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


  1. what lovely images, writing and quotes, I live by the manifesto of 'knowing the dark and light of the woods', as Terri so beautifully expressed it,

    thank you !