The Cave of Forgotten Nightmares
Deep beneath a granite mountain in south western Finland a facility is being built with the sole intention of housing nuclear waste, permanently. Its name, Onkalo, means ‘cavern’ or ‘hidden place’. It is a fittingly provocative epithet that reflects the dilema behind the project; how do we convey to those who come after us, many millenia in our future, the danger of what we are leaving buried thousands of feet beneath the surface. Will the site remain undisturbed, a prospect we might well hope for given the extreme toxicity of the cave’s contents and which the Finnish authorities are well aware of – while many countries worldwide house such repositories Finland’s policy on self generated nuclear waste is that it must remain on Finnish soil. Such solutions will remain the case, unless we can find an alternative solution to a disturbingly fallible problem for which we presently have no infallible answers.
We might look to examples left by our ancestors from the distant past for clues to such an answer, artifacts that provide evidence not only of human traits which remain recognisable within ourselves, our imaginative and creative nature for instance, the innate curiousity that drives such a nature, but which also present similar problems in interpretation. The evidence is there, enshrined in and mirrored back to us in such places as the Chauvet cave in southern France, whose 32-36,000 year old paintings did remain undisturbed until discovery. And yet, our own legacy to the deep future will be of a very different nature. If Chauvet cave deserves the name ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams‘, given to it by the film maker Werner Herzog for his 2011 documentary film, by comparison and by the same token Onkalo may well be the ‘Cave of Forgotten Nightmares’.
Within the scope of orthodox history very long time scales are extremely hard for humans to envisage in practical terms. The people who made the paintings in Chauvet cave seem as remote as the purpose behind their artwork. We can appreciate its beauty but have no idea if the same aesthetic value we attach to the images was intrinsic to their realisation. The images have a level of sophistication both as visual realisations of the fauna they portray and as technical translations of visual perception itself to suggest that we are not that dissimilar, in fact, when Picasso emerged from Lascaux cave having seen similar paintings two thirds the age of those at Chauvet he famously declared that ‘we have learned nothing’. If anything our learning, as he implies, reflects the gulf between us, a vacuum of discontinuity. The age in which those images were made belie the fact that we inhabit the same earth as theirs, that theirs was an age of ice, of mega-fauna, of different climate and sea levels. Much of the seaboard and borderlands upon which the feet of those artists might have walked now lie beneath sea and soil. The past is buried, and remains largely undisturbed, not just by human hand, but, by thought and understanding.
The recorded histories we have access to are confined largely to the most recent half of the post-glacial era in which we currently live, a period of 12 thousand years, which might be viably considered ‘our own time’ within which our current state as a modern species has developed. While we have discovered cave paintings that reach back at least twice as far and recovered artifacts from subterranean sites, such as bird bone flutes, which were made over 60 thousand years ago, we are not only blind within but prejudiced by our own ignorance. It is certain that we knew musical sounds even then yet can only speculate, according to our own values and imaginative use of sonic technology within the ‘historical’ time frame, on what the technological, social and cultural contexts were like within which such ‘music’ was made. Beyond that, orthodox ideas of human history give us little to go on, the dating of deposits within which stone tools and human remains have been found revealing a limited understanding of what our ancestry were experiencing. Non-invasive dating methods can reveal much, including the presence of radionuclides within their environment. However, no-one from that time, it seems, gave us any comprehensive clues as to the full range of our capabilities, the effect these had on the subglacial world we lived in. If our ancestors left us signs that we need to be aware of, ‘intended for us’ their far distant descendants to take heed of, they have escaped our attention – we have only our own experiences and memories as a modern variation of the human genus to go on. As a result the orthodox concensus sees present day humans as ‘advanced’, beyond a palaeolithic presence that yet remains a mystery.
