Saturday, 26 February 2011

Joy Breaks Out at News of Associative Blogspot.


is the link to a new blog spot edited by Daniel Deardorff and myself, entitled "Associative Mythology", the phrase coined by Daniel for the kind of wide angled openings we explore in myth. There is the finished segment on Derrida and metaphor i placed here some months back and several new pieces from Mr. D. We're both excited about it so please pass it on.

Here's an interview with the great Marion Woodman, i think there is a new documentary on her life called, i think, 'Dancing In the Flames' which has got to be worth checking out. Anyone looking for more Lightning Tree excerpts just scroll down for two, more to come. I will balance the Woodman interview with one by Dr. Robert Moore in the next week or so, which is equally interesting.

Taming Patriarchy

The Emergence of the Black Goddess

An interview with Marion Woodman

1 | 2


WIE: In your books, you've written quite extensively about the relationship between "the feminine" and "the masculine." What do these words mean to you, and how does the relationship between them express itself in our lives?

MARION WOODMAN: As I understand it from my work with dreams, there are two energies in our bodies, just as there are two energies controlling nature. There's a very active, analytical, logical energy symbolized by the sun and a synthesizing, relating energy symbolized by the moon. In our bodies, as in nature, we are dependent upon this balance of energy between day and night in order to live. In the caduceus, the "logo" of the medical profession, these two energies come forward as two snakes that start together from the bottom and climb up through the various arcs until, at the top, they are about to kiss. Well, in our lives, these two energies are working all the time to find this balance. The words that I would associate with the feminine energy are "presence"—being able to live right here, in the here and now; "paradox"—being able to accept what appears to be contradictory as two parts of the same thing; "process"—valuing process as opposed to putting all the value on the product; "receptivity" and "resonance" in the body—having a body that is like a musical instrument, open enough to be able to resonate, literally resonate with what is coming both from the inside and from the outside, so that one is able to surrender to powers greater than oneself. So, for example, a dancer may perfect the instrument as much as he possibly can, the muscles can be as strong as it is possible for them to be, and the whole body will be as highly sensitized as technical work can make it, but still, the greatness of the dancer lies in his ability to surrender to the power of the Divine as it is coming through in the music.

WIE: And that would be an expression of the feminine?

MW: Yes, exactly—the word "surrender." The principle of the feminine is openness to life, death, rebirth and the unity of all things within that cycle. It's the world of nature, you see. And that's the world that's striving so hard now to be recognized.

WIE: What is the expression of the masculine, then?

MW: The masculine—to contrast it with the feminine images that I've used—tends to leap ahead to the future, to some idealized future. It tends to make things into black or white; it tends to look at life as an either/or situation instead of being able to hold a paradox.

Now here I must point out that I don't think "patriarchy" and "masculinity" are synonymous. I think that the patriarchy has become identified with power, and that as such it kills the masculine just as much as it kills the feminine. So patriarchy exaggerates the either/or, exaggerates the black or white. But the masculine is simply analytic, and it simply recognizes the either/or. It's more focused than the feminine in that it can go for a goal; it can discriminate between what is essential to that goal and what is not essential. It can discern, can use the sword, can cut off what is not essential to the action at hand. And these are positive attributes as long as they are in relationship to the feminine. I see these two energies as being in both men and women, and the masculine will always be in relationship to the feminine, so that it will be protecting the feminine, honoring the feminine and recognizing the values of the feminine. The feminine is the "being" side, and the masculine takes that "beingness" out into the world. It can also be the meditative "connector" inside, meaning that it can connect the soul to the Divine. A woman who is writing, for example, needs the masculine to begin her process, to put the words on the paper in a logical, informed way. She needs those masculine discriminatory powers to open the way for the Divine to come in, take over her arm and let her writing happen, and she also needs the masculine courage and strength to allow herself to be taken over. In that moment, she's trying to discriminate between the personal and the transpersonal. That can be very frightening, and that's where masculine courage and strength are required. It takes tremendous courage to surrender at that point. Now, this is as true in a male artist as it is in a female, so my point is simply that there's a divine marriage going on between the feminine and the masculine in every creative process.

WIE: In a condition of balance, or wholeness, what is the relationship between the feminine and the masculine energies, not only in the individual but in society as a whole?

MW: In the individual, as I said, it is a harmonic balance where the values of the feminine are defended and honored by the masculine. Now that is so far beyond where our society is that it's hard to imagine it at that level, but maybe the example of a relationship or marriage might help. Suppose a woman decides that her marriage is no longer a big enough container for the person she's becoming. She holds the value that she has to grow into her full maturity as a woman, but she is related enough so she doesn't want to hurt the soul of her husband. She may use a sword to get out of the marriage, but she learns to use it with love. Because if you get out of a relationship or a job that you've loved with hatred, you damage your own soul as much as you damage the other. It's this relatedness between the masculine and feminine that is so important, and that's a very hard balance to find when you're at a transition in life. There has to be the masculine courage to make a cut if it has to be made, but there also has to be the feminine love that respects the soul of the other. Now in our society the same thing applies, but so far, most people are depending on anger and violence to try to make these cuts, and so there's no balance at all between the masculine and the feminine.

