Root Healer


Painting by artist Judith Shaw


Slipping through the forest

padded paws embrace each leaf

a silent plea for concealment

from those who would harm.


I breathe prayers


He claws roots,

mouths sweet earthen dirt

digs deep,

to sleep, to image, to dream.


I breathe prayers


When snow covers

bare ground I will

sing him a secret lullaby –

Love songs that keep us

nose to nose



Tree Roots bind us-

iridescent vibrating strings,

waves of scent,

pungent pine

night chants –

a bountiful body

His intent to heal





*Painting by artist Judith Shaw

Working notes:

In circumpolar cultures throughout the Northern Hemisphere the The Great Bear Mother was the most ancient image of Nature/Great Goddess. She led the change of seasons by making a descent into the underworld in the fall, where she gave birth to cubs in winter, brought them into the world of sunlight during the spring to grow and thrive, and in summer she mated and repeated the cycle again. Her image of descent, death, birth and renewal mirror that of  the seasonal round and the Circle of Life. Images of her stretch back 50,000 years or more, She also has a solar aspect because  one of the roots of her name is translated as brightness. (The more recent goddess Brigid, retains that solar aspect and wears a crown of light and stars that spins with the celestial round)  The Great Bear mother was also powerful healer who used roots and plants and is still associated today with root healing by Indigenous peoples, especially in the Americas.

As ancient matrifocal cultures began to shift into Patriarchy, The Great Bear gradually lost power to her Bear Son who became a great hunter. However, there is  ample evidence to support the idea that she also taught her Bear Son to become a great Root Healer, just as she was. And it is to this son, not the hunter, that I dedicate this poem.

It is important to note that all bears are known to be able to heal themselves with roots and plants, applying poultices when needed, and ingesting certain plants to cure themselves when they become ill. Other body healings take place during the bear’s descent into the womb of the earth where bears are able to heal more serious wounds like those from bullets during hibernation. No one knows just how these remarkable, intelligent, empathetic animals do what they do.

The Great She Bear and her Son remind us that this time of gathering darkness is an invitation to us to make our own descents to heal those roots in ourselves that may still be broken.

In closing I would like to say that for me, Judith’s painting illustrates not just the mystical link between bears and humans but the powers that the Great Bear Mother retains today.



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