Thursday, 21 January 2010

A week in the painting studio (That's Francis Bacons by the way). Mixing oil paint and linseed by paraffin lamp as the woodburner splutters and crackles to keep the cold from entirely possessing me.The first two days were like being dragged through Hades with Ruby Wax as a companion. Horrible, cliched ideas, paint turning to mud, backache, frustration, clogged brushes and brain, completely deaf in left ear (a cold-also a good mythic mirror), all sorts of gargoyles abiding on my shoulder' whoever told you you could do this!!'A few hours troubled sleep then back out into the freezing hut, drunk on despair and the smell of white spirit. Headaches, trudging prussian blue back into the house. getting the picture?

Things slightly-i say slightly- improved. Will post some of them up when i have a moment.

The moment you have read this missive please run over to YouTube to view Robert Bly reading Pablo Neruda at the Westcountry School of Myth and story. Its at

or type in the above and you'll get it. Please work yourself up into some hysterical state and stay up day and night, wired on Coffee, Goethre and the music of Elgar sending the link on the vast e-mail lists i know you all have secretly stashed away.

A good response to last weeks Hillman piece by our very own Ben Dennis-i am going to post a little of it up. Ben would be too modest to tell you but he has just obtained a PhD in mythology from the Pacifica Institute in California. The subject was betrayal-and an extremely accomplished piece of work it is to.

Says Dr Dennis:

"I hear from some whom I have given Hillman's books that his writing is too difficult, why couldn't he have written in a more accessible way? My answer is this...Bullshit! The difficulty is a direct reflection of the complexity of Hillman's thoughts. His gift is to go deep, to travel the underworld in way's terrifying for most of humanity, and to bring back begrimed treasure for the rest of us. Once that is done and expressed, only then can it be polished up, translated, and prettied.

For me, I am interested in the subterranean realms and find the richness in Hillman to be in its most raw form, full strength and undiluted. I am not, in any way, more interested in the "lite" version. Give me the hard stuff!

Yet, Moore must also have an honored place. He brings us the treasure in a way we can absorb and work with. His role is a crucial one because without him, Hillman would have less of an audience...and the world would be a lesser and impoverished place without him. Moore also provides the hope that powerful and raw thoughts 'can' be digested by mortals. After all, what Moore does for Hillman is much the same thing any of us would do--take it in as best we can.

Every time I dive into Hillman I am acutely reminded that I am NOT educated! I am a student."


There is a joy in reading a writer who is not designed to reasure, but to push, cajole and challenge-even if that headache i just mentioned comes back. Words can hold complicated nets of association that catch the very deepest fishes in the psyche. If the words are too simple, the net holds too many holes and the fish/thought simply swims away. I don't believe that simplicity is always best.

For me the impoverishment in some academic writing (not Hillman)is the scarcity of image led thinking-the very thing that myth is so brilliant at. I will suffer almost any level of tortured prose providing it feels connected to image and metaphor, without that i start losing the will to live. So i guess the above fish illustration is how an image can hold an idea (you already knew that of course).

I think that societally we are not fond of clear teachers these days. Hillman is scary because he's didatic, he's not just 'facillitating your reponse'he's actually laying something out-like it or not. Having gone through a teacher training a few years ago i remember the endless efforts the staff tried to instill in us duckling teachers never to lecture, overtly challenge or criticise. All Saturn,Hag,Cronos or stern father/Mother must be banished entirely from the chamber. Do i say chamber? i mean 'collective, sharing-learning experience.'Whatever you do-never appear to know more than the student. Heaven forbid they may feel uncomfortable.

There are many ways of learning to be sure-but i gravitate as a student to a little of the above-i like some salt in the meal. We should think about this subject more-what are its cultural implications?


Find a 'Lofty Campanion'-a character that has lived in the last 500 years. There must be plenty of information about them and their work. Ritually make yourself an apprentice for a finite amount of time.Take them as a teacher. Study their work (could be a boatmaker, artist, tramp, or surgeon-anyone). Work with a theme or interest that they worked with-allow yourself to copy and study (a travesty to the Puer thought of continual originality). Don't think of growing but deepening into their work (very Hillman). This will help slow your relationship to time-it's a reaching back, a very soulful, introspective move away from how speedy everything has become. So, a 'lofty companion'-maybe in an area you know nothing about. Find out some biography.What mythic figures do they remind you of? bring what you know about your companions to the next gatherings-get us nice and crowded. You can make it a ritual by attending to their/your work at the same time everyday-even for 30 mins. Would love to hear about this-the best bit of 1,500 wrds writing on the experience gets a book from the School of Myth Library. Something off the beaten track.


I am frequently asked about fairy tale commentaries specifically for women, so...drum roll is a list. Some better than others, but thats for you to have the pleasure of finding out! Lots of heat and differing thoughts.

Auerbach, Nina, and U. C. Knoepflmacher, editors. Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Bernheimer, Kate. Mirror, Mirror On The Wall: Women Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.

Birkhauser-Oeri, Sibylle. The Mother: Archetypal Image in Fairy Tales. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1988.

Chervin, Ronda. The Woman's Tale: A Journal of Inner Exploration. New York: Seabury Press, 1980.

Chinen, Allan B. Waking the World : Classic Tales of Women and the Heroic Feminine. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1996.

Douglas, Susan J. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Crown, 1994.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. The Dangerous Old Woman: Myths and Stories of the Wise Old Woman Archetype. New York: Random House Large Print, 1996.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Gonzenbach, Laura. Beautiful Angiola: The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Collected by Laura Gonzenbach. Jack Zipes, translator and editor. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Haase, Donald. Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004.

Harries, Elizabeth Wanning. Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale. Princeton: Princeton University, 2001.

Jurich, Marilyn. Scheherazade's Sisters : Trickster Heroines and Their Stories in World Literature (Contributions in Women's Studies). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Lederer, Wolfgang. The Kiss of the Snow Queen: Hans Christian Andersen and Man's Redemption by Woman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Levorato, Alessandra. Language and Gender in the Fairy Tale Tradition: A Linguistic Analysis of Old and New Story-telling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Lundell, Torborg. Fairy Tale Mothers. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Minard, Rosemary. Womenfolk and Fairy Tales. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975.

Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Paradiz, Valerie. Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Rusch-Feja, Diann D. The Portrayal of the Maturation Process of Girl Figures in Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

Schectman, Jacqueline M. The Stepmother in Fairy Tales : Bereavement and the Feminine Shadow. Boston: Sigo Press, 1993.

Sellers, Susan. Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women's Fiction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

Tatar, Maria M. The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Princeton: Princeton University, 1987.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Feminine in Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala, 2001. Revised edition.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise. Problems of the Feminine in Fairytales. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1986.

Waelti-Walters, Jennifer R. Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination. Montreal, Canada: Eden Press, 1982.

Warner, Marina. From Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. London: Chatto & Windus, 1994.

Zipes, Jack. Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: New American Library, 1989.

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