#212 Bright Fires, Dark Nights: Connecting deeply and building tribe as we head to the Solstice with Angharad Wynne
Heading into the dark nights of the solstice, we explore the ways we can reconnect with ourselves, each other and the land. How do we shift from a Trauma Culture to an Initiation Culture at scale?
This week, as we head down towards what, in the northern hemisphere at least, is the long nights, the dark nights, I wanted to explore our heritage, the way we celebrate the solstice in this land, the land of Britain. I’m aware that quite a lot of you listening are from the southern hemisphere where you’re heading up to your long sun and your fires burn differently. I recorded a summer solstice meditation at our long days in June and when we get to the meditation – after the podcast with Della Duncan and Nathalie Nahai, I’ll put that up.
In the meantime, I hope this conversation with Angharad Wynne helps open doors to reconnection wherever you are in the world. Angharad is a story-teller, a placemaker, a myth-creator holder of tribe and of the land. A native of Wales, she is deeply connected to the land there, and holds retreats and workshops designed to help people connect with the living spirits of the land. In the podcast you’re about to hear, she describes her 3 year “Dadeni” training which helps to create the deep tribe-connections, community-connections we speak about in the podcast. If you’re interested in this, applications are open until 21st January and the link is in the show notes.
I’d also like to remind you that if you have ideas of previous podcast guests – including Angharad, or anyone you’ve heard over the years – that you’d like us to invite for one of our Sunday evening ‘Cutting Edge’ events please click the link in the show notes, or go to the podcast section of the website and find the button there and let us know. this is your chance to talk to people, to ask the questions I didn’t get around to asking, but you wish I had. And then afterwards, there’ll be a chance to connect with other people in breakout rooms, to share your thoughts and ideas and ways of grounding what you’ve heard in everyday life.
So, it’s the dark month, the time when we rest, and regather and recoup. The time when we light the fire and invite our tribe to join us. In the spirit of connection, people of the podcast, please welcome, Angharad Wynne, a bard of Wales.
Could you help us out with ideas for future online Gatherings? Who would you like to meet and/or ask questions of? What kind of Gatherings would you like us to hold?
If you can spare a couple of minutes to answer two questions we would be very grateful.
Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together. There is time to create the future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott, your guide and fellow traveller on this journey into possibility. And as we head down towards what in the Northern Hemisphere at least, is the long nights, the dark nights, I wanted to explore our heritage more deeply. To look at the ways we celebrate the solstice in this land, the land of Britain. I am well aware that quite a lot of you listening are not from here. In fact, a fair number of you are from the southern hemisphere, where you are heading up to your long sun and your fires burn differently. I did record a summer solstice meditation at our long nights in June, and when we get to the Winter solstice meditation, which will be after the podcast with Della Duncan and Natalie Nahay around the actual solstice, I will put that in the show notes. In the meantime, wherever you are in the world, I hope this conversation with Angharad Wynne helps open the doors to reconnection, helps you to connect to your Land, to whatever the sun is doing, wherever you are, to whatever the fire says to you.
Manda: Angharad is a storyteller, a place maker, a myth creator, a holder of tribe and of the land. She’s a native of Wales and is deeply connected to the land there. She holds retreats and workshops there designed to help other people connect with the living spirits of the land. In the podcast you’re about to hear, she describes her three year Dardani training, which helps to create the deep tribal connections, the community connections that we so badly need as we move from a trauma culture to an initiation culture, and that we speak about in depth in this podcast. If you’re interested in this, the link is in the show notes and the applications are open until the 21st of January. This is also the time I’d like to remind you that if you have ideas of previous podcast guests, anyone, including Angharad, anyone that you’ve heard over all 200 odd podcasts that you would like us to invite back for one of our Sunday evening cutting edge events, then please click the link in the show notes, or go to the podcast section of the website and find the button there, and go to the form that lets us know who you’d be interested in talking to.
Manda: This is your chance to ask the questions I never get around to asking, but that you wish that I had. And then afterwards, there will also be a chance to connect with other people, to share your thoughts and ideas of how this applies to your life. How you apply it, how you could apply it, how you could ground it in the living Land of your own existence. So if that feels good, please head off and let us know who you’d like to talk to. And then back to the podcast. This is the dark month, December. The time when we rest and regather and recoup our strength and our ideas, our sense of being and belonging. As we settle into the stillness of the longest night and the shortest day. This is the time also where we light our own fires and invite our own tribes to join us. You are our tribe. So in the spirit of this connection, consider a fire to be lit between us. And people of the podcast, please welcome to our fireside Angharad Wynne, a Bard of Wales.
Manda: Angharad, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast.
