Reclaiming Enchantment

“It is the intention that is the important thing – that’s what transforms a walk into a pilgrimage.” – Caro Woods, artist

If you’ve been following the winding path of my blog and videos starting this January, I’ve declared that I’m on a “stay at home” pilgrimage. I’m studying and learning about the sacred feminine. I’m going to continue with this theme until either the enormity of the task does me in (quite possible) or completely overwhelms me (more than likely!) – or until it leads me to…well, who knows? (This is truly a journey into the unknown.) I’ve invited you to come along. Thank you for being here. I hope we’ll all learn something.

Childhood Enchantments 

My Hungarian grandmother, also named Susanna, lived with us in Connecticut. She was a gardener and as a result, we had a beautiful garden, full of flowers. Do you know how when you’re little there are places outside that you like to call your own? You’d go sit there for hours, maybe hide there, maybe take a book and a snack? My place was the inside of a big hydrangea bush right in the middle of her garden. It was so big it formed a perfect white flower tent so that I had my own garden room. No one could see me. It was my secret hideaway.

As a child, I was always wanting the magic to be real. The stories I read about fairies back then, I wanted them to be real. I would read Rose Fyleman’s poem in my children’s poetry book (which I still have!) – and I wished and wished to see a fairy:

“There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!

It’s not so very, very far away;

You pass the gardener’s shed and you just keep

Straight ahead-

I do so hope they’ve really come to stay…”

My secret floral bower was my testing ground. It seemed the perfect place for fairies to hang out. I’m not sure how I got the idea to write them a note, but that’s what I did. I asked them in the note to please show themselves to me and then I’d leave the note inside my hydrangea room, anchored with a rock in case it got windy.

If they did show up, I didn’t see them. Maybe they couldn’t read my handwriting? I knew their legendary reluctance to show themselves to big people, so I think I was prepared and not too disappointed.

As a child I wanted magic to be real and as an adult, I’ll admit it, I still want that. (Yes, you hear that fairies?) But maybe now I’d call it “enchantment and wonder” instead of magic. I know I have a large ability, and responsibility, to bring that into my experience. And I’m coming to understand that moments of enchantment and wonder arrive when there’s a deep connectedness with the natural world and all its inhabitants.  I know that means slowing down and making the time, the space to invite them in – like my friends who are out there in nature, walking, photographing – no matter the weather, having moments of wonder every day.  

The Feminine is in Nature – in our Relationship with Nature

As I’ve been doing my research on the sacred feminine what I’m learning is that we can define the feminine essence in our world by the relationship we have with nature. Or should I say, “had once with nature?” It’s been slowly disappearing…

 Sharon Blackie, Ph.D. a psychologist and author of The Enchanted Life, Reclaiming the Magic and Wisdom of the Natural World, tells us,

 “Because (of) our disenchantment with our own lives, with the systems and values on which human civilization has come to be based, extends to the wider world around us, we’ve fallen out of love with the world. It’s clear from the way we treat it. When you love someone or something, you treasure them, nurture them, take care of them – do all you can to ensure their wellbeing. Many of us might as individuals, but as a species, we don’t do that for our planet anymore…we long ago ceased to imagine ourselves as real and engaged participants in the wider cycles of life on this planet. Aren’t we humans, after all? Aren’t we uniquely possessed of reason and intellect – maybe even of souls – and so more valued than any other species on this earth?”

Blackie tells us that to recapture the balance, to restore our broken ecosystem, to heal our souls as well as the earth’s soul (I’ll have to go back into Anne Baring’s work in another post to say more about earth having a soul.) we must understand and live like all beings on this earth are of equal value: 

From The Enchanted Life, “Once we had contracts with the plants and animals who share this world with us. We would treat them with respect; like them, we would take only what we needed from this earth and no more, and they would share their wisdom and medicine with us. They’d be companions on our journey through a life that can sometimes be hard, but whose loads are always lightened by communion.” 

We have destroyed these contracts and it’s no wonder our world is so out of balance and in trouble. 

