Image Credit: Andrew Fusek Peters
Episode #86 The Road to Glasgow: Climate Pilgrimages converging on COP26 with Bamber Hawes and Benjamin Christie
(COP26 is our best – possibly our last – chance to persuade those who govern the world that the climate and ecological emergency needs swift and radical action. So how can we get the message through to those who are driving our collective bus that they need to turn the wheel before we all hurtle over a cliff? How can we persuade them that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option, or that alternatives do exist if we only had the creativity, imagination, courage and empathy to make them work?
Benjamin Christie is driven by the deeply held belief in the possibility of a more equitable, sustainable and harmonious world. He works to support NGOs and ethical businesses develop and achieve their goals. With a career spanning events, media and business development, Benjamin has been fortunate enough to gain experience of many different countries, environments and partnerships at first hand. He’s speaking on behalf of the Pilgrimage for Nature which is walking along the Spine of Albion (an ancient pilgrimage route which runs from the southernmost tip of England to the northernmost tip of Scotland), from London through Glasgow at the time of COP26.
Bamber Hawes says of himself that he is ‘a Thing Maker’. He trained as an Industrial Designer in Sussex, then moved to London and had various companies making furniture, building sets and film props, art directing and modelmaking. In 2005, after 22 years living in Hackney just off the Murder Mile he ‘ran away from his annoying media clients’ to Bishop’s Castle in South Shropshire, where he now is a picture framer, furniture maker, artist and Art Co ordinator for an Art Trail and is a Town Councillor.
Now, he has created CLARION, a 10 foot Polar Bear made to be portable. He and Clarion will be walking from his home in Bishop’s Castle to Glasgow in time for COP.
His call to those who might want to join him in their local area is below the podcast player.
Join Bamber and Clarion near you!
Calling anyone who would like to be part of a commitment to our living, breathing Earth and the future of all life.
I am organising a Climate Crisis Pilgrimage from South Shropshire to the COP26 climate talks that starts on 1st November in Glasgow.
Would you be interested in joining me for a day of walking as I progress northward? I will be doing the whole 306 mile walk which will take 22 days. Each day I will be joined by local people from the area that I have reached.
The unusual thing is that I will be accompanied by a ten foot high sculpture of a polar bear, that I have made. The bear, called Clarion, is made from thin bamboo poles, willow withies and many layers of heavy duty tissue paper bonded together with waterproof PVA. He is carried on a palanquin. He ain’t heavy!
The intention for this pilgrimage is to come together to walk, to talk, to connect with each other, to connect with the landscape by moving through it slowly, admiring its beauty and grandeur, to be positive and kind, to smile and laugh while being serious and to build active hope.
Walking to the climate talks will not change the world ~ but I can think of nothing better to do to show the earnestness of my belief that we must learn to talk together and build community, only in Oneness will we make a better more just world.
I am looking for people to join me for a day walking along footpaths, bridle paths, canal towpaths and B roads. So, please consider coming along as a treasured, intrepid pilgrim. I assure you this will not be a shouty, banner waving demonstrating rabble. This pilgrimage will be in the media, and I am sure it will be praised and vilified.
If you are not a walker perhaps you would like to still be part of this by being a driver, delivering walkers at the start of the day and/or collecting them at the end.
Thank you Bamber the Human and Clarion the Bear
The complete itinerary will be on Facebook soon. Please also support and contact me on other social media channels –
No small children, no dogs, no alcohol.
Clarion and I will be coming through your area on these dates:
Day 1: 10th October Bishop’s Castle to Longden
Day 2: 11th October Longden to Platt Lane
Day 3: 12th October Platt Lane to Bulkeley
Day 4: 13th October Bulkeley to Kingsley
Day 5: 14th October Kingsley to Rainhill
Day 6: 15th October Rainhill to Appley Bridge
Day 7: 16th October Appley Bridge to Middleforth
Day 8: 17th October Middleforth to Garstang
Day 9: 18th October Garstang to Lancaster
Day 10: 19th October Lancaster to Hincaster
Day 11: 20th October Hincaster to Sadgill
Day 12: 21st October Sadgill to Askham
Day 13: 22nd October Askham to Calthwaite
Day 14: 23rd October Calthwaite to Cargo
Day 15: 24th October Carge to Stapleton Grange
Day 16: 25th October Stapleton Grange to Lockerbie
Day 17: 26th October Lockerbie to Mosslands
Day 18: 27th October Mosslands to Elvanfoot
Day 19: 28th October Elvanfoot to Douglas
Day 20: 29th October Douglas to Strathaven
Day 21: 30th October Strathaven to Busby
Day 22: 31st October Day off
Day 23: 1st November Busby to COP26
Manda: My guests this week are two pilgrims, amongst other things. Bamber Hawes is a local artist that I met when we both joined Extinction Rebellion back in the heady days of 2019. He’s an astonishingly creative, inspired and inspiring individual who made a giant Trojan horse and brought it to London in 2019, and then a giant shark and took it to London in 2020, and sadly it wasn’t used, as you will hear, because Covid. But now Bamber has made a giant 10 foot polar bear, which he will be walking on pilgrimage to Glasgow, town of my birth, for the Cop 26 meeting that’s happening at Samhain, and for nine days after, at the end of this year. And for those of you who don’t play in the Celtic calendar, that means it starts on the 1st of November. So COP, Conference of all the Parties 26, it is the 26th of these meetings. And this is the one where the ‘great and the good’ of the political class of the world get together. And maybe this time, they don’t just make empty promises. Perhaps this time, they will do something that they actually mean to keep. Because the Paris Climate Accord has done something: it has created a baseline that people are beginning to hold their governments to. And perhaps because this COP is in this country, or perhaps because this year is the one that matters, I am becoming increasingly aware of all of the actions in all of the realities that are moving towards this COP to make it the one that makes a difference.