Even so, there are those who claim to have knowledge of times that precede ‘our own’ by many millenia, both ‘indigenous’ and contemporary, whose understanding is capable of penetrating and populating the ‘unknown’ era that we otherwise have so little understanding of with a meaningful vision of our past. All too often it is a vision that runs counter to the orthodox view, and, consequently, such knowledge is not valued sufficiently to offer a plausible account, is inevitably viewed with extreme scepticism, drawing hostile criticism if made public and, in the absence of supporting ‘evidence’, is more often than not simply dismissed as speculative fiction. Such is the paradox of a species that relies upon ‘proof’ in establishing the reality of its own past – while we have so little ‘acceptable proof’ to hand we remain divorced from our heritage and ignore the possibility that we may well have missed the historical elephant in our own midst. Just as we also ignore the reality of our own immaturity with respect to the future in how we currently use the technologies we have created we prefer to deny the possibility that a comparable level of technological development had been achieved in the deep past. Precluding such a possibility we look upon our ancestors as an inferior ‘other’, distinct from ourselves. Who is to say that our own descendants might not view us similarly….what ‘evidence’ might we leave to the contrary?
This is the question at the heart of Onkalo.
In his memoir ‘Quicksand’ the Swedish author and playwright Henning Mankel made a very pertinent observation concerning the problem of transmitting a vital message across deep time. While talking of Onkalo and the means by which a warning could be conveyed of ‘what lies beneath’ he pointed out the fact that human language itself is an ephemeral human artifact, intrinsically mutable and self referential, changing in form over relatively short periods of time even while its core meanings remain embedded within it. Meanings too are subject to change. And, in the age of unbridled ‘progress’, we inhabit the wave of change in language at its leading edge, relevant within our current context while virtually blinkered to its wake, assuming rather than ensuring that our ‘meanings’ will survive through time.
Comparatively speaking a mere 700 years seperate us from the time of Geoffrey Chaucer yet Chaucerian english is very different to its contemporary urban counterpart. Even though we can recognise the everyday lives and roles of those Chaucer described, despite their virtual disappearance within contemporary westernised life, his 14th century language requires translation for its context to be fully grasped, hardly a common pursuit or skill considered relevant to our everyday way of life. Yet this is the very skill that Onkalo’s message must rely upon, as a safeguard against misinterpretation and insurance against ignorance of the relevance of the message to those who might encounter it in the far distant future.
That future is around 100 millenia away, the estimated half life of the radioactive isotopes that will be buried within their granite sarcophagus at Onkalo, before the danger subsides enough for the message to become relatively redundant. A symbolism that has greater longevity suggests itself, one that is not as subject to the effects of time upon its readability, but, what symbols do we know of that bridge such a span of time. We struggle with symbols left by our ancestors 10 thousand years ago, such as those carved in stone at Gobekli Tepe temple complex in present day southern Turkey.
The builders of that temple may have had it in mind to convey a vital message to us, and this too is a site that was deliberately covered over centuries after its creation. As yet this remains a speculative unknown, not beyond the realms of possibility, but, subject to the same criterion of time, context and meaning none the less. Can we set an ‘alarm’ that will still function even 10,000 years from now?
Mankel’s concern is informed by a clear appreciation of the need for such an alarm, a warning against entering the realms of almost certain death – he was a committed opponent of nuclear technologies. He wonders in ‘Quicksand’ if Onkalo’s best safeguard for our descendants might not be total obscurity, making the first line of defence invisibility, hiding the site from the future. Such cannot be accomplished without risk – the entrance to and existence of Onkalo, while it could conceivably be ‘forgotten’, could not be guaranteed to remain hidden; the earth moves and all eventualities cannot be accounted for. Given our present understanding of glacial cycles we could reasonably expect 8 or 9 ice ages to occur over the intervening time. And clearly, given the quarter of a million tonnes of nuclear waste already in existence, we have ventured too far down the nuclear highway to turn back, or to ignore the threat it represents.