Angharad: Thank you Manda.
Manda: Thank you for turning out in your shepherds hut. Tell us, just before we do anything else, tell us where you are and what it’s like.
Angharad: In the last few months, in August, I returned from a sabbatical living in Devon, back to my homeland in Wild West Wales. And it’s really beautiful. All my molecules have kind of gone aaahhh, being back in this landscape. It’s been a real learning process. I teach this stuff you know, how do you connect to land. But then, of course, I realised in those last few years that I’ve grown up in a place and it’s completely interwoven with me. And then I moved out of a place, and I actually had to really work at making those connections. But yeah, I’m back in the place that’s easy. So I’m living in a shepherd’s hut on two and a quarter acres that we have bought, of upland pasture land. And we’re just renovating a dilapidated old bungalow that’s never been lived in. And it has a bit of a sad story, but we will fill it with love.
Manda: Oh gosh. But as I understand from when we last spoke, you are intending to be in your home by the solstice. Is that still likely? Do you think it.
Angharad: It is still likely. I keep going to look at the gap where the fireplace will be. It has a hearth now.
Manda: That’s all you need.
Angharad: That’s all I need.
Manda: And a chimney?
Angharad: No not a chimney yet. But there’s a stove but it’s just not connected yet. But there will be a fire and we will gather people to it.
Manda: Fantastic. Okay, just before we head into how you’re going to celebrate the solstice, your first language is Welsh. Just for everybody listening. Anything you like that translates not into swear words that I wouldn’t recognise and would put out and get bleeped by the world. Can you say something in Welsh to just welcome people to the solstice?
Angharad: Well. Dymuniadau gora i chi ar gyfer yr hirnos, a dyma obeitho y byddwch yn gallu casglu i’r tân. And if that was in English, it would be my best wishes to you for the long night, and I hope that you’re able to gather to a fire.
Manda: Beautiful. Thank you. I do keep thinking I should learn Welsh one of those days when I have some spare bandwidth. But I’ll never be that good. It’s beautiful.
Angharad: Manda, when do you have spare bandwidth?
Manda: That’s always the coda. I will make some spare bandwidth. It will happen. Possibly not this year though, and probably not next year. However, there will always be spare bandwidth for the solstice. Tell us how and why you celebrate the dark nights of the year.
Angharad: I have grown to love the darkness. And that’s quite an unusual thing for a lot of people living in the Northern Hemisphere to say. But the darkness is very underrated. It’s the place of soul. It’s a place of deepening into what is and yielding. And gathering around fires and gathering community around fires for stories and songs and conviviality, the sharing of food and sharing of, of joy and and each other’s light in the darkness of winter. And that feels immensely precious to me. It is something that I think our ancestors have done since time immemorial here in Britain. You know, when we look at Durrington Walls over near Stonehenge, it seems that the the largest gatherings there were for the winter solstice. That re-arrival of the sun at the dawn on winter solstice, something incredibly, incredibly potent. The evidence is that that pigs were brought down from as far away as Orkney to be slaughtered for the feasting at that time. So people were gathering from far and wide. So there’s something about that sense of gathering. And of course, the sharing of stories around a fire. In a way it’s the passing down of lore and the passing down of wisdom from our ancestors through us. And I suppose sharing that which we feel can be sustaining in terms of values and in terms of dreaming the future together.
Manda: Gosh, there’s a lot in that to unpick. Let’s go back to the sense of tribe. You talked about conviviality and growing community and this being our heritage. Hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution and our tribe and that sense of gathering even before we knew what fire was, we will have gathered. And the passage tombs in Ireland, they were built in the time of fire, but they’re Neolithic. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but they orient exactly to the midwinter solstice. And for a couple of days either side, the sun shines in, if there is sun and it’s not cloudy, through the little opening. And deep, deep in this womb like structure is a knife blade of light that grows and then diminishes again. And it must have been such an astonishing experience to be in there when that was happening. And we’ve lost it or we’ve let go of it. But then people like you and me are reconnecting through the fire to the land and through our communities. How do you build a community around the fire in our modern culture, what Alnoor Ladha calls the trauma culture. How do you find the people to bring together?
Angharad: Wow. I think you build a fire.
Manda: And see who comes. Right.
