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Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Paperback)
Wild Mercy is essential reading for anyone ready to awaken the feminine mystic within and birth her loving, creative, and untamed power into the world.
"Mystical brilliance at its best." —Caroline Myss
"No one can take us into the fiery and tender depths of the sacred feminine with more skill, humor, clarity, and vibrant naked honesty than Mirabai Starr." —Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope and The Return of the Mother
We live in a world that has suffered the abuses of an unbalanced masculine rule for thousands of years—but the feminine is rising. "Seeds of feminine wisdom that have been quietly germinating underground are now breaking through the surface," writes Mirabai Starr. "Women everywhere are rising to the collective call to step up and repair our broken Earth. And we are activating a paradigm shift such as the world has never seen."
With Wild Mercy, Mirabai shares the subversive wisdom and fierce compassion of the feminine mystic across cultural boundaries and throughout history. From saints and sages, to goddesses and archetypal energies, to contemporary teachers and seekers—you’ll meet women who blazed a path that will illuminate your own.
Each chapter explores a different facet of feminine mysticism through a tapestry of teachings, reflections, and stories, along with a practice for integrating the chapter’s themes into your own life. As you journey through these pages, you’ll explore:
Taking refuge in contemplative practice with St. Teresa of Avila and the Shekinah
• Longing, embodiment, and union as the heart of feminine spiritual practice with the Hindu poet Mirabai and Mary Magdalene
• Your relationship with the Earth, motherhood in all its forms, and a loving call to action alongside Gaia and Ix Chel
• Community and the web of life with Indra, the Beguines, and female prophets throughout history
• Wild, playful, and compassionate mercy with Tara and Kuan Yin
• Finding joy in creativity and the arts with Saraswati and Chiyo-ni
• More inspiration from archetypal goddesses and amazing women past and present—Julian of Norwich, the Sufi saint Rabia, Pachamama, Sophia, Old Spider Woman, Hildegard of Bingen, Demeter, Kali, and more
Wild Mercy provides a much-needed alternative to the models of religion and spirituality that have dominated history. Here, Mirabai invites you to welcome the wisdom of women back into the collective field where it may transform the human family, heal the ravaged Earth, and awaken the divine love in our hearts.
About the Author
Mirabai Starr teaches philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico, and is the author of new translations of Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life by Teresa of Avila. She lives in Taos.
“Mirabai embodies love, generosity, and wisdom. Her work and words compel us to be more, do better, love more fiercely, open our hearts and let the light in, and out.” —Mona Haydar, activist, rapper, poet, chaplain
“The Great Mother is a Mystery . . . known only through surrender. Surrender only happens through Grace. Mirabai Starr leads us deep into the radiance of the many ways the Goddess reveals herself, illuminating our Path back home.” —Krishna Das, Kirtan master and author of Chants of a Lifetime and Flow of Grace
“I was with Mirabai the day before her daughter Jenny died. Over the years, the intense outpouring of love from her mother’s heart has led Mirabai to the wild mercy she drinks in and shares from all the women mystics, poets, and teachers gathered together in this gorgeous book. With free-spirited passion, erudition, and blazing candor, Mirabai generously offers the joys, sorrows, and insights of her own fully lived life as a particularly female path to the vast universal life we share. Mirabai’s writing is magic, transforming the salt of tears into the fruit of wisdom and compassion.” —Trudy Goodman, PhD, founding teacher at InsightLA and cofounder of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy in Boston
“I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time! Wild Mercy is a profound and exquisite glimpse into the wisdom, power, and love of the women mystics. The most pressing need of our time is for the wisdom of the feminine to be heard. Mirabai Starr’s beautiful contribution allows everyone to hear those voices loud and clear! Highly recommended!” —Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul
“Mirabai Starr invites us to a sacred fiesta in a wild wood—my idea of a great gathering. It all feels, as she says, inexhaustibly holy. She has a deliciously rich vocabulary and mastery of language, which she spills out over the pages. Her friends, the women mystics, teach us that everything is holy—herbs, water, fire, the body, every last thing. We so need this book, our world yearning for wisdom to balance the benefits and disasters of patriarchy—in religious and spiritual tradition as well as secular ones. The world will experience a rush of gratitude when this book is published.” —Mirabai Bush, Senior Fellow, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and author of Walking Each Other Home (with Ram Dass)