WIE: What would the relationship between the feminine and the masculine be like under ideal circumstances?

MW: Well, think of a person like Gandhi, for example, where you have that magnificent femininity along with incredible masculine strength. Or take an example from the theater world: Garbo developed a strong masculine side and became all the more feminine, all the more attractive, as her own inner masculine brought out her own inner feminine. The more a woman develops her masculinity the more feminine she becomes, and the more a man develops his femininity the more masculine he becomes.

So to answer your question, I see this condition of balance in mature people who know what their own values are because they've worked very hard to discriminate between what belongs to their own soul and what does not belong to their own soul—mature people who value their dreams and who recognize that the soul has its own pattern and its own life to live, and who give it a chance to live that life. But in order to do that, they would have to be in touch, as I said, with their own inner imagery. And they'd have to be in touch with their own inner feelings, which is a frightening thing to say in a society where most people are cut off at the neck and honestly do not know what is going on at a feeling level in their gut or their kidneys or their heart or any of the other parts of their torso. And that's the tragedy, because then it erupts in rage. There's no discrimination. The masculine doesn't have a chance to come in with any kind of discriminatory action; action becomes acting out. In a society where citizens are in balance, they have those emotions—that rage, for example—but it is contained until it can be put into cultural forms such as a play or a dance. That's what culture is. It's holding the passion at a vital point until it can be put into a civilized form. But in our culture, there's a tendency to not even attempt to hold the container, to give creative form to the tension between these opposites. Instead, let the bombs or the knives or the bullets fly, and act out the rage. And where are the values in that?

WIE: Are you saying that the more civilized form of expression you're describing could potentially extend beyond personal creativity to animate the structure of society itself?

MW: Of course, and that does happen periodically on the planet. I mean, there have been cultures, when they've reached their peak, where that balance was in place. But mind you, even that keeps changing. And now, I think we're moving toward one planet, and the transition is ferocious because we have to go through that terrible breaking up of these old patriarchal patterns in order to find the new ones.

WIE: In your book Dancing in the Flames, you describe the figure of a black goddess or Madonna that has been appearing with increasing frequency in the dreams of many contemporary men and women, and you describe this as an indication that the feminine is "push[ing] through from the very depths of the collective unconscious like a universal force that speaks individually and culturally." What exactly is happening here, and what does it mean?

MW: Well, as I see it, we've lost touch with the feminine, with our feelings in our bodies and with the planet itself. Now, collective dreams are presenting new challenges. For example, lust in the body now needs to be united with love in the soul. The Judeo-Christian tradition has split the body from the soul, and so now these dreams of the black goddess are bringing up the image of a very lusty, passionate woman who values life and is in love with life. For example, I'm looking out the window now, and all the buds are coming out and the flowers are all bursting forth in the garden, and there's that luscious, delicious sense of loving—loving and living—that is the recognition of the birthright of life itself, in which lust and that love are expressed together. And this is one of the most crucial problems of our culture: Too much feeling is repressed in our own "human earth"—which is to say, in our own bodies. For many people, "playing it cool" is the biggest, most important thing; one should not get heated up over anything. In other words, they cut out the passion: then life becomes boring until they explode in a fit of rage.

Now I'm not suggesting that the black goddess is an ultimate goal. The ultimate goal, in terms of the feminine, is to bring up that dark energy until it finds its civilized form, and to bring the white goddess off of her pedestal, her idealized pedestal that keeps women in an inhuman frame in the minds of most men. Idealization confines her to a heavenly state that must eventually flip into a demonized state because, in its incompleteness, it's simply inhuman. So the goal is to bring the white goddess down from her pedestal, to bring the black goddess up from repression, and to bring them together—lust and love together. And again, that's for both men and women, because both men and women have this tragic split in their femininity—and in their masculinity.

WIE: How do we know that the goddess is, as you're suggesting, an emergent, impersonal, feminine cosmic force that is revealing itself to an increasing number of human beings with the intention of revolutionizing human life and consciousness?

MW: I don't. I don't know that. How could we possibly know? All I can say is that I believe that God—masculine spirit and feminine matter—is speaking to us directly through our dreams. Dreams, being metaphorical, being the connection between the spiritual and the physical, are the language of the soul. And I've seen messages from this black Madonna in hundreds of dreams, and they all seem to have a creative intent in the life of the person to whom they come. So I see the black goddess as representing a cumulative insight that will eventually have an impact on the planet. It's not just happening here, you know; it's happening all over. And this goddess is, by the way, beloved in India—Kali, the goddess of life and death, of creation and destruction, is the most revered Hindu goddess. But our country hasn't dealt with Kali at all because we don't like to think that death is part of life—even though we've just finished with winter! I mean, if we gave any thought to it at all, we'd know that death leads to new life. So I don't know, but I think we have to learn to accept mystery, to accept that the Divine is mysterious and that if we think we know everything, we are grossly deceived.

