Why enchantment matters

It seems suddenly to have become fashionable — or was it always fashionable? — to turn one’s nose up at the mention of words like ‘enchantment’ or ‘re-enchantment’. It seems that men in particular don’t like these words, as though they’re just not gritty enough. As though enchantment is somehow about distancing you from the earth rather than connecting you to it. I find that idea perplexing. Once upon a time I used the title ‘Re-enchanting the Earth’ as an overall banner for my work, and although I don’t use that title any more, my work is still very much about re-enchanting. How could it not be? We are narrative creatures, whether you like it or not. Our brains are constructed that way. Stories enchant us, and it is vital that we allow them to, because we are a species that has become disenchanted with this earth, and that has led us to the environmental and social catastrophes we’re now facing. Catastrophes which have their origins in our own beliefs and behaviours. Catastrophes which have been caused by our determined disenchantment, a state of mind which has been centuries in the making. Enchantment, the technocrats and rationalists who run this soul-less, patriarchal Western civilisation of ours have sneered, is for children — and maybe for women, who can’t be expected to know any better.

Yes, enchantment is absolutely for women. Let’s own our enchantment, and be proud of it. Let’s take back the right to be enchanted, and the right to enchant. Let’s take back the right to cast our spells again. Because stories can enchant us all the way back to the earth. Stories can help us to fall in love with the land all over again.

It’s also wise to know what a word means before you either use it or eschew it, and the best way to begin is to look at where the word actually comes from:

Enchantment: late 13c., from Old French encantement, from enchanter “bewitch, charm,” from Latin incantare, literally “enchant, cast a (magic) spell upon,” from in– “upon, into” (see in- (2)) + cantare “to sing” (see chant (v.)). Figurative sense of “alluring” is from 1670s. Cf. Old English galdor “song,” also “spell, enchantment,” from galan “to sing,” source of the second element in nightingale. (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 210 Douglas Harper)

To enchant, then, is literally to sing into. To enchant with story is to sing your story deep into the hearts of your listeners. If you choose your stories well, they will act on those hearts, and transform those listeners. Stories have power: the power of enchantment. Cast your spells wisely; cast your spells well.

It’s necessary for all of us to make a journey back to enchantment. Enchantment is a facility that we are born with, but lose as we grow older. The monsters have ceased to be real. They don’t live in the attic or the closet; they only exist as phantoms in the confinement of our own heads. Animals don’t speak to us any more, and the toys don’t have parties while we’re asleep. Our places are no longer alive and breathing, and the rivers have no more songs to sing. The drumming of a snipe’s wings is no longer the beating heart of the land. We forget that we live on an animate earth, and so find ourselves lonely and alienated. We no longer know how to belong. We find meaning only in ourselves and the gadgets we’ve created to amuse us, and tell ourselves and our children that this is a necessary part of becoming ‘grown-up’. So it is that we find ourselves inhabiting a Wasteland, and the journey out of this Wasteland is a journey towards re-enchantment.

That’s the Heroine’s Journey, for sure, and the Eco-Heroine’s Journey I’ve written about in If Women Rose Rooted: a journey back to enchantment. A journey back to belonging to our places. A regaining of what we once knew, and lost: that this earth is alive, and we are a part of it. That we are in relationship with it, and that the conversations go both ways. Because we are part of the land’s great Dreaming; we are part of the earth’s great Story of itself. This earth enchants us with its stories, sings its stories into us. Enchantment is about learning to listen to the land; enchantment is about learning to hear. Enchantment is about becoming: about living these stories of the land which it sings into us. Once we remember that, once we reclaim our enchantment, everything changes. Because enchantment is as gritty as it gets. Enchantment grounds us, roots us right back in the dark, fecund earth where we belong — where we have always belonged, only we learned a long time ago to forget it.

These stories which the land sings into us, enchants us with, can tell us what we once were, and what we could be again. They can show us how to take back what we lost — or, in the case of women, what was taken from us. To pull a quote from If Women Rose Rooted:

‘If women remember that once upon a time we sang with the tongues of seals and flew with the wings of swans, that we forged our own paths through the dark forest while creating a community of its many inhabitants, then we will rise up rooted, like trees. And if we rise up rooted, like trees … well then, women might indeed save not only ourselves, but the world.’

That’s why enchantment matters. And that’s why I never want to be anything less than enchanted.

 

Andrea Kowch The Merry Wanderers www.andreakowch.com
Andrea Kowch The Merry Wanderers http://www.andreakowch.com

 

26 thoughts on “Why enchantment matters

  1. Your words are an enchantment….and a calling for us to know that enchantment awakens us to the wonder of the world and the magic in our minds and souls.
    Thank you for your gift of the heart.
    Blessed be!

