Photos courtesy of Gillian Hunter Photography
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Wise Not Withered Podcast. This week I am sharing my two-part interview with Scarlett Maebh. I met Scarlett at a women’s retreat almost two years ago. She and next week’s guest were two of the activity leaders at the retreat, and they led extremely powerful and healing rituals with our small group. I was thrilled when Scarlett agreed to be interviewed, and I hope you feel inspired by her story.
If you’ve listened to other episodes in my Podcast, you’re already aware that we do go pretty deep and raw while discussing the struggles and triumphs in the stories of these wise, brave women. Scarlett’s story, while not disclosing particular details of events, does include retelling of domestic violence and sexual assault. She also goes into how she worked through and healed her trauma, and overall I believe her story is inspiring above anything else.
About the incredible work she does: “Everything that I do—all of the branches, all the different areas of my work—are leading to people really getting connected with the truth of who they are. With their magnificent, incredible selves, and their beautiful souls.
I’ve had since I was a little girl what I call this penetrating vision. The ability to see what’s really going on underneath. I’ve rarely had patience for the fluffy stuff. I want to get to what’s real pretty quickly—small talk makes me nuts. I can do it, but it exhausts me. I really want to get to what’s real in a person. It’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid.
When I stepped onto the shamanic path, there’s a process in shamanism called soul retrieval. The premise behind soul retrieval is that at different places in different people’s lives, they have parts of themselves which—in order to protect the gifts that these parts hold, they will separate off. And it can be from trauma in the traditional sense: child abuse, a car accident, emotional trauma, job loss, things like that. But it can also be being in a situation in which you are really not fully allowed to be who you are.
With my clients, I find a lot of soul loss occurs around the age of five, when people start kindergarten. Because they are suddenly pushed into these very strong boxes of being told of who they are and who they aren’t. Who they naturally are and how that’s not okay with the rest of the world.
So what I began seeing in doing the work of soul retrieval was just having the honor and the privilege again and again and again and again of witnessing the beauty of people’s souls.”
About her connection to animals: “The religion I was part of was very rigid. As my truth began to expand, I began getting less and less comfortable. I began to find a different truth for myself. But I was still in a lot of fear [and resistance]. … One day I’m in my living room, in the middle of suburbia. I was standing in my living room, and I saw this big thing coming up the street. I couldn’t quite tell what it was. As it got closer, it stood in front of my driveway, and it was a wild tom turkey. This turkey walked up my driveway, up my sidewalk, walked up my three steps, and stood at my front door. I was afraid to open my door. (laughs) I was afraid it was gonna come in, and I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do if it decided to walk in my house.
So that was part of the beginning of it. And I was like, ‘That’s weird. Okay. I’m gonna try to go back to life and be normal now…’ And they would have none of it.
We had the two tallest trees on our street, and we had two magpie nests in those trees. Magpies are extremely intelligent [and territorial]—they have been known to kill dogs and cats that are in the same area when they have fledglings. Hence, they were the only birds in our yard. After Mr. Turkey shows up, I tried to go back to life as normal. I started walking out in my backyard, and I would have robins come and land at my feet. Defying the magpies. While the magpies were squawking and threatening, these robins were landing at my feet.
… After that, the animal experiences just ratcheted up. It would take me hours to tell you how many there were. Coming across a bull snake that had literally just digested a meal, laying across the sidewalk as I’m going for a neighborhood walk. A white domestic rabbit in my flower garden, that’s just hanging out there. A hummingbird that hovered about a foot from my face and stayed there for about ten minutes. Deer that would look me directly in the eye. Not just looking at me, but looking and connecting, soul to soul. All of them were saying ‘Come on, it’s time. Come back… Come back…’
I regularly have experiences with animals. When you are willing to listen when they show up. And you’re willing to go, ‘Oh, I understand. You are spirit in physical form, and you’ve got a message for me.’ When you’re willing to begin to listen, they show up a whole lot more. I very regularly have encounters with them. They don’t need to be quite so dramatic anymore. (laughs) I’m listening now! I’m not trying to pretend that life is ‘normal’. It’s pretty much part of regular daily life for me. And I help other people have their understanding when they show up for them.”
About her current relationship/marriage: “I marvel at this all the time, because I tell people that we manifest who we are, not what we want. And at the time that I met Dan—my current husband—I felt like I was so broken. And I don’t say that [in a pathetic way], but really, I was pretty messed up. I had been in a marriage for ten years where I was left, and I was heartbroken, my self-esteem was shattered… But for whatever reason, there was something in me that manifested Dan. Cause he is just… He’s such a gift. He was so the opposite of my first husband.