Manda: And so I wanted to talk to some of the people involved. And on this podcast, along with Bamber, I’m talking to Benjamin Christie, who again, I’ve known for a while as an astonishingly creative, deeply spiritual, highly practical, grounded, authentic individual. Ben is driven by the deeply held belief in the possibility of a more equitable, sustainable and harmonious world. When he’s not supporting a pilgrimage to Glasgow, a different pilgrimage to Glasgow, he works to support NGOs and ethical businesses in developing and achieving their goals. His career spans events and media and business development, and he’s a festival organiser. He works with the wisdom keepers. He’s trained in some of the deepest, most connected of the traditional indigenous spiritual practises that this world knows. And he brings them to the UK, and he grounds them in everything that we do here. So this has been an exploratory and transformational podcast for me, and I hope for you. People of the podcast, please welcome Bamber Hawes and Benjamin Christie. So, Benjamin Christie and Bamber Hawes, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. Thank you for turning out on this amazing and beautiful Monday morning. So in the beginning, I want us to situate us all on the road to Glasgow. We have the COP 26 coming. It is our last chance to make a difference. I’m sure we’ll talk about that in a lot more depth during the podcast. So, Bamber, what brings you and Clarion onto the road to Glasgow?
Bamber: I made Clarion after I went to the XR event in London last year, and I came back, I’d made a big sculpture for that which wasn’t used because it was curtailed, because of Covid. And I made this big bear, because I wanted to. And then I had this thought, well, what am I going to do with it? I could carry it to Glasgow. So that’s how it started, really.
Manda: So tell us a little bit more. I think I saw the sculpture that you took to London. Was it not a Trojan horse? Did I not see a Trojan horse? Or was that the year before?
Bamber: I went up in 2019, just after I joined XR, and I made a 13 foot high Trojan horse out of willow withies, bamboo poles and tissue paper. And it had three giant love hearts inside it. My initial idea was to get it to the gates of Downing Street for dawn one morning during the uprising, and that wasn’t possible, and eventually did another little adventure. And then I went up the following year, which was 2020, and I made a giant shark, which wasn’t used.
Manda: Darn! So it was the Trojan horse that I saw. I am obviously losing track of time. So tell us a little bit, before we move to Ben, about the making of Clarion. You made a horse, which was, we’ll try and get a picture of this and put it somewhere on the stream, because it was absolutely stunning. And then you’d made a shark, which I haven’t seen, and you can send us a picture of that. And now we have Clarion, who’s just so majestic and beautiful and wonderful. Tell us a little tiny bit about how, physically, logistically, what he’s made of.
Bamber: Ok, well, I’ve got a background in model making, set-building and special effects and things, so I can make most things. I needed it to be very light. So he has plywood feet, a skeleton, some poles of bamboo which are bolted together up inside him. And then, willow, withies, and four layers of heavy duty tissue paper bound together with waterproof PVA. So he’s very light, very strong and waterproof. And white. And he does shine.
Manda: And have you tested the waterproofness?
Bamber: Yes. And also fireproofness. And if I put lights inside him, he glows in the dark, like a lantern in the dark.
Manda: Magic! And I believe we’re going to have a picture of that, definitely, on the stream somewhere. So, Benjamin, what brings you on the road to Glasgow in this COP 26 year?
Ben: I think ultimately a sense of responsibility. I think the fact of this, you know, biggest and most important conversation that humanity is having taking place on our land engendered in me that sense of responsibility. Now is the time to stand up, to do what we can to contribute to this conversation, because it’s critical for all life on the planet, and certainly in respect of future generations. As a parent, I feel I won’t be able to look at my son or his children in the eye and say that I didn’t do something at this time.
Manda: How old is your son?
Ben: He’s seven, a young one called Lucas.
Manda: Hi, Lucas. And old enough, I’m sure, to know what’s going on and to know that, yeah, our generation has a responsibility. So let’s take that a little deeper. We all, I think, anybody listening to this podcast has a sense that this year is a make or break year. Rupert Reid said it way back in January – which is half a year away, it feels like yesterday – that this year defines this decade. This decade defines this century. And this century is the one in which fundamentally, humanity will make the changes we need and become something that isn’t wholly destructive, or at least largely destructive, or we won’t. And so narrowing it down now to to Glasgow, to COP 26. What have you been doing, Benjamín, through this year, or since the understanding that we were basically aiming towards a particular date line, to gather an understanding of what the land needs? Because it seems to me that you and Bamber both are immersed in a connectedness that goes beyond just connexion to people. Does that make sense as a question?
