OUR MISSIONCultivating the Mythic Imagination
My name is Dr Sharon Blackie. I’m a writer, psychologist and mythologist, and I founded The Hedge School in 2017. My work – firmly rooted in a decades-long creative, therapeutic and soulcentric practice, and in high-level scholarship and careful study – is focused on the cultivation of the mythic imagination: on helping people to uncover their own unique mythopoetic identity. Through explorations of personal myth, fairy-tale narratives, archetypal imagery, journeying, alchemy, symbolic frameworks such as tarot and astrology, and dreamwork, we can find our own unique bridge to the imaginal world: the mundus imaginalis of ancient tradition. And in so doing, we can reveal not only a deeper sense of meaning in our lives, but a deeper sense of belonging to this beautiful, animate Earth. It’s about soul-tending: not just our own individual psyche, but that of the anima mundi: the soul of the world.
The journey is ultimately one of soul initiation: the long, hard work not just of uncovering the mystery of our soul’s calling, but of embodying and living it. That journey is part of our indigenous heritage, our oldest traditions, here in the West. And I believe it’s deeply needed in these challenging times. In Western societies we are seeing more calls for a return to native wisdom, but we can’t live by the worldviews of other cultures which are rooted in lands and histories that are different from our own. Fine as they are, we don’t need to look to the myths and traditions of others for role models, or for guidance on how to live more authentically, in balance and harmony with the planet on which we depend. We have our own guiding stories, and they are deeply rooted in the heart of our own native landscapes. We draw them out of the wells and the waters; beachcombing, we lift them out of the sand. We dive for them to the bottom of deep lakes, we disinter them from the bogs, we follow their tracks through the shadowy glades of the enchanted forest.
It’s time to reclaim those traditions and those stories. They ground us, and teach us; they show us how to find and follow the trail of breadcrumbs which will lead us to our own unique calling. And from that place of grounding in the traditions of the lands we inhabit and have come to belong to, we can more easily appreciate, and openly embrace, the traditions of others.
Indigenous Western spirituality, and our native mythical traditions
In working with the mythic imagination and a wide variety of mythopoetic practices, a primary focus of my programme at The Hedge School is on the native mythology and spiritual traditions of Europe. As an academic scholar in the field of Celtic Studies, I’m particularly familiar with the latest thinking on the oldest literature and folklore of the Celtic nations. I believe that those stories and traditions offer insights into authentic and meaningful ways of being which are founded on a sense of belonging to place, a rootedness in the land we inhabit. Our old myths, fairy tales and folk traditions offer up a deep and grounded wisdom which we can draw on today to show us how to belong to the wider world again.
Myths and stories teach us how to negotiate with the wild, and help us navigate our relationships with what we perceive to be ‘other’. They can show us what it is to fall into the land’s dreaming; they can show us a world in which everything is animate in its own way. A world in which we can learn from everything: animal, plant, rock. Myths and stories help us to understand the world around us as filled with its own purpose and meaning, rather than as a mere backdrop for human activity.
The native mythology of Britain and Ireland is part of a tradition which concerns itself, at its core, with our relationship with, and duty to, the land. The early Grail legends, for example (which can be traced back from medieval French and German romances to their early Irish and Welsh origins) are properly conceived of not as a journey to individual wholeness as many Jungian writers have suggested, but as a journey to heal the Wasteland – to heal our relationship with the land, with the native Otherworld, and the anima mundi. These are the stories which sing us back home to the lands in which we have roots; the stories in which we can find our belonging.
At The Hedge School, then, my work is not only focused on uncovering our own individual soul journeys and soul stories, but on the storying and re-storying – the re-enchanting – of our relationship to land, place and nature. It’s about rediscovering the sacred in everyday life, and in the world around us. It’s about creating the ceremonies and practices – about creating new (or arguably old) ways of perceiving and being in the world – which lead us back to an understanding of our place in this dreaming Earth.
The Hedge School for anyone who feels a pull to these traditions, and who wants to explore ways of learning from them. At least half of the people who work with me are from North America, Australia and New Zealand, and other parts of Europe. All of my courses and writings are focused on developing meaningful and authentic practices which can be brought home to your place – whichever part of the world you might choose to inhabit.
The need for rigour, and scholarship – as well as the mythic imagination
We can transform ourselves and the world around us by learning from our native mythologies and folk and wisdom traditions — but beginning always by exploring them in a way that is rooted in authentic knowledge and study of the original sources, unfiltered by romanticism, fantasy or modern cultural projections. A surprising amount of contemporary writing about Celtic myth and tradition in particular is rooted in out-of-date ideas, or is simply fabricated, or wishful thinking. There’s a lot of talk out there about folklore, myth, archetypes and other elements of Jungian psychology, and unfortunately not all of it arises from a proper grounding in these fields of study. And so the foundation of my work at The Hedge School is very firmly rooted in genuine and up-to-date scholarship, and in my academic qualifications as a psychologist and mythologist, as well as in my lived experience on the wild Celtic edgelands of Europe. With those firm, deeply rooted ideas as our bedrock, we can let our creative and mythic imagination run free. As Carl Jung once wrote, humans have always been mythmakers. Our challenge is to learn how to authentically and imaginatively embrace that role again today.
(Artwork on this page by Maxime Simoncelli)