“It would be difficult to find a more trustworthy guide of the feminine mystics than Mirabai. In Wild Mercy, Mirabai’s writing will lovingly pierce your consciousness, illuminating pathways that draw you far below and beyond what you thought you knew about spirituality and humanity, masculinity and femininity, and truth and grace. But even more than her beautiful writing, Mirabai’s soulful guidance will lead you on a transformative cross-cultural journey as you traverse the sacred stories and wisdom of a diverse spectrum of feminine mystics. Importantly, her careful study of and sensitivity to social inequality and power dynamics enables her to highlight the deep spiritual wisdom that lies in other cultures without veering into ethnotourism. Rather, she invites readers to relinquish Western biases and entitlements as they faithfully drink from the waters that have nourished souls all over the world.” —Christena Cleveland, associate professor, Duke Divinity School
“Mirabai Starr has gifted us over the years with lively translations of the mystics and other blessings, but with this new book she outdoes herself! Wild Mercy is Starr’s chef d’oeuvre—in it she wrestles with one of the most important signs of hope to combat the cynicism and despair that mark our times. I speak of the rise of women and women’s consciousness, and Starr goes to the source—to the great women mystics West and East—to awaken us and instruct us in what has been lacking under Patriarchy. She not only draws on mystics of the past and mystics in her storied life but also her own deep experiences of awe, of grief, of healing, of creativity, inviting us into her own personal journey. I loved her affirmation of family life as a spiritual practice—in this way and many others she dares to democratize the mystical experience by urging us to draw on our deep and sacred everyday experiences. She enlists our mysticism as an important dimension to humanity’s much-needed awakening and journey to its next evolutionary stage. This book is Delicious and Dangerous and Oh-so-needed in our time! Read it. And dare to live it.” —Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing, Christian Mystics, and The Lotus & The Rose: Conversations on Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity with Lama Tsomo
“This is so much more than a gorgeously written book. It is an act of divine redemption, in which Mirabai Starr gives voice to every true and secret longing of the human heart. Whoever you are, whatever you thought you knew about how the Holy looks or acts, get ready to be loved into deeper reality by someone you can trust to show you the way.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World and Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others
“Wild Mercy is a magnificent contribution to the wave of feminine wisdom emerging into a world that has been starved of it for too long. With the kindness of a sister, the eloquence of a poet, and the authority born out of translating the text of mystical giants, Mirabai takes us by the hand, ushering us into a more immanent, devotional, and utterly human way to walk the journey home with depth and substance. May Wild Mercy flood our troubled world with grace.” —Miranda Macpherson, author of The Way of Grace: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation
“In Wild Mercy, Mirabai Starr creates an eloquent invocation of the Divine Feminine. She mines the canon of women mystics to evoke the soft, mysterious embrace of the Beloved. In her own words and theirs, Mirabai takes the blazing thread of devotion and weaves a tapestry of ultimate longing. This book is her path through the thicket of existence, her way of consecrating the lila, the exquisite dance of illusion, and of making the jumble of human experience into One Love.” —Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now and Walking Each Other Home (with Mirabai Bush)
“Mirabai Starr has already been a firmly rooted beacon shining a light into the places history might have obscured the wisdom of women. With Wild Mercy she seductively weaves the wisdom of the world’s traditions—East, West, indigenous, and divined—as only she can, into a tapestry that takes up residence in our modern lives as inspired, healing, practical action, simultaneously comforting and fierce, as wild mercy must be: to live, love, and save the planet by. We are left knowing the truth of our own hearts’ healing as the balm of salvation for the world.” —Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, Zen priest and author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation
