It’s a funny creature, the word ‘hedge’: like all the best words, it’s something of a shapeshifter. In one sense we use it to convey a boundary, something which closes us in. Think of the modern suburban hedge: regimented rows of neatly clipped, soulless leylandii; privet which has been so harshly treated that it forgets how to bloom. But in another sense, we use the word ‘hedge’ to indicate something quite different: the wild margins which surround the cultivated fields. Think now of the gnarly old hedgerows of Britain and Ireland: thick, richly flowering, berried hawthorn and elder, blackthorn and hazel. An abundance of food and shelter for wild things. Secret places, where treasure might be found, where birds might speak to you, and foxes sing to the stars. An ancient hedge is a place where anything might happen. A liminal place, where the wisdom of the wild margins is available to all. Hedge wisdom. Read More
There’s a lot of talk about resistance right now. All kinds of people telling us what we must do, what we must not do, how to act, how we’re bad if we don’t act, how to make a radical act, how to be an activist, how to be the right kind of activist (their kind of activist), how to resist, resist, resist … Read More
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
A few years ago now, The Place of Belonging was the title of a book I was going to write. I never did; instead, I wrote If Women Rose Rooted, and some of what I’d intended to say about place and belonging went into that book, and some will go into The Enchanted Life, the book I’m working on now. Sometimes I think I’ll always be writing about it, because although the psychology of place and the myths and stories of place have been at the heart of my work for so long now, it seems that there is always something more to learn.
Have you noticed how the initiatory event in myths and fairytales about women is so often an act of dismemberment? Let’s look at a few. Sedna, whose father throws her in the sea because she does not match up to his requirements of her, and then chops off her fingers when she clings to the side of his boat. The Handless Maiden, who loses her hands because of a bargain her father made with the devil. Or in other versions of the tale, she cuts off her own hands in order to avoid the sexual advances of her father and brothers. Read More
Grief and anger as a stimulus for transformation
It seems that everyone knows about the wild men in Celtic mythology. The enigmatic Brittonic figure of Lailoken, who almost certainly, somewhere along the line, became conflated with Merlin, leading to the legend of Myrddin Wyllt, the wild man of the woods. Suibhne Geilt, Mad Sweeney from the old Irish tale Buile Shuibhne (‘The Frenzy of Sweeney’): the subject of a fine body of poetry which extends from Yeats to Heaney. It’s a story we seem to have seen before: everybody knows about the men, but somehow, nobody focuses on the women.