WIE: The radical feminist theologian Mary Daly has written that "'God' represents the necrophilia of patriarchy, whereas 'Goddess' affirms the life-loving being of women and nature." Do you agree with the assertion that patriarchy is inherently destructive, whereas matriarchy is inherently beneficent?

MW: Again, I think patriarchy has become destructive. I think that when it started out in ancient Greece, there was an attempt to bring the nation to consciousness. That was a very important step in the evolution of humankind. But now it is connected to power—power over nature, power over other people, power over our own bodies—and people identify themselves in terms of power if they're in patriarchal thinking. So patriarchy has lost its sense of relatedness and its sense of love; it's on a wild rampage now. But I cannot agree that matriarchy, in itself, is the solution. I think that unconscious matriarchy can be just as vicious as patriarchy. If a person is taken over by the negative mother archetype, the voice inside continues to snarl, "Who are you? Who do you think you are? You can't really achieve anything. You are nobody." That voice is a broken record that goes on and on and on inside the brain, and it can come from the feminine just as much as it can come from the masculine. So I simply cannot accept Daly's statement. It seems to me that we've all got to strive toward consciousness. And it's not any longer about being subject to father/patriarchy or mother/matriarchy. It's about finding ourselves and taking responsibility for ourselves as mature, grown-up human beings. That's what I think this big transition is about. We're moving out of being children and adolescents, and we're being forced into the responsibility of making mature decisions—or we're not going to survive as a planet.

WIE: In this issue's interview with Sam Keen, the author of Fire in the Belly, we presented him with your view that within each of us, male or female, there are both masculine and feminine energies that need to be brought into balance if we're to become whole. Keen responded: "There are two kinds of people. Those who divide the world up into two columns and those who don't. Why start with two columns? Why start with making your basic concepts about the human psyche goose-step along? I think that's a kind of intellectual tyranny. It's totally unhelpful for me to say, 'Now I've got to get my yin balanced with my yang. Am I too yang or too yin?' If all I can think of is 'I've got to do this or that,' if all I can think of is masculine or feminine, it's a shotgun to my head. That's why I don't like Jungianism and why I detest the idea of archetypes." What is your response to Keen's criticism?

MW: I've learned to accept the fact that there are energies in all human beings that can wipe out the personality, and personally, I think it's wise to have some idea of what those energies are. That would be my comment on the archetypes. I mean, what is the point of living if there is nothing but a bread-and-butter, walk-on-the-ground flat world? And as for having to divide everything up into yin and yang, I didn't do any dividing up into yin and yang. We're living in a world that is divided into yin and yang. There is masculinity, there is femininity; there is night, there is day. And energy functions like a magnet: opposite poles attract and like poles repel. So I think that if you want real passion in your life, you need to recognize that the so-called opposites are passionately attracted to each other. Without that differentiation, you lack the "fire in the belly"—and life isn't worth living without that fire.

WIE: Yet with regard to opposites, you've also written: "Let us . . . try to avoid the patriarchal either/or and move into the feminine both/and. In that paradox, the mystery of being human lies." Could you explain why, in your view, the feminine is "both/and" and the masculine is "either/or"?

MW: As I explained earlier, it's the patriarchal either/or that splits things in two, that is continually setting up differences, whereas if you were to look at nature as an expression of the feminine principle, you'd find that in one little patch of ground there are a hundred different living organisms working together to bring the planet to life in spring. The whole world of nature has this incredible both/and ecosystem, so that you don't have to get rid of these things in order to have those things. It's not either/or. You accept the black, the white, the red, the pink; you accept it all as one. And the true masculine, as I understand it, honors that.

WIE: You've also stated that "The opposites are complementary, not contradictory. They are partners in the dance of life—partners, that is, in the ongoing interplay between the observer and the observed. This dance, this interplay cannot take place in a world of absolutes, for such a world has no room for differing modes of perception—only for a patriarchal God who is himself the observer and the observed." Why is it that absolutes leave no room for differences?

MW: Well, absolutes bring forward their opposites, but the poles are so far apart that they can't even recognize that they're two sides of the same coin. So that if, to use an example we've already spoken about, you idealize women on one side, you're inevitably going to demonize them on the other. When a woman "betrays" you because she cannot live up to the ideal that has been projected on to her, there's a tendency for men to see her as a betrayer, a seducer, an evil witch who would suck out their insides—right? So, with absolutes, the poles are so far apart that it's always an either/or, black-or-white situation. You can't bring them together. Whereas from a nonabsolute perspective, the poles are not so far apart. Because from that feminine perspective there's a human dimension, and the human dimension is imperfect. And within that imperfect world, differences are not only possible but are in fact essential to make life interesting. If, on the other hand, you're in an absolute world where what you want is perfection—for example, the Nazi world that wanted the perfection of the human race—there's absolutely no room for the play of opposites and therefore no room for the dance. The dance goes on between differing values, and there is a mystery at the center of the dance. The still point at the center of the dance is that mystery, and it keeps changing. And that's what's so interesting about life—that even the still point keeps moving. As your perception evolves, the still point moves.