Angharad: And people come. That’s been my experience. Wonderful, phenomenal, extraordinary experiences of just saying I have a hearth, I’m opening this for gathering. And the most extraordinary constellation of souls turn up. And something happens and it’s not always linear and easy. This is not Disney. We can find it very difficult in our world where the cult of the individual is so advanced, to understand how we can be in community. We’ve lost a lot of the building blocks of what it means to live communally. We probably can’t go back to doing that in the way that we used to. What we’re looking at and the work that I do with with groups, there’s always a lot of exploration of this, whether we intentionally put it in there or not. It’s just part of the journey is how do we create something new? How can the individual sit within a communal context comfortably? And what do we need to relearn? What do we need to reweave of ourselves? And a lot of these things, going back to story again, are woven into the lore that we find in stories. The importance of word, the importance of sharing, the importance of welcoming the stranger. The importance of maintaining balance between each other, between the genders, and between us and the other world, between us and all creation. And what that means in the context these days of a society and a culture which has suggested and promoted the fact that the individual is king.
Manda: Yeah. Lots I would like to delve into. Let’s keep going with that sense of community and what the building blocks might be. Because as you said, you teach this, you put a lot of your life into building communities of place and purpose and passion. And what came up for me, amongst other things, while you were speaking, was remembering when I was in East Anglia and there were villages in Norfolk, allegedly, where someone had gone round during the Great Plague and said, you can’t leave the village, it’s not safe. And nobody went round afterwards until after the Second World War. It was quite a long time of nobody leaving the village. And my family comes from lowland Scotland and they used to take me to see the graves and, you know, women producing endless children and as one dies, the next one is named with the family name that has just been vacated. They didn’t move from where their legs could easily take them for generations. Probably right back. There was no way of transport. And so part of the cult of the individual has become the cult of I can move around, I can go and yet I can connect and I can move into a place and I don’t need the people in my geographic location.
Manda: Because everything else will come to me in an Amazon van, frankly, these days. And yet, it still seems to me that from a neurophysiological point of view, dopamine hits are transient and we can never get enough of them. And the serotonin mesh that we create when we allow ourselves to join the web of a community, whether it’s a human community or a landscape community or a community with the other worlds, and I’d like to look at those three separately, is beyond price. And is, I think, what our souls yearn for. We’ve so recently civilised ourselves to death. This cult of the individual is so recent and it’s not who we actually are, it’s who we become when we’re afraid I think, of connection. Because connection means vulnerability and vulnerability means danger and we’ve become frightened. In your building of connections, of place and purpose and passion, what for you are the building blocks of community?
Angharad: You just said the magic word: vulnerability. I think it’s a superpower. What I observe is that when humans come together, particularly in a natural setting or particularly around a fire. And that’s where I suppose mostly meet community, is in one of those settings; taking people out into the wilderness, sitting around a fire, sharing stories. And then some older part of us is activated. And a yearning to share a commonality of experience; our deepest desires, hopes, dreams, concerns. People unpack extraordinarily, and if we can support an environment around that fire, within that community, of trying as much as possible to leave judgement at the door. And of course, we’re human, and that’s very difficult for us. You know, humans are extraordinary. I’ve watched humans be impeccable with each other. Virtual strangers be impeccable with each other. Because they are giving way to something that is older than the culture that we currently live in. There is the remembrance in us of something else. And if we can create the conditions, they are still very much alive in us. And in that opening up, one person shows their underbelly, you know, shows the vulnerability of something that’s been difficult for them and that opens a whole possibility for compassion and for other people to become vulnerable, until we’re in a place where that vulnerability becomes glue. And it’s the most tender, most beautiful magic.
Angharad: And of course, you know, there are there are ways of supporting that with song and ceremony and all sorts of other things as well that are designed; all these old, old practices that are fundamentally designed to take us to vulnerability. I’m thinking of vigil, for example. One of the ways that vigil works is we sit a night out in the wild. Now, the night isn’t where humans traditionally sit out. We’re guests in that time and that terrain, so we become vulnerable. But in that vulnerability becomes porosity. And through that porosity, new voices, new knowing, new places and spirit and energies to lean into the ineffable wraps around us. The unknowing wraps around us. And in that we change fundamentally and we we will never be quite the same again.
Manda: Thank you. Okay. And so in our modern world, coming together like this, I absolutely hear you that vulnerability is key and the humility that comes with allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to ourselves and with others. And I’m remembering Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, who looked at catastrophes around the world, Hurricane Katrina, things like that, and the ways strangers came together to support each other and the beauty of that. I read an extraordinary article in the New York Times last week by a Jewish columnist who’d gone to spend a month in the chaos of that, and he was reporting on Arabs who had driven in to the area where Hamas was shooting everybody to rescue people. And then the Jewish people they had rescued then rescued them from the IDF as they were driving out, because otherwise they would have been shot. And multiple cases of everybody just getting together, going this is not who we are. We do not want this to represent us. And I wonder, if we think to our tribal history, vulnerability was recognised and respected. And it was not, I think, and maybe I’m projecting my own hopes, it wasn’t weaponized. And yet what I see in our modern world is it’s easier to be vulnerable with a stranger because they’re not going to come back to you six months later, when they’re feeling triggered by something, and throw in your face the vulnerability that you offered. And I see that, the weaponization of vulnerability, happening all over the place. It seems to be one of the marks to me of a civilisation in breakdown, is that we will weaponize other people’s vulnerabilities. How, in your creating and holding a tribe and culture, do you help people to grow up enough not to need to do that?
