Q: First, what does being a mythopsychologist mean?
A: I’ve been interested all my life in the Celtic myths, legends and stories of the British Isles, and the Grail legends. I also studied these at university in their original languages. While training in transpersonal psychotherapy, I developed the idea that the particular myths and tales that grip us – enchant us – may have something to say about our psyche: what is significant to us, and themes that might be unconsciously driving us, helpful or unhelpful.
I’ve been leading workshops in such topics, generally using writing as a way in, for more than 30 years. As a result of the first series I offered ‘Myth As Metaphor’. Element Books commissioned a book from me on this subject: Riding the Dragon – Myth and the Inner Journey.
Q: You have had several books of poetry published and have won numerous awards. What's your main inspiration for poetry? Can you offer an example?
A: The main inspirations for my poetry are stories of land, sea, place, belonging, and other-than-human species. I’ve always lived in the country, and I walk a lot, which is when ideas begin to take shape for me. The Wheel of the Year inspires me. And of course the Awen – that sacred ‘fire in the head’.
Below is a simple poem from my most recent collection, A Trick of the Light, about the Isle of Iona, where I lead a retreat every April.
She learns the tongue of air
where the lapwing curves and the new
swallow streaks across the sand
tongue of stone and rock – their
ancient earthlit hues, the slow
deep stone-songs they know
tongue of the green water that runs
like a herd of wild horses, where
the seal’s head bobs at her call
tongue of the heart’s fire, these words,
the fluency of love. The longing
that joins us all.
Q: I understand your poetry has been incorporated with art installations. Can you tell me more?
Q: How important do you feel poetry and storytelling are in pagan spirituality in general and Druidry in particular?
A: As the bardic arts I feel they’re essential means of transport to other realms, and they can also be deeply healing – making whole. Also they are teaching tools, holding the wisdom of the Old Ones.
Q: What advice would you offer someone who was interested in learning the art of storytelling or poetry from a pagan perspective?
A: Pause, take time to listen, look deeply, see through, ask ‘what if?’ Tune the imagination. Always look for more than is apparent, and more dimensions than first appear. The world is richly resonant. Seek old bardic tales and poems; read them aloud. Look for poets and tellers who have a sense of the sacred, the Otherworld, and who honour the planet. Find magical tales. Rewrite your own versions of older stories. For me, the Celtic tales are an unending source of such inspiration. As animists, we might look for the spark of light/life/consciousness in everything, and find a new way to write about it.
A: The book began with much time spent – still being spent – stepping into the Otherworld and back in a magical Brittany forest, supposedly a fragment of the old Forest of Brocéliande of the Arthurian quests. That came together with our new scientific understandings of quite how miraculous our tree kin are, in so many ways, and my own deep environmental commitments.
The binding thread is my own practice of working the Wheel of the Year that I spoke of above, also with 13 lunar tree months according to the old Celtic ogham calendar/alphabet. The heart of the book unpacks this so that a reader can make their own journey.
Q: How do your poetry and spiritual practices intersect with your environmental concerns?
A: My personal life as well as my work as a facilitator and catalyst for change is working at the threshold of the sacred, the arts and therapy, but often outdoors, and always with an engagement with the non-human other. I’m passionate about transformation, particularly of our relationship to the other-than-human, our kin, so we begin truly to live from an eco-centric and soul-centric, rather than human-centred, viewpoint. We are all in this together.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: There’s a vegan cookbook-plus. A book of essays. Part 11 of A Spell in the Forest to complete. Another two poetry collections. Meantime, we are working on our permaculture-style veg garden, with small orchards, plenty of wildlife-friendly plants and corners, and a reforestation project. That’s mainly why the books are taking so long to complete.