Ben: Very much. By way of some of my background, I think that, you know, I help organise a festival that we established two years ago, called Medicine Festival, looking at how, you know, what are the causes of the separation or the malaise that we observe in society, and in our relationship with the Earth? And how can we collectively or individually arrive at their antidote? You know, the medicine that we seek to arrive at a more harmonious and aligned ways of being individually, and as communities. And the preamble to that festival is first and foremost having experienced, and been in and around festival culture, and I suppose before that rave culture, for my entire adult life, and aware of the impact that’s had on me in a transformational sense, and a healing sense, and a celebratory sense, and a learning sense, a creative sense. And beyond that experience, and connection with different spiritual traditions around the world, who in some senses, having survived or remaining as vestiges of their original form, know how to navigate living on this planet, and have done so in a fairly successful way for a larger course of history than is accounted for by our Western viewpoint. And so those experiences have at this stage of my life led me to, in the context of the COP, the power of connection to Land; again, in this larger sense, Land as the Earth; Land as a spiritual being from whence we derive and understand our role and responsibilities as humans. And in particular, an experience with a group that I had the honour, with my wife, of convening over the years, called The Wisdom Keepers, which is a platform for different indigenous and spiritual lineages to gather and present and share some of the the technologies and the insights that they have for how they manage their own journeys in life.
Ben: And one of those gatherings, we were going to Glastonbury Festival in 2019. And we were invited to a series of other events, which it slowly dawned on me, were along the course of the Michael and Mary line, which is a set of ley lines that run across the widest part of the country. And so in the course of realising that we’ve been invited to Royston, which is an ancient place of initiation in Cambridgeshire, and then Avebury, and then Glastonbury, it dawned on me that those are all on the same line, so very accidentally realising that, and in a gradually evolving awareness of some of the protocols and the practises that all of these traditions undertake, wanting to observe the protocols that are appropriate for hosting different traditions on different lands, and asking for permission from local lore keepers. We did so, and I originally envisaged going to the start and the end of the Michael and Mary line, where it comes in from the sea, from Scandinavia, in Norfolk, in a place called Hopton on Sea. And then all the way down across, I think it’s some 66 different churches now situated on the line, obviously residual from previous sacred sites, all the way down to to Cornwall, a place called Caenlesbol, which is just beyond Michael Mount. And that experience of undertaking pilgrimage was very, very transformational in my own experience, my own understanding of why pilgrimage, why do cultures across the world throughout history undertake that practise?
Ben: And simply put, the Land, or the particular confluence of these energy lines, these ley lines, call them what you will, gave us as a group very, very clear sets of symbols, of experiences, of insights that we all repeatedly shared and experienced during the entire course of three, four weeks while we were able to undertake this pilgrimage. And that was very, very transformational in terms of understanding a lot about how vital and how intelligent the Land is, and how communicative it is. And so some of those archetypes and messages we received during the course of that pilgrimage are very familiar to all of us, certainly to you Manda, in terms of consistent experiences with aspects of our theory in lore, all the kind of traditions of our Land specific to here; continual kind of reference to masculine and feminine archetypes through different cultural filters. But I’d say particularly in respect of the Arthur and Guinevere mythos: dragon’s eggs, virgin births, all of these repeatedly experienced by our group as we progressed along the line. And so in learning that the Glasgow COP was – sorry, the COP was going to be taking place in Glasgow, on our land, and looking more deeply into some of these ancient trackways, these pilgrimage routes, learning more and more about them in respect of our own land, it transpires that there is another biggest possible line on this land, called the Spine of Albion, which runs all the way up from the Isle of Wight to the very top of Scotland.
Ben: And whether through coincidence or design, I’m not really here to speculate, they’ve run through some of the ancient capitals of the British Isles, and some of the major capitals of industry, manufacturing. So you know, going up we’re talking about Winchester and then Carlisle, those ancient ceremonies of coronation or of power. And then Birmingham, Manchester, and then on into the kind of cultural realm, Stratford. And eventually the line arrives running between Edinburgh and Glasgow. And so I’ve been working with a group of people who are looking to undertake a pilgrimage the length of that line, which is an epic quest, I think, in and of itself, commensurate with the task in front of us, and the scale of dedication and ambition I think it’s going to take for all of us to turn this ship around. The principles of sovereignty and power, the line is, as I have understood it from people who’ve written books on the topic, and other people who had long experience with it, it explores the notions of power. And in many ways, that is one of the larger reflections of what the COP, the climate change conversations are about: which use are we going to put our power to? What are those responsibilities, what do we expect of those who have power? How do they arrive at that power? And yeah, ultimately, what are we going to do with the power that we have for, I don’t want to say good or ill, for a more aligned relationship with each other and the Earth, or more of what we’re perceiving in life today.
Manda: Fantastic. Thank you. So I want to come back directly to that question about how can we be good stewards of power, and how can your pilgrimage help us to align with that? But before we do that, let’s move on to Bamber. So Bamber, Benjamin is planning a pilgrimage, and you are planning a pilgrimage. Tell us your plans for your pilgrimage with Clarion, and how far you’ve got, and where you’re planning to go, and how fluid they are.
Bamber: Ok. My plan is to walk the most direct route from Bishop’s Castle in South Shropshire to Glasgow. So I’ve literally drawn a line on a map that goes up to Carlisle and then angles over towards Glasgow, because I’m lazy and I want to do the shortest route, and I haven’t got a lot of time. So I reckon we can do 14 miles a day. I will do 22 days of walking at 14 miles a day, but I’m only asking other people to do one day. So it will start on day one with people from Bishop’s Castle and the local area walking with me up towards Shrewsbury. And then I stay the night there, and I need to find somewhere for Clarion to stay the night. And then the next day I set off with a different group of people to walk up to Whitchurch, and it goes on. So logistically, it’s a bloody nightmare, because I’ve got to arrange 22 groups of people, 22 places for us to stay, and deal with. I was looking up local radio stations between here and Glasgow, and there’s hundreds of them, so there’s lots to organise.