I was just telling somebody yesterday, you can tell when you walk into our bedroom which side of the room is his and which is mine. Because my night stand has stuff piled all over the place, and it’s all kind of jumbled, and his is literally right angles. ‘Oh, that’s Dan’s side of the bed.’ A sense of order is very important to him; he’s the guy who can look at a wall and go ‘That’s the center, the nail needs to go right here.’ without even holding the picture up. He has this incredible sense of order.
And that was not me. Partly due to rebellion, partly just because I’m such a flow within structure person. I lean more toward the messy—I’m not filthy, I don’t leave dishes getting moldy and stuff like that. But I have stuff, and I have piles. I remember really well in the first few months that we were married, starting to get things in piles and feeling stressed out about it. He just stopped me and was like, ‘Wait. As long as I have a space where I can fully be me, I’m okay with you fully being you. You don’t have to change this part of you because it’s wrong, or because I want to feel more comfortable. I’ll have my man cave, and as long as I have a space that I can just have things how I want it, there’s nothing wrong with you and how you want it.’ It was the first time in my entire life anybody had actually verbally spoken that that was okay. And that’s how he’s been.”
About her perspective of death: “The shamanic view of death is very healing. What I have experienced, and what I believe in the core of my being is that our spirits do live on, and there is a space after this life. And that we can connect with and converse with those who have passed on. And it doesn’t have to just be a medium who sits in a circle and you know, tilts her head back and is like, ‘Aaaaaaand the person is saaaaaying—’ (laughs) like a big dramatic seance kind of thing.
Part of what I’ve discovered on the shamanic path is that I am a death-walker. And what that means is that I have the ability to go between the two places. I have since I was a little girl—I had a very frightening experience when I was about four years old that I had no context for. Had my mother been more shamanic, or had I grown up in an indigenous culture, I would have been taken away and trained as an acolyte and they would have understood that is part of my gifts. My mom did the best that she knew how, and with the culture she was in as well, and it freaked her the hell out, and she just tried to be like ‘It’s okay, we won’t talk about that anymore…!!!’
I had another experience at nine that also freaked me the hell out, so for me death for a long time was terrifying. And now I look at it very differently. I have helped a lot of clients prepare for their own death process, I’ve helped clients to reconnect with people who have passed, I’ve helped clients to have a safe expression of their grief for those who have passed. It’s a very sacred and beautiful thing. My biggest thing around death now is just worrying about people who I’ll leave behind, and worrying about their sadness, but not my own experience with it.”
About one of her greatest challenges that she’s overcome: “I would say probably one of the biggest was my childhood. My dad was horrifically violent. You could have done a Lifetime movie about my life as a kid. If it had been this day and age, my dad would have been arrested and charged for severe child abuse.
… For whatever reason, I was born as somebody who is a pattern disrupter, and a pattern healer. I told you I got married when I was eighteen, I got pregnant at nineteen. And I’m sitting there at nineteen years old one day just having this awareness that if I cannot somehow figure out or understand how to be a different kind of parent, then I’m not gonna be a parent.
So I got myself booked into a therapy session, and walked into the therapist’s office at nineteen. And she’s like, ‘So how can I help you?’ And I said ‘If you cannot teach me how not to do to this child what was done to me, then I will give this child up for adoption. Because come hell or high water, this stops with me. And if I am not fit to be a parent, if I’m just too damaged or broken or whatever to do it, I will not do it. But I will not pass this on to another generation. … [I think] it’s extraordinary for a nineteen-year-old to do that.
Really, the biggest thing that I have overcome… I’ve gone through various healing routes: I started with traditional therapy. I’ve had two different therapists tell me that they’re astounded that I wasn’t either in addiction recovery, or that I hadn’t had multiple suicide attempts, or that I wasn’t a multiple personality. Because most people’s psyches don’t endure what mine did without one of those things.
And so I think the fact that I’m joyful, the fact that I’m positive, the fact that I raised three children without spanking them once, and that they’re productive, wonderful adults… The fact that I still have hope. … It was part of my soul’s blueprint to do this work. But to be able to live life the way that I’ve lived life despite [the childhood I had], I think is pretty extraordinary.”
On what she learned from her daughter: “I’ve been able to develop compassion even more deeply. I’ve really been able to learn about fully allowing someone to be who they are, even when it’s really uncomfortable to do so. My daughter is very much a do-it-her-own-way. She is the kid who, if you tell her to do something, she will dig her heels in.
