Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Genius on the Margins (image Howard Gayton)


Just a quick one this week - just back from a splendid and lively first weekend of the year programme. We seemed to catch the last of the sunlight with a mist coming down on sunday. And remember all attendees - the recommended reading between this session and Decembers is: Singing Story, Healing Drum: Shamans and Storytellers of Turkic Siberia (Kira Van Deusen - Mc Gill-Queen's University Press), Teachers of Myth: Interviews on educational and psychological uses of myth with adolescents (Maren Tonder Hansen -spring journal books).

We still have some spaces for the below, so please feast your eyes .....

Friday, December 2 at 7:00pm - December 4 at 4:00pm
Blytheswood Hostel, Steps Bridge, Dunsford, Exeter, Devon EX6 7EQ

The Westcountry School of Myth presents the second weekend in its year long study of myth, initiation and wilderness. This time we jump into the rich and paradoxical area of the sacred trickster - through Raven bringing the light by stealing a luminous box from the Otherworld, to the birth of the storytelling god Hermes, to a Siberian woman who becomes a fox and can never go home, to the epic love story of Tristan and Isolde. Where do these extraordinary stories reside in the folds of our lives today?

The weekends promise a deep jump into the mythic world and the inner, whilst held tight in the mighty, mossy paw of Dartmoor. There are wood burning stoves, hot food, fellowship, laughter and depth, even the chance to tell a story or learn more about the art if so inclined. Why not come and find out what story you are living? Anyone welcome to begin the course at this stage, even if new to the school. E-mail
tina.schoolofmyth@yahoo.com today

I turn 40 next monday - the 24th - So i turn my head towards one of my deepest allies, old Dartmoor itself, to help me cross the threshold. The decade began in a black tent in a hidden valley - very rich indeed - but i feel filled with gratitude to all the friends i've made along the way. Many of these came through the road of the travelling myth-teller, but many also from just sitting still on Dartmoor and meeting all these inspirational characters that roll into the school. A special thanks to Chris, Jonny, Tina, Tim, Dave, Del, Rebeh, William, Scotty, Sue, Sam, and my good friend Lisa over in California, and Maggie and Luke. Please forgive my encroaching years if i have forgotten a name of anyone who has crewed for us, it's quite possible.

In the spirit of the 'I AM' Celtic poetic tradition (that students at the school put into practice) here is my own kind of variant of that as i approach a winter of following this myth-line of 2,000 yrs of story across Dartmoor (see last entry). For all students finding a piece of land to study for the duration of the programme (or longer) you may want to think of some kind of ritual greeting to it.

View from the Study

I am in the hut. Where language is a lovesick horse galloping inky mad across the bone- white page.

I am sometimes a bird - too often the skalded crow with blood-mouth, or the partridge, fat for deaths pot. My hobbled pedigree ruptures the brittle roof of reeds and eats stars, galloping down their ice language, their hope systems for the stranded hunter. As I gobble the sky I hurl light into soil.

The geese that flew for Parzival I love. The hawk that claimed three drops of their blood I love. The snow it fell to I love.

The hut is a kind of singing. It’s a loose gnotted story, my ramble-bag of low words, sweet feathery intensities. The floor is rutted Devon soil, ochre red, erotic dirt, good to stand upon in bare feet. The walls are big trees – Grimm’s trees, Russian, enormous Irish voyaging stories. The bark shines wet and dark, the roots are rough and deep. Where they hit soil all the flowers of Persia breathe. My fragile roof, patched so many times with my uprisings, threaded with an old woman’s hair, carries tribal rains that drip berry large onto the peaty fire. Water and flame.

The dust on Mirabai’s feet I love. The heavy horse alone in the orchard I love. The woman that lives at the edge of the world I love.

My grasses hum with beehive. I break chunks of honeycomb and offer them up to great Dartmoor. The hut shudders with foamy energy, reaching northwards to coax the rivers – the Tavy, the Plym, the Erme, the Avon, the Dart, and the Teign. I have shells from the green sea threaded in my belt, generous beer in a bronze cup for the spit-wind. I come in the old way. I leave a hollowed out hoof filled with apple-blossom on the turf, I haunch the dream path of the adder up to Hay Tor, Lucky Tor, Hound Tor, Benji Tor, Yal Tor.

The dry-stone wall I love. The moon over corn I love. Branwen of the white breast I love.

At forty years old I bend my head. I come in my fathers boots, and Alec’s, and Leonard’s, and Bryan’s. I carry dark bundles of my mothers hair, and Christine’s, and Monica’s, and Jennies. The blood holds Shaw, Gibson, Causer, Thackery. I come to walk the boundaries. I come to find a myth-line. The territory is the moor – once a desert, a tropical island, a red wood forest. So, shape-mover, what stories do you want to tell? What veins of charge ripple your flank? Where do I place my shoulder, ear and eye? My middle finger taps the tortoise shell that leads us home, I lace granite with whisky and milk. Within the stag’s bone there is a hawkish wine, in the glisten-steps of the morning hare lies the old singing.