WIE: Hitler's ideology is no doubt one of the most horrifying examples we've ever seen of the dangers that can result from adherence to an absolute view. But at the same time there have been other figures throughout history who are known to have espoused what could also be called an absolute view with the aim of achieving a decidedly different outcome. The Buddha, for example, to the best of our knowledge, aspired to a kind of perfection and encouraged his followers to do the same. Would his teaching of enlightenment have had the same kinds of implications that you've been speaking about?

MW: I can't speak to that because I'm not steeped in Buddhism. But I do know that when, for example, Christ talks about being "perfect," that word means "wholeness." It's not about cutting off everything in yourself that's not acceptable; it's about bringing out everything in yourself that contributes to the wholeness of who you are. Instead of being perfect in a very tiny area of yourself, you'll be attempting to be a whole human being, and that does place a limit on the goal of perfection.

WIE: But if, as you suggest, an ultimate or absolute view does inherently negate the rich interplay of opposites that make up the world we live in, at the same time couldn't it also be said that the feminine, as you've defined it, inherently negates an ultimate or absolute perspective that always transcends everything?

MW: Yes, I would say so. Now bear in mind that I am speaking from my own point of view, and I don't pretend to be a philosopher or a theologian. But the word "transcend," as it's used by most people, means to come in from above, to see everything from above, and that's the use of the word that I'm responding to. For me, though, the word "transcend" can also mean seeing everything from below. Most addicts, for example, find their healing by going down into the trauma that caused their emptiness in the first place. As they learn to love themselves and honor themselves with their own imperfections, their hearts open. They can love themselves and other human beings. They transcend the hell they could not endure, not by flying up and out of life but by moving down and into life. Then heaven and hell cease to be polarized opposites. Paradoxically, they are one. I also see the black Madonna as "transcending from below." In other words, the feminine energy of the planet itself, if you think of it as a volcano erupting from the very bowels of the earth, is transcending our normal life's existence. Think of the great waves that come smashing in. That power that is erupting from inside and below can be just as life-renewing as an angel touching down from above.

WIE: On one hand, it seems completely understandable that, as you've said, a rigid adherence to absolute notions can easily lead to a dangerously disembodied, exclusive and alienated relationship to life. But on the other hand, couldn't it be said with equal validity that it's only when we're willing to transcend all notions of opposites—including those of "masculine" and "feminine"—that we can experience a perspective and a relationship to life that's truly all-inclusive?

MW: Yes, that is right. But even so, I think I'd still stay with the metaphor of the dance. Energy moves because it is attracted to something. We are magnetized by otherness. Eventually, we realize opposites are not in opposition. They are in love. They attract, they unite, they create new life. The key is to hold the still point in constant movement. If you're really dancing with a partner, there is a still point between you that is always holding no matter how fast or how far you are moving on the floor. And if you're throwing a pot on a wheel, however fast it's moving, that still point has to hold or your pot blows up. And so the two energies, the centrifugal and the centripetal, the masculine and the feminine, have to be in balance. Balance is all.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


So, the hippies i know are all telling me spring is starting to spring whilst my rock'n'roll friends insist it is still the depths of winter - curtains drawn, poker game and whisky on the table. I know what i think.

me and the tribe were clearing out the hut today - our largish shed/storytelling hut/painting studio. It contains my ancient woodburning stove from my days in the tent - bleached white in places from the heat. Shovelling in various incriminating letters and court demands to get it started, i glanced at the crumpled paper i was pushing in. I found a bunch of poems from the tent days, which i managed to procure from the flames greedy licks. I place one here before i lose them again. I'm not sure it is all that great, but i was pleased to see one contains a line from this weeks section of 'A Branch From The Lightning Tree' - well, a similar image anyway- i didn't know it had been in an old poem. Weird that line about paper into the stove too, bearing in mind the circumstances.

Black Tent Poem 1

Crumbly autumn comes
The hermit lets the water spill from his hands
The papers drift into the leaf banks and the frost
no publisher or abbott will coo over the smoulders
gaze at the legacy of sixty nights by the angry cairns

He claimed a vessel of problems
collected from theology and old magic
built humming structures around their thick air
made love with ferocity to what many thought forgotten
His solitude was the hardest song he ever wrote
sent to the moving herds of the open plains

Snow will come soon
and the small doors let in hail
but for now the only heat is from more papers fed into the stove
radiating small circles of red into the dusk
and the fox moving at distance
stills herself, and moves forward towards the glow

I reckon i was probably reading a lot of Han Shan around that time. Anyway, here is a small chunk of the upcoming Lightning Tree book - this one from the Irish tale 'The Birth of Ossian' -in it Finn MacColl is wandering the highways and byways looking for his lost love, Sadb.