Angharad: Well, it’s a very good question. I mean, I agree with you. I think that the fact that we do do it is it’s a humanity in breakdown. And there’s no easy answer. There’s probably many answers. The ones that come to me is that we, in an ideal world, it begins in infancy. It begins how we treat the young. We have so much need and deprivation in our society, it’s very difficult to see how we can turn that around very quickly, but we have to try, one by one. And one of the things that I’m really interested in right now is this concept that psychologists have been studying recently: the three degrees of influence. I don’t know if you’ve come across that? It’s the phenomena that I think from a magical perspective, we have known it and we know it deep in our bones. And it’s talked about in story and in myth, but it’s a phenomena that is now registered, that if you or I do something differently, it enables people in three degrees out of influence from us to also do the same. So it works with say for example, giving up smoking or losing weight. Those are the way they’ve measured it. But if you or I can come up with a different solution, if you and I can stand for we’re going to do this differently here, we’re not going to weaponize vulnerability, we’re going to honour vulnerability and we’re going to create space for that glue to happen. Then it enables another three people to be able to stand and do the same. And that concept both fascinates me and gives me hope, and it also drives me on to try to look at different solutions and to try and explore and experiment with how we do things differently, and how we find ways of integrating the individual with the community again, in some way, to bring forth something new that works.
Manda: Beautiful. Thank you. And I just looked up three degrees of influence. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Because we all know that our number of three in a virus spreads it around the whole world. And it’s almost cute because we influence our friends, and we influence the friends of our friends. And then we influence the friends of the friends of our friends. And I don’t remember who said there are only six degrees of connection through the whole world, but three degrees of influence is halfway to the six degrees of connection that connects us to everybody. And that, I guess, is how we get to tipping points and behavioural tipping points. And it has seemed to me, moving into the space of energy that we might call magic or connectedness or whatever we want to call it, that offering a model of that, offering an energetic model, isn’t just my head going ‘I’d better not snipe at this person because that’s not kind’, but offering the heart shape and heart space and heart textures of beingness where that doesn’t even become a concept, is also part of what we can do to influence the shaping of a tribe. Does that make sense as a concept? Do you find that as you’re shaping tribes that the energetic modelling is as important as the the verbal modelling?
Angharad: Absolutely. And I think being a parent as well, it’s the same thing. We model how we want it to be. And of course, you know, I don’t walk on water, I’m human. And what I’ve learned to do is to take a breath before that visceral, ingrained response. To just take a breath and consider. Because every time I take a breath and consider and try my best to tap into what is required beyond my trigger response here? Or even what is coming up for me here, for my own trauma as an upbringing, that I can own in this, and I can transform simply by doing something differently here? I can teach myself a different way here.
Angharad: And I think that taking a breath, owning one’s stuff is really, really important. It tends to be something that has to be learned when we hold groups, that distinction between this is actually my stuff playing out, rather than it’s you making me do stuff.
Manda: Yes, yes. I find it easier in groups than in close personal relationships, because I have the altar there. And provided I devolve responsibility to the altar, it’s really easy to see what’s mine and what’s somebody else’s. It’s far harder when you’re face to face with somebody who knows everything that makes you tick. But yes, I wonder also, because recently we had Alnoor Lada and Lynn Murphy talking about initiation culture and trauma culture, and we have 300,000 years of human evolution. And then millennia, billions of years, we go back to hydrogen. Every single person on the planet goes back, an evolutionary line that takes us back to when we were hydrogen. And everything along that evolutionary line has survived long enough to create whatever was the next step in the evolutionary journey to bring us to people. So we have an extraordinary timeline that brings us to here. And the schism, the rupture, the trauma that dissociated us from the web of life is so recent in that timescale. And I wonder, if we were considering building tribe and particularly I was very curious with Alnoor’s concept that we need to recreate or to create anew an initiation culture from our trauma culture. And my own belief then that we really don’t have very much time to do that before the trauma culture implodes. Every civilisation on the planet has imploded. Ours just happens to be a global civilisation and we’re in the process of imploding. Can you see ways, probably more than one, for us to move towards a heart based, whole, vulnerable, exulting in vulnerability if you like, culture that we could then begin to name as an initiation culture?
