Thursday, 18 August 2011

Come and Study with Us: THE YEAR PROGRAMME

Please see above Californian friends - Thurs 22nd sept, NUMINA CENTER, Santa Rosa, alongside events at Dominican and Sonoma universities, various radio interviews and Point Reyes open evening on the 23rd. The final weekend of the myth course is entirely filled, but contact Point Reyes Bookstore (the wonderful Lisa Doron) if you'd like to be on the waiting list.

Thank you for the very warm response to last weeks entry. Over 400 'shares' on Facebook, and many e-mails of support. Please keep sending it along to anyone it would benefit.

Down here in Devon rain is sloughing in from the high moor. We appear to have gathered in the last of the potatoes from the soil in our tiny (really tiny) garden, but are forming ambitious. if folly-led expansion ideas for a positive eden of veg appearing in various dustbins and wound round fences for 2012. The land feels as if it is gearing up for the move into early autumn. I find it all impossibly beautiful but i know that irritates all the summer people who are quire rightly hanging onto every last moment of sunlight before the move into mulch, mist, long walks and red beer. So i won't say more on it till late September at least.

I'm off for an early meeting this afternoon with friends the storytellers Chris Salisbury and Sue Charman (and directors of...) regarding the Westcountry Storytelling Festival 2012, for August next year. Interesting plans afoot. I'll also be over in Vermont in three weeks having similar meetings with Caroline Casey, Tony Hoagland and other esteemed colleagues for the shape and beauty that will become the Great Mother Conference 2012. It's great to see in this era of utterly slashed creative fundings wonderful uprisings of fiery language and powerful art.

So i want to offer an invitation to consider coming to study with us at the school for the up coming year programme. A chance to do something vital, occasionally troubling, sometimes hilarious and always engaging. It's a step outside normal, tick-tock time and into something robust and eternal. It will serve you well. Contact Tina at, and she can put you in contact with me for a chat if you'd like a first hand account of what the great adventure offers. Jump in, jump in. Wake up that sweet pirate hurling coins at the moon.

It's always a true boon to get a sense of sign up early, the whole 'last minute' thing is a total drag for balancing the books.

Some of what it offers is laid out below.

The dates below are for the Westcountry School of Myth year programme beginning in October. Underneath that is an excerpt from a new interview - all of which can be found at:

Oct 14th to 16th 2011

Dec 2nd to 4th 2011

Feb 3rd to 5th 2012

April 6th to 8th 2012

June 22nd to 24th 2012


What does the School of Myth offer?

Let me just say what a huge variety of student we get - from professors to artists to surgeons to street musicians. As long as you have a love of story and nature than this is a good place to come - regardless of experience.

What makes the school unique in Britain is a very developed relationship between rites-of-passage and the myths that we believe are linked to that process. So if we experience many initiations in our life, then these are stories that we need, regardless of age, to orientate ourselves in challenging times. For those that want to experience a wilderness fast then we offer that (from summer 2012), and then those who would rather take a more gradual pace can experience the year programme without the fast in Snowdonia. We ask: what myths speak to you? Why? How can they be carried and expressed?
So here’s some of what we provide -

Foundational Stones:

A spacious exploration of the relationship between myth, wilderness and the psyche. We also reclaim the artificial divide between ‘culture’ and ‘wildness’ - all decent initiatory practice is a culture of wildness. We believe that discipline is the dance partner of wildness. We are based on residential centres within Dartmoor National Park, and under canvas when the weather is good. We offer what I would call foundational stones to becoming a storycarrier. Each weekend is one of these stones - with plenty of study between sessions to deepen your practice. How you integrate and express the stories is up to you - this is not a course entirely about storytelling remember-but the old belief is that find some way of communicating the radiance and murk of your own walk through life. Areas around story we explore are:

Story is a Sharp Knife:

Story not as allegory, repertoire or form of psychology but as an independent energy. How do we nurture it if it decides to be told by us? Recognition of your inner- eco system, your own weather patterns, your character, and how they relate to the grand characters that radiate through these stories like jaunty tigers. So we develop an appropriate relationship with story. Some would say a very old one.

From the Comparative to the Associative:

Not just the comparison of one myth to another but a move into a much more varied eruption of information - the condition of our souls, the wider history of culture, the sweet intelligence of the wren. We are less interested in the notion of harmony - that all myths are telling the same story - and far more engaged with the pursuit of polyphony, independent bursts of multiple insight, from both teacher and student alike. Harmony is a western pre-occupation, useful sometimes but not at the expense of certain unique insights. So we are very engaged in a constant emerging conversation. We bring in some myth theory - Eliade, Segal, Zimmer, Hyde, Von-Franz, Kane, but are very tuned to what is actually revealing itself right there, in the moment. For those that read we provide an exhaustive reading list, but for those that don’t we have other means. I’ve worked extensively with folks with dyslexia and autism too, giving their situation a mythic as well as diagnostic appraisal. From my way of seeing they are in the realm of the Magician - those that see in a different way, and need to be approached appropriately.

