from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday 31 July 2014

walking the wild ways - ecopsychology course

OK. Here it is, at last (not the promised hare blog, but the ground out of which that, and all my other work, and blogs, grow). I've exhausted all possibilities for dallying on the touchline, turning my back, la-la-la-fingers-in-ears, diverting myself with a thousand excuses, etc. This is The Work. My work. Our work. 

Walking the Wild Ways
Ecosoul – the ecological imagination
Encounters with other, encounters with self

The Web

Once, twice, in a year or a lifetime
you step without knowing through a doorway
of light. It might happen like this:

back leaning against a great oak
or pressed to warm grass; or maybe eye-to-eye
with a young deer met in surprise

by the brook before flight takes over;
or the touch of a damselfly alighting on your hand.
This is not a trip to the country

from which you can return as a tourist
and carry on as you were. This is home.

Roselle Angwin

Encounters with Other, Encounters with Self
So – here it is: the long-promised first ‘ecosoul’ course for THE WILD WAYS. It’s still taking final shape in my imagination, but this seems to be what’s forming.

1 open session; 7 sessions in a closed group
Session 1: open group (you don’t have to be committed to the ongoing course to attend this)
Tongues in Trees, Saturday November 8th:
the ecological imagination & the Celtic sacred tree teachings

Thereafter, in 2015, this is a closed group. Initial outline (subject to possible change):

1 Tongues in Trees: the Celtic sacred tree circle
2 Animal Teachers
3 Auguries of Birds
4 Plant Spirit Medicine
5 The four elements, the four directions, the four functions, and ‘as above so below’
6 The Marriage of Heaven & Earth – teachings of intimate relationship
7 The land, the Circle of the Year, the web of life
8 The Gift (the ‘treasure beyond all price’)

*    What does it means to live with soul, with care for the wild, in our current materialistic society?
*    How might we live in harmony with the whole of the rest of the Web of Life?
*    How are soul and place connected?
*    How can we combine a positive and healthy rootedness in the world with our spiritual longings that are no longer served by the old models?
*    How can we live life fully and creatively, hold it lightly, and give our unique gifts?

This hands-on ecopsychology work has the objective of soul-restoration, integration and wholeness: healing our torn relationships with ‘Other’, the rest of the natural world, and ourselves. I want to explore ways of bridging the dualistic gap in our Western world between heart and mind, matter and spirit.

It’s also about becoming more authentic.

The programme is intended as a participatory and dynamic exploration of how we might re-vision and enhance our collaborative relationship with the rest of the natural world in this web of life. Our healing is deeply intertwined, I believe, with healing our relationship with the more-than-human. My concern is how we might participate fully in the web of all life, and also honour the different aspects of being human: body, heart, mind and soul/spirit.

We'll work with bringing together direct felt experience, observation, creativity and what I call the 'ecological imagination'. The aim is an enlargement of our perception of the flow of consciousness between us humans and the more-than-human, and the nature of our relationship to both inner and outer worlds.

The work will involve some theory and guidance, but will also be very much experiential and collaborative. I expect to include writing, poetry and story, exercises and tasks, esoteric teachings, visualisation, outdoor hands-on experience, conversation, discussion, solo and pairs work, fire, water and ceremony, gentle walking, silence, and brief meditations/mindfulness.

I hope to run eight sessions, seven of them within a small closed group. (This will be followed with the creation of an online course, and will probably be repeated annually.) Mostly we shall be working as much as possible outdoors, and within the cycle of the seasons and the elements.

The first day workshop, ‘Tongues in Trees’, is open to anyone interested in exploring our relationship with soul and the land, primarily through the tree realm, the lens of psychology, the native Celtic Spiritual Tradition and, of course, creative expression. This takes place on Saturday 8th November, close to the Celtic New Year, Samhain, on some beautiful land offered by a friend in Cornwall, not far from a mainline station (from Paddington and I think from northern stations too). You can see more here.

At this time in world history, we really need individuals and groups who are making as strong an effort as possible to be ‘conscious’, and to offer their unique gifts to help strengthen our collective bonds with the rest of the natural world. We desperately need to revision our relationship to the rest of the world, and other species and the planet in particular.

I’d love to work with a few heartful people who resonate with these ideas and know they have something to offer in this way. If something in you, no matter how cautiously, is stirring a YES! please be in touch…
The day course has no pre-requirements. Before you consider committing to the longer course, however, you will need to attend the first day workshop.

