Deep in the Forest, Safe Beside the Fire, Worried in Bed


With many thanks to Sylvia, I’ve been reading From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales by Sara Maitland.

Maitland writes:

I am suggesting that we walk in all the forests with a double map: a rich, carefully researched by still incomplete map of the history (economic, social, and natural) of woodland that spans not just centuries but millennia; and a second map which relocates the forests in our imaginations and was drawn up when we were children from fairy stories and other tales. To make everything even more difficult, the fist map is a palimpsest: the older history has been scraped off by biological scientists over and over again and rewritten in the light of new discoveries — with details [such as] ‘beech trees were . . . were not . . . were indigenous.’ The second map is a magic map, which shifts and changes every time you try to use it to find out where you are, where you came from and where you might be going.

I love to walk in the woods and watch the maps shift. Do you?

Maitland also writes that:

Currently, anthropologists and social geographers suggest that all art began with ritual and arises initially out of a religious rather than aesthetic response [and Chas Clifton says that religion arises from ritual, as well, rather than vice versa]: the cave paintings of southern France or Central Eastern Africa (or anywhere else) were more fundamentally about hunting rituals than about interior decor. . . . Rhythm developed into music. Both visual and narrative images came later — first solid objects (sculpture), then representation (two-dimensional metaphors for three-dimensional realities); first songs, then poetry, then stories.

(I’m skeptical that songs came before poetry, but that’s just me.)

I’m not sure that there’s actually a difference, at least when things are done right, between rituals and interior decor. I’ve always maintained that, if a Witch steps into my home, she will look around and, in spite of an almost complete absence of obviously “Witchy” paraphernalia, say, “Ah, a Witch lives here,” while if someone unfamiliar with Witchcraft steps into my home, they’ll be a bit confused. They immediately have a sense of peace and “rightness,” but are often at a loss to explain or describe it. I saw it again this weekend when a Witch new to my home walked in and immediately asked, “What style of furniture is this?” When I told her, she said, “Ah, well, you’ve convinced me that it’s the most Witchy style there is.” Although I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything. But when it’s done right, the interior design is as much a part of the ritual as the ritual is part of the interior design.

Where are your forests? Which –ritual or decor — comes first in your home?

I woke up this morning around 1:00 am and did something that I seldom do: tossed and turned, worrying about everything. I’m too old to do this very often; I’ve long since learned how useless it is and I’ve had more than a few years to learn how to lure Morpheus, reluctant lover though he may be, to my bed. But last night I fretted over the thrust of a brief, worried about my health and lack of progress on some of my goals, stewed over corporate attempts to turn water into a commodity (and, honestly, of all of my night terrors, this is the one that really does give me hives and makes my bed uncomfortable), fidgeted over several friends, reviewed my prospects for life as a bag lady, decided several times that the house-creaking noises were not a serial murderer breaking in to my little cottage, and pondered exactly how many more years my roof will last.

In the end, I gave up, got out of bed, took a hot bath, and sat myself down — again — at my altar. It’s all real; it’s all metaphor; there’s always more.

Today, I rewrote the brief, made a doctor’s appointment, and went for a long walk at lunch.

What helps you go back to sleep?

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

9 responses to “Deep in the Forest, Safe Beside the Fire, Worried in Bed

  1. Getting up, brewing a cup of tea, writing for a few hours, then crawling back into bed with the light of the new day peeping around the curtains.

    A most excellent ‘Puss with ‘tude’ portrait.

  2. “. . . Chas Clifton says that religion arises from ritual, as well, rather than vice versa. . .”

    Depending on how one defines religion, I would nuance that a bit. My own working definition of religion is “the self-manifestation of Divinity [however defined] as received, appropriated, and lived out in the life of humanity.”

    Given that admittedly quirky definition, I would say that ritual and belief systems are both expressions of our response to religious experiences. Ritual expresses this response in action (and possibly words as well), while belief systems express it in words (as do myths, of course).

    Current wisdom amongst academics is that ritual does, indeed, precede belief systems; we act out before we spell out. My own experience has been that over-thinking ritual tends to suck the life out of it.

    I trust that your bout of insomnia will be a once-off. The French refer to l’heure du loup–“. . .the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.” (from the Bergman film of that name). A glass of Armagnac and a toast to the joy and sorrow, the wisdom and folly of it all, can sometimes help the wakeful one to ride it out.

  3. I think that a bout of insomnia is just a chance to deal with what is bothering you. Taking action is the answer……..or hot milk with honey also works.

  4. That’s funny: I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep last night as well. Anxiety in its free-floating form paid me a very, very rare visit. I still am not sure what caused it.
    But I drank some milk, rubbed some rose oil on my wrists and some Vicks on my chest, watched an episode of Psych on the telly, then hit the sack again, complete with warding ritual.
    It worked.
    Now I’m quizzing the Astrology databases to find a reason.
    Terri in Joburg

  5. PS: aww, Miss Thing.
    Bless her immortal soul.

  6. I believe so deeply that interior design in a home (so much better than the mere word “house” — referring to a dwelling of any type) can truly create/influence the best kinds of magic. Yes indeed — the right kind of design can draw out a certain atmosphere … think of how many books describe the character’s homes …

    Rough night here too — high, howling winds buffeting around the walls — another dull heavy humid day — possible thunderstorms later. We do need rain — but storms — not so much! 🙂 Woke up to a heavy feeling … hoping that strong tea and banana bread will dispell some of the gloom …. and lighting a candle or two! 🙂

    When I can’t sleep — I walk down the hallway to the kitchen — followed closely by two cats (one dancing and the other curious and yawning) — make a pot of tea and some toast (plus a few nibbles or cream for the cats) — watch some TV or read Harry Potter again. Always calms down the runaway current of thoughts!

  7. I’ve been having awful insomnia recently – I wake at 3am almost every night and am awake, tossing and turning for about an hour. I have recently started to get up, make myself a drink (will try your milk and honey, Constance) and read for a bit. It’s actually quite nice – a quiet time, but I I am paying for it the next day when I am incredibly tired. I think it is menopause related. I’d like my menopause to be a time of positive change in my life – a “gathering of power” rather than a negative decline, but I am struggling with that.

  8. a pinboard inpiration for gypsy witches — a touch of bohemian magic

  9. Thanks, everyone, for the insomnia advice. Tonight, I am certain, will be better.

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