Being Wild & Hope Bourne

“For money, you sell the hours and the days of your life, which are the only true wealth you have,” she wrote. “You sell the sunshine, the dawn and the dusk, the moon and the stars, the wind and the rain, the green fields and the flowers, the rivers and the sweet fresh air. You sell health and joy and freedom.” So said Hope Bourne, and so say I.

As a somewhat decrepit cripple with bad eyesight, the gods only know how I’d survive off the grid … but I would infinitely rather be there, out in the wilds, than live even in a hamlet, let alone a village or a town. My nearest neighbour now is a quarter of a mile away and that’s far too close! I’d prefer something like five or ten miles to the next nearest person. No, I don’t like living amongst people. And I don’t feel safe amongst them either. I do feel completely safe out in the wilds, amongst the animals and trees, the rivers, mountains and sea, I know absolutely, in my bones, that none of them would ever harm me … but people? Hmmm! Not a safe species at all. Perhaps some of you feel that way too.

One of my biggest fears about growing old is that I won’t be able to take care of myself and have to go live in a home. I think I’d rather take a long walk in January, in the snow, in the Cairngorms, with a bottle of good brandy and a box of painkillers! I would die quickly of suffocation in a home, surrounded by people with whom i have nothing in common, so why not go easy in my beloved wild lands?

I was reading a piece about “ecopsychology” and “pachamama” this morning. Hmmm, again. All sounds so “head-stuff” to me, carefully thought out and written, by academics and with lots of holes (lacunae – to be properly academic about it) in the philosophy, and all seeming to fit neatly with the axe these people have to grind. I know, in my bones, that in order to live (not survive) people must stop prostituting themselves and all the joys of this Earth for money, so as far as the eco-lot go I agree with them somewhat there. But why do we have to go to the other side of the world to find it, find the means of reconnecting with the Earth? Perhaps because the powers-that-be, politicians, academics and others to whom we give our power and turn into authority-figures, tell us there are no indigenous people here in Britain. Ha!

Exmoor valley

Exmoor valley

Do you realise that when you agree with this premise it’s because you are accepting someone else’s definition of indigenous? You give them the power to tell you what the word means. You give them the power to tell you what you are. Is that good?

Indigenous, from the dictionary and the Thesaurus, means native, original, homegrown, local … well, I don’t know about you but I’m all those things with regard to my homeland, Britain. Oh yes, I’ve mixed blood, but what is that? Blood is made of molecules, atoms and particles of the Earth’s body, bits I borrow from her for each lifetime to make a spacesuit for my spirit to live on Planet Earth. They change throughout my life – for instance, the dust you hoover up is largely skin cells you and the rest of your family have shed over the week. Cells die, you shed them, and you grow new ones. That happens with blood cells too. Everything you eat goes to make the new cells, so bits of you come from carrot and cabbage, venison, cheese, pinto beans, grains, beer, coca cola (if you drink the horrid stuff!), etc, etc. so what is all this blood-fetish? DNA, I hear you cry. Well, what is DNA? Is it physical – yes. Is it made of particles and atoms and molecules of the Earth’s body – yes it is. Yes, it holds certain programmes, like how to grow an eye, what colour your skin will be and such, but these also change, that’s thought to be likely how Neanderthal man got wiped out, by interbreeding with other varieties of human. Like how the Scottish Wildcat has been nearly wiped out by interbreeding with domestic cats. So just how far back are you taking this blood-fetish thing? The DNA goes back into the apes and monkeys our human boies developed from; and back into the bodies they came from; and back into the single-cell organisms before them … etc. So I am indigenous, whatever Mr Cameron and other politicians and academics like to say. And so are you.

Tarr_Steps

Tarr Steps

And I am connected deeply with the Earth, though all those molecules and atoms and particles. I’m also deeply connected to her spirit. When I’m surrounded by the fog-haze of human thinking in a town or village or city it really is like wading through mud to reach into the spirit-of-place where I am. It’s much harder to feel nature. It’s also very easy to be mentally swamped by the shibboleths, the beliefs of most people beliefs which are largely empty of real meaning, of the people all round me. Large groups of people who don’t go in for deep thinking spread a miasma around them of their own beliefs, it’s cloying and very hard to resist. I can, and I do when I have to go into conurbations, bit even for someone with my years of experience in doing it, it’s very hard work. For most folk, who don’t even realise it’s there, it has them completely in thrall.