As the website of the World Nuclear Association states “The main objective in managing and disposing of radioactive (or other) waste is to protect people and the environment. This means isolating or diluting the waste so that the rate or concentration of any radionuclides returned to the biosphere is harmless. To achieve this, practically all wastes are contained and managed – some clearly need deep and permanent burial. From nuclear power generation, none is allowed to cause harmful pollution.” And yet, as the industry itself clearly demonstrates through this statement, the future is vaccinated against such a threat by its very denial of it – ‘diluting the waste’ does not reduce its toxicity as a single particle is enough to propogate cancer, and ‘deep and permanent burial’ equals wilful ignorance, both of the redundancy of nuclear power in the face of viable alternatives and of the reasons it persists. Such wilful ignorance cares little for its own responsibilities. At Onkalo this problem does not escape attention, even while it attempts to bury it as a solution, and this dilema was beautifully exposed in the film ‘Into Eternity’, released in 2010 and made by director Michael Madsen in direct response to Onkalo.
As an image of beauty Chauvet cave is deeply profound, not simply because of its aesthetic or indeed its mystery, but because it appears as a gift from our ancestors, unsullied by projections of fear or intimations of catastrophobia. We tend to overlook the collective loss of habitat and animal life it foreshadows. It could have been intended as a warning of such loss, an attempt to remember forwards what was already being subjected to and experienced as profound change by its artists. Werner Herzog remarked upon the remarkable freshness of the paintings, as if the presence of the artist had been protected along with the paintings themselves. The cave had remained sealed virtually since the images time of making, but, it was the work of nature, not human intention, that made it so. No such beauty belongs to the nuclear legacy. It is a legacy built upon quicksand, a palaeolithic inheritance of the future that we cannot wish to be claimed.
Behind the New Moon reading in Song of Orpheus an inner process was revealed through the I Ching – as a support to the previous post, and with a little help from some visionary friends, this article opens up to its esoteric context arising from the ‘Oracle of Change’ as revealed through the hexagrams named Chin and Wei Chi…..
“……in open ground, between heaven and earth, even the Wind is revealed, felt but not seen. Upon open ground fire walks with the wind – the transformation of the one is the dance of the other. Stripping down to essense, fire reveals the gift, honouring the creative dynamic at root. Gradually gathering essence, reconciling opposites yet holding to none, releasing light while remaining everywhere unseen. Difficulty becomes re-configured into wisdom. Take heed, this wisdom is itself transforming, and regulation of the fire is necessary for it to be maintained. Vigilance and readiness, knowing when the timing is right, when the fire is carefully regulated, slowly the essense is gathered, energy increases and wisdom finds its true form.
The wise penetrate with Truth, the foolish disperse with Fear. Being sincere, truthful, and reliable, make your inner vision and your outer circumstances coincide. Emptying your heart of conditioned chatter, to hear their inner voices, the link with the spirits is cultivated. Using this as the intrinsic foundation for sincerety and honesty in connecting with others. Much will become illuminated, but, this is the burning off of impurities – do not let these cause distraction from the purpose. The heart of fire is dark and mysterious…..trusting to the process ensures success. That which is transformed carries its own illumination from within.
In this way, by these means, entering the Great Way, gathering the auspicious, the spirits carry us forward. Releasing transformative energy, cultivating meaning and good fortune, this is the correct time to enter the stream of Life with a purpose. Embarking upon a significant journey, enquiring of the oracle at each crucial stage, the spirits speak, insight grows in abundance and great profit arises in accord with the Way. In this way, by these means, True Earth arises. The faithful cultivate the True Earth.” …..from Chin, hexagram 35, with second line changing.
Earth supports fire and fire impregnates earth with energy. Lightning strikes both arise up from and connect down with Earth. The image is one of stabilised but highly charged and focused energy that has its place. It is an energy that requires careful management. Fire will spread with the wind, and when the wind is symbolic of the pervasive nature of change, this can have both beneficial and detrimental effects.
