Myth – folklore – wild mind – enchantment – indigenous roots
– ancestral wisdom – the mythic imagination – the land’s dreaming …
… these are some of the words you’ll find us using and thinking about, at The Hedge School – which was founded in 2017 by award-winning writer, psychologist and mythologist Dr Sharon Blackie. Our work, along with our courses and other offerings, is focused on the development of the mythic imagination, and on the relevance of our native myths, fairy tales and folk traditions to the challenging times we live in.
The Hedge School was born from a belief that the personal, social and environmental problems we’re facing today have arisen not just as a result of our profound disconnection from the beautiful animate world around us, but a lack of rootedness in our own ancestral traditions. We don’t feel as if we belong to this crumbling and decadent Western civilisation whose values and have become abhorrent to us – but more often than not, we don’t know what it is that we want to belong to instead. We have no lineage, no sense of continuity; little sense of who we are and why we are here.
At The Hedge School, we have some ideas about that. We can, and should, learn from many cultures, and embrace the magical, migratory diversity of stories – but we need first to be grounded in the stories which rise from the places where our feet are planted. To understand that the pre-Christian, pagan mythology and philosophy of the West is rich and complex and beautiful. It offers up a world in which everything is not only alive, but has purpose, intentionality of its own. A world to which each incarnated soul chooses to come, for a reason, and to offer up a gift which can only be expressed through relationship with and participation in that animate world.
The Hedge School, then, is about building a new folk culture: one which is deeply rooted in the native traditions of Old Europe – especially of Ireland and the British Isles – but which is open to anyone who finds themselves grounded in these lands. It’s about practical guidance for living well, living authentically – and above all, connecting with our places, listening to the land’s dreaming, and finding a deep, embodied sense of belongingness to this beautiful, animate Earth. It’s about reclaiming ancient wisdom – not to hark back to or try to recreate the past, but to use that wisdom to help us build authentic traditions for today.
Why ‘Hedge School’?
The term ‘hedge school’ has its roots in Ireland; it dates back to the seventeenth century and attempts to force Irish children to attend schools designed to train them in English language and customs, and the ‘true religion’. Rather than submit to such indoctrination, the Irish went back to the hedge, and created their own schools. No institutions, just a healthy respect for the old ways. In 1655 Oliver Cromwell called them trainings in ‘superstition, idolatory and the evill customs of this Nacion.’ We’ll go for that.
The Hedge School — a physical location as well as a virtual space — has a similarly subversive intent. No institutions, no dogma, no prophets or preachers: just the wisdom of the hedge, and of the land. The wisdom which the wind blows down from the jagged peaks of the Connemara mountains, which the sea salts away in the vast network of rocky tidal inlets which characterise our coastline. The wisdom of the old stories, of the old ways.
HedgeWise – the festival
Come along to the first HedgeWise mini-festival, from March 8-10 2019, in the remarkable landscape of the Burren, in the west of Ireland. Visit this page for more information.
Please click on the link to find out about workshops and retreats in North America.
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