Fast forward a year to the “Leaf and Flame: the Foliate Man” weekend. The directors of the Silent Eye (a modern mystery school), not really knowing what they might be letting themselves in for, honoured me with a request to present one of the exploration sessions.
These punctuate the weekend, expanding on themes weaving through the tapestry of the unfolding story driving the ritual elements. To say that I was intrigued, that a thread involving Spirit Animals could find its way into the 2016 retelling of the story of Gawain and the Green Knight, would be an understatement.
The outline of the exploration was drafted in my head by December, re-drafted by January, fiddled around the edges in February, and completely forgotten by March. The work-book arrived sometime in April. Under normal circumstances, I’d have had opportunity to read through the rituals a couple of times before heading South. 2016 wasn’t normal circumstanced. Last minute, bundle the basics (drum, skins, rattles…) into the car, and go!
Here’s the thing about these weekends. They seem to draw synchronicity. Not just in a casual way, but in deeply symbolic, multi-layered, right-in-your-face-not-to-be-missed way.
My ceremonial regalia, presented by Red_____ prior to his return to the States, includes a gorgeous headdress, in the form of a “mask”, made from American fox. There is irony here. That fox is so expert in all things camouflage, moving soundlessly, and, well, expert at hiding in plain sight, Red____ felt there was no better symbolism for a Running Elk. He wasn’t wrong – when wearing the headdress I can only see through fox’s eyes, and remain hidden… So this exploration session was to be a “coming out” of sorts.
The discovery that Charles James Fox was to put in an appearance, under cover of night, seemed, somehow, propitious. It is always useful to have allies around! (*must watch: the video at the end of the link!)
How best to dip into the complex world of spirit animals to a mixed audience?
I’d roughly outlined a gentle “what is a spirit animal?” type introduction, broken with an exercise in connecting with the energies associated with various animal forms. Thursday night, half way there, I take the opportunity to settle into the Motel with a first read through: that’s when I learned the gruesome truth… the green man was going to present, contained within his freshly severed head, Philip and Stephania Carr-Gomm’s “Druid Animal Oracle” cards. Each companion was to choose a card, upon which they would meditate and attempt to make a connection with the animal depicted.
Perfect! The exercise would now be much more meaningful, and have a context! As a group, there was an opportunity for each to connect to their chosen animal in a shamanic way, and, unexpectedly, we had an opportunity to take a journey too. Some found the drum took them easiest, others (interestingly, the “bird” people) were more affected by the rattles. Some of the feedback, regarding what individuals had experienced, had me, most unexpectedly, choked up.
I believe, in that “coming out” session, I learned more than the assembled companions, and remain incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Of course, during the session, I had no idea that the “unwritten” part of Ritual 4 would witness poor Gawain go on the most intense JOURNEY possible, with the assembled animal companions ably assisting him on his way. I must confess, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was meant to supply two animals. Unfortunately, having been through the energy in the specially prepared space once, I couldn’t even consider going through for the second.
So Gawain went towards his potential end without “Hope”.
Sorry about that, Gawain…