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.
Those of you who have read If Women Rose Rooted will know that the journey offered within the book begins with a remarkable old story from the Arthurian/Grail tradition which describes the coming of the Wasteland. If you haven’t read the book, the story, in my retelling, goes roughly (without the help of a particularly heron-like old woman – or is it a particularly old-woman-like heron?) like this:
It was Jungian analyst D. Stephenson Bond, in his 1993 book Living Myth, who first used the phrase ‘falling out of myth’ to describe what happens to us when we cannot live by the dominant myth of our culture – in other words, when the ways of life that previous generations pursued, when the values they espoused and beliefs they held, become intolerable to us. In every generation there are people who fall out of the dominant cultural myth, but today it seems that there are more than ever before. And that’s because our cultural myth is dying. Read More