After that, I’d to ask you to think deeply about whether you are ready for this process, and I’ll need a letter of application to demonstrate this. You’ll need to be fully committed not only to attendance and the group and course as a whole, but to your own process, and at times you’ll need to share this (of course, everything will be confidential). Perhaps occasionally this journey of discovering, uncovering and recovering our relationship to Wild and our wild and truthful selves may trigger vulnerability, and at times difficult issues may arise for you. You will be expected to write up your experiences, and keep a journal in between.

I’ll be posting details such as dates and fees later; but since this will be a small group (maximum 8, plus me), it would be good if you let me know your provisional interest soon, through the contact form on the website or mail to roselle[at]fire-in-the-head[dot]co[dot]uk

If you can’t make this course, but might manage a week’s retreat, the course I’m leading in the Cévennes next September (see the Wild Ways website, as above, weeklong courses) will be a week’s intensive residential with this work.

(There may be a Part 11 to this course, incorporating more directly ‘inner’ work with symbolic systems such as astrology, tarot, the hero’s journey, grail myths, poetry and our own mythology.) 

What I bring
For a long time I’ve been nudged towards making the holistic psychospiritual and ecological dimensions that underpin all my work more overt. It’s taken me decades to overcome a natural hesitation and shyness in relation to what has been an enormous, longstanding, profound but largely private dimension to my life.

There comes a time when you have to ‘give back’, and stand in the full light of who you are.

So. I come from the far West of Cornwall, the far West of Britain, from a deeply Celtic family whose roots, as far as we can track, might well go back to prehistory in that land. However, I’ve spent most of my life in rural Devon.

In my family of origin, relationships with plants, animals and birds were deeply woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, and I have a deep affinity with these other beings. Such things as dowsing, megalithic mysteries, intuition, imagination, telepathy and psychic experience were rather taken for granted. Poetry, music, painting and stories were all abundant in our childhood. We also spent a great deal of time as children, out on the land, at the sea’s edge, in the woods – with a pony, or a surfboard, or a kayak, or walking and cycling, in all weathers.

As a teenager, I became fascinated with Celtic mythology (which I later studied in its original languages at university) and the Grail legends (ditto), poetry, megalithic culture, holy wells and the teachings of the land. Since then, I’ve immersed myself deeply in what is known as the British Mystery Tradition, which I’ve studied and practised deeply for 40 years now.

I’ve also studied herbal medicine, and have used this in all that time for my daughter, myself, and various animals. Foraging and vegetable-gardening, as well as animal husbandry, have been a big part of my life, as have several self-sufficiency/bushcraft skills, and the making of herbal remedies, natural cosmetics and ceremonial incenses.

Into this mix has been stirred my 40-year-long immersion in the Zen tradition and its emphasis on awareness; I find its teachings on impermanence and its traditional focus on the natural world enhance my spiritual path.

I also trained as a counsellor in Transpersonal Psychology, and this and my ongoing study of Jungian and archetypal therapies underpin all my work. I’ve been facilitating groups since 1991; full-time since 1994. (You can see testimonials on both my websites.)

I’ve experienced and facilitated VisionQuest and shamanic work in the native American (First Nation) tradition, but have come home to rest in my own British/Celtic spirituality.

All these things will shape the course. We’ll also we visit poetry, myth and archetype to better understand the stories of our lives and their deeper patterns, and their place in the web of our culture and the natural world.

I suppose I should say that I’m also an author, novelist and poet, and have a number of publications in print.  I’m currently working on a book of essays on place and soul.

Monday 28 July 2014

those damnable wormholes

Folks, nomads, vagrants, poets, scientists, mystics, believers and non-believers, readers cherished and afar and both, I'm currently stuck in a wormhole in the space/time continuum. Normal service might be resumed at some stage in the past/present/future/eternal now, if I ever bump into it (normal service) again. 

To compensate, here are a couple of poems from the first course I ever led in France, perhaps back in the last century where, with a broken collarbone and ribs, pain kept me awake enough as to write a lot of poems in the middle of the night. I'm posting them because I'm already anticipating the next course I'm running in the south of France, in a month's time (actually, less than that), because I've just heard that the book in which they appear, my first collection, Looking For Icarus, will be reprinted next March, and because it reminds me that out of the wormhole I can sometimes write poetry.

PS: I'm OK. Having a little difficulty with my navigation skills and the small matter of getting some sleep. I;'m blaming Saturn, as I often do.

PPS: if I've got the Hertz wrong, please don't tell me.  Or perhaps do.

In Transit

The woodpecker’s green laughter
has called us back to ourselves

in the space between the inbreath
and the out, where we vibrate

like the earth at 7.8 Hertz

we sense that beyond and all around us

everything has rearranged itself
molecules subtly remade; and nothing

is quite as it was, even you and I
just a moment ago, before.

