Breaking the Spell
Welcome to our Blog. The object here is to log and share some of our thoughts on men and their concerns during the run-up to our gathering at the EarthSpirit Centre in the summer of 2017. We're both engaged in writing on the subject at present, so there will probably be some extracts, some new material and the odd wild assertion. Ultimately, of course, we hope you will join us in the Arthurian landscape where so much of our mythology was given substance. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to be mulling over. See you in Somerset!
Men, Myth & Memories in the Ancient Landscape.
It will be 25 years this summer since I co-led my first men's residential at the EarthSpirit Centre in Somerset. This was a formative experience for me – a rite of passage – that helped me develop my skills as a poet and facilitator. It’s relative success, and a conversation after the event with my co-leader also decided me on the path I would take for the next quarter of a century.
Working on mythic material in the myth’s actual landscape can turn ‘just another week-end workshop’ into a life-changing experience and an inexhaustible resource. I have a searing memory from those early days at EarthSpirit of a man 'burying' his un-grieved older brother whom he once thought had abandoned him. The image of his hands, clawing at the peaty soil in his grief, will stay with me for the rest of my life – as will the compassion and tenderness of the men who supported and grieved with him as he worked through his anger, shame and loss.
EarthSpirit sits between ancient hills, near Glastonbury and the fabled Isle of Avalon. Remembering its drowsy village tranquillity, my mind fills with images of men settling into nature, and astonished by the presence of 'the Other' - be that an awe inspiring sunset, the numinous night sky, circling buzzards, or a family of weasels bouncing across a local path. To be working there again, in the company of men, feels like both a privilege and a re-affirmation.
The decision about my path in life came in talking with my co-leader, Dr. Paul Smith Pickard, after the event. On the way home, I realised that my life, with all its false starts and dead ends, had been pointing me towards the kind of mytho-poetic healing we had been doing that weekend. I remember Paul encouraging me in this. His quiet blessing and support was crucial in helping me to commit to my future path as a poet, teacher and ritualist.
Today Paul has pancreatic cancer and is rapidly “running out of road”. When we spoke today I was able to express my gratitude for his kindness all those years ago. We wept a little and said goodbye – as men do when there’s a grace between them. I shall miss Paul - just knowing he's at the end of a phone - but he’ll be with us at Earth Spirit, standing with the other fine men who have guided, supported and blessed us in the ever-developing lineage of men’s work.