I've recently returned from a week of woodland wandering, and I'm still feeling betwixt and between: moving from the mythic realms back into ordinary life (with its own ordinary magic). I've been camping in the hills just south of here as part of Songdreaming for Albion, led by Sam Lee and Chris Salisbury: a deep dive into the folk songs and tales of Dartmoor, listening for the songlines of the moor, and "recalibrating how we engage with the land and converse with our brother/sister nations of plants, trees and beings."
Tales were told. Songs were sung. Food was cooked on open fires and music shared till the midnight hours. Dartmoor blessed us with dry, clear days and star-filled nights (never a given here). Then Howard and Tilly fetched me and brought me over the hills and home.
In myth, the safe return from the woods (or the mountainside, or the spirit world) often marks a time of new beginnings: fresh starts, new paths, or lives newly illuminated by gifts brought back from the Otherland. Thomas the Rhymer, in the old Scottish ballad, returns to the mortal realm after seven years with the Faerie Queen bearing the gift of prophesy. Merlin returns from his time of exile and madness in the forests of Wales with new magical abilities and the gift of speaking with animals. Odin hangs in a death-like trance for ten days from the world-tree Yggdrasil, and comes back with the secret of runes from the dark land of Niflheim. I haven't come back with anything so grand as runes or prophesy -- but songs and dreams and spiderwebs of wild connection are just as precious, and as necessary.
I took no camera, no computer, no phone -- nothing between me and the moss green world -- so I have no photographs from the week to share with you. Instead, the pictures in this post are by my old friend David Wyatt -- who was, until just recently, a neighbour of ours here on the moor. There are many ways into the Dreaming, and art-making is one of them.
Song, as I learned again last week, is another...and perhaps the most direct of all.
The art above: Beech Whisperer, Old Goat's Home, and a rough sketch (in preparation for a painting) by David Wyatt. All rights reserved by the artist.