence for “mythical” i.e. non-real things.
In fact these “myths” convey important knowledge. In The Secret of the She-Bear, Marie Cachet explains that the Tree of Life is a symbol of the placenta. The placenta looks like or shares a pattern with a tree. It has a central arterial trunk which branches off in arterioles and capillaries (ramifications). This organ delivers blood to the developing fetus, who “hangs” onto this tree for 9 months of development: these 9 months of development are the 9 worlds one passes through to get to Earth. Yggdrasil has a snake circling its roots. This is the umbilical cord, which feeds the placenta with blood taken from the mother. The mother of course corresponds to Earth.
Now it becomes clear why pagan Europeans revered trees. They understood that all trees are Trees of Life because trees provide life. Just as the placenta provides the fetus with blood rich in oxygen and nutrients, trees provide us with oxygen and nutrients. This was not some irrational worship. It was based on a clear understanding of the vital role trees play in sustaining human life and making this Earth a paradise.
Compare this to the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These desert-borne ideologies tolerate no such reverence for Nature or the life-support systems of Earth. Christians cut down the sacred groves of the pagans, which contained enormous old trees, claiming that reverence for trees constitutes harmful idolatry. Instead, they demanded that Europeans obey Yahweh the tyrant, who demanded that Abraham sacrifice his own son Isaac to demonstrate complete submission. How’s that for family values?
The result? Everywhere the desert religions have gained power, their adherents have cleared away the trees which were necessary for holding the soil and housing wild-life, and this deforestation has inevitably produced deserts. To the Jews, Christians and Islamists, nothing of Nature is really sacred, so we can destroy it all with impunity. In fact, destroying it all will hasten the return of the Messiah, so let’s get on with burning it all to the ground.
Some people may think that the idea that ancestors are reborn through new children is far-fetched, but I would agree with Marie Cachet that in fact this idea is quite scientific. From a simple mechanistic standpoint, the DNA that parents pass on to their children came from the grandparents, the DNA supplied by the grandparents came from great grandparents, and so on. Although the exact combination of DNA may be new, the DNA itself is a re-production of – literally, an exact copy of – ancestral material.
The word “reproduce” is instructive in itself. To re-produce something is literally, to produce that thing again. Reproduction is in fact the basic activity of life. In your body right now, cells and tissues are reproducing themselves. That is, they make virtually exact copies of themselves. This constant reproduction is the way one extends one’s life from moment to moment, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, and decade to decade. The more faithful the reproduction, the less change you see over time.
As shown by Weston Price, the ability to reproduce oneself in oneself as well as in children deeply depends on proper nutrition. Without proper nutrition, the pattern dictated by heritage can’t be reproduced. Parents who do not eat ancestral foods do not produce children who are faithful reproductions of the potentials of their lineages. As shown in Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, people who eat nutrient-deficient plant-based diets produce children with characteristic cranial, dental and skeletal deformities, such as jaws too small to accommodate the 32 teeth Nature intended. But jaws are only part of the head. Smaller jaws mean smaller heads. Children raised on deficient diets have long, narrow faces, unlike the broad faces of their ancestors. These long narrow faces represent under-development of the cranium, which houses the brain. A smaller skull can only hold a smaller brain. This is devolution in progress.
Perhaps we don't grasp the idea of reincarnation of ancestors because
we make choices that prevent us from re-producing the physical form, especially the brain size, of
But I digress.
In one of the most interesting parts of The Secret of the She-Bear, Marie Cachet discusses interesting research by Wang et al indicating that the placenta is formed primarily from the genetic material supplied by the father of the child.1 Wang et al comment on this:
“In the case of reciprocal horse-donkey hybrids, the mule (donkey father) and hinny (horse father) differ physiologically and in temperament, despite sharing nuclear genomes, leading to speculation that these phenotypic differences might be attributable to the action of imprinted genes.”
Their research suggests that “the paternal genome has a major influence on placental development,” and through this the father has epigenetic influence on the developing child. Since the placenta controls the extraction of blood from the mother and delivery of that blood to the fetus, Nature has deemed that the father of the child is responsible for guiding the development of the fetus. Thus, although a mule and hinny are both crosses of horse and donkey, the species and genetics of the father differs, resulting in different outcomes.
In The Secret of the She-Bear Marie Cachet relates this to the many stories of a prince bringing a princess back to waking or life via a kiss. She suggests that the prince is the father, and ancestor, who, through sperm and the placenta, brings the egg (the princess) out of “sleep” and back to life through his “kiss” which is akin to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
This is just a taste of the insights in The Secret of the She-Bear. Readers will be introduced to key concepts and etymology that unlock and reveal
And much much more. The Secret of the She-Bear deserves several readings, it is so packed with insight that one will not likely grasp it all on one reading.
All that said...
Before I close, I want to say that there may be some people of certain dispositions who may not enjoy this book. Marie Cachet first published this book in French. She and Varg Vikernes translated it into English. Neither of them have perfect command of English. The Secret of the She-Bear has some grammatical, punctuation and typographical errors, and these sometimes increase the difficulty of following the line of thought. If you want perfect prose, or need every insight handed to you on a silver platter, without you having to think things through, or you are the type lamented by Zen masters, who will be so distracted by the spot on the teacher’s finger that you will not be able to look beyond it toward the glorious moon at which she is pointing, you might not appreciate The Secret of the She-Bear.
In my opinion, the translation is good enough to convey their combined insights into traditional European paganism to those who want the keys to obtaining genuine spiritual nourishment through their own heritage.
1. Wang X, Miller DC, Harman R, et al. Paternally expressed genes predominate in the placenta. PNAS USA 2013 Jun 25;110(26):10705-10710. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696791/>