Thursday, 31 December 2009


The last,wintery, hours of 2009 hang over Tregonning House, and my rather sniffly, gaze peers out at the slate grey sky. I say sniffly, actually it feels like the rarely spotted, burgandy dappled Algerian cough gargoyle has taken up residence in my chest. I'm not 100% i must admit. Several episodes of 'Northern Exposure' later i feel well enough to stroll the soulful corridors of our house, picking books off shelves and watching the pages swim before my hot eyelashes.

So, books. I would like to recommend some-especially for those looking for some theoretical muscle around the myth-world. They are tough at times, but basically quite readable. Its so important to read if you possibly can. These books all benefit from underlining and note-taking.

So, in no particular order:

SACRED NARRATIVE: Readings in the Theory of Myth edit. Alan Dundes, University of California Press.

A. David Napier, University of California Press.

THE FLUTES OF DIONYSUS: Daemonic Enthrallment in Literature R.D. Stock, University of Nebraska Press.

MYTHS OF THE DOG MAN David Gordon White, University of Chicago Press.

MYTHOGRAPHY: The Study of Myths and Rituals William G. Doty, University of Alabama Press.

Favourite poetry books are no contest:

WHAT NARCISSISM MEANS TO ME Tony Hoagland, Grey Wolf Press
NORTH OF THE CITIES Louis Jenkins, Will O' The Wisp Books.

None of these books came out in 2009 or even close-but i recommend tracking them down.Time ain't no straight line.

For any second year myth students i would say these are essential texts-we will be referring to them in the next two gatherings.

My own literary irons are in the field this Christmas (view last few blogs for excerpts), but i feel in to befuddled a state to offer any more fiendish speculation.
I have loved this year: the friends made, the many thousands of miles traveled, the conferences, camps, woodsmoke and poetry, the mad howls of emerging Deer Maidens and Piratical Wolf Singers. Love to all at the Westcountry School of Myth, Great Mother Conference,Minnesota Mens Conference,
UK Wilderness guides council, All at Mythsinger (Washington State),the Block Island powerhouses, Brooklyn Myth-Cats Erin and Nick, Carolyn Casey, David Darling, Lisa Starr, brother Coleman and all the many beloveds wandering the hidden tracks of this world-may you have warm moccasins and plenty of soul-vittals in your hunters bag.
Hey, Santa got me some Lagavulin, vintage Levi shirt and a Chess set to name but three. A final reminder that the 'ROAD OF SOLITUDE, ROAD OF VOICE'is NEXT weekend (just over a week) so get in touch today to confirm attendance.

See you down the road in 2010!


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The wintery steps inward

Well, it's officially cold. Totnes market was warm at first but WAY too many people, it was like a mini-Glastonbury at times. Still, a spot of freezing drizzle cooled the collective ardor and people soon scattered into the surrounding ditches, brothels and prisons and palaces they normally abide in. Chips on the way home and chauffeur to a car of many twinkled-eye kids.

I am deliberately not thinking about 2010 much as if it is busy as i think it is going to be i would be best off getting some form of rest when i can. Very pleased to be teaching alongside LEWIS HYDE of 'the Gift' and 'Trickster Makes This World' fame at Robert Bly's Great Mother Conference first week in June, over at Maine, U. S. You have just got to get to this conference-the folks who go i carry with me like some anarchic, invisible army of supportive hooligans of all that is truly beautiful. Tear open the piggy-bank and GO.

I'm bringing over stories of the Celtic ecstatic Taliesin and the fact that all countries, underneath the soil,arrowheads, crustations, memories and roots are secretly ANIMALS that require certain coaxing songs to be sung to their limbs and earthy veins before any eco-treaties can fully work. and i know Coleman Barks has some great medieval Welsh translations he could be encouraged to read with just a murmur of encouragement. Caroline Casey will be wrenching befuddlement
from the jaws of slumber and turning it into intensely coloured arrows of whiskery beauty which flies from the tigerish bow of all true and mischievous souls. Phew.

The deepest gift though is the assembled tribe-every conversation is some kind of learning curve of love.

I will be making a big 1-2 month trip over to the states from then onwards (with family)that will certainly take in both coasts and Minnesota. If you know of wonderful spots that might suit the work let me know as i'm putting the plans on the table right now.

Well, i should start wishing us all a merry christmas. Waitrose are doing Lagavulin whisky on special at £33 per bottle rather than £40 so jump-spend the money-its God's own cough medicine. All bottles ecstatically received at Tregonning House.
I wish us all cosy glows and slap and tickle and beautiful old hymnals of shepherds and the moon and the boy with the scent of hay. Stay up late and look for Pan and his piping at the gates of Dawn on Christmas day. I think him and JC are better friends than many of us suspect.

I am saluting the life of RUMI with Sufi mystic Reshad Feild over at St. Johns Church, Bridetown, Totnes at 7.30 on Thurs 17th Dec-its free-love to see you there.

So bless you into the new year and the life you are meant to have. Its wonderful to know that people actually read these animistic mutterings.

I will leave you with something from the poet Bhartrihari

let's discount envy to start with
You high minded men, tell me what
you think. What is best: the sloping
sides of hermit mountain
or the sloping thighs
of a woman fond of lovemaking?