“Mirabai Starr. Perhaps nowhere else is her penetrating mysticism conveyed with such feminine ferocity as in her new book, Wild Mercy. From divine sexuality and fleshly exploitation to the sacred art of grieving, dying, and mortality salience, Mirabai takes the heart of the reader into the crevices between creation and contours, beginnings and finales, tapping the tender crescendos of living into the holy. Both powerful and compassionate, both fearless and commanding, this book is an invitation to unfold into an ampler version of the self. This is not a dispassionate read. It’s an invocation of action and harbinger of complacence. This book is a must-read for every person willing to accept the decisive challenge of existence: to awaken.” —Joanne Cacciatore, PhD, associate professor, Arizona State University, and author of Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief
“Mirabai Starr has crafted a book out of her own unique life, steeped in the outpourings of the women mystics. This is the robust, sensual, full-to-overflowing prose of one who has soaked herself in poetry and in the life-practices of those mystics: she is not "talking about"; she is reporting from the road. Be warned—to open this book is to embark upon a journey.” —Eve Ilsen, singer-storyteller, psychotherapist, and rabbinic pastor
“It is by empowering the sacred feminine and by listening to the earth as she tries to communicate with us that we will ultimately heal.” —Lama Tsultrim Allione, author of Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine
“Here’s what will probably happen when you open this astonishing book. You will realize you are in the lap of the Great Mother and she’s reading to you. Your body, habituated to the terror of being a woman in a world that disregards women, will unclench. Your worry if you are as deeply flawed as you are pretty sure you are, will abate. And then Mirabai will take you a few steps further as she introduces you to a great number of soul-afire women mystics, many of which you likely haven't encountered before. Your heart, so unseen for so long, will begin to burst with pride—knowing that you are uniquely made to bring through you the very balm that the world and your fellow humans needs most. Of course, Mirabai will keep going, showing you how their wisdom can fuel your community activism, your participation in restorative justice, and your ability to tend our ailing planet Earth. The task of the divine feminine (or the divine feminist!) is not to take a wrecking ball to the patriarchal structures inside of which we all suffer. None of us can make sustainable change—whether inside us or out in the world—using the same ways of thinking (or wrecking) that created the deep hole we are trying to climb out of. This book will offer you new ways to think—and to feel, act, and commune. To read it is to drink deeply from the well of wholeness and hope. Drink, friend, drink.” —LiYana Silver, coach, torch-holder, and author of Feminine Genius: The Provocative Path to Waking Up and Turning On the Wisdom of Being a Woman
“Truth and Dare. As Mirabai paints her devotional story with poetry, she gathers the flowers of various mystical traditions from around the world into a bouquet of Beauty, of connection with all aspects of ourselves, and of the interconnectedness of all beings. She gives us the essence of vast teachings and deep life explorations and motivates us to take up practical actions for manifesting this wisdom—this wisdom of the Feminine—each in our own true way.” —Nina Rao, devotional musician
“In Wild Mercy, Mirabai Starr brings us relief like rain in a world parched by politics and angst. I found myself weeping tears of joy to come home to the sisterhood of saints and the many paths of feminine contemplative knowing that are made lovingly accessible here. Starr writes poetically and passionately, all the while toggling the spiritual opposites that trip us up, giving us teaching after teaching to free and nourish our souls. I am so grateful for Wild Mercy; I could not put it down.” —Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD, author of Woman's Kabbalah and Wounds Into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma
“In a time when we sorely need the depth and sensitivity of the feminine, Mirabai Starr guides us through the lineage of female mystics in a way that is personal, universal, and useful. I urge men to read this book as well as women, for Wild Mercy will open the more enduring qualities we need to begin to repair the world.” —Mark Nepo, author of More Together Than Alone and The Book of Awakening
