Whispers from the Earth, full of powerful stories channelled from the ancestors and inspired by the landscape of Britain. After reviewing her book on my blog, I asked her a few questions about shamanism, storytelling and the future:
Q: What drew you to shamanism?
Taz: Well shamanism really dragged me in kicking and screaming. I'd always been sensitive and aware of spirits from a young age, but hadn't managed to find a 'fit' in terms of doing something with it. It was when I was in my early 20s that shamanism first began to show up; I had no idea what it was, but the word kept being dropped into my head. It was way before the days of Google at everyone's desktop, so I had to really start digging. After that, a series of what I now don't believe were coincidences led me to my first shamanic teacher, and I knew I was closer to home than I'd felt in a long time.
Today, I follow what is, by and large, a shamanic path - and certainly an animistic one. I have an interesting relationship with the word 'shamanism' as so much of the work I do relates to the spirits and energies of these British lands I walk upon, and I know we would have had our own descriptors for this work and 'shamanism' wouldn't have been one of them. I feel quite strongly about the appropriation (and/or misappropriation) of other cultures, so I sometimes feel a bit torn about 'shamanism' having become the go-to umbrella term, yet also know I need to use that to help people find me. I'm very aware, however, that this is really a head-mind issue, and my spirits certainly don't really mind what terminology is being used, so long as the messages get out there. That's the important thing.
One of my missions this time around is to help people work with and rediscover some of the long-eroded threads of the spirituality of our ancestors here, and if 'The S Word' is what's needed to help people understand that they don't need to travel to far-flung climes to tap into, and work with, a stunningly rich spiritual tapestry, so be it. And make no mistakes, our spiritual heritage, if we go back far enough, if we're willing to dig deep and follow those fine, fine, silken threads, a world of wonderful teachings awaits us and, whatever words we would have used back then, the 'shamanic' techniques I use in my work facilitate beautiful connections.
Q: What drew you to storytelling?
Taz: I've always loved stories. Who doesn't? And storytelling too. Indigenous teaching stories have long fascinated me - Jumping Mouse is one of my favourites, though there are many others from many different cultures. I love the way they could share a single story with an entire tribe, yet lots of different teachings would reach the individuals in need of them; when a teaching hits home like that, it's called shooting someone with a story. That said, and despite my early professional life as a journalist, I never set out to be a storyteller. My spirits would gift me with some amazing adventures through the dreamtime and journeys, and they kept telling me to write them down and make them accessible, but it was years later, after attending a wonderful conference session with Canadian storyteller Jeff Stockton, that the flame was reignited.
I started by connecting to some of the ancestor spirits I work with and began asking them if they had stories to pass through me and have shared with the world, and they were delighted. Stories started to come thick and fast, through dreaming, through journeys, through meditations, through connecting with the lands and the trees and the rocks and the seas... more and more beautifully woven tales. My spirits started to suggest that, maybe, I could invite others to seek stories too, so that began a bit of an experiment, where I provided some outline instruction to some of my spiritual development students and opened up a world of story seeking to them as well. Again, more beautiful teaching tales began to be shared.
Whispers from the Earth came about when I was sitting doing some admin work at my PC one day and a voice I recognised as one of my ancestor spirits came through. I was busy, so tried to dismiss it, but the voice was very insistent. "The stories you've been recording," it said, "send them to a publisher."
Of course, like many of us, I'd had the beginnings of a book swimming around in my subconscious for years, and a book of channelled stories certainly wasn't it. I kept on ignoring the voice, but it got louder and louder and more and more insistent until, through sheer desperation, I answered. "Okay. If this is real, if you *really* want me to send these stories to a publisher, tell me which one!" The answer came in a heartbeat: "Moon Books."
The rest, as they say, is history. The stories are still coming through, and I'm now planning a series of writing and story channelling workshops for people wanting to tap into spirit and the natural energies of the land and the universe to unlock their creativity.
Q: Can you tell me more about the upcoming workshops?
Taz: The first one is already scheduled in towards the end of 2016. I’m looking to confirm a, but it'll be October 8 and 9 and will include creative writing exercises, meditations and shamanic journey techniques to help people tap into their creative spirit. They will be able to bring notebooks/laptops/tablets so they have some live writing time over the weekend as well, and there'll be complementary membership to an online creative writers' support/encouragement group, so they can all keep in touch with each other I to the future and help each other stay focused and enthused. They'll even be able to share short stories there and get feedback. The venue will be somewhere with access to a beautiful outdoor space as well, so people can benefit from very real exercises to tap into the Earth's energy and, hopefully, channel some teaching stories of their own.
Eventually, they'll be able to book through www.firechild-shamanism.co.uk and www.TazThornton.com, but until the venue's confirmed they can email me to register interest via Taz@TazThornton.com
You can read my review of Whispers from the Earth here: http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2016/03/review-whispers-from-earth-teaching.html