Within the hexagram Chin is yet another nuclear hexagram , made up of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines for the lower trigram, and the 3rd, 4th and 5th lines for the upper trigram – this hexagram is Chien, 39 – Difficulties. Its image is water on the mountain, cutting a gorge bounded by high cliffs. This describes the inner qualities of Chin. Naturally cutting through resistance. Interestingly, when the nuclear trigrams of Chien are also put together we arrive at Wei Chi, the same hexagram produced through the moving line in the second place of Chi. In essense, both inwardly and outwardly, through the triple process of gathering, transformation and inner illumination, the same outcome is arrived at.
“There can be only patient endurance of the opposites which ultimately spring from your own nature. You yourself are a conflict that rages in itself and against itself in order to melt its incompatible substances…..in the fire of suffering and thus create that form which is the goal of life. Everyone goes through this mill, consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or forcibly. We are crucified between the opposites and delivered up to the torture, until the reconciling third takes shape. Do not doubt the rightness of the two sides within you and let whatever may happen, happen. The apparently unendurable conflict is proof of the rightness of your life. A life without intercontradiction is either only half a life or else a life beyond which is destined only for angels…..” (1)
When C G Jung wrote this letter he was responding to a call from a close and dear friend for helpful guidance. She was experiencing a great inner tension, torn between the demands and heartfelt responsibilities of everyday life and family concerns and the powerful pull of her vocation, her calling, which she equally could not deny. It is a call of the soul that is striving to birth its own reality into the world. The tensions experienced through this struggle have become exacerbated in our times. The soul’s reality is devalued and goes largely unrecognised for its essential nature within our materialistic culture. It is a paradigmatic consequence of polarised objectivity and subjectivity. The consequences have become immense and are at the root of the prevalence of unfeeling and blind destruction that humans have brought upon the world – in the process our culture has engendered a mass dissociation with the over-soul, the Anima Mundi or Earth Soul. And yet, the essential nature of our humanity remains – we have woken up to this reality and, en-masse, the collective immune system of the human soul is fighting back against this disease, and the cancerous agents of destruction that perpetuate it. These are the symptoms of the struggle. The hexagrams, however, also point to a third element, one that arises naturally from within the process. There is no doubt that, within this polarisation, as Jung encourages his friend to accept, is a natural expression of the creative principle itself.
The implications are clear, and echoed in the second hexagram of the reading, Wei Chi – as the planetary matrix at the beginning of the current lunation implied, we have to go through this process, all the more frustrating and difficult if we are drawn to focusing on or rejecting one side of the polarity in favour of the other. Accepting the tension inherent within the opposites allows their mutual seeding to produce the ‘third thing’.
Even attempting to understand or pre-empt this ‘third thing’ can subvert its natural formation. We are called upon to recognise that within us are natural dynamics, archetypal by nature, that express and embody the wisdom that resolves the polarity. The off-spring of this allowing, this willingness to hold the intrinsic creative tension of the opposites, is the transcendant state arriving in natural form – in esoteric terms of Taoist spiritual alchemy this would be described as the spiritual embryo. Like all embryonic life forms it requires careful nurturing through time and benefits from protection, needs containment. It is the light body in form, the inner light that accords with the Tao. Its growing environment at this time is described by the hexagram 64, Wei Chi – ‘Not Yet Settled’…….
“On the edge of change; gather your energy, everything is possible; wait for the right moment.
Not Yet Crossing (settled) describes your situation in terms of being on the verge of an important change. Its symbol is standing on the edge of a river, getting ready to begin an important passage. The way to deal with this is to gather your energy to make this decisive move. Make an offering and you will succeed. You are about to launch a plan, cross the river or overcome an obstacle. The possibilities are great. Be sure your plans are in order and that you have accumulated enough energy to make the crossing without getting stuck. This is pleasing to the spirits. Through it they will give you success, effective power and the capacity to bring the situation to maturity. Don’t be like the small fox that gets almost across the river and then soaks her tail in the mud of the opposite shore. That would leave you with nowhere to go and nothing to do that would help you” (2)
Stephen Karcher’s reading of Wei Chi brings out the importance of being on the verge (Wei) of making the crossing (Chi) – as the precaution against failure we are asked to assess our resources, and, once we have made a confident informed decision to do so, to embark upon the great challenge of crossing to new land, a new state, with full commitment to completion. The danger is that, without this commitment we will sully our efforts and return to a state of complete emptiness once we get to the other side. The message is clear for our times.