“Wild Mercy is the cry of so many women today as we reclaim the sacredness of form and physicality, freeing our world from the error of denigrating this holy realm of Earth. Mirabai Starr deftly shows how the natural community gathering and the wisdom of women is the way forward for our world, as the feminine voice speaks out the hidden truths and the injustices of old that are ever so reluctant to die. This book is a call for each person to take up their spiritual, creative, and activist role, as they are soulfully inspired. Thank you, Mirabai, for writing what we know to be true. May the cry of the feminine finally be heard and the doorway of the future be flung open wide!” —Meghan Don, author of The New Divine Feminine: Spiritual Evolution for a Woman’s Soul
“Here is the heart’s story of divine love, told in the language, the poetry, the images of the great mystics, and yet also recounted by a woman of today, someone who has lived this passion, beauty and grief in the world around us. We learn of bliss and abandonment; of being broken open by desire, sadness, and longing; of the journey back to our soul’s Beloved. Embracing the wisdom of the feminine, Mirabai Starr allows us to recognize it in our body—felt in a lover’s touch. And how this love reaches out, to include all of life, especially our suffering Earth. Let this book open you to the mystery of what it means to be fully alive and know love.” —Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, PhD, Sufi teacher and author of Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home
“More than a book, wise woman Mirabai Starr has given us the gifts of Sangha and answered prayers. Guiding us across spiritual traditions into the inspiring and sacred companionship of women teachers, pilgrims and prophets, the author reveals her own infinitely full and discerning heart with poetry, humor, and visionary wisdom. Between these pages awaits a gorgeous journey to the missing half of everything, the feminine expression of Ultimate Reality, awakening within you and in the world.” —Phyllis Curott, one of America’s first public Wiccan priestesses and bestselling author of Book of Shadows and Wicca Made Easy: Awaken the Divine Magic Within You
“Wild Mercy is a celebration of wisdom wherever it is found. It is an ongoing and ever-evolving conversation that includes everyone and excludes no one. Above all, it is a celebration of a long litany of courageous women who always had wisdom to share but for too long were ignored. We are all the better for Mirabai’s work.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness and Real Love
“Mirabai Starr has untethered the sacred cow, turned on the dance music in the meditation hall, and opened the doors to let the cloisters run free! Wild Mercy flows through the heart of all spiritual traditions, and the heart of humanity. The women mystics in this book inspire us to listen deeply to hear the cries of the world and in our own way, with courage and commitment, respond. Mirabai so eloquently shares her soul, offering nurturance to all of us hungry for deeper meaning. This is a very important book for our time.” —Celeste Yacoboni, editor of How Do You Pray? Inspiring Responses from Religious Leaders, Spiritual Guides, Healers, Activists & Other Lovers of Humanity
“Wild Mercy is mystical brilliance at its best. Mirabai once again gives the teachings of renowned women mystics new voice as only she can. Her gift for communicating the essential wisdom of the feminine is truly beyond compare. Mirabai is a poet of the soul. I adore her work.” —Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts
“I was so entranced in reading Wild Mercy I could not put it down. Mirabai Starr’s writing is truly a work of art, and she is a masterful trusted guide. I felt invited into the sacred and reverent space she created. It was as if we were sitting and having tea while Mirabai awakened deep parts of knowing within, giving me a glimpse into the mystery of the divine feminine—the phases of death and rebirth, and the richness that occurs in between. This book opens the doors of remembering while weaving together so much profound wisdom. Reading Wild Mercy calls in healing energies just in the acknowledgement of the transformative power that comes with invoking the divine feminine.” —Sandra Ingerman, MA, author of Soul Retrieval and The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life
“What a compilation of great women. Mirabai Starr has done a beautiful job of bringing forth the power of the feminine. It couldn’t be a more pertinent time in our country to publish this important illuminating material. The prose simply sings.” —Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home
“If you think Wild Mercy is just another book on feminine wisdom, Kali or Rabia or Teresa of Ávila will shake you awake ferociously and facetiously as you dance, weep, and reverently ponder the profundity in its pages. A book of poetry, of prose, of practices, of prayer, Wild Mercy is a sumptuous feast of Inter-Spiritual/Inter-Being that guides the reader through irreverent reverence, heartbreak, sensuality, joy, and ecstasy. The mystic in every woman craves the holy juiciness with which Mirabai tantalizes and teaches us in this extraordinary book.” —Carolyn Baker, author of Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times and coauthor with Andrew Harvey of Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night of The Globe