Manda: Ok, so people are invited, anybody listening or their friends, family, colleagues, connexions, to join you for one of those days. And presumably you start off relatively decent time in the morning, walk 14 miles and then the people who’ve walked with you can get public transport back to their starting point, I guess?
Bamber: Yes, I’m imagining that they will have friends or relations who can collect, you know, half a dozen people or how many will fit in a car, and take them back. Or the people where they’ve got to will drive them home. Yes, that needs to be sorted out.
Manda: Right. How many people can you fit in a Mini?
Bamber: I wanted to stress it’s 14 miles a day, not 40. I don’t want to frighten people initially by thinking they’re going to be walking 40 miles.
Manda: That’s quite a long, that would be a long day. 14 miles is pretty doable. And I’m guessing you’re not planning to go through bogs and over mountains. You’re picking trackways and lanes?
Bamber: I’ve made a route which goes along B roads, paths, bridlepaths, towpaths, trying to keep away from traffic. The idea is that it’s not a loud shouty thing with a rabble of people with flags and megaphones. It’s a quiet, meditative thing, with people talking and moving through their local landscape, discussing whatever. It’s a bit like, well, a pilgrimage rather than a march, definitely.
Manda: Brilliant. Not suggesting that there isn’t room for the loud shouty things once in a while, although by October, of course, they may be illegal. But in the meantime, yes, this feels like a much more spiritually aligned event than some of the XR events that you and I have both been on. They have always had their spiritual component. I vividly remember the Quakers and the Buddhists in Trafalgar Square back in 2019, which does feel a long time ago. But this is, I am hearing from you, or I’m understanding, or think I’m understanding that this is an event with a spiritual purpose. Would that be right?
Bamber: Yes. I think so. I was thinking yesterday, I went to Ludlow Green Festival, and I was trying to think, I was talking to some people about this, whether there is a slogan or a message or something, particularly if I’m going to be sending out press releases, and I haven’t really worked that out yet. Perhaps I can work it out during our talk now, today. Whether there is some demand that I’m making, like don’t you dare go home until you’ve made some proper decisions, like politicians.
Manda: Ok, that’s an interesting point I’d like to come on to, which is, who are we speaking to with these two pilgrimages? But let’s get to that later. Just before, I want to continue with the logistics of this. So if people are moved to join you somewhere on this, how can they contact you?
Bamber: Clarion has a Instagram account, which is Clarion_the_bear, so it’s Clarion the Bear, and he also has a Facebook account which is Clarionthebear, I think it’s all one word. There’s not much stuff on it at the moment, but there will be more stuff going on it. There will be the places, and the routes the bear will be taking, and the dates, so that people can link in and think, Oh, well I’m near Lancaster, it will be on such and such a day, and then, I need – I don’t know, organise 22 different WhatsApp groups? I’ve no idea quite how to do this. I could do with someone to help me organise, do all that side. Making the bear was the easy bit. That was just 80 hours of happily making stuff while listening to music. The difficult bit is organising the people, which is what I’ve found before when I’ve done other big animals and festivals and things.
Manda: Ok, so message to listeners, if anybody wants to help Bamber with the tech, then contact you through Instagram or Facebook at the moment. I never do Instagram. I don’t really understand how it works, but I’m assuming everyone who listens to the podcast is technologically literate, and they will be able to find you one way or another. If you can’t find Bamber through either of those routes and you really want to, then the email address for the podcast is firstname.lastname@example.org. So just email me on that, and I will pass anything. Put Clarion, or Pilgrimage, in the subject line and I’ll pass it straight onto Bamber. All right. Thank you.
So let’s move back to Benjamin. You too are organising a pilgrimage. We’ll look at the logistics of that later. So I want to explore a little bit more the principles of sovereignty and power that run through this line going from the Isle of Wight to Scotland, because it seems to me that the crux of the problem of humanity at the moment is that we have grown our power enormously in the last few decades, really. This is, I am heavily influenced by Daniel Schmachtenberger here. I suspect we’ll be talking about this quite a lot in various podcasts. But for those who haven’t got up to speed with that, his contention is that since the Second World War, when we created weapons that made winning a war no longer possible, because fundamentally we are now – if we spark any kind of big war, everybody loses – we’ve also grown all of our tech. We’ve grown our information technology, our digital technology, our biological technology, our chemical technology. The whole of our technological world has grown in power such that we are now on the singularity of the exponential curve, the point where the curve goes vertical. And what we haven’t grown is our capacity to be good stewards of power. We don’t have to be brilliant stewards of power, but we have to be good enough stewards of power. And we’re still locked in the political system that seems particularly in the UK, but essentially most of the nations around the world, to be locked in an 18th century zero-sum ‘we win, you lose’ tribal, reductive, lowest common denominator mindset., I’d like to give a shout out to New Zealand, because recently their entire cabinet took a 20 percent pay cut, which is wonderful. And places like Taiwan and Estonia are using modern technology in truly creative ways to create genuinely, at least on a nation state, ways of collaborating and creating a new kind of democracy.
We’re working here, both Bamber and Benjamin, it seems to me, on a level where we’re connecting with the Land, and asking of it, how can we be good enough stewards of power? And what I’m not clear on in this is where does the sovereignty come into it? What is it about sovereignty, which has become something of a buzzword in the last two or three years. How do we become good enough sovereigns of our power, or how do we have good enough sovereignty in and of ourselves? Can we explore that as a concept a little bit? Benjamin.