Angharad: I mean, I listened to the podcast and it’s an amazing podcast and I listen to Alnoor’s ideas and I sense that he’s right in that what’s happening now is going to throw us into facing the encounter with death in a fundamental way. And I believe that there are ways that we can reclaim and reweave something of the initiatory culture that we have. Because, you know, the one thing that initiatory culture does very well, is develop an understanding of what fear is, in order to be able to be with it.
Manda: Okay. And tell us more about that.
Angharad: One of the things that by its very nature initiation does, is in that separation from the everyday, we step into a space of deep and profound learning and alteration. Traditionally that, I work a lot with Colin Campbell and he talks about the young men that went out in South Africa and Botswana, you know, there could have been two or three thousand young men going out from the different tribes together. It was known that 20 to 30% of them would not come back alive.
Manda: And do we know why they didn’t come back alive? Is it because they were just incompetent and they fell behind when the lions came or whatever dangers there were? Or do we think also that there was a selection process of you really don’t fit and you’re going to be dangerous? And therefore when the lions come, I’m sorry, but you happen to be in the front line. Do we have any idea of the processes of that?
Angharad: I think the testing was incredibly harsh. I don’t know, and I don’t know if it’s known all the reasons why they didn’t return. I have no idea. But I think the testing was incredibly harsh and you know, they didn’t have the health and safety laws and regulations that we have today. So doing an initiatory process in that way is probably not possible for us in this day and age and in this culture. However, we should not discount initiations. There are many profound forms of initiation that don’t have to take you across the line of death, but can take you very close.
Manda: A close encounter with death becomes an actual encounter with death.
Angharad: An actual death. Yeah. And there are many ways of bringing you terrifyingly close to your deepest fears and up against yourself, in the most all consuming ways that it blows you apart and there is nothing to fall back on but ancestors and spirits and Land and all of creation and whoever you may feel is there for you. And once you’ve done that, you will know in a visceral and sure sense, that when the chips are down, there is that resource. And I think that in this day and age, why that is important is, more than anything else that I can see, is it’s doing those processes and other processes like vigil and things like that, that help to harness the will. And the will helps to overcome the fear and helps to hold us steady. And I remember Chris Lüttichau talking, I think you were there Manda, I think it was in a conversation with the three of us. Talking about, I think it was a parable that one of his teachers, one of the First Nations people of America, talked to him about a young boy asking an elder What to do in the times of chaos. What should he be looking for? And the elder saying Look for the people who can stand still, can be still. And I think that that’s what an initiatory culture helps to do, is helps to develop capacity to stand still. Take the deep breath. Connect deep down into the unknowingness, the human unknowingness and lean into the otherworldly knowing. The All Other knowing. And to be acting from love and in service to that.
Manda: Right. Yeah. Let’s go more deeply into this. Because it seems to me that in our current culture, a section of us are quite good at pushing to the edges of ourselves in activity. So rock climbing. I used to climb rocks a lot, and partly it was because I would find the edges of myself. I would find that point of absolute terror where all of me was certain that I was about to fall off and splatter down below, and yet there was actually gear. I didn’t do a lot of free climbing, and I didn’t often do it in places where I was going to die if I fell off. And so it was a close encounter with death. The people I climbed with were not, to the best of my understanding at the time, connecting to the unseen and asking for help there. And that seems to me part of the schism. Possibly they didn’t know that that was possible. I’m sure they didn’t. And also, they didn’t feel it useful or necessary. And I wonder how, if we’re going to rebuild this, there’s a couple of questions. Alnoor was fairly clear, that his opinion was that we’d have to create for ourselves our initiatory processes, each individual on their own. I still think, and I think you and I still lead groups where we can approximate that, without the actual risk of 20% not coming home. A tribal sense of that.
Manda: But that’s not scale. There are 8 billion people on the planet, and if we’re going to move to some kind of Conscious Evolution within a generation, which I think we have to, we can discuss that if you want, but that’s my basic premise. We have not got the time to train up the depth of wisdom of enough people to hold 8 billion people in that initiation. And yet the Conscious Evolution needs to happen. So we have your three degrees effect. One of us who can learn to stand still can perhaps hold stillness in our friends, who can hold stillness in their friends, who can hold stillness in their friends. That’s one option. But I think initiation is deeper than just the standing still. It is that learning that if I really need it and ask, the help is there. And once that channel is open it’s a bit of a one way valve. I’m sure you’ve had people in your groups, as I have in mine, who are quite shocked that it’s a one way valve and that you can’t switch it off once it’s opened, but you can’t. There is no going back. We do try and explain that, but sometimes you just have to experience it. Okay, wry laughter. But people want it. People are desperate for it. Have you any sense of how we can help people to move towards this safely and at scale?