Let the tusks of Dermot’s Boar get soaked in the wine of your education,
Let your milk heavy udders splash hot into our story-parched mouth,
Let the wild swan at dawn rise to meet Christ’s dark fire

I ask protection from the good power.

Let all stories hold, heal and nourish my small family. Let they be salmon and hazels for our mouths. Nothing but goodness – no envy, no meaness, no smallness.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Just 3 days to the beginning of the year programme up at Heathercombe, residential centre on Dartmoor! Surely even as we speak you are packing sheep-skins to sit upon, Persian goblets from which to drink wine, parchment from which to draw images emerging from the story. Friday evening at 8pm (get there 7 for supper) the ship sets out onto the myth seas. Hope to see you at the harbour gates, just as night settles....we have never been told at the school before stories of queens with three drops of poison in their breast, hunters telling stories for the pelt of a black fox, faithful guides turned to stone, witches who keep a whip hidden underneath their pillow, one door that a father keeps locked to his son.....get in touch with Tina today!!!!at-


in a perfectly unashamed attempt to give you a taste of the school, i am dropping in an excerpt this week of a segment from a new book i am working on. I want to keep the main ideas under wraps for now - but i can say that it is a kind of myth-line of stories set across Dartmoor's great flank over about 2,000 years. A kind of local 'song-line' for those familiar with the aboriginal world. It's from the earliest story in the book - that of Brutus of Troy (Britain is named after him). Brutus has set sail for adventure, but with a troubled heart. ...come find us this weekend for more of the story!

Brutus and the Woman with the Moon in her Hair
Many seas came to meet him – the salt wall of the storm, the flat blue when no breeze creeps the sail, the jaunty push of the curling wave. All was an education in water. Silence he knew about. The ship was magnificent, two sheafs of oars on either side that almost skimmed the waves. A hundred men, fifty on each side, rowed hard. Their boy leader always gazed ahead – crow like in his focus, but golden in aura. Inside is a storm however, inside is a storm.

After a time they found themselves led by a swift wind to a deserted island. The men contented themselves by feasting and resting on the pearl white beaches, whilst Brutus wandered in past the tree line.

He came to the ruins of an old temple. It could have been a temple for Artemis, or Diana, or some great mistress of the Hunt who’s name is kept safe by badgers. Having been steeped in ritual etiquette, Brutus wasted no time. At the ivy clad entrance he lit three fires, then caught and sacrificed a white hart. He mingled its blood with wine and poured his offering onto the broken altar. The emerald glade protected Brutus from the harsh sun as he muttered his heart felt prayers for guidance. Afterwards he skinned the deer, lay on its white skin and fell into a visionary rest.

Soon a sweet breeze came through the boughs of the green wood. A young woman stood before him, small birds of dazzling colour hummed around her shoulders, the new moon was in her hair and she carried a sceptre with the morning star shining at its very point. On her back was an ornate bow and quiver of ebony coloured arrows, each with a differing star constellation carved delicately onto its stem.

When she spoke her breath was like honeysuckle and her tone strong but calm. She told him of an Island, far to the west, over nine waves. She spoke of it as a place where he would reign and establish a culture.

It was a place of bee and boar, great endlessly stretching oak forest, its western tip heavy with apples, its northern point sprinkled white with hoare-frost. It was always ancient, always a dream of a lonely god, always a ground for lovers to get lost in. Its land was not threadbare with human hand, the burgundy soil remained un-toiled, trees bent forward to share their fruit.

The river water alone was fit for the goblet of a queen, the sows udders was rich with milk, gold glittered in shingle, the stream was fat with pike. She spoke of a place where you could hunt for a thousand years with hawk, horse and hound and not dint the wild harvest. The stag would cross the lonely loch for a hunter who sang at dusk. In spring the meadows were ablaze with wild flower, like cups of honey. In winter the forest gave its seasoned timber to fires that never went out. In that snowy time the cup warmed with mead, belly filled with smoked meats and the tongue uncurled all the stories that bound weather, tribe and place together.

For the roe-deer there was the succulent tip of hazel shoots to nibble on, for fallow deer the ash, elm and hawthorn. Even the rook sang love songs to the worm – their gutterbrawl caw was somehow sweeter on this island. It becomes an incant, a hedgerow ballad, a raised lament. The animals powers were hot here, around, charged.

The young woman had sisters and brothers there. Divinities. Arianrhod – owl faced, ebony skinned, hair like a corn flood. Spider webs pour from her hands as she decides fates webs in our lives, ivy flanks her thighs and rump. She can forgive, and she can be Holy Terror. Cernunnos, moon-lover, horned radiance, dweller of the grove, strong-loined seed giver.
Utterly beloved by the people.

In a land like that, men eyes were firm and untroubled, in a land like that a woman’s mind arched out a hundred miles and knew she a hawk, or a defender of the waterfall. And the name? The name was Albion.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2011