Ben: Thanks, Manda. I think, going directly to this concept of sovereignty, I think there’s an important distinction that I arrived at in my own explorations around this topic, this theme, is that when we speak of sovereignty in contemporary political discourse, I think what we’re often talking about is about freedom, is about the ability to act as individuals, or as communities, free from the encumbrance essentially of capitalism, of economic necessity, or whatever that construct is that we are all operating under the confines of. And so I think that that is how people have come to understand the concept, the principle of sovereignty, and being able to arrive back at a degree of financial autonomy, or financial sovereignty, or political sovereignty, is really what people are getting at. And that is completely valid in the cultural container we find ourselves in. But I think that sovereignty, when you look at it from a historical filter, can and wants to explore, particularly in that kind of Arthurian mythos that’s kind of wedded, welded into our cultural framework in this land, is actually the distinction that sovereignty – there’s a distinction between sovereignty with a small s, and with a capital S. And what those ancestral myths explore is Sovereignty with a capital S, as something that’s indistinguishable from, or synonymous with, the Goddess, with the divine, with the Land as an expression of divinity.
Ben: And that’s something that’s difficult for us to accept or contemplate from our cultural viewpoint. But if you look at many, many other cultures, that distinction has never been arrived at. Pachamama, the Earth as the goddess. And if you think back to the Gnostic traditions and mythos as well, those pieces become synonymous. And ultimately, as I’ve sat with this over a good long while, when we are trying to arrive at alignment, in your original question of how do we manage this power that we have, there is a sense that we have forgotten, during the course of our cultural journey, that ultimately power, or in fact all life, comes from the Earth. Without her, we do not have oxygen. We do not have water. We certainly do not have food. And so my appraisal, or my kind of perspective, is that what’s important, or what would help us in our abilities to arrive back at some degree of harmony or alignment, is to be found in what’s still carried by a lot of these cultures and traditions that still work to propitiate their relationship with the Earth, and indeed derive guidance from it to understand what it is that we’re here to do in respect of our own locality, and then on up to our own national areas.I don’t want to talk about political nationality, but our own regions, our own ecosystems. And, you know, I appreciate as a very alien concept to explore, from the kind of scientific materialist paradigm that somehow doesn’t accord any intelligence or agency to Earth. And that’s that’s perceivable from our legal framework. You know, if you ever look at the filter of rights of nature as a set of principles, that we might bring in back into the law, land has no agency. It is just a dead resource to be exploited or owned. It doesn’t have any personhood, which is an odd concept to bring up. And so my understanding of this pilgrimage, let’s say, that goes to a place where the world is convened to explore and develop a sense of responsibility, or an ability to kind of come into greater alignment with the natural world, is exploring this principle of Sovereignty with a capital S. How can we arrive at a listening, or a regard for the needs of the Earth, which is, after all, where we derive all power from, where we derive our very lives from?
And what I perceive in all of this kind of conversation is that we still have an extraordinary way round where, you know, the environment is still some kind of obscure subset of how we appraise things. And I think that, you know, coming back to the principle of pilgrimage, in my experience, what I’ve kind of studied and observed is that there is a huge amount of information that comes from the process of pilgrimage, and learnings and messages that arrive in the consciousness of the pilgrim, or the group of pilgrims. And so in the context of the pilgrimage I’m helping to support, I would hasten – I would be quite guarded about suggesting that I’m organising the pilgrimage. I’m supporting a pilgrimage. Very importantly, a wonderful woman called Jolie Booth is very capably organising all the different aspects that Bamber’s spoken to, the logistics of, you know, how do you feed and house pilgrims on the course of it? How do you find the routes? How do you communicate to the different audiences? That is always an enormous endeavour that a whole group of people are undertaking. But in that understanding of pilgrimage being a mechanism to arrive at or understand messages from that pathway, that songline, that route, the hope is to start, to develop performances that reflect some of those learnings. So Jolie and quite a few of the group of 30 pilgrims who are undertaking the entire route are all very experienced fools, trained by a wonderful man called Jonathan Kay, who really is, in my experience, very close to the Fool of the Shakespearean imagination, who is a wonderful mirror of the environment, or the perspectives, the viewpoint of what’s being expressed.
Ben: And so that performance will, that’s holding a space for the performance, arriving during the course of the pilgrimage as the messages that they receive from people they encounter, and the Land, start to repeat themselves, and a performance is what they’re hoping to deliver, we’re hoping to deliver, at the start of the COP. I’m not quite sure where we’ve got to, we’re certainly in conversations with the COP organisers as to having this performance delivered as all the world leaders arrive at the opening weekend, and a step beyond that, during the course of the pilgrimage, also inviting people to participate in the creation, the co-creation of a charter which will be delivered to the organisers of the COP as a message ostensibly coming from the people that are encountered during the course of the pilgrimage, but in that context of what I’ve been sharing in respect of sovereignty, I believe and understand that will be messages coming from the Land itself. And I guess I just wanted to kind of close those thoughts with what’s been really kind of, yeah, I’d love to bring this to you, Manda and Bamber, this principal of a charter; a new covenant with the Earth. A new set of agreements that we undertake to arrive at a more harmonious and aligned walk with the Earth. And I guess my question there is, is around, you know, the famous charter of our land, the Magna Carta, you know, and my Latin’s too rusty nowadays to arrive at confidence in saying, a friend came up with this the othe day, the ‘Magna Carta Mundi’. I don’t know if that’s correctly declined, but this sense of a recognition of our responsibilities, of our power, such as they are, through technology and those different ways you expressed. But also an agreement that we arrive at ourselves, that what we’re willing to undertake to arrive back at a more harmonious, sustainable relationship with the Earth herself. What feels to me important is this is like a message stick. Here’s what we’ve heard, here’s what we’ve reflected. Here is the agreement, as we see it:, this charter, this covenant, is that something you’re willing to to pick up and take on? Or are you hearing differently? Or is it going to be something… but it starts to roll on, territory to territory, as this conversation rolls on. And essentially, and hopefully, until we till we get it right.