Angharad: I quickly become overwhelmed when I try to think of the scale of it. That’s my truth.
Manda: Yeah. Me too.
Angharad: I’m not sure that my human brain has the capacity to hold that at scale. I get lost very quickly in that. I think I can only do what I can do. Which is to offer space, offer the fire, essentially. Offer the space around the fire. And what I see is more and more and more people coming. And the beginnings of what we’re talking about here. And it touches into what you were saying about your fellow climbers. If you haven’t grown up in a culture that normalises speaking about the spirit, the tree as an ally, as a companion, as a living sentient entity, about the interconnectivity of all things. Of how we are not possibly an individual. We are at least a biome and a community. And even consciousness is now understood as being that which happens when various things connect. And that happens in atoms and molecules and all sorts of things. So the whole world has its own consciousness.
Angharad: Now, if you don’t grow up in a culture where that is spoken, where that is worded, where that is accepted, it is very difficult, not impossible, because I do think that spirit breaks through. I mean, I’ve known plenty of people who would say they’re not spiritual and yet a near-death experience on the side of the mountain, something breaks through. This is the power I think of communities of interest, is when you gather around the fire and you say, this conversation is welcome here. I always say this, one of the fundamental, the important bits of my work, maybe the only thing that I actually do when people gather around the fire is to hold the space with that kind of conversation is okay. And the relief and the catharsis that comes from just being in a space where you are no longer weird or hiding what is a deep truth for you, is extraordinary for people.
Angharad: And I will never tire of watching that happen. Being in the emotion of of that. And that is the first step. And from there, all sorts of things, all sorts of possibilities arise. And I’ve watched people, as you’ve watched with your groups, I’ve watched people grow in themselves and grow into interconnection and become lights and go into their communities and to seed that light there. And it’s more than three degrees of connection. There is more. We’re creating as we connect in this way, we empower others to do the same. And so the light spreads. And I can only conceive of that through the few people that I have interactions with, but I have confidence that there are others, many, many others, an increasing number of others doing the same good work, holding the same. I think it’s been called in in this generation in some way, this great remembering. And, you know, at scale? I don’t know what that would need to be. Huge I’m sure. But I do feel that I’m seeing some extraordinary human beings becoming even more extraordinary, through a sense of being allowed to be in an interconnection with all creation and through initiatory processes. And through gathering around fires and through the teaching of old wisdom, through story. And through imagining how we can hold that in the here and now, in the today and into the future. So I have faith.
Manda: Yeah, and I think what I’m hearing from you and what I know from my own experience, is once you have the people who have a reliable connection with the web of life, who trust it and are prepared to let go into it. To be vulnerable to the extent that my life is no longer completely predictable, because it’s open to whatever the web says, and I have enough learned wisdom to know the difference between my own ego and an actual push from the web. Because you and I both know it’s often not clear text. You know, it’s subtle. I remember Chris saying a long time ago, the heart mind is very shy and it speaks very quietly, but the ego will whisper if that’s what it takes to get heard. And he’s absolutely right. Learning what is genuinely a whisper of the heart mind connected to the web and what is my ego wanting to push me, I think, is why the elders were elders. It takes a while to get to that. But we have elders now. And we have elders of all ages actually. I know some young people a third my age who have this and that open connection. And then, as you say, the ripple effects are huge. And it also seems to me, I just want to throw this out as a question, really. I was talking to somebody a few days ago who was part of something at Plum Village. So Plum Village is Thich Nhat Hanh and Buddhist monks who spend their lives cultivating what I would call heart-mind, the capacity to sit exactly in the present moment, in a place of absolute compassion and joyful curiosity and gratitude; the three pillars of the heart mind.
Manda: And they had invited a group of business leaders who, I gather, were from household name companies and other facilitators, to come and discuss the way forward. And again the allowing of the grief, first seemed to be the thing. It unleashes everything else, it’s the dam that breaks and then the creativity can come. But it seemed to me that the energetic space that a group of monks and nuns who spend their entire lives in meditation, contemplation and expansion of their heart minds, hold a very different energetic space than you would get if you held a Ted talk. Nothing against Ted talks, but the energetic space is very different and it’s much less likely that people would find access to the vulnerability and the creativity and the compassion that flows in a space that is resonating with the web of life, shall we say. And I wonder to what extent your experience is of heart mind being a thing that has its three degrees also? If I sit in heart mind, my circle can be in heart mind and then they understand what heart mind feels like. And then they can go out and hold heart mind and then that’s a different space. So is that your experience? And yet so many students come back and say the impact as I returned to consensus reality was so sharp and so hard that I find it really hard to continue to hold that space. First, is that your experience of the heart mind expanding? And second, how do you help your students through that rupture that happens or can happen, when they go back into consensus reality?