Blackie writes about getting to know the Australian philosopher, Val Plumwood who had a near-death encounter of almost being eaten by a crocodile. In her article “Being Prey” she describes her own paradigm shift. “I glimpsed a shockingly indifferent world in which I had no more significance than any other edible being. The thought, ‘This can’t be happening to me, I’m a human being. I am more than just food!’ Was one component of my terminal incredulity. It was a shocking reduction, from a complex human being to a mere piece of meat.”

Blackie tells us that Plumwood spent her academic life “arguing against the hyper separation of humans from the rest of nature, and what she called the ‘standpoint of mastery’: the old Western philosophical perspectives…in which not only the natural world and its non-human inhabitants but women and indigenous people too, are seen as inferior to anything associated with reason and the intellect.”

Anne Baring also writes about the need for humans to reconnect with nature as a way to save ourselves and the planet. 

Author of The Dream of the Cosmos, A Quest for the Soul and The Myth of the Goddess and Evolution of an Image which she wrote with Jules Cashford. Anne is probably one of the most respected voices on the divine feminine.

Baring says the rise of the sacred feminine has to do with an emerging consciousness of the feminine which causes people to see old stories, old, ingrained practices, and ways of being – in a new way. It recognizes the feminine principle or feminine values. Aristotle and Plato gave us the view that we’ve held on to for so long that humans, alone, possess reason and intellect so because of this we’re superior to every other living creature that exists. The French philosopher, Rene Descartes, taught that the entire non-human world was not conscious and merely biological machines that man could use as he liked. Our world certainly reflects their thinking, and explains why we’re where we are today – but there are bright spots on the horizon.

A Reorientation of Consciousness

Baring tells us, in A Quest for the Soul – that we are birthing a resurgence of the Feminine and she sees that in these things-

  • The growth of the environmental movement
  • The determination of women in every culture to free themselves from their long oppression and encourage their increased participation in society
  • in the interest in the so-called non-rational
  • in the many new approaches to healing both the psyche and body
  • in the mounting revulsion for our weapons of mass destruction
  • In compassion for the helpless victims of our addiction to war
  • In the engagement of hundreds of thousands of people in the work of helping both the planet and the victims of oppression

These different channels of influence are creating new perspectives on life and new ways of connection that bring together body, soul, mind, and spirit.

“The recovery of the Feminine invites a reorientation of consciousness: a receptivity not only to the events occurring in the external world but to the long-ignored voice of the Soul.” 

Baring means something different than what most of us are used to when she talks about Soul – which she capitalizes. She’s not talking about a personal soul, like what we might say we all possess, but rather a larger Soul – encompassing the entire earth and connecting everything within it, including us!  

I am just barely grasping this. This is new thinking for me. Does the earth have a Soul? I have more studying to do but her meaning is much more than we have typically given it. She understands the feminine archetype or principle no longer as just related to a goddess figure but to “a cosmic dimension of soul as an unrecognized order of reality that binds together all aspects of life, both visible and invisible.”

 Val Plumwood would call this a panpsychism (another new term for me) approach to the universe. Panpsychism holds that there is some kind of mental dimension to everything; that all objects in the universe possess an interior, subjective reality, even those objects which we usually think of as inanimate, like rocks and rivers.

I am barely touching on her message when I say that Baring is telling us that a huge birthing is going on in the collective soul of humanity. That it’s an amazing and monumental time to be alive and also a scary one because whenever a change is happening then there is fear and defensiveness.

 Baring writes “we are awakening to what I have called the Dream of the Cosmos – the dream of an enlightened humanity engaging in a new role on this planet – a role that is in harmony with the evolutionary intention of the Cosmos and is no longer driven by the quest for power, conquest and control and the appropriation of the Earth’s resources for the benefit of the few.”

It's not just knowing about the Heroine’s Journey that’s important, but learning (re-learning?) how to walk that journey. And I see that it’s the responsibility of the Heroine to walk with a greater understanding, in greater cooperation with the natural world. And in order to do this I believe we have to go back somehow and find that original childhood wonder we had when first seeing flowers, trees, birds, a brook, a hydrangea bush – and wanting to see, fairies.

We have to be re-enchanted.