The idea that humanity needs a ‘new story’ has been around for some time. And in its train comes the search for it, and the frustration of perhaps not finding it. While the idea has an appeal, particularly if you enjoy and know of story’s power to transform, here is something to consider: that what we need really is not a new story, but no stories any more! Watch this brief and crystal clear explanation by Thomas Hubl:
OMG! Folklore studies come of age. Have a look at this:
Also see ‘Rites & Rituals’: a great movie with archive footage: A unique film short capturing three decades of British folkloric traditions, edited by Ruth Hogben from documentary footage captured by filmmaker and curator Doc Rowe: showstudio.com/project/britannica/rites_rituals
An interview outside the Museum’s traveling show – the caravan: showstudio.com/project/britannica/interview
Do you find yourself trying to decide on an opinion or feeling about the future and find it hard to come down on one side or the other? I’ve tried for ages to get a sense of the ‘state of the world’ and the way it is heading. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that ambivalent feelings are perfectly natural…perhaps that’s why OTOH is a popular acronym. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I had with the splendid Beetroot Books – the green alternative to Amazon:
Society does seem to be changing as the collective realisation of where we are now increasingly triggers positive action. Are you optimistic that there’ll be enough momentum to steer us voluntarily towards a more harmonious relationship with each other and Earth? Has the current paradigm run its course?
I’m very optimistic and I’m very pessimistic about the future. I have spent years trying to decide which of these feelings is the right one, but I have come to the conclusion that there are certain questions that naturally evoke an ambivalent response, and that rather than trying to reject one in favour of the other, I need to accept both.
On the one hand I see the global awakening that is occurring, the thousands of fantastic projects that are being born (Paul Hawken in ‘Blessed Unrest’ is good on this), and the incredible new inventions that suggest we really can turn things around. And on the other hand I see the mass extinction of species that is occurring, I see war, starvation and the destruction of the Earth continuing unabated, and I can see nothing but a bleak future for our grandchildren.
Somehow I have to hold both those feelings in my mind, for to focus only on the positive seems like naïve denial, and to focus only on the negative is just a recipe for unhappiness and renders me less able to be of any use in the world.
It’s in response to this question that I believe a spiritual path can be of real value. We all need inspiration, a sense of meaning, nourishment, connection, and support on our journey through life. If we are to give of our best we need these things, and it’s the job of a spiritual way, and of spiritual leaders and teachings, to offer these things.
If we are able to plug into this flow of meaning and encouragement, we can ride the waves of hope and despair in relation to the future, and as a result be of more use to ourselves and those around us.
We’re just back from a recce in Wales. A member has made the wonderful suggestion that we plant a sacred grove on their land near Lake Llyn y Fan Fach and Myddvai. The lake is the site of the origin-story of the Physicians of Mydvvai, who for 500 years healed the sick with their herbal remedies. See an article here about them.We are hoping to plant a grove to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of OBOD, and to include endangered species trees.
We stayed at Mandinam, which offers fantastic accommodation in shepherd’s huts – perfect if you want to get away from it all. The night skies were magnificent and even though sited remotely they have hot showers, a loo, and hot tubs to soak in while you star-gaze! Have a look at their website here for more info and booking details.
A short video that demonstrates creative practical solutions to a pressing environmental issue…
I gave a talk at a London club on Easter Sunday and thought I’d focus on busting the typical stereotypes that gather around the term Druid. The club put this film of the event together really well, complete with illustrations. Peter Owen-Jones also gave a talk about what he felt were the challenges facing Christianity today, focusing on the need for reform within the church and the need for it to address environmental issues – if they make a film of his talk I’ll pop it up too.
Beetroot Books has interviewed John Michael Greer about his book Not the Future We Ordered. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Much of your work has a spiritual element, and anyone who’s familiar with it would also know that you’ve been involved in [Druidry and] many Western mystery traditions, do you believe that any possible solution to these crises should recourse to spirituality in some form?
I’m going to take issue with the way this question is stated, because there are no solutions to the present spiral of converging crises. Nothing, that is, can make the crises go away, or keep our current lifestyles intact as we pass through them. Adaptations, not solutions, are what’s needed at this point — that is, ways of adapting ourselves and our lives to the implacable changes breaking over industrial civilization now and in the future. Spirituality can play an important part in those adaptations, but it can’t do the job alone; we also have to change our lives on the most practical, nitty-gritty level. You can meditate or pray to Gaia all you want, and if you still insist on driving an SUV and living an SUV lifestyle, you’re going to be on the wrong side of the changes as they hit.
Finally, are you personally optimistic or pessimistic about our immediate prospects – as in do you see an easy transition as a possibility?
We tossed the prospect of an easy transition into history’s dustbin at the time of the Thatcher- Reagan counterrevolution, when all the hard work toward sustainability that had been done in the 1970s was scrapped in the name of a vacuous free-market ideology that put short term profit and political advantage ahead of the long term survival of industrial civilization. As the Hirsch Report pointed out in 2005, preparations for peak oil would have had to begin twenty years before the peak of conventional petroleum production in order to prevent massive discontinuities.
