MALIBU, Calif. -- By the light of a full moon, as fingers of fire reached into the night, the women howled like wolves, their primal sounds acknowledging and embracing a wild feminine spirit they no longer would deny.
Their cries celebrated both their pain and their glory, underscoring a commitment to themselves to believe in their intuitive instincts and finally to unleash their creativity.
Last weekend in the Malibu mountains, nearly two dozen women bTC walked into the woods with Santa Monica psychologist Pamela Hogan for a retreat based on "Women Who Run With the Wolves," the runaway best seller by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Denver psychologist.
"Women need more understanding of themselves," Ms. Hogan said. "They need to revel in themselves and become proud. Not pompous proud, but sacred proud."
By the end of the two days, they called themselves the Clan of Courage, a pack of women unafraid to delve deep within to explore the mystery of their inner lives. And unafraid to howl.
"Howling is just fabulous for women to do," said Loolwa Shazzom, 23, from West Los Angeles. "Women are always taught to be quiet, to shut up. It's like releasing an inner-charged animal spirit. It feels great."
Not your standard psychological seminar, Ms. Hogan's workshop used rituals, dance, music, drumming, masks, art and even howling in ways designed for women to restore instincts that have been impaired or interfered with.
During the retreat, women not only learned to make peace with their feminine nature, but tried to become more familiar with their masculine instincts as well.
As Ms. Hogan pointed out, "If you want to create a long-term goal for yourself, if you want to position yourself, you have to get in touch with focusing direction, linear thinking and discipline. Wishing won't get you there, and women are great dreamers and fantasizers, for better or for worse."
She encouraged women to have faith in the life-death-life cycle, reminding them that a miracle waited for them on the other side of every loss.
But the weekend didn't dwell in losses.
"Very often in psychology seminars, you stay in grief work too much. It becomes very dark," Ms. Hogan said. "I certainly believe in grieving, but that's not where we stay. The 'feminine' knows you have to go into the darkness, but that transformation means you come out of it into the light, into a new form and into a surprise."
At one point, she painted the faces of women white as a depiction of the draining of their passion and whispered solemnly to each one, "Fight for your soul as you would fight for your life."
The women then danced as a way to acknowledge how they have been wounded, how their true, wild instincts have been captivated and domesticated.
"Too many women are subjected to this life-force draining," Ms. Hogan said. The paint is a reminder that "we're in trouble if the life force stays drained out."
Said Sandra Dupont, a 35-year-old Santa Monica resident, "I was very moved by the pain that represented a lot of women [who] have no voice. They were figures devoid of energy, lifeless figures, just sort of swaying in the breeze."
This is Ms. Hogan's second "Women Who Run With the Wolves" retreat.
"I knew this book was really tapping into the feminine in a way that the feminist movement has not," said Ms. Hogan, who is planning a third seminar in May. "The book is empowering and celebrating of the natural feminine. Not what woman could be, but what she actually is."
"Women Who Run With the Wolves" debuted quietly in July, but since has spent 31 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and currently is ranked No. 3 among non-fiction books. There are now 508,000 copies in print.
Most recently, the American Booksellers Association announced that "Women Who Run with the Wolves" was among its 1992 nominees for the ABBY awards, which honor books members of the association say they enjoyed.
Tonia Hanada, a San Francisco coffee bar manager and a graduate student, liked getting together with women of the same mind.
"It's so hard to find very many women who are intelligent and spiritual and who want to acknowledge the sacred part of life," she said. "We've lost the art of being together and being able to be free and do female things and not be competitive."
While some women were uncomfortable with the ritual parts of the weekend, others greeted them enthusiastically.
"Rituals are a really good way of bonding with other people," said Ms. Shazzom. "There's a sacredness to them."