Obituary: Marion Jean Woodman by Judith Harris
Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2019, 64, 2, 293–296
Marion Woodman (nee Boa) was born in August 1928 in London, Ontario, Canada and died on the 9th of July 2018, a few weeks short of her 90th birthday.
Marion, a preacher’s daughter, became totally devoted to her two younger brothers, Bruce and Fraser, after her mother fell ill with tuberculosis when Marion was only four years old.
In fact Marion often talked of putting little Fraser into a baby carriage and wheeling him around everywhere she went.
It was often said that the Boas were a force of nature unto themselves.
When Bruce (1930-2004) was just two years old, he was found at the local street corner directing traffic.
Later Bruce went to London (England) and became an actor known for such films as The Cherry Picker, and Superman as well as the television shows,
The Avengers and Fawlty Towers. Fraser (1932-1992) also tried his hand at acting in London (England), but decided to return to his hometown of London, Canada where he taught English and Theater in high school alongside his older sister, Marion.
I will never forget the moment many years ago when I discovered a copy of Fraser’s thesis from the Jung Institute on Marion’s bookshelf in her Toronto apartment. Inside the front cover Fraser had inscribed it to his sister: ‘To my dear sister Marion, who tried the best she could for her brothers’.
I would say that Marion’s relationship with her two younger brothers was vitally important to her. When Fraser, and then later Bruce, became fatally ill, she sat by their bedside, not leaving them for a moment until they had passed away.
The Boas were strong and independent people. One of the most amazing stories I am able to relate about Marion is that when she was about three years old, she went missing from the family home.
They were living at the time in Port Stanley, Ontario, Canada, in a home given to them by the parish where her father, Andrew Boa, served as the minister of the parish.
Hours went by and little Marion was missing and nowhere to be found.
In the meantime, the caretaker entered the church next door and there was little Marion sitting quietly in the pews.
When the caretaker asked Marion what she was doing there all alone, she replied, ‘I am waiting for God. My father
told me I would find him here’.
These words were spoken by the three-year old Marion.
Marion’s search for the divine meaning in her life never left her.
She was still seen going to church on Sunday mornings at the end of her life, while at the same time knowing that the real meaning was not to be found within the church walls.
Marion was always able to embrace paradox.
Prayer remained at the center of her life and she was never without her altar, whether she was at home or on the road.
Some of the most beautiful moments my husband and I spent with Marion in her later years were at their home at Christmas time where we would sing carols late into the night.
Fraser made the decision to go to Zürich completely independently of one other, Fraser arriving one year ahead of Marion.
Marion began to search for an analyst before leaving for Zürich, as many of us do, and wrote to Miss Barbara Hannah (Marion always referred to her as ‘Miss Hannah’), requesting a place in her analytic practice.
Some years before, Miss Hannah had written to Jung to ask him to take her into analysis and Jung apparently gave the same answer to her that she later gave to Marion. Miss Hannah wrote back to Marion saying that she was too old to
take on a new analysand but, like Miss Hannah, Marion was also a minister’s daughter, and not one to give up trying.
After all, Jung had taken her on for the same reason, and therefore, she would gladly accept Marion into analysis. One can find a beautiful tribute to Barbara Hannah in Marion’s Foreword to The Inner Journey, also published by Inner City Books (2000).
Some time after her arrival in Zürich in 1974, Marion became very ill with kidney problems and her life hung on by a thin thread. It was at that time that Marion began to realize that psyche and body are deeply connected, as Jung wrote, ‘Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing’. [‘On the Nature of the Psyche,’ CW 8,
Marion began experimenting doing her own bodywork on the floor of her little room in Küsnacht.
Led by her own dreams, Marion began to develop her own work on the psyche-body connection.
Marion was, in fact, a pioneer and after she returned to Canada she developed BodySoul Rhythms (which became The Marion Woodman Foundation) along with Mary Hamilton, a specialist in movement, and Ann Skinner, who specialized in voice, and together they travelled and gave workshops for women bringing together dreamwork, bodywork, and maskwork.
In the early 80’s after her return to Canada, Marion opened a practice in
Toronto which, after she gave just one lecture that Fraser had arranged for
her, filled instantly.
Together Fraser, Daryl Sharp (Inner City Books), and Marion had founded the Ontario Society of Jungian Analysts in 1979 with the help of Jim Shaw, a businessman and philanthropist who had worked for several years in analysis with Esther Harding in New York.
Marion’s diploma thesis at the Jung Institute, which was published later as The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter with Daryl at Inner City Books in 1980, was, in fact, not her original thesis.