It also shows harmony with the times – at Samhain we can make our offerings with deep feeling, knowing that the spirits will support us. Remembering that the ancestors too would have us work on their behalf…..the better able they too will become in supporting us.
In the Scorpio New Moon reading we saw how the need for penetrative and ruthless honesty would help us as we are pulled into the inner journey that this time is calling us to. The pragmatic realisation of compassionate and clear sighted awareness that this process benefits from is funded through the guidance of the spirits – the connection through Samhain is auspicious. And yet, just as Orpheus tale warns us against losing sight of the goal before we have reach the end of our journey, the little fox in Wei Chi shows us that dropping our guard and relaxing within the task too soon will deprive us of all that we seek to gain. What we set in motion now must be followed through.
Once again, the planetary matrix and the spirits of divination show unanimity of purpose……this purpose can be realised and its methods applied in both the macrocosm and the microcosm, as they are in accord. We cannot know the outcome, even the nature of the desired result remains a mystery – while the power of the undertaking is behind our every moment we have it within our capacity, through determined and vigilant self-awareness, to carry this energy forward as it courses through the world, and that is all we can know, until we have reached the other side……
….but, we can have faith, our diligence and care protecting the outcome, and know that nothing is beyond our reach……
“Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astonishing bridges.
Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.
To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes
being carried along is not enough.
Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two opposing poles.
Because inside human beings
is where the Divine learns.” (3)
(1) C G Jung : unpublished letter to Frau Fröbe-Kapteyn, August 1945
(2) Stephen Karcher : I Ching, Vega 2002
(3) ‘Just as the Winged Energy of Delight’, Rainer Marie Rilke, 1924; translated by Robert Bly
WHERE-EVER YOU ARE IN THE WORLD THIS SOLSTICE CELEBRATE THE ASCENT OF WOMAN, OF WOMEN, OF THE DIVINE FEMININE, THE DARK GODDESS, CELEBRATE THE RETURN TO HER ROOTS – IN HER WE ARE GIVEN LIFE – HAPPY SOLSTICE!
‘SONG OF EARTH’ from the ‘SKELETON WOMAN’ series 2005 – 2010
‘SONG OF EARTH’ shield : mixed media – 39 x 42 cms
image : copyright Rob Purday 2010
Who would you look to as perfect living examples of balance, generosity and healing? Who will offer you a pathway to the stars, to reach into the inner cosmos of Earth. Who can unfailingly give you the most fundamental requirements of shelter, warmth, food and medicines? Such beings are real, they do exist, right now, here in our midst……
They have inhabited this Earth for nearly 400 million years – they preceded dinosaurs by 140 million years – before them there were no reptiles or amphibians. They are expert natural energy bio-condensers who radically altered the climate, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing temperatures to drop and preparing the terrestrial surface environment for the emergence and evolution of animals and insects – through their arrival the planet quickly began to assimilate living conditions very similar to the present-day.
Their children have carried forward their ability to transform, nurture and, literally, inspire Life into our times – and yet we massacre them daily – through this, we contribute to climatic degradation and our own demise – for a thorough over view see this link
we love them too, so why do we treat our dear friends so – they are the Standing People – the Trees, living symbols of Life. It is our greatest challenge as a species to respect Life AND to, as a species, act accordingly – we devolve into failure unless we do so – so, if we could but take a few steps back from our madness and listen to them what would the Standing People tell us………..