“Mirabai has combined her extraordinary life experiences with her sharp intellect and her ecstatic heart to produce a book that is electrifying. She uses interviews, history, and her uniquely clear writing skills to reveal seemingly disparate world spiritual views as emanations of the wondrous and mysterious wholeness. Highly recommended!” —Gangaji, author of Hidden Treasure, Diamond in Your Pocket, and Freedom and Resolve
“Wild Mercy is a gentle and intimate portrait of the feminine mystic. In lyrical language, Mirabai Starr draws the reader into the depth of her heart as she explores the ways in which the feminine divine lives in her and with us. Sensitive to the sanctity of life, she opens herself to the wisdom of embodiment, the holiness of the everyday, and our capacity to dismantle painful structures in order to embrace suffering and to welcome the Divine Feminine Presence in our midst. It is like walking beside a close friend to feel the beating wings of mercy and the flowering heart of forgiveness. A beautiful meditation!” —Beverly Lanzetta, author of The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life and Radical Wisdom: A Feminist Mystical Theology
“Wild Mercy is a visitation, a chance to bask in the presence of feminine mystics, saints, and the spiritual powers from across time and space. And one can’t shake the feeling that they too peer back at us through the pages of this prophetic treatise, steeping us in their friendship and blessing and tilting our hearts entirely towards the Holy One within. On every page Mirabai reminds us that women need no spiritual authority to connect us to our natural wisdom stream, no special permission to embrace the fullness of our humanity with the fullness of our divinity. And she reorients the soul completely towards this birthright.” —Vera de Chalambert, author of “Kali Takes America: I’m With Her”
“An exquisite and inspiring book that reveals the great heart and wisdom of the feminine.” —Roshi Joan Jiko Halifax, abbot of Upaya Zen Center, and author of Standing at the Edge
“Wild Mercy is more than just a great read. It's also a magic potion, a seduction, and a bridge to a land you may not even know exists, but I am telling you, it’s a very healing and inspiring place indeed. And for a book about mysticism, it’s also down-to-earth and funny—such a winning combination.” —Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute and author of The Seeker's Guide, Broken Open, and Marrow
“Ours is a time of spiritual reclamation: reclaiming the body as holy, reclaiming the Mother as God, reclaiming the fluidity of spirit so long dammed up by the rigidity of denominated souls. Spiritual reclamation is great and good work, and as with all such work, we need a guide to point the way. Mirabai Starr is our guide, and Wild Mercy is our roadmap. Each chapter is an invitation to fall into the arms of the Beloved and find yourself embracing and embraced. Savor this book. Live this book.” —Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Holy Rascals: Advice for the Spiritual Revolutionary
“What I love most about all of Mirabai Starr’s work, including the magical new Wild Mercy, is that she writes with such joyful energy about all facets of spirituality, through a passionately feminine lens. She writes about truth, her gravest loss and most profound resurrections, infinite joy, and the stillness at the center of all things. In Wild Mercy, she turns her encyclopedic knowledge of all wisdom traditions and rituals to the women mystics and saints she so loves and lives by, to Mother Earth, to the mothers of all ages and genders who have nourished and guided and comforted us, and given us life, joy, the deepest healing, and a lot of light to see by.” —Anne Lamott, author of Hallelujah Anyway and Help Thanks Wow
“No one can take us into the fiery and tender depths of the sacred feminine with more skill, humor, clarity, and vibrant naked honesty than Mirabai Starr. Mirabai is herself a woman mystic grounded in the universal mysticism. The Mother is birthing in our world and her witness to what is needed in our time is essential for both men and women. I love this book, and anyone who comes to it with an open heart will find its gorgeous writing. A depth of mystical insight and wonderful practical ways to help us all live a more embodied and passionately compassionate life.” —Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism and The Return of the Mother
“In this excellent look into 'mystical feminism,' Starr delves into the wisdom of historical and contemporary women to help readers 'step up and repair the broken world'. . . this is a wonderfully singular compendium of spiritual feminists figures.” —Publishers Weekly