Source Nord, 3 a.m.

At three o’clock a little wind gets up
gets up and walks in the garden
At three o’clock a little wind gets up

The creatures of the moon
dance under the moon
dance under the moon

                                                everything is permitted
                                                everything is blown away

The moon is another country
Her people are the lives
                                                we   don’t   live                                   

© Roselle Angwin 2005/2014

Saturday 26 July 2014

another q & a poem



(Imitatio Pablo Neruda)

What does the wind want to
shake out of the leaves on a tree?

Do the leaves in a teapot remember
the plantation where they grew?

Does a fallen leaf
from the tree reincarnate?

Do the night birds compose
the music for the dawn chorus?

Why does the bee hover at my window?
Should I let it in?


Breeze strums through branches.
Leaves shudder their refrain.
Shadows rustle my floor
in the light from the window.

Now and again, a leaf
breaks off, spins toward ground.
Did the wind want that?
'Yes,' it says. 'Let the life

from the tree spread
from its green seals.
Let it find gold
when it touches wet earth.

Let it reincarnate to
the dawn chorus
composed by a thousand lovers
who watched

through the night,
for the bee that waits
against my window
asking to be let in.'

© Graham Mummery July 2014

Thursday 24 July 2014


Only this moment. Storms threaten and do not arrive. Behind my eyelids lightning drags its nails down the sky. The absence of thunder is today my teacher. The young buzzards practise sopranino voices. When the beakfull magpie came in earlier she had a whole grass snake coiled across her back under her wings and around her tail. Stab stab stab in the east-wind glittery light. Last night in the tunnel of dusk right above my head two tawny owls played tag in the oak branches. Lower, by the brook, a pair of mateless snipe drummed to each other, one a semi-tone higher than the other. Where I stand, beneath my gritty bare feet a whole invisible arterial network coils and uncoils, exchanging light and dark and earth and rainfall, death and birth overlapping and interpenetrating without end, without interruption or interrogation, without despair. I think the air too is full of arterial coilings. And I like everything am the fulcrum of this moment’s watching itself before dissolution into a past that never was and a future that never will be.

©Roselle Angwin 

Sunday 20 July 2014

crossroads, shamanism and not writing of hares

It's been so long since I wrote a 'proper' blog here – or at least it feels so long – that I've lost my stride, temporarily. PLUS I've had a week's holiday – at home, with a friend. Having – er – what's that word? – oh yes! 'FUN', I think it is. And I've barely switched on the computer or – more worryingly – written a word.

But I've danced, and walked, and talked, and eaten rather well and, with B's help, dug the garden and planted flowers. Not, note, yet more brassicas or anything wonderful, worthy and swelling of our own currently-flourishing green food-larder, but pretty blue and purple and pink flowers and herbs, and at least half of them enticing to bees – the colony, that is, that we haven't yet acquired. But the many wild bees and bumbles and hoverflies are having A Good Time, and their pollen-pouches are plump and golden.

I have come to a crossroads, a little, in my work. Actually, it's not so much a crossroads as risking a deepening that will expose more of the aspects of my work by making the psychospiritual underpinnings of all that I do more visible.

I have realised lately that the 40 years' study that has gone into the holism behind all my work (and life) is in fact deeply private, but to work with real integrity I have to put it out there and stand in its light.

I find it easier to write about in a longer context where depth is required (am currently working on a book), but quite difficult to talk about, including in the more informal conversational way that a blog offers. I have a horror of seeming pretentious, or boastful, or too New Age–y.

A turning point was my Consciousness Café talk, where I stepped off the 'This is how I should present my talk in order to be taken seriously' wheel into the hub: 'I know this material inside out, it inspires and informs everything I do, and I'm deeply passionate about it. What's more, it's my path, and the ideas that form it have traction. If others don't like it – well, tough.'

(Actually, I realise I began the process on Iona, when I spoke to the group of the deeply pagan/druidic ancient mystical inheritance of the island that has been largely subsumed into the Christian overlay. I often gesture at it but I went further this time.

Or – no. I began making it visible when I created The Wild Ways programme. 

Hah! No! I began it with my first book Riding the Dragon – myth and the inner journey in 1993! – and then shied away from it.)

But it feels like a risk nonetheless. There are aspects of my practice that are not widely understood in our culture, and that people have stereotyping prejudices against or reactions to. For instance, one thread is druidic teachings, the notion of which conjures for many a picture of people in white robes waving mistletoe and prancing around at Stonehenge at the summer solstice in a kind of romantic re-enactment that might be good as a spectacle for entertainment, but doesn't have any real heft.