…….if we lived by our hearts we would know them instantly – they would offer us a chance at rebirth as they are the midwives of terrestrial life, our relatives and elders, beloved and wise – they would fill us with wonder as they cradle the stars in their arms, as they pulse with the Sun and flow with the Moon – they would pick us up, raise our spirits, as they dance with the wind and fill us with their songs – they would cleanse our bodies and heal our souls, as they give us the breath of Life and give back to us the sacred meeting place – they would inspire us to compassion, as they teach us of selfless giving, carry our prayers, heal our bodies – we would dance with them that we may come alive
“…….our DNA is made of the same DNA as the tree – the tree breathes what we exhale – when the tree exhales we need what the tree exhales – so, we have a common destiny with the tree…….” – Floyd Red Crow Westerman
Trees are powerful and highly evolved beings – the closer we become in our relationships with them, the more they stimulate our finer sensibilities, our deeper connections with Life and the Cosmos. They can transform our consciousness. As elder representatives of Nature they offer us a continual example of symbiotic relationship and environmental stewardship – they provide a wonderous variety of species with the essential habitat that fosters diversity and evolution. They too have evolved through this – Oaks, for example, have developed into around 450 species worldwide and, in the UK, the Oak provides a home for more co-habiting organisms than any other tree. Over 300 different kinds of Lichen alone have been found growing on Oaks in Europe and Lichen is a good indicator of air quality – infact the role of trees as indicators of balance within the health of ecosystems has given them a unique place within the consciousness and cultures of peoples worldwide.
No matter where we find trees they bring a sense of wellbeing and belonging, a reminder to those dwelling amongst the hard surfaces and sharp angles of the over-humanised environment of the flow and flux of Nature. For many living beneath the forest canopy the world is immediate, the horizon close by, the natural world a living matrix of vital energies. One western man who spent his life within the community of trees and was able to both discern and develop a profound understanding of these vital energies was the Austrian forester Victor Schauberger.
The son of a forester from a long lineage reaching back to the Germanic tribes Victor was born into the world of forest lore and the practical know-how of arboreal stewardship – he had a knack of perceiving the subtle and invisible energies at work in Nature. Through a mix of patient observation and inspired curiousity he made of his life a meditation on the living energies that manifest the mind of Nature through the trees and rivers, infused with the powers of Sun, Moon and Earth. Trees spoke to him, and he read their messages as energy. He came to realise that trees bridged the material and subtle realms, responding to the rhythms of Life, both sending and receiving waves of intelligent energy. Callum Coats book “Living Energies” is a itself a dedicated translation and thorough assimilation of the essense of Victor’s work.
The outer reaches of a tree’s canopy and roots transmute ever more subtle gradations of material energy units until they become pure information – the mind of the tree extends beyond its physical body, its intelligence reaching into the transpersonal, its whole being a synaptic complex of consciousness in communication. This is to describe a being that is fully awake, that is able to communicate with both inner and outer Cosmos – when trees enter the inward looking times of Autumn into Winter they focus their consciousness on the dreaming worlds, the dreamtime. Through this they teach us of the rhythm of the seasons as a reflection of our relationship with the pulsing heart of creation.
When we listen to that pulse and pick up the beat we are invited to dance – a circle of people dancing with this pulse, carried by the drum beat and sacred song, pulling the energy of the circle in towards the tree and slowly expanding out again, will awaken the tree – she will radiate a profound warmth and delicious energy, embracing us in her consciousness – to experience this is to know that this is real, beyond doubt, and it will truly bring healing.
Around the world shamans journey with the drum to the otherworlds from the roots, branches and body of the great tree in search of knowledge and healing – the hoop of their drum is gifted from the trees, the skin often adorned with the axis mundi, the Tree of Life – for many indigenous cultures souls come in and leave Life through her nexus – the spirits congregate there – our prayers hung upon her boughs are heard and cared for – in the groves we find protection, sacred space.
