Monday, 26 January 2015

Into The Woods

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" - Henry David Thoreau

Or did I live deliberately because I went to the woods?  This feels more like the truth for me but, like many things that are true, it's true whichever way round you say it.

If we are looking for the wild instinctual self, the self who knows her seasons and her cycles then we need to go to the woods.  Within stories from all over the world it is within the woods  that the heroine or hero  'grows up'.  They go there to find their power and their knowing and enough wisdom and just plain guts to get on with the rest of the story.  They go, as the children did in Kipling's 'Puck of Pook's Hill', by Oak, Ash and Thorn.

So where are they, these woods?  It is frequently said that  - in order to find our connection to the outer world - we need to look inwards;  but it seems to me that the path to the inner woods is most easily found outwards, here among the trees - beautiful, bountiful, blessed trees.

Up here woodland is mostly sparse, we live over 1,000 feet above sea level.  The soil is poor and shallow and the winds howl so fiercely in the winter that the average Dartmoor Oak tree (predominantly Quercus Robur - English Oak) only grows to between 7 and 12 meters tall and some are not much taller than a man.

Trees are everywhere, even in cities, and the magic that is held in a full grown tree is little diminished by it's surroundings, whatever they are.  Find a tree, find many - sit with them, exchange breath with them. After all, you can only breathe at all because of them.

Once we have found the outer woods; spoken a while with a tree or two, noticed perhaps that their timeless beauty and strength are neither new nor perfect, revivified our connection to the all that is; those other woods become easier to locate.  Perhaps these are the woods within which Silver Hands re-members herself, finds her adult powers, her strength and her community and transforms herself from serving girl to queen. Perhaps they are the woods where Red Riding Hood takes the path of wisdom and initiation and not that of compliance, or where Gretel finds her clarity and resolve. The richness to be found within these inner wood trials is worth the journey.  Today's magical task can be finished and the ongoing business of transformation can take another leap forwards.  It's time to rejoin the human world, but to bring with you the wisdom and power collected, like a basket full of juicy ripe berries from under the canopy of the trees.

"To know the woods and to love the woods is to embrace it all, the light and the dark - the sun dappled glands and the rank, damp hollows; beech trees and bluebells and also the deadly fungi and poison oak.  The dark of the woods represents the moon side of life: traumas and trials, failures and secrets, illness and other calamities.  The things that change us, temper us, shape us; that if we're not careful defeat or destroy us... but if we pass through that dark place bravely, stubbornly, wisely, turn us all into heroes."  Terri Windling

"Forests will always hold your secrets, for that's what forests are for.  To separate and hide things. To protect, to comfort, to hold, to envelop, to demonstrate, to slow down, to teach.  Go to the trees to explore your questions and dreams.  Go to the trees to desire and seek.  The world will listen as youw walk, watch, soften and breathe." - Victoria Erickson 

"Sometimes a man must go alone into the forest 
and die into its heart 
so that he can bring 
back the forgotten pieces of the world 
a world kept alive only by this:
our constant remembering 
our constant telling our constant calling out 
far into the bright burning" 

Daverick Leggett

Thursday, 22 January 2015


I believe in Love.

That is to say I believe we are all made up of the same stuff.  When I say all of us I mean all, everyone: human and not-human.  Human and more-than-human.  Shamans and tribal peoples have been saying this for thousands and thousands of years.  Particle physicists have announced it to be true recently, but few of us live as if we knew it to be true.

I believe that this 'same stuff' is, as much as it is anything else, The Divine.  I believe that within a constant cycle of life, death, life we continue as part of creator and created.  As do all things.

I believe that the primary place of our creating is in the telling of stories.  These stories have tremendous power, they carry magic; they affect not only ourselves and the way we view and respond to our earth but they affect the living land itself.  You only have to look at the way the science fiction of the past has become the inventions of the present to see how powerful we are.  Or look at the way the written word has persuaded us out of a reciprocal, interdependent, living, sentient world and into the disconnect of 'other'.

Human beings are proliferating at a huge rate.  On top of that the 'stories' of the West are holding more and more sway .  Stories like the one that says we are not part of a living, breathing, unified whole world but somehow separate.  Stories that say that profit for some (a very few) of the individuals is more important than a wholesome life for many of the people.  Stories that say that my needs are more important than yours; my desire for perfumed laundry or fizzy drinks or whatever is more important than your need for clean drinking water.

I believe that it is incredibly important that we change these stories.  If we do not, then as powerful as we are, we will bring about the destruction of what we call 'nature'.

If we're so powerful, I hear you ask, then why does this matter?  I believe that it matters because like a petulant toddler hurling his toys from his cot we will soon be left behind bars of our own making with no beauty to distract us from an infinity of existence in a world made barren by our selfishness.

So - with this in mind  -  I offer you a reading list. These are a small collection of books that I believe will help us start to change the stories we tell ourselves.  Books that could just save us all (an exquisite irony that you will understand if you have already read 'The Spell of The Sensuous').

If you are only ever to read one other book as long as you live, please make it this one;
'The Spell of The Sensuous' by David Abram.

'Snowy Tower' by Martin Shaw

'A Language Older Than Words' by Derrik Jensen

'Wild' by Jay Griffiths

I hope you enjoy them as much as I have, and if you have any recommendations back I'd love to receive them.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Return of The Light

January 1st - the day that our cultural calendar catches up with the reality of our wonderful world.

Between the Winter Solstice and the Return of The Light on the 25th of December are days where time might stand still.  The sun appears to arise on the horizon in the same place each day and even the most steadfastly busy amongst us seem to feel the pull of the longing to stop.  Between the tick and the tock of the planetary clock there must be a moment to sit and read a book, or write a poem, or even just have a little kip by the fire.  There is very much more darkness than light - but from Christmas Day onwards the days are getting longer and longer.

Here the returning light is distinctly green.

This is not the green of spring, but the almost surreal green of winter's damp allies; the lichen's and mosses,

If this is where the year begins for you - I wish you much joy in it and indeed an abundance of joy to those for whom it doesn't.  For me the calendar has changed but the year began with gestation at Samhain, and continues growing in the dark belly of the Womb of All waiting to emerge at Imbolc with the spring flowers.  Having said that there are a few flowers already out here, confused by the unseasonably warm weather.


I hope 2015 brings you all that you need, nothing that you do not want and something that brings you closer to the heart of The Mystery.