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  2. Ah! You quoted the piece that brought tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart.” If women remember that once upon a time we sang with the tongues of seals and flew with the wings of swans ……” Enchanted beyond words my Lovely
    When I read those words at the beginning of your book I had to close it and sit with the emotions that welled up from deep within.
    Beauty.
    from my Hearth and Home , Blessings X

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. And you expressed it so beautifully too. I believe in the old stories, not just as stories but as real energy – I just also sadly believe they have been buried beneath cities and washed out to a dirtied sea. I want to be part of the effort to call them back, but its hard when the voice for enchantment is a whisper within the chorus of material greed.

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    1. It’s hard for sure, but who will do it if we don’t? If it were a drowning child you’d jump in the water. I think it’s time for women to jump in the water. I guess in Ireland, the stories have not been buried in that way, and so I live with them as real, breathing entities in a way that most people don’t. If they were to pass, I’d mourn them like I’d mourn a child. And so I want to jump in the water …

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  4. So many calls like this, to reclaim womens’ energy, women’s magic, & the good it would do the world, & I agree, but am conflicted, on a personal level. I feel that this is important & it’s already part of the work & the art that I do, but I’m genderqueer, not a woman at all though I look like one & that’s what people assume I am.

    I…do I have a place in this? I feel odd reclaiming something that was never mine, but though there have of course been people like me all through history, our stories & traditions have been entirely lost in western culture, & I don’t know where to start building new ones.

    I’m not here looking for answers from anyone (though heck I’ll happily take ideas?), just…this is what bubbled up when I read your lovely, enchanting writing here. I think I’ll be taking this off to my own journal, to noodle with it there.

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    1. That’s a difficult one, isn’t it, and I have no experience to offer, just a belief that your stories will, as you say, ultimately be different. But isn’t that a wonderful and fascinating piece of work, to look for and reclaim those lost stories you speak of, and to merge them with the stories that are happening for you now? Because it seems to me that this must be the way to go. And the part of me that is easily enchanted is excited for you, by that possibility. Hard as it sounds. A whole new story-world to give birth to! I hope you will.

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      1. Me and a whole lot of other people! I’m almost excited by it now too? Although I sort of also have no idea what I’m doing! I think I’ll keep watching y’all for a while & see what I can learn about the process. Also lots of reading, but that happens anyways…

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        1. I, too, hope you will, Vagabondtabby. The world needs people like you, who go between polarities and who can help bridge the chasm between women and men.

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          1. Kieron, thank you for your words! The chasm, though, isn’t as wide as most people think, & there’s all _kinda_ stuff in there already.

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  5. I don’t yet have my book, but am waiting with an abundance of patience. Great works of art are not kept on a timetable, but emerge when the writer is ready and the reader is as well. Your article has brought tears to my eyes with it’s tenderness and honesty. I am so weary of being a ‘grown up’ with a great case of amnesia that is slowly fading and being replaced by heart and longing and myth. You as always, touch the magic. Blessings!

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    1. Thanks, Ella. I like this shift that is happening, when the veil lifts aside and we see and remember. There seems to be a lot of it about 🙂 Hope you enjoy the book when it arrives.

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  6. I arrived here from twitter, jaded and frazzled by the world. My soul slumbering, my heart aching and my mind hardened and sullen from the sting of wickedness humanity has endured this day. I read your blog, thoughtlessly, expecting little and was gifted heaven.

    The world soul sings in your words. Enchantment. Lovely word. Pregnant with divine truth and birthed, as it entered my thoughts, into spectacular spiritual resonance. My soul startled awake as if I had spied a glorious rainbow and laughed with joy. My heart soared as it does with inspiring music and cried with delight. My mind swore and bought your book. (On kindle, to keep up the illusion of being in control, as I have delusions of being a tech head)

    I am blessed to read your words. Thank you.

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    1. Oh, and it inspired me to buy your book, which I now have on Kindle and will be dipping into it over the weekend, I can’t wait!

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  7. My first (and only) book is called Enchanting the Shadowlands. I’m wholly with you on the centrality of enchantment and still consider myself me to be walking a quest through wastelands learning to sing the old songs. I’ve recently ordered If Women Rose Rooted and am looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Lorna, I’m familiar with your blog on the Brythonic traditions, always fascinating. I hope you find the book resonates, though there’s probably a bias to the Gaelic mythology as that’s what I know best.

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  8. Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    I just ordered my copy of “If Women Rose Rooted” and have been eagerly awaiting the chance to read this! I’m so fortunate to know so many enchanted men, as well. Here’s to re-enchanted lives and a re-enchanted world! Thank you, Sharon, for this gift to all beings. ❤

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  9. I have always wanted to jump into books that are full of enchantment – faerie stories, fantasy, unicorns, woodland folk, myths and magic….. Yes, the world needs to be re-enchanted and women are the ones to do this. Come on – let us do it!

    ‘Come away, O human child!
    To the waters and the wild
    With a faery, hand in hand,
    For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.’
    W.B.Yeats.

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