Slange! x

Monday, 7 December 2009

Men at the Edge of the Village:GINSBERG, SNYDER, BLY.


here is a brief segment from this current essay, that in many regards follows on from last weeks section.I would read that section first for this to make some coherance (scroll below). As they gather in Copehagen for the eco- summit this is a belief that something like the below is needed in all these frantic polemics. I am still tinkering with it, so this will only be up for a day or two before i drag the words back into the tool shed and bring out the poetic spark-plugs. Thrashing rain outside here, everyone ill or about to be-Onwards! screamed the Khan.

A Culture of Wildness

Culture…had meant, primarily, ‘the tending of natural growth’, and then, by analogy,a process of human training. But this latter use, which had usually been a culture of something, was changed, in the nineteenth century, to culture as such, a thing in itself.
(12) Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, (The Hogarth Press, 1958) p.xvi

I think that the chymeric posture of the ancient storyteller offered a contribution to William’s ‘tending of natural growth’, in fact amplifies the sense of ‘culture’ past more contemporary anthropocentric connotations, offering a perception that includes the wild-nature, visions, ecstacies, contact with the spirits of whales, owls and the antelope. Initiation rites, which have diminished widely since the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, were an attempt at a culture of wildness.I think that Williams assessment of the current associations of the word ‘culture’ connotes grave damage.

I suggest a reassessment of what constitutes culture is necessary, and the return to the use of a culture ‘of’…its current, rather monolithic status, in the face of ecological issues, appears shaky to say the least. This assumption of culture or wildness (wildness is not chaos), has created a legacy we see daily writ large all around us.

An association of the etymology of the word ‘culture’ is colere, which means ‘to till’ (13). To till is to dig, to sweat, to make contact with the texture of soil, root, and worm; it is a move downwards, towards the subterranean. Its seeks relationship to the information of earth- through a certain labour and discipline- that ultimately flourishes into clear wine for the wider community.

Imaginative Health and the Language of Injury

This broadened perception is also crucial for the health of the imagination: it creates a conduit for un-prescripted image to carry the myth of a person, community or country forward and into uncertain futures, rather than caught in the petrified symbology of the entirely consensual. The stories are again in movement.A desire to return to childhood is often really a desire to be connected again to a free-ranging imagination (the reality of such a return would be untenable to most.) A culture of wildness would seek to engender that associative, curious consciousness in an adult, rather than a regression to childhood. To be child-like in this regard, rather than child-ish.

It is this very capacity that enables us to revision the transgressions and triumphs of our lives, to mythologize our pathologies. This is all symptomatic of the imagination in full health, rather than anchored to a tiny set of ingrained symbolic references. Oddly, it is often a descent from physical lustre that creates that very imagistic freedom-Andre Gide says that illness opens doors to a reality which remains closed to the healthy point of view.

So this re-seeing deepens perception, encourages metaphor and includes attention to marginalised, abandoned, bizarre, troublesome, absurd mythic impulses that arise without permission. When the orchestrated crisis of initiation is abandoned, we are more likely to encounter such heretical visions in the throws of illness than the brightly lit lecture hall. As the discredited, shocking image-language shuffles forward we create accord again with the wisdom of stagnant pools, roadkill and the shovel of the gravedigger. We allow the propulsions of unbidded vision to be accommodated within the wider remit of ‘knowledge’. This propulsion offers linguistic health too; this essay claims that there is a significant passivity in much contemporary language, a disappearance of vital, thoughtful words that match the fast decline of certain animals, forests and stretches of wilderness. I would suggest that words are quietly disappearing from dictionaries daily.

A culture of wildness is accommodating of these rough but subtle images. It does not seek to stagnate but to stay true to its essential mythic promiscuity. If there is no move to the margins, no complicated assignation of rationality and intuition, then myth cannot truly exist.

The etymology of the word ‘wild’ includes associations of ‘astray, bewildered, confused’ which indicates its very genius lies next to vulnerability and the bereft. It is a culture of inclusiveness, and suddenly the Gods are everywhere; implicit in conversation, symptoms of illness, fetish, relationship-we start to possess a vision-language of the deity that stands behind the impulse.This perception is polytheistic , un-literal, and connected to imagination more than belief, at least in its concrete sense.

To function in their deepest vocation, the storyteller must stand in the burning ground of prophetic image, a scarecrow of words, pushed by invisible winds.

As even governments crane their heads towards those very winds, as nations bend once more to strategize some form of ecological recovery, it is this very position of illumination through descent, and openess to what the metaphors as well as the literalness of crisis is informing us with, that suggests a holistic response to our nefarious challenges.

The storyteller in all of us needs to till dark earth, to wander into bewilderment, to allow the cracks of sacred hallucination to broker new images of transformation and dialogue. ‘Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry’ wrote Auden of Yeats. Agender and assignation are only half the task; how do we discern the myth-language being spoken through the depleted ice cap and fatigued bee?

The tangled picture of a statistic needs the balance of imagistic vision for the souls intelligence to be truly roused.

Myth, not history, tells the true story of human identity.

(15) N. J. Giradot, Myth and Meaning in early Taoism; The Themes of Chaos,(University of California, 1983)p.165