I am moments away from the drive up to Bridport in Dorset, to add an oral storytelling element to their Literary Festival, as well as lean a little in their direction with some of the ideas from 'A Branch From The Lightning Tree'. I look forward to dinner with friends Christine and David, and possibly a mid-afternoon snifter with School of Myth crew man and myth teller Tim Russell - he's currently working on a beguiling Arthurian commentary - involving black lions, a horse sliced in half by a castle gate and a ferocious elemental being with one huge foot - if that gives you enough clues to the story itself, all you folklore detectives. Maybe we can get a little out here on the blog when its cooked.
Here is some more on the Brutus story - on the notion of the great sea voyages that often occur within story, and also habits of personal disruption that some of us perpetually create, i.e. the problem of continually setting off for the wild voyage when the timing is off! I've certainly done it myself. Brutus sets off a great ship, not a leaky raft. Just over a week till our our COYOTE MAN AND THE FOX WOMAN weekend, a few places left - i will be bringing in some extremely gutsy old stories, beautifully laced with paradox. E-mail us today..
The Many Waved Sea Journey
Like the motif of being lost in the forest, the sea journey can indicate difficult inward development, the kind that can only occur when you have lost site of the shore. Rather than a serene meditator, Brutus encounters a variety of weather conditions past the care of the harbour. Nothing has been made secure; he is travelling on instinct not a promise. His world has tumbled down and the only direction he can paddle in is forward, and fast. When we stop and reflect in our own lives, the intensity of the depressions and furies waiting for us can be overwhelming. The savage green waves hit our decks and claim some crew, or weeks of numbness with no wind in the sail. Between here and there is waiting, doubt, exhaustion and occasionally terror. Ask any sailor.
Brutus joins the side of Tristan (of Tristan and Isolde) in his love of the salt-curled garden of the deep. Tristan, when grievously injured, took only his sword and his harp out on a small boat seeking healing for his poison. They seem to be giving us clues about trouble – when you find yourself in it, turn up the heat! But the trouble is not random, without meaning; both reveal the crucible of psychic growth, not just some exterior play of circumstance. Brutus is young to have been marked so severely, and we must remember he is not some wind bruised old sea captain, this is his first journey so far out.
In the fairy tale ‘Faithful John’, a young man similar in age sails out across many thousands of miles to be in the presence of a woman who lives at the edge of the world – he has only seen her image in a painting in a room his father kept locked. What room did our father keep locked?, and what journey did we have to undertake once we got in? In that story we know that the woman responds to gold crafted into delicate expressions of beauty. Gold, especially so refined, always indicates a huge rush of soul development in a story. So that young man took the long inner-journey in pursuit of longing for a woman that loves gold, Tristan went to face either death or healing, Brutus because he has a new life to find, a voyaging.
Three moments showing the great scramble to the waves. What unites them is that they are all events when our internal-radio has received a powerful signal; whether snuffling the grief-ashes or glazed sick with longing, the ocean does not invite mediocre expression. A clear note is struck over the chatter of the market place.
When the nice boy or girl suddenly goes wild, won’t return calls, gets into street brawls, has sex indiscriminately, shuts down entirely, they are pushing for a sea journey. The problem in our time is do they have the Trojans to bring with them, or do they set out alone on a leaky raft with a bottle of brandy and a broken compass?
When the story refers to the ship, the serving men, its general finery, it tells us that this is not a mere boy. Something has been honed, worked out, stretched inside him. There is a focus. Within us is the supporting cast of warriors; they need to be activated, coaxed or positively ordered into putting their muscle to the oar. No doctorate gets finished, no child raised, no language learnt without them. The story tells us something about strategy: that when the time is right to head out it is best to have some skill developed, something that supports us, no matter what hard weather we encounter. The story doesn’t say he ‘merges with the ocean’, or gets pulled under into fierce underswells, he rides the waves. He is neither hypnotised by the ecstatic commingling of nature or so unboundaried by drugs that he can’t stay afloat. The ship isn’t butchered with leaks or drifting in circles. It’s the kind of ship that Ted Hughes sailed when he launched out into a poem: firm, polished and unafraid of storms.
Shaking the Cage: Addiction to Disorder
A shadow of this move is when it becomes addictive; we all know people who become utterly predisposed to turning over the apple cart of their life as a kind of nervous tic – if they cannot taste the brine then they become nervous, afraid of death amongst the dishes and school run. So roll up, new lover, new town, new horizon – a brutal addiction to the act of severance. But as the years roll into decades we find no woman at the edge of the world, no healing in the deep, no kingdom to claim. We are trying to endlessly shake the cage without the deeper message getting through. It’s about timing and a certain internal attention. The intelligence in these stories is the amplification of certain cresting moments - this is the moment to act, not next week not last year. But they also tell of seven years underground adding kindling to a small fire. Accepting wood shavings as payment. Working in the pay of a forest lord. This is all to do with the business of discipline.
The word discipline actually derives from the Roman Goddess Disciplina – a latin noun that indicates training, faithfulness, self-control and determination. Disciplina was especially adored by warriors, and many Roman legions outposted to remote stretches of the empire drew heavily on her qualities of both loyalty and frugality to keep them heart-connected to their mission, and able to adapt to less than luxurious conditions. So to know the moment to set sail, to stay the course, to have warriors at your arm, requires an offering in the temple of Disciplina. Each cramped study with a student up late bent over a difficult text could be said to be a temple to her. Self-knowledge and the ability to be loyal to that knowledge in the crafting of a life that honours it.
Many caught in the addiction to upheaval define their character by their very readiness for movement. We all know the friend who’s face is framed in a bitter disposition, endlessly bringing the conversation around to their endured traumas and their seemingly endless and self-induced changes of circumstances. This temperament can become a prideful scar, no longer appropriate, and regardless of the damage this has caused to those around them. But the stories say that this slower pace, this gifting to Disciplina, leads to sovereignty, a claiming of Queen or Kingship. If you are continually caught in disorder then your aim is off, your boundaries trashed. The call to the ocean journey is not to be made cheap with continual furore. We cannot anchor an inner-kingdom with that kind of hysteria around.
copyright Martin Shaw 2011