Wild Wisdom School One - Day 2


Written by Clare. 

"Under the Apple Tree"

How to describe this gentle work, which seems so simple, yet yields so richly? 

A journey; one foot in front of the other. Like setting out on a pilgrimage; there is excitement and anxiety, disappointment and delight, frustration and ecstasy, all curiously woven into a slightly tight coat. I have learnt, now , that I have only to sleep in this new coat a few nights and the discomfort goes away, it stretches like a new pair of shoes, until it is perfectly moulded to my body. And so I keep coming back to this seemingly, oh, so gentle work because it changes me in ways I can’t quite understand. 

It appears so very ordinary on the surface; we arrive, a group of people, a mixture of ages and backgrounds. We share a little news.

After a break  we begin the journey into the calendar of the year. This setting out on a journey; one foot in front of another. The familiar turns around the wheel of the year. We took paper and pencils and started to draw and to write as Sam talked us through, from Mid-Winter to Mid-Summer and back again. We learnt of Pagan festivals and Christian ones, of where they meet and complement each other. Personally, I delighted in the feasts of Mary, Mary the Virgin; her birth and death, Mary Magdalen around the same time as the Pagan Lughnasadh or harvest. I was warmed to make a connection with the flames of Pentecost in May and the Beltane fires that I am more familiar with.  I could feel those eager Disciples of Christ in the upper room, sitting together as the flame of the Holy Spirit poured over and into them. To me it felt ecstatic, exquisite, filled with the sensuality and joy that I have often disassociated from Christianity and attributed to Earth based traditions. Working with the calendar in this joint way helped me to feel into the possibility that early Christianity was originally also an Earth base tradition. That early Christianity followed the wheel of the seasons and the earth, in the same way as the Pagan traditions. It’s just that now it takes some investigation to link the traditions back to the earth; but the parallels do seem to be there.

In the afternoon (after a delicious bring and share lunch) there was an opportunity to do some movement outside beneath the apple tree, make lanterns from glass and leaves and paint, or simply reflect with a walk or reading. This time is in silence and the Pagan rebel in me struggles to be with so many interesting people and not be allowed to talk with them. Or is it ‘the rules’ that I battle with? The silence has an impact on me and I imagine that each of us experiences it in our own way. Afterwards Sam led us in a guided meditation as a prelude to sharing.

The highlight of the day, for me, was the ceremony that we co- created in the afternoon; each one of us invited to make a suggestion – a song, a dance, a poem….as we lit candles to our Beloved Dead, our ancestors , the room was filled with lightly dancing emotion. It seemed to me that our ancestors were warmed by the candles, that they drew in close and listened to our breath, that they sat in near to us like excited children, thrilled to be invited to this party. The candles shimmered. There was an excitement, a tremulous joy in me to be sharing this emotion, this ritual with other human beings. It was allowed and it was true, soft, intimate and beautiful.

Then the room emptied and Sam, Beth, Jan and I were left in the loving embrace of the warm energies generated through the day. With a deep sigh, we sat down with libations of gin and tonic - the gin being a particularly special brew created from foraged botanicals on the Isle of Islay, a hunter-gatherer spirit you could say!

As I left on Sunday evening with my usual feeling of excitement, irritation, frustration and delight all woven into a slightly tight cloak; I took note of my negative feelings and wondered at this strange business of being human. I am familiar with the term ‘healing response’ where some struggle preludes a healing shift in energy. Rationally I know this is a good thing yet the immature rebel in me (is this the ego?) makes a fuss about the tightness of the coat. Moving, moving, on this journey, on this pilgrimage to the heart.

A good night sleep and the new coat is already becoming more comfortable.  A new coat for the winter, it needs to be warm and it needs to be strong. The memory of those shimmering candles and the true, soft, intimate beauty will help.

Wild Wisdom School One - Day 1


Written by Beth.

"Held by the Great Mother"

A new year, a new group, a new beginning...

Our beginning in time is right at the beginning of the Universe; before heaven and earth, before light and dark, before day and night, and a long long time before man and woman.

Our beginning in this moment is in silence, and in a union of sung voices, singing together a chant from the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation (each line sung three times);
Into Her Presence, will I enter now.
Into His Presence, will I enter now.
Into The Present, will I enter now.
Into Our Presence, will I enter now.

We gather as a group of seeking and inquisitive individuals, gathering together in a circle of shared wisdom, gathering to form community and companionship on a journey into the deep roots of our spiritual heritage. 

What is our spiritual heritage? In today’s culture I feel it is split. For those who are drawn to our native traditions, it seems to me that the choice is predominantly either Christian or Pagan, the names of which sound apposing of each other. I’d like to let go of these names which have been ascribed in hindsight, and enter instead into the life of the Spirit beyond category, honouring its multiplicity of expression. What riches can be found by stepping into the fluid waters of our spiritual story, swimming in the flow of the river underneath our own feet, resurfacing the stories of our ancestors, and following our own personal relationship to the divine in the world around us? And importantly, can we rediscover the sacred relationship between masculine and feminine; reuniting Priest with Priestess, God with Goddess, History with Herstory…

This is the journey of Wild Wisdom School; it is a journey of integration, of healing wounds and of making whole. 

On this beginning day, we explode with the big bang and journey through the story of the Universe (using Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmic Calendar’ http://palaeos.com/time/cosmic_calendar.html ), landing in the initial pages of the human story, where man and woman roam these lands as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Guided by a story created and told by Sam, we enter the imaginal world and become a salmon swimming up the River Dart, from the sea at Dartmouth to the source pool, where life begins and ends. Salmon becomes human, and as Grandmother (whose tribe’s winter camp site is located on the land surrounding the River Dart), we feel the darkness of the cave calling us unto our human death, calling us back into the womb of our Mother Earth. I was deeply moved by the mutuality of Grandmother and Grandmother Salmon; the shared but different relationship to home and to life and death, and the continuing cycles of life. This is a story based in the Mesolithic/Middle Stone Age period somewhere between 13,000 and 6,000 BCE, sculpted by Sam through imaginative and meditative methods while drawing upon local archaeological findings including cave art, settlements and burial sites. By meeting local prehistory/herstory through the imagination, I feel a more direct relationship to our past in a way that only the imagination is capable of. What’s more, the cultures we are looking at were oral cultures, so the very act of sitting together with a storyteller provides a tangible relationship to our ancient ancestors as a continuation of this tradition.

With our hearts and imaginations enlivened, we entered more deeply into the archaeology of the local land and the scientific understanding of the Universe story. Fact entered into dialogue with imagination, and a lively discussion ensued, flowing into a discussion filled lunch. In our ‘digestion period’ after lunch, all that had been conjured up in our hearts and minds guided us on individual wanderings and wonderings, following our hunter-gatherer senses to wherever we were drawn. Some were led to create (a video journey into deep time called ‘Peels Through Time’); some to gather (a garden salad of 20 different species foraged from just outside the window); some to wandering around the local area, some to wandering through books and some to wondering in the imagination.

We ended with a co-creative and collaborative ceremony, integrating the whole day into a stunning array of offerings, poetry and choral music, and ending as we begun in a union of voices around our centrally created altar. “Blessed be our voices”, as one of us beautifully said, and blessed be our first steps together in fellowship, into the deep soil that holds and feeds the roots of souls.