The Currency of Longing, the Malignancy of Disappointment
A steady focus on something absent, out of reach, or lost to us, acquaints us with a very particular kind of edge, acquaints us with Saturn as well as an Underworld goddess. For some of us, the loss of Sadb is the loss of youth. “And little enough you cared for her when she was yours,” says another story from the Fenian cycle. That loss leads to identification with some part of us that is grizzled, listless, wandering. It is the very fate that ensures Finn as a hero rather than just a “defender,” a culturally sanctioned holder of borders. It is an encounter with the Magpie brother of Parzival, or Gilgamesh meeting Enkidu, our precious degree swept into a snow drift.

To broaden the psyche and become a real human being requires more than the adoration of the court; some dark arrow has to enter our flank, like William Cowper’s stricken deer:

I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since; with many an arrow deep infixt
My panting side was charg’d when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades
But some energy arises that pulls us from the magnetic trance of death:
There was I found by one himself
Been hurt by th’archers...
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
he drew them forth, and heal’d, and made me live.

Daniel Deardorff, commenting on the above lines, advises caution in expecting the holy rescuer, or paraclete, to arrive in physical form: “One must bring to bear a much wider imagination than accommodated within the ratio of reasonable, daylight thought.”11

By this token, any number of experiences could have wrestled the darts from Finn—some troubled dream, another forest bereft of his beloved. But it is the role of Wanderer, Grief-Man, that tempers us into such a shape that the gift can appear. If Finn had attempted to hide his limp, his ravaged stump, surely it would have congealed and rotted many years past. The marginality of grief strikes a chord of relationship between the Trickster and the King; we sense Finn has become “real” in some way. Deardorff makes an overt connection between the two: “The King/Jester polarity is embodied in the contrary person of the Mythic Trickster.”

It’s an extraordinary, indigenous idea that to find an authentic center, we have to wander lonely beaches and sleep under hedges, longing for something we know is lost. We make a place in us for a small, cultivated altar to the bird that flew away. The story tells us that as long as we deny the sorrow road and neglect the chamber of crow-feathers, we refuse the possibility that the God contained in the experience will speak back to us. How many of us are wearing long coats to cover our darts and clotted veins? How many of us refuse Cowper’s “leaving of the herd” and deny the encounter with the one with “gentle force?”
We exchange the currency of longing for the malignancy of disappointment. Longing pushes the imagination outward—toward deeper inflexions of insight, peculiar creative leaps—while disappointment is a diminishment, a closing, a reduction. Remember Rilke’s “Wherever I am folded I am a lie.”12 We deny the incubation of longing by refusing to grieve, and anticipating this, we never fully invest anyway. This leads to the great sense of numbness we hear of in modern life. We touch with a gloved hand, our passions become hobbies, and we keep an eye fixed always on the door. If some feeling should come through, it carries the distortion of possession; we grab in order to be fed rather than to feed, and are startled when another relationship crumbles in our hands.

As a twelve-year old schoolboy, Carl Jung was once lost in thought while contemplating a glorious sky, radiant sunshine glittering on a cathedral roof, and became overwhelmed with the perfection of the moment. His thoughts drifted upwards to god and:

Here came a great hole in my thoughts and a choking sensation. I felt numbed, and knew only: “Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming . . . I gathered all my courage, as though about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on his golden throne, high above the world—and from the under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.13
The key, of course, is that the turd still emerged from a divine rear: in the shattering of the cathedral a new shape of worship becomes possible, one that brings all our “dark shit” with it, to sort through our prima materia.

The difference between longing and disappointment lies in having the wisdom to know where the turd/heartbreak/sacking fell from: do we erect a new, deeper church, or do we scuttle from the debris, disillusioned, an atheist to trickster insight? Our ideal falls asunder, the image wrecked at lightning speed. We are saved depending on whether we place the experience in or outside the church. It would seem, on one level of imagination, that Trickster lives not in the incident itself, but in how we live with the incident, living, like Wolverine in the old stories, off the flakes of skin from his ass through another merciless winter. Integration and attention are central.

Martin Shaw 2011 copyright White Cloud Press

Monday, 14 February 2011


Well, after a few weeks of writing briefly about my travels i want to lay something out with a little more heft this week. This excerpt is from the upcoming, revised "A Branch From The Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness" out in April 2011 on White Cloud Press. They are taking advance orders already from their website at a very decent price.
This commentary comes from the story "The Deer Maiden and the Velvet Antlered Moon". It's a Siberian story about the Moon falling in love with a woman who looks after a herd of Deer, far out on the tundra. Through her cunning she gradually wears him down (he's a little too much to handle as a deity can be) till he lists 12 different names for stages of the moon throughout the year- as a devotional gift to her and her tribe before setting back off up into the inky night sky. The full commentary, story and wonderful illustrations by Cara Roxanne will be in the new book.

Wooonderful Grimm's weekend up on the moor - i hope all students are now hitting the two study handouts we have sent over
and awaiting the next set of homework. Remember to come and find us on Facebook - just click that thing on the right of this page.

Moon Comes Gliding
We’re going to explore the story in two ways now, from the perspective of relationship and of the Moon as an Initiating Deity. Some of the transitions will be swift.