Manda: Yes! So it’s essentially a crowdsourced covenant for the whole world, in the end. But we’re starting with it being crowdsourced from the pilgrimage, and the route of the pilgrimage. Is that what I’m hearing? Is that right?
Ben: Very much so. But you know, for me, and you know, again, I’d love to to unpack this a little bit, but that distinction between Sovereignty with a capital S and that consciousness, or that possibility, as in distinction to sovereignty as it’s often arrived at, in terms of emancipating ourselves, or not continuing to perpetuate this ‘power-over’ paradigm that we’re all very, very aware of, but one that may be, you know, certainly in the context of wisdom, traditions or indigenous traditions that stretch back tens of thousands of years is a very contemporary one, is a very kind of recent set of perspectives and a political, cultural, financial framework that, I hope and I’m sure many of us do as well, is hopefully a flash in the pan, and we’ll arrive back at a more sustainable, aligned set of principles by which we can, and this is a lovely distinction, understanding economy to meaning, to actually, root meaning ‘management of the home’. How do we manage our home, when our home is the Earth?
Manda: Yes, that’s Kate Raworth’s starting point. So I’d love to unpick this some more with Bamber in on the conversation, because this feels like it is going back to talk to the Earth. |It’s also going back to the roots of what got us to where we are. Because there was the Charter of the Forest in the U.K., and then the Magna Carta and, to an extent, we exported the principles of those to the lands we then colonised. And it was Churchill, I think, who said that democracy is the worst system ever invented for deciding how to do things – except for all the others. And it was fair enough at the time, and it was probably better than some of the others that were an option. But I’m sure we can do much, much better now. So I have a couple of questions first, just purely in logistical terms. Are you talking to Client Earth, and to the the lawyers who really get this? Because there seemed to me quite a lot of legal minds that, we talked quite a lot to Mothiur Rahman on this podcast, who are legally trained, and understand that side of the world, and yet also really believe in Sovereignty with a capital S. Is that input happening?
Ben: I mean, with another hat on, work in and around supporting the journey towards rights of nature for water. And so that comes from a legal perspective in that kind of idiom, as it were, in and amongst working with kind of practical initiatives like river clean-ups and so, you know, and in a more traditional political lobby. But essentially, for me, the most important tenet of that, long term, is that we arrive at enshrining the rights of nature into our… these are our de facto frameworks we have. That’s how we navigate our relationships with the Earth and with each other, these legal frameworks. And so how to integrate the rights of nature for, you know, the very fabric of our home seems to be a very, very important journey to take. And, you know, there is a sense that that is making headway. People are starting to appreciate, you know, we live in a finite planet with finite resources, and therefore there has to be some way of giving them some sort of agency in any of these conversations, which seems entirely and somewhat accidentally absent. So I’m sure you’ve explored that in the course of the podcast: the Whanganui, Lake Eyrie, and even the River Frome, you know, efforts made there by the the local council to actually take that first step within the context of our legal framework here in the U.K.
Manda: Yes. And around the world. So, Bamber, bringing you into the conversation: in a sense, you began your pilgrimage with Clarion last year in London, and you began to build, eighty hours – I’m in awe! – eighty hours building the gloriousness that he is. Have you in the way that the Isle of Wight to Scotland pilgrimage has, do you have a sense of drawing stories with you? And if not, what is it that Clarion represents? What is it he carries, and what is it that he brings from England to Scotland on his route?
Bamber: So Clarion is a polar bear, but I don’t see him as a cuddly polar bear. He’s a huge, majestic, angry, bemused, bewildered animal that, if he was alive, could run at 25 miles an hour and rip your head off. I think I’m willing to start this, and discover along the way. I don’t want to nail it down too much at the beginning, and prepare banners or something, print things out. I think it will evolve. I know it’s scary doing it that way, but I think there is a purpose in a pilgrimage. Have either of you read the book by Satish Kumar about his pilgrimage from India to the four nuclear powers back in the early 60s when he was a young man? When he set off from India without money, two chaps who decided to walk to, starting to walk to Moscow and then on to Paris and London and then to Washington? And there was a certain sort of faith that they had to have, that people would look after them along the way, that they weren’t going to take money even though people offered them money, and they would discover a way as it happened. And I think to a certain extent I’m doing that, though I don’t know if I have the nerve to do it without money. I will take some money. But I do expect that, I hope that people will look after me, and feed me, and give me somewhere to stay, I’m not going to have to stay in 22 B&Bs along the road.
Manda: So Shrewsbury and Whitchurch to begin with, we need to find people there and then we’ll have the rest of the route.
Bamber: Going back to something you mentioned earlier about ecocide, I heard a fantastic podcast from Sustainababble just the other day, with Jojo Mehta, I think her name is, who is a lawyer bringing other people together to bring a bill, or bring an action about ‘ecocide is a thing’ and trying to define it, and I wonder if that’s relevant to this.