Angharad: It is my experience that holding heart mind enables others to come into that. And of course, there are also ancient, ancient practices that enable us to move into that, tried and tested, that that we work with all the time. But that return to consensus reality can be brutal. And I think that’s partly why my interest really over the last, uh, eight years probably, has moved towards longer term courses. Holding a group together for at least three years, so that they build a community that can support each other with this as well. And they can keep coming back into that nest of that community when they come up against it. Because we all come up against it. You know, you and I will be coming up against it all the time. We also need our groups to come back to and knock our heads against and say, I’m just not feeling it at the moment. I’m finding this difficult. And I think it’s important, you know, with our groups and with people to acknowledge that, that in this work you don’t get to a certain level where it all becomes easy.
Manda: Right. No, no! And and I don’t know why anybody ever thinks that would possibly be the case. Thank you. That’s really good. Yeah, it never does. And yet, if you’ve got a tribe that holds you and I’m guessing you go through the. What is it?
Angharad: Norming, storming, performing.
Manda: Yeah. And it cycles. It’s not like you get to performing and that’s it. You’re going to go through another cycle. But holding that, I wonder to what extent story then becomes a coherent and essential part of this, that the stories that a tribe evolves of and for itself become part of the the warp and the weft that keeps the weave together. Is that a thing in your groups?
Angharad: Absolutely. It’s the same as with any relationship. The stories, the myth of the origin of the group or of the relationship are fundamentally sustaining, or at least they’re guiding. In the same way as our primary creation myths are meant to be for the culture that we are in. And so how we hold what we choose as the values within those stories that we tell, how those are conceived and how they are retold is really important. How they are remembered. And I would say, you know, taking that to a wider context, one of the curiosities that I have is what is the creation myth, that if we were to come up with one for our time now, that would sustain us moving forward, what would that look like? What values would we put into it? Because I’m not sure in the Western world that the dominant ones that we have, either the Big Bang or Genesis in the Bible are actually… Well, they’ve got us to where we are, but I’m not sure that where we are is actually where we want to be going to be. And Sadly, we don’t have a remembrance really, certainly in here in Britain, of our very early creation myths. And there are some beautiful ones around the world. And it’s interesting that where those creation myths are remembered, the values of them are inherent within the peoples and the relationship generally between the people and the land in the indigenous cultures. So that’s a question that I hold a lot at the moment, is let’s look at society now and if we were to evolve a creation myth to take us forward, what ingredients would we put into it?
Manda: What are the core values? This brings up very strongly for me. I don’t know if you’ve read Civilised to Death by Christopher Ryan.
Angharad: No, but I’ve heard you speak about it.
Manda: I’ve mentioned it probably. It’s one of my books of the year. Partly because I really understood reading that the extent to which the move from forager hunter lifestyle to agrarian lifestyle was not an advancement. It was a desperate default at a time when the climate suddenly changed and the knowing of the forager hunter ways of being had been lost enough that it was impossible to refind them. And nobody wanted to go to agriculture. He says that evolutions or advancements in beaker technology or how to shape a hand-axe spread really fast right across the Fertile Crescent. Agriculture moved, he says, at the pace of an old man in carpet slippers. That nobody wanted it. And in Britain we know, certainly it says in Graeber and Wengrow, that we we moved to agriculture for 2 or 3 generations and thought, this is not fun, and went back to foraging hazelnuts for a while. And one of the things that struck me most was that he said this was when we had the rupture; our Gods had been benevolent. The Fertile Crescent was extraordinarily fertile, to the point where people had stopped moving around and had become more sedentary, had more children, let go of the knowing of how to keep moving.
Manda: And then suddenly an extraordinarily big lake in America broke its banks. It was meltwater. Broke its banks, total immediate climate change. And then the gods became psychopaths, basically, who did bad things with no warning and without any particularly good reason. And then the human children of those gods had to try and work out what they’d done wrong. And one of the behavioural studies that we do as a way to create the ultimate poisoned cue, is for things that have previously been signals of good, to become signals of bad. And then the randomness of the unknowing crushes a spirit faster than almost anything. And so we had abundance and connection and confidence in ourselves, and we moved very quickly to scarcity, separation and powerlessness, which is what typifies our trauma culture. And so what, for you, would be the values if we were to reconnect? Step away from the scarcity, the separation, the powerlessness. That whatever is the story, those are what we embody. Those are what we carry through the days. How would you give the foundations to a new story. What would its values be?