The first point of interest is that the Moon in this story is considered Masculine. In European myth we normally associate the Sun with the masculine—rationality, activity, thrust and vigor—with the Moon connected to intuition, stillness, receptivity and mystery. It feels a like a welcome change to enjoy this twist, to wrestle the moon back from the women awhile, and wrench the sun from the men. The word Moon actually derives from the German der mond, connected to the word “man.” This has a very different ring than the la luna of the Spanish, which seems much livelier, less dense. Actually we find male moon deities in many places: Tecciztecatl of the Aztecs, Mani of the Germanic tribes, Thoth of the Egyptians, Tskuyumi of the Japanese, and Rahko of the Finns are just a small selection. So this time the Moon is male, and curious. Wandering his nomadic route over the heavens, he has become fixated upon this similarly “alone” woman, not sheltered by the hearth or warm in a lover’s bed.
Sometimes when we see someone holding solitude elegantly, when they possess the particular qualities that make our head spin, we summon our chariots, “shine” to our fullest, learn a tap dance and go charging into their splendid isolation, not realizing they may be relishing their space.

To attract a deity is no small thing. It is a shamanic labor to head out to the ice, forest, or vision pit, seeking to entice a spirit: bride or husband. Whether she knows it or not, she has created enough elegance and space around her to beguile the Luna God himself, a Lord of Night. Many unexpected things come to us at night; many storytellers only tell in the slow time, when the fragile shell of hours breaks and the moon egg of enchantment arises.

The Irish always say that the Otherworld is as interested in us as we are in it, and this descent of the moon is an auspicious image of just that. Indigenous artists often understand that a huge percentage of their gift comes from “somewhere else”—the mythological, religious, and cosmological realms of that Otherworld region. When we start orienting ourselves towards the community of stars, night, and moon, surpassing the human, the impact of that new relationship can be overwhelming.
When moon energy starts to flood our life/home/deer herd, its very force and lack of “human-centeredness” can tell our instinct (the deer we ride) to start digging a hole to jump down. It can cause us to spend two days and nights without sleep working on a novel with no hope of a publisher, to forget our nephews’ names, to stop tipping waiters. It’s not about grounding, it’s about leaping. Dylan Thomas, never famed for a balanced hand, writes:

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms

He makes a flurry of connections between his vocation as a poet, a raging moon, and the lover’s bed as a nest of grief. His bounding soul knows all about the midnight tundra where he encounters the lightning of his work. His poems are for those very grief lovers, his tribe, who:

Pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or ar

Maybe art feeds the moon as much as it does human beings.
We suspect that Jeff Koons is unfamiliar with this intensity, whereas an abundance of its light poured from the brush of Ken Kiff or William Scott. We know that Mark Rothko laid down layers of very thin paint so that hundreds of little pricks of light illumined his work—moon light. This very old artistic pursuit requires a developed inner life, a steady psyche to ground such huge invocations. Rothko’s death by suicide raises questions about his ability to sustain the vast energies he awakened. If we just stand still and soak the energy up, we’re often dead by twenty-eight, blazing and consumed by our “lunacy.”
So we can see the Moon as a vertical connection in our lives, but also as something contacted through solitude, intensity of task, broadness of community—owls, mist, streams, bracken, and up into the cosmos.

It is a genius clue that when the gift comes, the Deer Woman hides. The myth-world’s frequency is different from that of the human, and much tearing and thunder can commence when the two worlds square up to each other. Destiny is an awesome thing. James Hillman tells the story of the great Spanish bullfighter Manolete (1917-1947), who as a boy “clung so tightly to his mother’s apron strings that his sisters and other children used to tease him”4
His clinging was an attempt to jump down the hole, to buy himself time until he had developed a container strong enough to bear the gift offered. Come adolescence, he ran towards his gifting, and towards his death. Gored by the bull Islero at age thirty, he died, his funeral the largest Spain has ever seen.

It could be that Manolete sensed his destiny, the glory and the sobriety of it, and bought all the time he could before the pulse became too persistent to ignore. For others, the price of relationship to the moon is that they are unable to reenter the village, its light grows dim around other people. An artist’s studio can be seen to be an attempt to “catch beams.”
Of course, when we are overwhelmed, we attempt to return to safe ground—when the Deer Woman is confronted by the Moon, she runs back to her father’s tent. However, as in many initiatory stories, he’s not there. The father and the tent represent her grounding in her community, her childhood, and her humanity. The container remains, but this time she has to be the negotiator, the elder, the one with wit. Sometimes, when making a painting, I will occasionally slip into ground so new and unexpected to me that I panic and paint over it, calming myself with more “negotiated” gestures. Like the surface of the moon, I don’t recognize the landmarks, I can’t see any footprints. So I try to drag the Moon back into my black tent of tradition, comfort, and warmth. I too will try to familiarize the otherness of the experience into something that can gradually be integrated into a body of work. Try as I might, I’m not an astronaut yet.