The peak of conventional petroleum production, by an interesting irony, happened in 2005, right as that report was being leaked to the press. Thus we’re at least 27 years too late, and the massive discontinuities are already baked into the cake. Individuals, families, and communities can still take constructive steps to prepare for those discontinuities and get through them with as little suffering as possible, but one way or another it’s going to be a very rough road down from the peak.
The Persephone Myth has been an important one for me throughout my life – as is it for many modern Pagans. I got interested in it first through the work of the Jungian Astrologer Liz Greene, long before my Pagan journey started in earnest. She believed that because of the universal, archetypal nature of myth, each of our lives would express a resonance with specific myths, our personal experiences echoing their themes and lessons.
When I first read the Persephone Myth, I was struck at the uncanny resemblance to my teenage life experiences: as a thirteen year old girl I was undoubtedly Kore’s ignorance and innocence. The death of my mother coinciding with the beginning of an abusive sexual relationship with someone older also seemed to mirror quite starkly Kore’s abduction into the Underworld by Hades, resulting in her mother Demeter being lost to her. Also, although my grandparents had all died and some uncles too at that point, my mother’s death was definitely the one encounter with Hades I’d had so far that illustrated to me the shock of my own mortality, the utterly visceral nature of death.
Choosing to approach the Persephone Myth as one of my own life myths was enormously healing; it gave me the opportunity to see my life journey not as a pointless and meaningless set of events but as a story rich with meaning and full of wisdom and potential learning. It gave me a route through the pain and confusion to find depth and understanding.
It is no wonder that this myth was central to one of the most successful Mystery Schools in the Mediterranean: Eleusis. Its power resides in the truth that this myth’s themes are ones that we will all encounter at some point in our lives. We are each Kore’s ignorance of life’s darker lessons; we are also her need to grow. In meeting Hades we confront not only our own mortality and loss but our potential for transformation and change.
We have or will know Demeter’s grief, anguish and depression. The Goddess Demeter’s fruitfulness shrivels into barrenness; loss for us can also mean that the world becomes a place devoid of life. We can become Demeter’s joyless search, her aimless wandering to regain what is lost.
I have found that when innocence is lost; when love and nurturance and protection seem to have abandoned us, this is when Persephone comes into her own in our lives. The transformation from the powerless and terrified Kore to the wisdom of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, is a saving grace for us all. Kore’s violent awakening to the reality of death and loss is the beginning of her transformation:
I am Persephone and in my suffering I have seen the cold, pitiless face of Death transform into peace and compassion. I have felt the violence of his grip turn to a protective embrace. I have touched his hand in understanding. I have eaten of the dark, red seeds, full of the potential for new life. I have planted them within me.
In eating the pomegranate seeds, Kore becomes Persephone and her fate is sealed to live both in the upper and the underworld but then this was always inevitable; we cannot undo what has been done; we cannot escape death or the wisdom of experience and nor should we try.
The Goddess Hecate’s role in this story teaches this point beautifully. When we recognise it is time to release Kore’s innocence and inexperience and Demeter’s grief and tenacious grip on the past, we – as Persephone – come to the heart of Hecate, to the place of making sense and letting go:
I am Hecate. I am both the moonless dark and the brilliance of my torch. I am the devouring night and the path made clear. I am the web of wisdom that connects; I make sense of every lesson: seed-time and harvest; death and life. I am the perfect love and trust of release; I am the midwife of renewal.
Going through the processes of loss, making sense, seeing the connections, are all part of us eventually returning to the surface of our lives; however, our experience means that we will now always be aware that we also inhabit that inner, sometimes shadowy space –something we may not have been aware of before – and more than this, we come to understand that we can draw nourishment and guidance from it too.
I have felt Persephone calling many times in life. I have lived long enough to know that the most challenging of our life experiences have the potential to lead us to greater wisdom, no matter how much we rail against the journey. The last few months has had me feeling at times both Kore’s fear and Demeter’s grief, and yet, you come to a point when you have to place your trust in the Queen of the Dead, feel her moving into view at the heart of the struggle. The wisdom of Persephone teaches us that in returning from the dark realm of Hades, lit by Hecate’s torch; upheld by Demeter’s love; carried forth by Persephone’s wisdom and compassion, we come to find that we are once again Kore, a new shoot, our old life – broken down in the soil – feeding our new growth. Through Persephone’s journey we find our greater wholeness.
And so, I offer up a prayer to that Goddess of the Land of the Shades –she who seems to have walked so closely by for so much of my life. Through her presence –with compassion and acceptance – I have learned to patiently wait for that moment, that shift, when the darkness brightens and the way is made clear.
Persephone, guide me safely into the darkness.
May I know that for every journey there, you are at my side;
for every moment of fear and hopelessness,
you are there to comfort me.
Great Goddess of life’s deepest mysteries
plant me; enfold me in your still darkness, and with compassion
help me grow towards the light of a new understanding, a new wisdom.
In you I await my new beginnings; in you I find my deepest strength and wisdom;
because of you I will never be the same.
With you I walk the light and the dark
and fear neither;
With you, I journey to the depths, I endure and I survive, transformed and reborn by the experience.
I give thanks that I travel now with a foot in each place,
nourished by both my inner and outer worlds.
I am a bat at home in the darkest cave;
I am a blossom unfurled in the warmth of the sun.
I embrace all that I am and honour all that I have experienced;
in the depth of your compassion may I find grace.