Angharad: Uh, that’s a huge question.
Manda: Ok. Maybe we leave it and come back in another year and think about it.
Angharad: Maybe. But there’s a few things. There’s a very beautiful South African story. It’s a creation myth in which humanity begins life beneath the crust of the earth, in darkness. And through a number of reasons, a group of humanity is sent up to get something from the upper world and discovers this glorious landscape and colour and creatures. And they go back down and they they sit around a blue flamed fire in the underworld and they tell the rest of the tribe under there about this place. Of course they don’t even have words for it. They don’t even have words for the colours that they’ve seen. But curiosity, because we humans are very curious, means that they all traipse back to their great creator God and say, please, can we all go up and have a look at this glorious world? And they go up and anyway, to cut a long and very beautiful story short, what the Creator God says is, if you want to live in the upper world, you must spend time asking each of the creatures and the rivers and the trees for the law by which you may exist as humanity in their world. And I think for me, the story would revolve around exploring how we humans fit into this world, because I’m very sure that we do. Nature doesn’t create beings by accident. We are here for a very good reason. I love James Hillman’s idea that we should have been called Homo Appreciates because part of what makes us human is our capacity for awe and creativity. Of pouring that back out and honouring all creation as sacred and beautiful with our creative offering.
Manda: And I was taught that the Cherokee believed that humanity’s role was to give thanks. That’s what we were here for. And that’s exactly that. And I’m quite on board with that. And then where does that take you? Because you don’t simply give thanks, you then open to the web of life because that’s a natural response to the thanks giving that happens.
Angharad: And when we watch children, you know, small children before they’re taught to be shut down, they have such wonder for the natural world. That it would have to be something that explores what it is to be human in this world, and the fact that we are here as guests, yes, but also fundamentally necessary and loved interconnected beings with all things.
Manda: That is so beautiful. That feels like a really good place to end. I thought we might go for another 5 or 10 minutes, but actually, that that encapsulates so much. Having said that, you have such a huge depth and breadth of wisdom, and you’re so connected to the land, and we are heading down into the dark nights. And I wonder for people listening to help them to get ready for their dark nights, for the lightings of their fires on the longest night and the shortest day, is there anything that you could send people away with, to help them to connect to the web, to themselves, to a sense of tribe?
Angharad: A very easy thing that I think we’ve been doing since, since we developed consciousness, is finding a small place that we can consider sacred. To represent the sacredness that we sense is in all life and to go there. It might be under a tree. It might be the corner of a garden. It might be under a hedge. Wherever it is that your feet call you to. And it’s usually easier if it’s close at hand. But to go there regularly and that regularity is really important. To take offerings, to take yourself as an offering and give your time with it. And just as you would a human friend, not expect too much too soon, but to introduce yourself. To spend time, to be open and curious as to what the beings of that place might have to say, or ways that they might be in relationship to you. But to keep turning up, to keep turning up, and to just notice over time. There’ll be some days where it feels like nothing happens. And then there are some days where everything will happen. But to keep turning up. And as we’re going into the solstice and the longer days of summer are before us, it feels like a good place and a good time to start.
Manda: Beautiful. That is so lovely. Angharad, thank you so much for coming on to the Accidental Gods podcast. This has been a joy and a delight and a connection. Thank you.
Angharad: Thank you Manda. Always my pleasure.
Manda: Well, that’s it for our gathering around the fire with Angharad. Huge thanks to you for joining us, and to Angharad for the depth and breadth and sheer heart of her understanding and connection to the land. Of her ability to light her own fires and invite so many different people to join her there. Of her capacity for vulnerability. For wisdom. For heart minded connection. More than ever, as we all head into the still time, the resting time, we need these qualities. So please take whatever you can from this podcast. Full hearted, open hearted, clear hearted and strong hearted. Take these things into the dark. Light your own fires. Invite your own tribes of place and purpose and passion. And see how you can connect to the web of life. And ask it What do you need of me for the year yet to come?
Manda: We will be back next week with another conversation. And in the meantime, huge thanks to Caro C for the music at the Head and foot. To Alan Lowells of Airtight Studios for the production. To Anne Thomas for the transcripts. To Faith Tilleray for all the work that makes the website beautiful, and for the conversations that keep us going. And as ever, an enormous thanks to you, our tribe, for being there, for sharing the podcast, and for being part of our journey forward. If you know of anybody else who wants to connect more deeply with the land, who wants the solstice to mean something individual and collective, who wants to connect to the fire, then please do give them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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