Not so. What we now call druidic teachings actually have a very long and respectable lineage, admittedly much of it underground, as the wisdom and shamanic teachings of earlier and indigenous peoples of the British Isles.

Significantly, the central thesis is the interconnectedness of all life (which is, of course, or at least perhaps should be the central thesis of most if not all spiritual traditions), and how we might live this.

In any shamanic practice, you come to realise through years of work, awareness and discipline that while clearly you as practitioner are making conscious, if you like, your place and role in the web of life and all its participants, you might find special resonance with specific individual species of animals, birds, plants, trees etc; and further affinity with particular individual members, too.

Everything, and everyone, and every encounter in this world can be your teacher. Indeed, this idea is incorporated into Buddhist practice as well as into some mystical traditions. It's axiomatic for me.

In some native traditions, if an uncommon or notably shy animal appears to you three times in quick succession, either in waking or in dreaming life, it's worth examining what that animal might embody for you as student. The world is, of course, wholly and perfectly itself-as-is, and also, if we choose to see it in this light, full of symbolism. It may be that that animal is a symbolic 'totem' animal for you: that there is an affinity that may open a doorway into, if you like, the Otherworld.

So studying the habits of such an animal, and its established 'meaning' in myth and folklore, can offer insight.

This is not the same as superstition: if you don't say 'Good Morning Mrs Magpie' three times on seeing one something dreadful will happen.

It's also not the same as anthropomorphism which ascribes human characteristics to animals, and all too often (hobby horse alert!) dresses sweet little baa lambs up in bells and ribbons, and sees no contradiction between that emotional dimishment for our own gratification, and the plastic-wrapped lump of slaughterhouse suffering that is on offer on the supermarket shelf.

It's rooted in uttermost respect for the Otherness of the other species that share our beautiful planet, and a humble awareness that other kinds of consciousness than the human might also have something to offer us, if we listen with the right attitude, see with the correct vision.

So, soon, I'll talk about hares. And stuff.

Friday 18 July 2014

the cataclysm of catechism cycle (poem)

I first met Neil at my poetry reading for the first Teignmouth Poetry Festival in March. If I remember correctly, we spoke of the potential connections between quantum mechanics and a creative approach to interconnectedness (ish). He then wrote 'the poet clan' an ode on his blog.

I believe the sticky subject of the qs and as I offered here helped keep him awake as he was completing the recent sponsored Three Peaks challenge – sounds almost as gruelling as meeting someone's ridiculous poetry challenge. (Can you imagine climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis – all three in the same 24-hour period? – Me neither. Puts wrestling with a rhyme or struggling with a sestina in perspective, doesn't it?)


The Cataclysm of Catechism Cycle
Simon says .....
"A simple desultory philippic, or how I was Lyndon Johnson'd into submission."

I.  Why do I have a sore throat?

Uuuuh! Woke up with a sore throat.

The gloating of strep on the epiglot-
-tis more than a man can bear.

Stay there in the refuge of bed.

Why me? Why today?

So much to do.

Maybe it'll just go away if I lie here

wrestling with questions,

finding some answers,

resting my body

whilst stretching my mind.

II.  When is my wood arriving?

The kiwi needs staking

and there's no mistaking

how long it is taking

for the wood to arrive

for the trellis I'm making.

My patience is breaking.

III.  Why does Steph need a moose onesie?

(Or an association of words, ideas and random thoughts)

Dressing for an audenary day

for Isherwood.

Do I wish I were there,

there in Berlin,

eased in the sin of the Cabaret.

"Do as you please",

says the sleazy host ..........

Twosie beats onesie but nothing beats three.

So why does Steph need a moose onesie?

IV.  Why aren't my questions deeper?

They're practical,

they're tactical.

They're here and now.

But now and then I wonder

what lies underneath.

Why aren't my questions more profound?

I till the soil, turn the earth,

fork the clods, sow the seeds,

water my ideas.

I pioneer.

I break new ground.

V.  Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs?


Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs;
a defining part of our history,
feudal victims of iniquity,
fighting for social liberty,
struggling for the right to be free.

In eighteen hundred and thirty-four

beneath the boughs of the sycamore

they swore an oath of secrecy.

Six men were taken for that perfidy,

shackled, despatched to Australian shores.

But the people rose up

and the people marched

and parliament baulked, crumbled, gave way.

The martyrs returned, safe home once more

and social justice triumphed that day.

Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs.

But do they?

Go on, give me their names.

