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An Interview with Burleigh Mutén, Author


Burleigh Mutén, who is named after both of her grandmothers, is a pre-school teacher and grandmother who lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

"Eight years ago I was a full time housewife and mother yearning to express my creativity out in the world. Being a woman raised in the 1950s, I really didnít have a clue as to how I might achieve that goal. I was discovering that there was a time on Earth when women and mothering were considered sacred. The knowledge of this legacy immediately shifted my sense of integrity."

In GRANDMOTHERSí STORIES, WISE WOMEN TALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD, the old woman, or crone, who was sacred in the matriarchal cultures and revered for her wisdom is reframed for youngsters.

Q. What particular qualities does the grandmother archetype suggest to you?

A. As an archetype, the grandmother, or old woman, is the Wise One.

She is wizened with the experience of long life, aware of the changes that time brings, aware of the seasons of life. Her closeness to death gives her a proper perspective on what really matters. She knows when to speak and when to be silent. She is in tune with Nature and knows about practices that may have gone out of fashion, but are still valid. She is in tune with her own authority and trusts her insight, intuition and her dreaming as valid ways of knowing. She is the guide, the seer, the protectress, the midwife and the healer.

Q. What do you think grandmothers have to offer us as we enter the twenty-first century?

A. The Earth has been considered feminine for centuries. Grandmother is re-appearing at this time to remind us to take care of the earth so that it will be here for our grandchildren. She reminds us to listen to our own inner wisdom and to share it. For children, the connection that grandmothers offer runs very deep. Lately, I have been watching my grandson, Jonas, who is four months old, interact with his great grandmothers, who are in their eighties and nineties. He is fascinated. His whole body is vibrant with attention for them. He smiles without any coaxing. Just looking across the room at the old women, he breaks into complete joy. There is a deep connection between the very old and the very young.

Q. Do you have a favorite among the stories you have included in this anthology?

A. Yes. My favorite story is "The Beautiful Crone of Cordoba." I love the crone's certainty when she is arrested, and I love her creative resolution to being detained. My own childhood fantasies always included flying, so I identify with her clever escape. Most importantly, I enjoy reframing the word and concept of "crone" so that we recognize her as beautiful. After many hundreds of year of the "ugly, evil hag" stories, it is a great pleasure to present the Old Woman as beautiful, resourceful, respected and wise.

Q. Your previous work has focused on the goddess. What links are there between the goddess and the grandmother?

A. Within goddess lore, the grandmother is the crone. Women are ready to identify with their own inner wisdom, or crone. In all my work, I have aspired to celebrate the validity and goodness of our experiences as women. Grandmothers' Stories takes that goal to another octave by presenting positive images of the old woman. Because of the unique position grandmothers hold in children's lives, it is a great honor to reinforce her goodness of character and the importance of her role as the Wise One in children's literature.

Ages 6-10