And I was the very moldable child. I was the ‘Yes mother, I’ll do whatever you want mother.’ I was the kid who ever broke curfew, always got straight A’s. That was not my daughter. I learned a different perspective and a different way to be with people… My daughter has this wildness and this fierceness about her that was so uncomfortable for me because I had spent so much of my life literally being as small and as invisible as I could.
My daughter has this wild mane of hair, and she wears bright red lipstick. From the time she was very little, the way that she would dress was a statement. For a long time—thank god not anymore—but for a lot of years, I was busy trying to blend into a white wall as much as I possibly could. Just be the wall flower and blend in with the background. That’s not who I am now, fortunately. [My daughter] gave me the opportunity to see life in that way.”
On her greatest success in life: “There’s a lot of things, but in a lot of ways, I would say successfully raising three children. Raising three children who have full permission to be fully who they are. At least from me. You know, they have to deal with their own societal stuff.”
On her greatest failure: “I had a good friend who I’m so grateful for. I was talking to her about trying to pay off all the debt that we racked up [from losing a business]. And she said, ‘If you really want to—really want to—move past this, then you need to juice this experience for everything you can juice it for. Squeeze every bit of learning you can out of this. Or it’s gonna come back again for you to learn from.
As I began to juice the learning from this, I realized, ‘Wow. It wasn’t all about her.’ I was able to come to owning my part in it. And my business partner had his part in it too. And at first it was this overwhelming, crushing experience of shame and ‘I’m such an idiot’ and ‘How could I have done that?’ And then I’m like okay. This is a pendulum swing, there’s a balance here, because there’s a deeper truth than ‘I’m an idiot.’ And the truth was that it was a lesson I needed to learn. It was some humility I needed to have. It was an example of my money story, and how deeply that ran.
And I got a do-over. I had another product-based business that I wound up selling before we left Utah. I got to sell it on my own terms, I made a profit with it, I ran it, I knew my numbers. I got this really beautiful experience for a do-over with it. I think my money story would still be pretty messed up if I hadn’t had that experience.”
“Trust what you know. You know so much more than you give yourself credit for. You have a deep and abiding wisdom in you that has nothing to do with your chronological age. Trust what you know, and understand that you’re incredible. That what seems ordinary to you is more extraordinary than you could realize.”
About her name change: “I have hated my name since I was a little girl. … A little over a year ago, I looked up the meaning of my name for the first time, and I was just like ‘Oh to hell with that!’ Paula means ‘small and humble’. And for me, I had literally been living the power of that word for years, in the most unhelpful of ways. … I was talking to my web designer, and we were talking about different aspects of the website, and in the course of our conversation, Scarlett came through, and I was just like… I could not stop smiling and giggling, and everything in my bones was like ‘Yes, that’s it!’
My mother never gave any of her girls middle names, so I wanted to give myself a middle name. I wanted something that connected to my Celtic ancestry. So I investigated some names, and through some deliberation through a shamanic journey and some other processes, I decided on Maebh. … Maebh means ‘she who intoxicates’, and it was also the name of a woman in Irish history who was known for being the absolute embodiment of complete sovereignty.
I have a friend who was like ‘If you decide on that name, you’d better buckle up, buttercup, because that is like one glorious punch in the face.’ So I carefully deliberated, and over and over again [Scarlett Maebh] is just what showed up. I love it, I’m super happy with it. It feels so good.”
“I realized that for me, teeth being straight or not being straight wasn’t really the issue. It was what was going on inside. I could spend $3000 on dentistry, I could get medical procedures done to alleviate my dark circles, and have plastic surgery to do something to my eyes. But all of the less-than and self doubt would still be hanging out in here. And none of that… It would just be a band-aid and it would express itself in some other way. And so what I really had the desire for was to see myself as enough.”
On her relationship with Mother Mary and what it means to be female: “I’ve had some pretty remarkable experiences, considering I don’t have a religious background with her. … I have experienced her energy around healing, especially healing trauma, recapturing and embodying… Feeling safe being feminine. Feeling safe being female. Feeling safe having the softer side of what it is to be female. Because we hold all sides of it. From my perspective, it’s part of the beauty of Mother Earth. Mother Earth shows us the fullest, richest embodiment of what it means to be female. We can have the energy and the fierceness and the vitality of lava erupting from a volcano. But we also have this deep capacity as women to have the softness of a rose petal. We have the capacity, the strength, the boundaries of a mountain. But also the flow of a river.
So as women in the world that we’ve walked in, that softness is risky business. It can be something that is used against us, something that can be very vulnerable to show. So in my work with Mother Mary, what I’ve experienced with her is a strengthening of feeling safe, and being able to show all aspects of being women.”