Myth is Nothing to Do with a Long Time Ago:

It’s about a place that you can inhabit at almost any time - Blake’s ‘eternity in a grain of sand’. It’s why a story seemingly three thousand years old can seem to be speaking to the nature of our lives today. It is! They are partially referring to inner realities that are ageless, hence their impact right this very second. At the same time I offer a caution for making stories entirely personal - the anthropocentric can become a form of brutality to stories - i believe there are little dark nests within them that are entirely for the pleasure of the gods, not just about our nutty love lives. It’s a fine line the mythteller treads.

Myth is also promiscuous, not dogmatic. It’s a bed hopper. It’s not designed for tablets of stone in my opinion, but moves through history with fluidity, catching but also challenging the mood of the times. When it becomes too dogmatic it becomes toxic - but I think that’s an anxious human response to the stories rather than the origination point of the stories themselves. I don’t even think many stories arrive from a human point of view. Many of the stories I love are when you are suddenly seeing through the eyes of Raven, or caught in the foamy curls of Irish sea.

The Pastoral and Prophetic:

At the school we study what we call prophetic rather than pastoral stories. These are stories that hold paradox and grit equally, that have hard material within them. Romanian Gypsy, Siberian, Gaelic and onto Arthurian Romances - it’s that enquiry that links them. They are certainly all initiatory stories, that’s a great focus to the year.
In that huge question that frequently gets asked: “what stories do we need now?” we say, “the prophetic!” Stories of shape-shifting, relationship to crafty animals and lonely stretches of river, the emergence of the feminine, stories with both the Trickster and the absolute simplicity of love for the earth at their core.

Place and the Arising of Value:

Re-consecrating a relationship to five miles around where you actually live. Walk its boundaries, become an apprentice to its mythologies. When you find its stories - either a local folktale or a personal experience, don’t write it down with words but by image - a kind of visual map. That’s how I learn all stories; not by script. Offer libations, beat the boundaries, get into walking. Blake found all of this in the east end of London. What are the songs of stewarding this place down through time?, the ploughing, market, crofting, ferrier songs? The songs of the fisherman leaving before dawn from Brixham? Cities have their deep histories too.

So we ground ourselves as well as leap into the imagination - what is the story of that watering hole, that rowan tree, that stretch of grass between two abandoned buildings. We encourage a little grandiosity - become the resident storycarrier of your milage - as Gary Snyder say’s “be famous for five miles” These are bio-regional times we are moving into - we care about eating local food, being connected to our surroundings. Well, what about the stories? Local folklore? Grimms and the Russian fairy tale world are great to jump into, but not at the expense of a localised experience. Seek both.

Magical Privacy:

In an era of frantic networking and frankly too much information about things that are actually not that important we offer space to carve out some interior time. To cook in your own images, feelings, compulsions. To wander the moors, to get wet, to warm by the fire sipping hot tea, to have fellowship with us but also some delicious solitude.

The Dagara of Africa believe that when something is made public it is already in decline - so all really potent acts of magic are done in private. That thought has impacted me a great deal. I think we are in danger of becoming addicted to disclosure. So we like to assign projects to students that are never revealed to each other! Never shared to the human community - only buzzards and long grass - to them you can talk all day.

I am working into this idea a great deal at the moment. I think many people are longing for a deeper life.
So that’s a taster of what we get up to. Lots of time in nature, lots of time by the fireside, great fellowship with your fellow travelers - it’s one hell of an experience, truly. You won’t get a diploma worth a damn in commercial terms but you may just get a swan feather cloak of story, culture and deep belonging placed around your worthy shoulders. What would you say is of the most value?

It’s a place of study and transformation. Many of our students have gone off and become wonderfully authentic storytellers, almost all are causing some kind of trouble in the world. This makes us very happy. Some fall so mad in love with our nomad life they become part of the school crew - visionaries, cooks, musicians, poets - it’s unbelievably sweet at times.

Martin Shaw copyright 2011


A mermaid in the attic said...

Sounds wonderful, I would love to study storytelling in Dartmoor...if only I had a TARDIS, sigh!

Lunar Hine said...

Maybe, when I'm not joined at the nipple to a child, I'll join you up on the moor. I'm hungry for more.