The storytelling animal: an extract from ‘The Enchanted Life’

It’s just two weeks now until The Enchanted Life is officially published. In some ways, it seems like an age has passed since I handed the final manuscript over to my editor at the beginning of October; in other ways it seems all too recent, as I find myself some days still in the throes of what my husband calls ‘post-book traumatic stress disorder’.

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Re-enchanting the Winter Solstice: an invitation

(Image by Catherine Hyde.)

In my last post, I wrote about building a new folk culture based on our native traditions. This seems especially urgent to me now, surrounded as we all are at this time of year by the consumption-driven madness that calls itself Christmas. Even here in the wilds of Connemara, it isn’t possible to escape it. Turn on the radio or the TV, and we’re deluged by ads urging us to buy, buy, buy. Burn the planet, so that for one lunatic day of the year we can wear red hats and snowflake-embroidered sweaters and drink and eat more than is moral, frankly, and imagine everything is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with us – we’re all quite sane, honestly, and we’re sure the planet will be just fine. But we don’t need to ask for whom the jingle bells toll: they’re tolling for us – have been for decades – and still we can’t seem to help ourselves. Buy, buy, buy.

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The Hedge Revival: wisdom from the margins

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

Myth and story as an act of placemaking: the transcript

For those of you who requested a transcript of yesterday’s audio file, here it is.

It’s not quite dawn in this green, fertile valley; there’s just the faintest glimmer of pink in the sky to the east. The moon is waxing, its light silvering the river which winds through the land, soft like the curves of a woman’s body as she stretches out to dip her toes in the sea. At the crossroads, three hares are sitting quite still in the middle of the road; they scatter when they become aware of me, tails flashing white in the moonlight then fading into the dark. Read More

The re-enchantment of psychology: or, why we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us

My psychology studies didn’t begin well. In the first lecture I ever attended, a sardonic disbeliever-in-everything thoroughly and mockingly debunked the idea of hypnosis, demonstrating how to fake the Human Plank Feat to a lecture theatre full of mesmerized (sorry) students who were already beginning to wonder what on earth they’d let themselves in for. Read More

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? Read More