The Deer Woman stays safe by a kind of mimicry, an invisibility that preserves us in all sorts of situations—at school we imitate the teacher and his or her “light of knowledge,” and gradually learn to hide our own peculiar, idiosyncratic opinions. If they should pop out, we would become visible and vulnerable, so better to ape what is bigger and brighter than us.
This kind of activity, while potentially life-saving as we grow, can become a castrating and unconscious habit if carried into adulthood. Of course the Moon is looking for her, not an imitation of himself. But in this case, she bides her time and wears him out. Of course, there could also be a straight avoidance of intimacy in her hiding. Better to munch a lettuce leaf and practice detachment than get down into the muck of relationship and have to deal with its unwieldy shadow.

The Great Thief
It could be said that to know the moon is to be connected to thievery. Even the Moon’s glow is stolen sunlight, reduced 500,000 times. Not content with stealing sunlight, the moon also has a penchant for pilfering color. The gold of a cornfield or the crimson of a rose are quietly replaced by greys and blues when moonlight’s fingers fall on them. A lover of letters, the Moon steals into books read at dusk—as we read in the gloom, words become indistinct as he scoops them up and carries them off. Night is the time of break-ins, affairs, slow time-ruptures to the agitated clock of light. At the same time, we know that the Moon replaces everything the next day, just as we left it, so he appears a cheeky thief rather than a savage robber. The Moon is also a friend to lovers; his inky sky covers them as a blanket, but his light offers a slender trail to the sweetheart’s door. So to draw down the Moon brings a certain wiliness.

All this talk of thievery could have scared the Deer Woman: would she want her own color, her essence, so consumed? We see a strong reaction to the bluster of the potential suitor. Can you remember being with someone who cast so much light that your own couldn’t be seen? Like a hip-hop star covered in bling jewelry, the moon so far offers no real relationship, only adoration. The Deer Woman has been alone long enough to know that she doesn’t want that. And so it begins. She refuses calls, rain-checks dates, and has always just left the party when you arrive. This just intrigues and frustrates you more, until, like the moon, you find yourself frantic and sweating, searching under animal skins and through friends’ address books trying to track her down.

Just when you are finally turning away, you hear her voice from the top floor of a crowded restaurant, and there you go, charging in among the tables again. Her faint voice is a tiny clue that this is a courting rather than a flat refusal. Once the Moon’s grandiosity is lessened, and he is wrapped in the cords of the world, when he even faces something approaching mortality, he and the Deer Woman really start to communicate.

How can she trust such an energy? Surely better to stay in her glorious isolation. But the Moon Man also offers an image of largeness, flamboyance. His arrival has broken the steady rhythm of the animals and the frost: he offers an outwards expression, to be seen. In the tangle of our own relationships, the rambunctious partner offers a challenge to our inwardness—we despise but are attracted to this rambunctiousness. In the myth-world, all these characters reside in us, and so we could say that the Deer Woman—solitude loving wilderness being—and the Moon Man—mighty, galaxy-shining, tide-altering—are trying to reach an accord with each other. The Road of Solitude and the Road of Voice have found a crossroads.

Collapsing Imagination
We’ve mentioned an artist’s studio as a place to catch beams, our own wilderness place where we can attract lonely deities. Forget “artist” as someone being tied to oil paint or video installations, and rather envision that part of yourself that is not snared in insurance documents and loves sitting quietly alone for an anti-social amount of time.
When the attention in our lives is all focused on the First Body—the tribal concerns of mortgage, status, and how our peers view us— then the tundra of the Nomadic Heart gets smaller.

That tundra literally starts to disappear before our eyes: condos appear in the woods and, one after another, the deer are stillborn. When the tundra is gone, the Moon Man looks down and sees nothing but television static. He sees no moving herd of art, no antlered words, no runway of strange dances and ecstatic prayer on which to land his chariot. So the mythological collapse begins and the threefold, archaic body gets thinned and stretched until only the concrete remains. With the Nomadic Heart tuned out, and the Moon-Calling Woman ignored, our psychic orbits shrink, and we give ourselves permission for the most unimaginable acts, in the name of Daniel Deardorff ’s horrified “infinite progress.” We are no longer connected to hooves, tides, or night energy.

Any hunter will tell you that much of the action occurs on the periphery of your vision; Bushmen will sit for hours stilling themselves to pick out the stealthy animals moving at the edge of what they can see. Neruda could do this with words, pulling a wriggling, startling metaphor from a bush of thought. In the understandable hysteria around climate change, a similar stilling is required. All these stories of shape-shifting are an indication of a healthy psyche, rupturing the consensual into a new constellation. Therapy can be a wonderful way to magically shrink us into our specific neurosis, dislocating our grandeur and god-juice into little childhood boxes. A useful stage perhaps, but we see Taliesin, Cuchulainn, or at least Seamus Heaney waving distress flares at this point.