So I try to go there as little as possible. I avoid being amongst groups or crowds people unless I choose. I stick with my friends the trees and the animals, birds, fishes and plants, and rocks. And that’s where I live, not as wild as Hope Bourne, but fairly off-planet to most folk *grin*. This way, I can hear easily what the Earth and all her spirit-parts want, and want of me. I also have the space-time to do my best to do what she and they wish of me. The groups (small) of folk I associate with every now and again, all feel the same way although not all of them have, as yet, achieved as comfy a lifestyle as me, but they’re all working on it.

Connecting with nature, with the Earth, with wildness, means you just have to make the space-time for it. You really won’t do it in large groups, nor festival weekends, nor workshops of loads of people! You have to take your courage in your hands and be alone, be alone for long, long past when it gets scary; be alone in the dark, in the woods, by a river, on the seashore, up a mountain – all of those. And be alone without even your mobile phone turned on!

Spider tree

Spider tree

We’re not taught or encouraged to be alone, so we’re always deafened and befogged by other people and their thoughtforms. Nature, the Earth, the spirit-world, can’t reach us through the fog and, most of the time, we don’t even know to ask it to come to us! We sit about, in a coma-like state, waiting for someone/something to do it all for us. Living wild, even only as wild as I do, means you just can’t be so lazy as that, you have to get off your butt and ask, communicate with the natural world, and with the spirit-world.

The ecopsychology lot don’t seem to realise this. They don’t seem to know anything about folk like Hope Bourne (who, of course, they don’t consider to be indigenous!), nor do they comprehend just how much she had to be in touch, communicating all the time with everything non-human all around her in order to live. Until we all grasp this, that it’s up to each of us to get out there and communicate with all of our ancient brethren who are not human, we can go to as many workshops as we please. They’re just a means of passing the time, like X-Box! They’re not real and they will do nothing but wind us up in yet another fog so we know nothing but what some other person has told us. I wonder how much of the human race will ever dare to be real?

As Hope shows us, there is hope for all of us … but only if and when we get ourselves out of our comfort-box and dare, risk, begin completely alone.

 

 

 

Exploring Thresholds

Following on from writing the Merlin book I’m giving a workshop on Exmoor on Exploring Thresholds. It will be an intimate and informal workshop, just 4 participants, and happens out in the wilds of Exmoor, at ancient crossing-places where I’ve worked with Merlin all her life, and my father before me.

Thresholds can be tough and confusing, difficult places – I’ve crossed enough during this lifetime to have great respect for them. Merlin has always been my guide and ally, helping me across, and I’d like to offer the introduction to him and how he works this way to you. Nowadays, we’re encouraged not to take particular notice of thresholds but it wasn’t always so, we used to celebrate and work with them as I was taught as a child. Acknowledging thresholds, accepting and spending time at them, giving them respect, really works. It helps us, and it helps all those around us too. Exmoor is full of thresholds between worlds and we’ll explore some of them on this workshop … and what they hold for each of us.20160706_190319

I’m starting a new way of working too, working with Dr Kevin Ashby PhD, a poet and writer who’s been studying the old ways with me for several years now. Kevin’s great fun, has lots of insights and a wicked sense of humour, and he’s an ace drummer and overtone singer too. As well as working with me, Kevin will be setting out his own workshops in 2017. Between us, Kevin and I have done a load of threshold crossing and so are good guides to help you.

If you feel this might be fun, get in touch with me at elen.sentier@yahoo.co.uk for more info, and to book. This workshop is really small and intimate, just 4 places, so it’s worth getting hold of me fast to book yours.

 

 

 

 

dawn mist over the Barle deer Stag hind & fawn Dunkery from above Porlock Mounsey mist dawn Ponies at Wam Barrows4 Sun over Wam Barrows sunset 4

 

 

 

 

9781785354533_Pagan Portals_Merlin_PB.indd

 

And this is the Merlin book … due out Dec 2017

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates on publishing and pre-ordering.

 

Imbolc, Calleach and Groundhogs

A lovely way of working for Imbolc that connects our old British stories with American ways by Nancy Lankeston who I’m looking forward to working with in May 🙂

The idea of waiting and watching for the first inkling of spring is not new. The ancient Celts celebrated Imbolc in early February long before Groundhog Day existed. Celtic stories tell us that the Cailleach—the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death—gathers firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Goddess Cailleach wishes to make the winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.

Read more HERE

You can find out more about at her website Sacred Earth Institute.

Fairy Stories are Very Ancient

Like I’ve been banging on about all my life :-), now science has found a way to prove it … and thanks to Suzi Crockford for pointing this article out.

Fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast can be traced back thousands of years, according to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon.

Using techniques normally employed by biologists, academics studied links between stories from around the world and found some had prehistoric roots.

They found some tales were older than the earliest literary records, with one dating back to the Bronze Age.

Read more …

Irish-American Witchcraft: My American Imbolc

Good blog from fellow author Morgan Daimler. It’s really nice to know the traditions are continuing anf growing around the world.

Imbolc  is a pretty big holiday for my family and one of the most involved. It’s also my oldest daughter’s favorite, not only because she has a special devotion to Bríd, but because it’s the holiday that gives her the biggest role to play.

We celebrate Imbolc on February 1st every year, which in my area is right around the same time the sheep are lambing. The town I live in still has sheep farms in it, although not as many as there used to be and I like knowing that as we celebrate Imbolc we are doing so more or less in line with the rhythms of nature that the holiday has always followed. I do realize this isn’t true for people who live in other areas that are not as agriculturally aligned to Ireland and the United Kingdom, nor is mine identical in climate, but it is close enough that we do generally have lambs at Imbolc, blooming Hawthorn around Bealtaine¹, the harvest starting to come in at Lughnasa, and the first hard, killing frost around Samhain.

read more …

Cairns in Britain

From what I know cairns have been built by peoples all over the world for probably hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps as long as humans have been on Planet Earth, after all their not rocket science to build. They are getting well known through the apacheta South American shamanism which is currently popular and the Tibetan cairns which are also well known … but who knows about the cairns all over our own country, Britain, or considers them anything more than modern memorials?

I was born on Dartmoor and brought up on Exmoor from age eight. My dad and relations were country folk and followed our old ways so I learned with mother’s milk too. One of the things I learned about was cairns. Dad and my uncles would take me walking on the moors. You often come to cairns as you’re walking and always they would remind me to pick up a stone as we were coming up to a cairn and must leave a stone, so we did.

But what for, what did we leave a stone for?

Cairns, in Britain, are often on ancient tracks, on hilltops, along ridgeway paths, paths that have been walked by our ancestors for as long as we have been here and current archaeology has found that we ‘ve been here for at least one million years. Those paths may well have been walked all those years. The high tops and the tracks along the ridges are places where the lady, the goddess walks, where she sits, where she is, where you can sense and feel her very strongly if you open yourself up to her.

Britain is well known for stone circles and standing stones but these are Neolithic and that means of the New Stone Age. Neolithic times are very recent even in human history, they run from about 4000 to about 2,500 years ago, a mere spit in time, the time when we began to give up our old hunter-gatherer ways and become farmers. Before the Neolithic we walked the land, travelling from place to place, usually within a terroir (to use the French word for the land) which means region and that takes us to the spirits of place, the guardian spirits of the land who each have their own terroir or region which they are guardian to. The cairns are far older than the stone circles although some have been knocked down and then built up again. Often those knockings-down were done by farmers who felt they were in the way of their “ownership”, they had forgotten the old ways, forgotten the lady … they knocked down her places believing them to be no more than superstition. But they’re not.

So dad taught me to add a stone to the cairns as we passed them, and I still do. And I teach the students who come with me to add a stone too. It’s a form of acknowledgement. You can’t really call it a gift because you take a piece of the goddess’ body, a stone, and give it back to her but, in a way, it is. We take a piece of her and recognise it in our heart and then we put it as part of a cairn that reminds the folk who pass by there that she is there … that She is there. She is our lady, our mother, our teacher, and she is our ancestor too, both body and spirit.

Our bodies, the spacesuits our spirits need to live on Planet Earth, are made from her body. Every atom that makes up us comes from her and it has been all things – raindrop, worm, tree, cat, stone, chicken, fish, ant, butterfly, cloud and river and sea. So those atoms have the knowing of all things and will share that knowing with us if we ask them to – they are our ancestors. When we give a stone to a cairn we are acknowledging all this.

The same goes for spirit too. Every atom, as we know in the old ways, has spirit as well as matter and will share its spirit-knowing with us too. As we add a stone to the cairn we give thanks for this too.

One of our ancient shaman-teachers is called Taliesin (Amergin amongst the Gaels). His song begins, “I am a stag of seven tines” and goes on to sing how he is everything, every rock, tree, animal, drop of water and breath of air. We have many ways of reminding ourselves of this and adding a stone to the cairn as we pass it is one of them.

 

Cairns on Exmoor & Dartmoor