We refrain the headline.  We relinquish the depth.

They left yesterday.

From Plymouth to Teignmouth

they had marched so far –

the modern-day pilgrims,

grimacing with pain from blistered feet.

But proud of their feat.

They had a story to tell

and I now know the names.

George and James Loveless – brothers –
and two other James – Hammett and Brine,

then Thomas Standfield,

and, last in line, his son John.

These are the names that live on.

These are the names that live on.

VI.  Should I write a manifesto for a new society?

If only I could!

No good just thinking about it.

But will people listen?

Will people care?

Will people hear?

Here's where it's at .....

Roll over Engels; take a hike Marx;

this is my shot in the dark.

Stability not growth.

Freeing up land and property.

Community not wealth.


of food and energy.


of housing, education, health.

Working in peace for the common good.

Will people care?

There's where it's at.

VII.  What time are we building the igloo?


It was my idea but I jilted the thought.

I ought to know better

but too much red wine unfettered the mind.

Others remembered

that fateful December

and collected the bottles –
dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands

of plastic milk bottles

demonically jostling in black plastic bags

to be stripped of their labels

and leached out with bleach,

each one now ready .....

and I wasn't there.


No use crying now over spilt milk, I thought.

I so ought to care.

I ought to be there.

So when are we building the igloo?
And where?

© Neil Howell July 2014

Wednesday 16 July 2014

the white room (another q&a poem)

And today Miriam Hancock's poem; written, as she's said, as light relief, almost, from her novel-in-progress of the same name.

Another lovely thing: each poem is different from the previous or succeeding poem; each is unique. Thank you, Miriam.

The White Room

The room had always been there.
Just like that, a sentence in my head
as if in response to a question:
Was there a time when the room might not have been there? Or
So tell me, when did you meet, you and the room?

The room had always been there,
and please don’t ask how I know
I just know.
A room with walls whiter than white
and a possibly white-wood floor
with a feeling of air rushing
a sense of movement
through an open window
that you feel rather than see
of light swelling
curling itself into the corners
then filling out till the room
could sail away and still
be a safe place to be.

It had always been there
lying in the forgotten dust
of my forgetting.
But more than that
it had always been there
before my reckoning
before my time
before me.

The room had always been there.
Why had – the past participle
as if it was but is no longer?
Why not has? The room has always been here.
Because once you do that
the danger is
that it no longer exists
in the way it had been:
That first state of being pristine
of emptiness filled with possibility.
Fill it with reality and it wouldn’t be the same.
It would be here now, something different
something that hadn’t been there before.

But really there’s no escape from it –
and still it’s there – that voice which says
The room had always been there.

© Miriam Hancock July 2014

Tuesday 15 July 2014

'What stories do the ancient woodlands tell?'

And thank you today to the nomadic Jenny Cater, who first contacted me when she was living in the Pyrenees, joined us on Iona this year, built an astonishing mandala-contribution in my text and land art beach day with Michael Fairfax, and is currently living in Dorset.

Trees are her thing. And I swear she swore she wasn't a poet!


What stories do the ancient woodlands tell?

White waters hover swelling in misshapen bowls
strung up with threads to the moon.
Cast in a play as shadows seamless act
running on the lands below.
The light and weightless gliding clouds
never falter and fall from the invisible blue
till heavy droplets rain.

Before, the shape of angled grace in sharp intent;
a swooning dance of waving fronds;
scaled back fish, mollusced homes, algal swarms;
all dead and gathered in earth's book shelf.
In distant time uplifted over millennia years
appear smooth and pink and rounded bounty.
Now, pebbles on this beach

Axed by the blade of
hungry hunters guiltless strength.
To dine in the wealth of need and greed.
Hushed into silence as the pin dropped.
A death of years creeping from behind.
The tall trees of the forest were felled.
To float as ships in a sea of war.

When talk turns the table on the tree of life
and knowledge stored tumbles across tongue and lips,
nothing connects to the words on the plate.
Garnished grass in a borrowed world.
In and add and equate
to my unequal tussled mind,
of long lost memories

As sunlight dips to brighten lands below
and folds its final embrace,
the purple robe wraps waxy in a swirl.
To protect the heart from darkness,
to shelter the child within,
to keep the sexy nectar safe,
the Lily flower, floating, sleeps.

If the winds swim over northern seas
sit tight and note the minds bereaved.
Resist the nip of cold on facial skin
by mimicking the birds, in comfort nests,
feathers ruffled in defiant hold.
Warm heart and hands by fire-in-the head
with stories the ancient woodlands told.

© Jenny Cater July 2014 


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