Our story points towards huge events: relationship with a deity, a mythological being, but also our having the hard cunning to draw it into manageable chunks to guide the process of living. The animal self and the lunar self find an accord, an arch of imagination that creates the impossible tension called a good life. Psychology cannot contain mythic thought entirely, but provides a good meadow place between village (everyday) and forest (mythological) consciousness. Hafez says: Drink the ruby wine and look upon the moon-browed face. Contrary to the religion of those, see the beauty of these.5
Or to remember Yeats: The power that awakens the mind of the reformer to contend against the tyrannies of the world is first seen as the star of love or beauty.6

Devotions to the Court of Longing
Solitude opens the door of longing—invisible longing, which connects to the Otherworld, which calls down the Lord of the Moon. A conscious spell or wish is contained in this story for a marriage of the three energies.
When we live in a society that is determined to sate longing instantly, a door to the myth-world closes. Some incubation is lost and our messages never arrive at the tundra and the moon because the village instantly supplies the gift.
My father tells this story: As a child and aspiring musician, he walked the several miles from his house on weekends to stand at the window of a music shop, gazing at the drum kits he couldn’t afford. For a long stretch, his imagination had to construct a kit out of the old sofa he would pummel for hours at a time. But some hound of tenacity was born in him, a longing for something just out of reach. Years later, when I wanted to pick up the drums too, he engineered a similar process. From eleven onwards, I had sticks and much encouragement, but no kit of my own. I would walk the two miles from my house up to the creaky, damp old hall where his kit was and practice. After five years of this, I wandered downstairs on my sixteenth birthday and found a very elegant second-hand kit waiting there, ready to be set up. I’m still playing it, twenty years later.
Something of that yearning has sustained a long and edifying relationship for both of us with the drums, and also a shared language. The long walks we both took, the financial scrapes, the adoration of the appearance and sound of the instrument, and the calloused hands are all devotions to the Court of Longing.

I want to leave this chapter with words of Fran Quinn. It’s important to be depressed and alarmed about the things of this world, but tedious to the Gods if we stay there too long. In these lines, sense the three orbiting energies all at once, and take courage.
Now in time-warp speed a whole new testament begins:

dedications, visions, cathedral cities
as death reveals himself to be a joke that lightens our way
to the feast.7

MARTIN SHAW 2011 copyright White Cloud Press.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


So i begin with a last call out for the Westcountry School of Myth's up coming weekend Feb 11th to 13th (170 pounds, residential Fri 7pm to Sun 4pm) - on Grimm's initiatory fairy tales for men and women - 'The Six Swans' and 'Iron John', up in the mossy climbes of Dartmoor at the cosy High Heathercombe residential centre.

We will explore the ancient stories and their multiplicity of association, and also include a brand new session on the business of mythtelling itself- from both practical and esoteric perspectives. The food will be excellent, company beguiling and the fire always hot. Please ring 01364 653723 TODAY (not tomorrow) to book a place by the fireside.

We will explore potential differences between myth, folktale and legend and then promptly ignore those differences and let the images do their work. Time allowing we will also look at three very different perspectives on how myth reveals itself in the early 21st century. So a weekend rich in story, theory, fellowship and the wildly experiential.

I have been back about a week in the UK and shaken off the jetlag. Last bit of the trip was also terrific- great to get a blast of a truly cold, truly snowy winter - thanks Minnesota. 50+ plus men gathered in the wonderfully named Mound and we thrashed through old Nordic tales, Bardic poetry and some simple but profound ritual. Robert read from his soon to be released new book of poetry 'Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey' and raised the whole weekend to a new level of poetical excellence. Thanks to Tim Young and the Minnesota Singing Men for their organizing and general soul-crafting - it was good and punchy.

I dived into a snowdrift to check if it was a metaphor - it wasn't- and received a lovely little ritual cut to the forehead from the Ice. Looked exactly like i had been bottled, which made for interesting discussions at customs. So i am sensing the first little
buds hear and there, and the first occasional scent of a spring breeze. This means we must make the most of what's left of the hibernatory winter. I am surrounded, SURROUNDED by half open books working on my Parzival text- revolving around shame,
medieval courting rituals and the paralysis of the erotic imagination - should be some read i hope.

A few interesting reads from the study: SAVAGE GIRLS AND WILD BOYS: A history of Feral Children by Michael Newton, OUR MAGNIFICENT BASTARD TONGUE: the Untold History of English by John McWhorter, SAVING THE APPEARANCES: A Study of Idolatry by Owen Barfield (One of the Inklings), ORIGINS OF THE SACRED: The Ecstasies of Love and War by Dudley Young, THE LAUGHTER OF FOXES: A Study of Ted Hughes by Keith Sagar.

Hope to drop in some new essay chunks and ideas later this week or soon - in the meantime i must put my Headmasters hat on and say gruffly 'ATTENTION ALL COMING TO ROBIN WILLIAMSON, MARTIN SHAW WEEKEND. DESPITE YOUR MANY E-MAILS OF ENTHUSIASM, ONLY DEPOSITS ENSURE A PLACE - DON'T BE DISAPPOINTED- PLACES REALLY ARE LIMITED' Good-that feels better - i like giving Saturn room to roam.

See you on Friday by the fire......