The Saturday of any workshop is always busy. No matter how much free time you try and build in, there never is any spare time. The morning began by greeting the dawn and a reading on the hillside of the Tale of the Wondrous Head. Back in the warmth of the Centre, we gathered for a guided meditation designed to help the participants connect with the essence of the spirit animals chosen as oracles from the severed head of the Green Knight… a theme that would be pursued in the first Exploration of the day, led by a Bear better known as Running Elk.
Each of the Companions had chosen a card at random, apart from a very few whose card had, of necessity, been allocated for the purposes of the ritual drama. Each card depicted a creature that lives and breathes in Albion, that inner land of the heart… and included the creatures of our myths as well as those of the earth, air and water. Everyone was asked to meditate overnight on the symbolism and character of that animal and Running Elk now added practical techniques and his own unique experience of working with totem animals to the sharing of knowledge of the weekend. With typical synchronicity, his talk fit perfectly with the unwritten ideas of the workshop.
The idea that Life has a hierarchy of relative importance is one I personally cannot accept. To me, any manifestation or form graced by that indefinable thing we call Life is neither more nor less important than another. From the trees and plants to the rocks, from the furred, scaled and feathered creatures to humankind, from stars to microbes… we are joined as equal partners in a single dance.
Modern Man has tended to assign a ‘lower’ place to animals, possibly based upon the ideas promulgated by texts such as the Bible that speak of ‘dominion’ and have been taken to mean that we are the pinnacle of creation instead of being examined for a deeper meaning. Even taken literally, it seems we have lost sight of the meaning of ‘dominion’… lordship, rather than possession or superior worth. Is the life of a king truly of greater value than that of his subject? Or is it instead closer to the truth that the higher the estate, the greater the responsibility and the requirement to serve?
Older cultures held the natural kingdom in greater respect. We have only to look at the cave paintings that were left to us, or study the attitude of indigenous and aboriginal tribes…or our own folklore… to see that the attitude towards the natural world has shifted and not necessarily for the better. The Salmon of Knowledge… the wisdom of the Owl… we have always held such mythical creatures in respect…but how often do we think to ask why? Our aim was, in some small way, to reconnect with the energies of those creatures who share Life in this world and Running Elk’s focus was the respect and responsibility we must share as part of the dance of Life.
The first ritual of the day saw the Ladies of the Court of King Arthur discuss the Tale of the Wondrous Head and Gawain encounter the White Hart in the forest while out hunting with Arthur and his knights. Each Companion was given a mask depicting ‘their’ animal and their essence was brought into our place of working.
It was not on a whim that ‘Gawain’ was played by more than one person; the characters in sacred drama are archetypes, not people and thus the ‘un-headed’ Green Knight of the first ritual became Gawain… while the one who had removed the head was now the Hart.
Gawain is set a riddle to save his life… and the answer, synonymous with ‘dominion’, is pertinent to our view of the relative value of Life, both that of the animals and our own. “What is it that woman most desires?” Not ‘a woman’ as some of Arthur’s knights interpret it, but ‘woman’… and the feminine is often a hidden symbol relating to the inner self or the soul in the old tales…
…and another thread was woven into the Mystery of the weekend…