Manda: Could well be. Yeah, I think there’s quite a lot of activist lawyers. What would be interesting is to make sure we’re not all reinventing the wheel and bring everybody together somehow. But it sounds like the group that Benjamin’s supporting is quite on the ball with that. If you’re already talking to the organisers of COP 26, then one hopes there’s a convergence of ideas on that one. It seems to me that if I endeavour to extend a bit of compassion to our world leaders, particularly the leaders of this nation, which is hard, but I do it. Part of the bind that they’re in is something that Rob Hopkins identified, which is a terrifying absence of creativity, and that one of the several reasons we’re locked into, particularly the economic system that we are, from which we desire sovereignty, is that nobody has proposed an alternative, and a route to get there that the politicians can see. And they only go as far as the light of the car takes them down the road, if they can’t see beyond the end of the headlights. This is probably quite a bad metaphor, it’ll fall over in a moment, then they’re not going to go there. Politicians are short-termist. It’s the nature of the game. And so it seemed to me for a while that, there are two questions that I’m about to ask you. One is, who are these pilgrimages aimed at? Do we genuinely believe that the politicians at COP 26 are going to be moved by them? And if not, what is the energy that we’re endeavouring to bring? What is the larger energetic space that we’re trying to influence? Let’s start with that. I’ve got a secondary question coming from that, but let’s start with that. Who is this aiming at? Are we actually aiming at Boris Johnson and the people around him, in the hope that they have the emotional and spiritual and intellectual capacity to hear this? Or is there a bigger energy? Or are the two confluent? Ben, you first.
Ben: The efforts that people at this time are undertaking, wherever they are and whatever capacity, is because they’re recognising that they are commensurate with the time. We have to act. We have to act in whatever way people are called to act, it seems to me, is appropriate, obviously respecting other people, and not violently. But that is, those are the times we live in. Each and every act at this time counts to demonstrate how deeply people care, and how real people perceive these problems to be. This is not something we are going to push down the road and we’ll deal with it after we next get elected, or we’ll deal with it after we get our new car or, you know, this is a ‘now’ piece. And so I think there’s a validity to that expression which isn’t necessarily directly arriving at explicit policies we want leaders to implement. There are mechanisms to arrive at that. But yes, particular to this action, I believe that there’s a missing, there’s a disconnect here between Land and us, or as I kind of referred to earlier on, this misappraisal of, this exploration of power presumes that we’re the ones with all the power and what we say goes or, you know, that’s how it’s going to be. And very clearly, when we’re dealing with a being or an entity or, you know, a lump of rock flying through space of that scale, if its systems are destabilised by our inputs, then we have got nothing we are able to do that’s going to stop those feedback loops being, you know, vastly impactful on not just us, but every other species on the planet.
Ben: So I think that there is, I was listening to the Schmachtenberger podcast recently and you know, for me, what I what I feel is missing, if there was any kind of message that I’ve got, or any kind of insight gleaned from connecting with these ancestral traditions and some of those initiations and practises that enable a more direct and real relationship with the Earth, and what I mean by real, I don’t want to be kind of glib about it, but there is agency to be arrived at from these practises. You know, these cultures haven’t been in some kind of cul de sac blindly flailing around. There’s clear evidence from the historical record, from archaeology, that those cultures and some of the ones that still survive, were completely aware of multigenerational ecosystem management and the ability to maintain their relationship, and the stability of their local environment and their populations, like this isn’t… there’s this kind of sense that we are somehow on the cutting edge of history. And all of these realisations and these technologies are ones that only we have ever had, that somehow Homo Sapiens has not had the ability to articulate and be aware of some of these concepts and ideas. And, yeah, I think that at the very least, you know, I appreciate the notion that ‘there is agency to the Earth’ is alien to our worldview, or kind of collective scientifically materialist derived worldview. But even the concept that there might be agency, or we might have a rearticulation of our relationship as Land and Earth is primary. And thereafter, we derive our own agency and validity and, you know, right to exist, I think that’s a fundamentally important shift that we need to arrive at. And when one gets apocalyptic about what might be coming down the line, I feel like, you know, very substantial disasters might well help our civilisations reappraise how, you know, the order of power actually is. And maybe that might shift, I don’t want to get all biblical about it in that kind of sense of ‘bring the fire and brimstone’. We can imagine that shocking our kind of cultural framework quite substantially, such that we think, wow, we’d better really take care of the life support systems, otherwise there ain’t going to be no life.
Manda: You’d like to think? I suspect… I would like to believe you’re right. Basic human psychology suggests that when we get under threat, we will double down and try and do more of what we were doing already. I’m not certain. There is a heat dome as we speak over North America, and the denialists have gone into overdrive. It’s very interesting to watch, if you watch certain aspects of social media, which I probably do to excess. But yes, I think, so definitely it’s not alien to this podcast, the concept that the Earth has agency, and that we can connect to it. As we’re heading towards the end, I’m going to come back to Bamber in a moment but Benjamin, I want to stay with you for a moment. Is there anything that you can share with people listening who want to connect to the Earth, who are perhaps in the early steps of doing that, a personal practise that you have that works for you, that is shareble and that people could begin to explore?