Marion had originally written her thesis on the poet Emily Dickinson, for whom she maintained a lifelong love and
dedication to both her life’s events as well as her poetry, but then Marion had a dream that told her that she had to write another thesis! Determined as Marion was, and dedicated to the messages of the unconscious, she then
proceeded to write a second thesis on obesity and anorexia nervosa, a
Marion had a first career as a legendary and beloved high school English teacher. Somehow she found herself assigned to a class of ‘terminal’ students, those who, it was said, would never graduate high school.
Marion, however, would not hear of that. Instead she brought along a football and a poem by William Blake, Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright, tossing the ball around the room to the rhythms of the poem from boy to boy.
These ‘terminal’ students became no longer ‘terminal’, and most of them ended up going on to university. Marion’s energy was unceasing. And these students, who were totally devoted to her, spent days decorating the church before her wedding
to Ross Greig Woodman in December 1958.
A few years later, she accompanied Ross, a Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) on a sabbatical leave to London (England) where they attended ballet performances with Fonteyn and Nureyev every night whilst the Royal Ballet was in season.
During that year in London Marion felt a gnawing inside, something was trying to burst out but she could not know what. It was at that time that Marion found her way to the door of Dr. E.A. Bennett, a British psychiatrist who had a close
friendship with Jung that spanned nearly thirty years, and she entered analysis with him at that time.
At the end of that sabbatical year, Marion and Ross left London and went back to Canada and Marion resumed teaching at
South Collegiate in London, Ontario.
Over the next few years, Marion struggled deeply with the question of whether to leave her teaching position and her husband Ross.
As Dr. Bennett wrote in a letter to her, ‘You have been facing the inner world of self with some determination’.
In fact Marion was beginning to consider going far away over the ocean, to Zürich, to begin studies at the C.G. Jung Institute, located at that time on Gemeindestrasse 27, the home of the Psychology Club in Zürich.
Dr. Bennett wrote, in the same letter to Marion in December 1971, that crossing the ocean on her own would simply mean an act of faith on her part, but, on the other hand, it would not be a simple task.
And that it was not, for Marion did indeed embark on her journey to Zürich a few years later in 1974 and received her Diploma five years later, in 1979, not long after her fiftieth birthday.
Going to Zürich did indeed mean not only giving up her teaching career, but also leaving her beloved husband Ross behind.
Marion had been Ross’s teaching assistant at the University of Western Ontario and together they shared a deep love of Romantic English Literature.
An astounding fact in Marion’s life, and a further testament to her close bond with her two brothers, Bruce and Fraser Boa, was that apparently Marion and ground-breaking study of working with eating disorders in women according to
the theories and writings of C.G. Jung.
The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter (1980), led to Addiction to Perfection (1982), The Pregnant Virgin (1985), The Ravaged Bridegroom (1990), and to Conscious Femininity (1993), all published by Daryl Sharp at Inner City Books in Toronto.
These books led on to numerous articles, tapes, and films, countless speaking engagements and also to more books: Leaving My Father’s House (with Kate Danson, Mary Hamilton, and Rita Greer Allen, Shambala, 1992), Dancing in the Flames (with Elinor Dickson, Shambala, 1997), Coming Home to Myself (with Jill Mellick, 2001), Bone: Dying into Life (Penguin, 2001), and The Maiden King (with Robert Bly, Holt Paperbacks, 1999).
Later in life, in the late 90s to be exact, Marion and Ross established courses in Jungian Theory at New College at the University of Toronto, with the help of Ann Yeoman and later Bruce Barnes as well as Tim Pilgrim, and the endowment
that they established created a scholarship that is awarded annually to students who demonstrate academic merit, financial need, and a serious interest in analytical psychology.
Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpenteria, California, formed a vitally important part of Marion’s life. Her archives are housed at Opus Archive and Research Center at Pacifica, along with the archives of others such as Joseph
Campbell, James Hillman, Katherine Sanford, Marija Gimbutas, Jane Hollister Wheelwright, and Joseph Wheelwright. Marion taught there often, as did Ross, and in their later years they would spend several weeks in the winter at Pacifica, teaching and talking with students.
When they returned to London, Canada each year, they looked many years younger and were full of life and renewed enthusiasm. Marion holds an Honorary Doctorate from Pacifica as well as two others, one being the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.
Sadly, Marion developed a slow onset dementia over the last number of years and finally, after Ross gave her years of devoted and loving care, it was found necessary to place her in a long-term care facility in February 2014.
A few weeks later, Ross died in his sleep, overcome with grief.
Marion continued to live in the care facility, cared for by her two nieces, Fraser’s daughters, Marion and Shelley Boa. She enjoyed her life, the walks in the park, movies, and especially photographs of her beloved family, friends, and colleagues as she lived one day at a time the best she could. In June of this year Marion fell and was not able to recover.
On 9th July, Marion Jean Woodman passed away peacefully, surrounded by her nieces and loving friends. At her funeral a week later, her wishes were carried out: a piper played as her coffin was lowered into the ground.