Spirit medicine is only one way in which the balance of our natural relations with the Cosmos can be restored. There are other pathways that are accessible to us all and which are called into our consciousness on a daily basis, that our current planetary conditions tell us are increasingly pertinent.
The forests are dying on our Earth, because, through greed and dead matter thinking, we have given priority to satisying the needs of a voracious and uncaring culture, turned a deaf ear to our hearts, become disrespectful and overlooked the reality of our actions – and yet, for so many this is not a true reflection of how we would live. We have not forgotten how to listen, we can still hear their voices – and it is important that we do so for our children and our childrens children. We can reforest our home. And this is a first step – plants and trees planted with respect and in recognition of the sacredness of all Life, over generations of their family and through the seasonal cycles, will become our allies. They come to know us, form a sacred relationship with us and they will always be ready to answer when we ask them for help – this too is real, beyond doubt, and will help to heal the Sacred Hoop, the Circle of Life.
Our western thinking is a great stumbling block, and yet, it is also a great teacher – there is balance in all things. We often filter out that which we do not have tangible evidence for with our thinking – it is an affliction that is affecting our whole world and has caused great suffering within indigenous communities. Balance rather than dominance…….
Balance within communion carries a visceral potential – to restore the balance and make the encounter can be highly emotive and revolutionary, affecting of our view of the world and our understanding of our place within it, of ourselves. There is a wonderful account of such an encounter in “Of Water and the Spirit”, the autobiographical writings of Dagara elder and shaman Malidoma Some. During initiation into adulthood Malidoma describes how he met with a beautiful tree spirit, a tender yet awesome ‘Green Lady’ of immense heart and understanding.
For the ‘western’ mind this encounter is powerfully instructive as Malidoma has to struggle to free himself of the enculturalisation he suffered at the hands of Jesuit priests after they had kidnapped him from his village as a child – his return to the village created a dilema for the Elders who saw both a threat and a gift in his presence, in the cultural baggage that he was carrying. They decided that initiation was the only way forward, the make or break test of whether he could truly become the embodiment of his name, which means “be friends with the stranger/enemy”. It stands as a potent allegory for the relationship between the western mindset and the indigenous.
Malidoma struggled over a long period under fierce conditions of extreme heat and dehydration, focusing on the tree that stood before him, to arrive at the moment when he was able to ‘let go’ and fall into the embrace of the spirit world. It was the attachment to both ‘trying to do’, contriving what he thought was expected of him, and the emotional attachment to the concrete nature of what his senses told him was real that created the barrier through which he eventually burst – he literally fell into the arms of the beloved spirit, and she spoke to him. Without this breakthrough his initiation would have failed. Even more crucially, this opened the pathway back to the original purpose that he had petitioned the ancestors to support him in before his birth, and allowed him to remember and embody his connection with the spirits in Nature, his name and soul purpose. To the Dagara trees are amongst the most evolved of beings on Earth.
For Malidoma this was the beginning of a journey into the wider world, sanctioned by his elders, his ancestors and spirit family. He carries with him the sacred medicines of his African roots, reconnecting ‘people of the diaspora’ with their roots and healing the spiritual heart of our Western cultural desert – thanks to the ‘Green Lady’. I had the benefit of several years profound and heart centered guidance and tuition with Malidoma – it brought many challenges and, like many others whom he has helped, brought a much needed appreciation of our universal nature, the ways in which we can find healing that are so deeply rooted in Nature, our relationship with the ancestors and the spirit worlds. He, with many others alive today, continues to work his magic for the benefit of us all in the world. All blessings be with the healers – human and arboreal.
The next time you enter a forest, lean against a tree or plant a sappling, please say thank-you – say it out loud, from the heart – it will bring healing into your world, our world. Such powerful healing as we find amongst the Standing people is always at hand, within the forests, amongst the watchful care of those great beings we know as the Trees. The New Moon beckons – happy dreaming!