Ben: Very much so. I think I can go back to this point of just a conceptual notion that, in fact, the Earth is vastly intelligent. You know, we talk about the intelligence of nature; really sitting with that notion and just marvelling at it, and taking that on into, yes, I think very, very simple practises: observing a general principle of give first, and then receive. So if you find yourself in a place where you feel like you’d like to connect with the Earth, or maybe get a message or get some guidance, or just connect in and of itself, a first principle might be to make an offering of anything you feel is appropriate. And often if I find myself without something on me, I actually use a hair, just pull a hair out and give that to the Earth, and then listen. And then listen. Take a few moments to see if something arrives in some way, whether it’s a thought or a sound, or something that you suddenly see, or just feel. And I guess the other very simple principle is that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Because there are, you know, there’s such precedent for practices like that in so many different colourful ways. But actually taking, having that trust, to keep trying a few times. And I just, I guess all I can do is is really hold or reassure people that something is going to arise, and that it’s like a muscle. You just practise, practise, practise, and sooner or later, you know, my understanding, my experience is finding that you do get, you know, quite crisp, clear, very intelligent communication. It’s not the kind of wispy mists and, you know, it’s a very immediate and intelligent communication. And it’s a very profound experience to have, coming out of a cultural container which doesn’t necessarily posit that that exists, or that’s possible.
Manda: Brilliant. And what we’re finding in the shamanic worlds is that the amount of help seems to be ramping up. Are you finding that also?
Ben: Yeah, I mean one of the gifts, in terms of my particular role in this group that’s come together around this Spine of Albion pilgrimage, which you’ll find – I haven’t mentioned the website, it’s called Listening to the Land – is supporting ceremonies along the course of the line. And one of the wonderful, you know, that’s something I’m much called to and really enjoy, reaching out and connecting to people who are dowsers, or work with land energies or, you know, there’s different filters and descriptions that people give themselves around why they might do this. But the fact is that they’re called to do it in one way or another. And in the course of meeting quite a few groups across the country who do this work, and they spend their time doing so, is a very palpable sense of yes, of the Land being on the move; of, you know, these other realms, these other beings, recognising that this is the time. And, you know, that’s spoken of in prophecy, that’s spoken of in some of the myths that you find around the world. There is talk of there being this great turning, this great moment of reflection, or a shift in perception; a shift in kind of appraisal and understanding of how we are as a species, and how we relate to each other and the world.
Manda: Beautiful. Thank you. So Bamber, in closing, we’ll come to the actual logistics of what date and time Clarion’s leaving. But is there anything from your own spiritual practice that you could share with listeners that helps you to connect with the Land and the times that we’re in?
Bamber: Since January this year, I have been in training for this pilgrimage because I’ve got to be fit enough to do 22 days at 14 miles a day, so 306 miles, I’ve worked out from Ordnance Survey maps. So every week I go for a walk in the area. I walk from home to somewhere and back again; about 18 to 20 miles. And it’s fantastic, because I’m very fortunate to live in South Shropshire, where we’ve got the Long Mynd, and we’ve got beautiful hills and places to walk. So this is just me walking for six hours up and down hills, getting lost, and it’s been a fantastic practice in itself. And I try and shut down the babble in my head and do my zikr – I’m a Sufi – and just be there, and walk, and feel the age of the landscape that we were, this area was, once under the sea. There was was a mammoth bone, or skeletons, in a nearby town from here. Just feel that we’re only just a pinprick, we’re nothing at all, and will be gone, and the Earth will eventually die. And over millions of years, hopefully not in a few years, and that’s fine.
Manda: Ok, thank you. So if people come and join you, they can share in that along the way. So when is Clarion setting off? What’s your starting date?
Bamber: Well, one thing I need to is decide, perhaps you can help, is do I get there for the first day of COP when there’s going to be millions of other people doing crazy things, or do I turn up halfway through? It’s nine days long, this event, or do I turn up at the end? And what happens when I do turn up? Do I set fire to Clarian or whatever? I don’t know. So what do you think? When are you planning to get there, Benjamin? On the first day?
Manda: Which is when?
Ben: Yeah, I’ve just seen the schedule for the COP and the moment at which all the world leaders are there is that first weekend.
Manda: Oh, is it?
Be: That is the very first weekend, as it so happens, Samhain, last weekend of October.
Manda: So thank you to Bamber and Benjamin. And if it’s possible, I would really like to talk to both of you, either when you’re at COP, or in the aftermath, and find out what your experiences were talking with the Land on your pilgrimages as much as anything else, but also just to gather where all this has taken us, so that we can look back and see our own tipping points along the way. So thank you so much for coming on to the Accidental Gods podcast.
And that’s it for another week, although we will be following the progress of Clarion and the Spine of Albian pilgrimages as we go through. I will connect to them on social media, put up what I can on Facebook and on Twitter, and we’ll put the links to everything in the show notes. So if you’re inspired to help with Clarion or with the Spine of Albian or to make your own pilgrimage, whatever you need to do to make a difference, because this is the year when everything changes, and each of us has a role to play; each of us can do something to move towards the tipping point that means that the whole of humanity is working to find a creative, inspiring, flourishing, beautiful way forward to the new world that our hearts know is possible. We can do this, people, but it does take all of us now. There is no going back to the old ways. Business as Usual is no longer usual. Everything and everybody can make a difference. So think what you can do, connect to the Earth, go out, make an offering, listen, keep doing it. Because Benjamin’s right. We live in a world where we expect to press a button and see a result. But the Earth doesn’t work like that. We need to open the connections and build a relationship. And if you’re interested in doing that more deeply, then the membership is open on accidentalgods.life, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, is trying to give ordinary people a step by step, day by day route to build the connections with the living Earth that can bring us to the answers of who we are, and how we need to be to find the good enough ways to be stewards of the power that we now have.
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