Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Why the Wellspring?: The Influence of Water

You may wonder where the name for my blog came from. 

Well—pardon the pun—the explanation is a lovely liquid tale, to be sure. 

Over the past couple of years the idea of wells and wellsprings, rivers and oceans—of water in all its fluid forms—has been very close to me, welling and bubbling up from those deep inner places, washing much negativity away, bringing new life and fruitfulness. 

Water is a feminine element, associated with women, with fertility and abundance, cleansing and healing, and emotion, depth and time (the words ‘time’ and ‘tide’, for example, are etymologically related). 


As Jay Griffiths, one of my favourite writers, says in one of my favourite books, Wild: An Elemental Journey:

The wildernesses of waters, rivers and oceans are linked to the female. In many cultures, probably most, women are associated with what is “wet” and men with what is “dry” . . . In Chinese thought, fire is yang, male, active, phallic and conscious. Water is yin, female passive and unconscious. Freud and Jung, too, through analysis of folktale and ancient literature, concluded similarly: water is fertilizing, a place of regeneration; it represents what is potential and female. (212)

The first life on this blue Earth originated in water. As does all creativity—in the Rio Abuja Rio, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls it in her classic book, Women Who Run with the Wolves—‘the river beneath the river’.  

I have come to think of my own creativity as arising from the gushing flow of a river. Indeed, being a river—the River of Creativity. It is always flowing (though there have been times in the past when it became blocked and slowed to a mere trickle). Yet though it streams constantly, it still has its ebbs and flows, like the ocean—high and low tides—calms and storms—seasonal changes. The wide and fathomless ocean underlies the river, exerts its own fluid influence from below, as it is pulled upon from above, by the moon. 

Water Nymphs by Alan Lee
When I was pondering what to call this blog I was led to think of a little poem I had written in October 2014:

A deep well, 
ocean of memory, 
springing up 
blue and pure, 
flooding 
the parched place 
inside me.

This is deeply symbolic, and a favourite poem-gem of mine. 

It seems that water, wells, and the flooding of dry, parched places, bringing the return of life and creativity and all things wild, are ideas and images that will not let me go.

I recently read a brilliant book by Sharon Blackie—If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman. Chapter 2 is entitled ‘Wells and Waters: The Wasteland’, and Sharon writes:

Wellspring. The word, like a good well, runs deep. It conveys so much more than simply the source of a stream or spring: it says something about the source of life itself. According to the Collins English Dictionary, a wellspring is ‘a source of continual or abundant supply’ – which tells us why wells, along with certain rivers and lakes, have been recognised as sacred by nearly every culture on the planet, and throughout every age. (27)

It seemed like a kind of synchronicity. All of my thoughts about water and wells echoed here, in this very powerful book; and in Celtic culture in particular, in the voices of the maidens who once guarded the wells, the sources of life. The silencing of these wise voices, after the violation of the well-maidens, as told in the story of ‘The Loss of the Voices of the Wells’, and the subsequent coming of the Wasteland, is partly what inspired me to begin this blog. Sharon says:

Each of us has our own unique set of stories to tell: the story of the years we spent in the Wasteland, the story of our awakening, and then the story of the path we took out of it. Telling those stories helps us to understand ourselves – not just the place that we’ve come from, but where we might be heading. Similarly, telling our stories to others can help them to work through problems they are facing in their own lives. (60)

And:

The Voices of the Wells were lost, long ago – but the Voices of the Wells were women [who represented Sovereignty, the spirit of the Earth itself]. We were the voices of the Wells. We can take up that old mantle. We can take up our golden grails again, and offer their life-giving drink to the world. (62)

Lady of the Waters by Brian Froud
I know from past experience how powerful, transformative and healing telling my story can be, and I would like to tell some of it here—even if I do ‘tell it slant’, to quote Emily Dickinson. And too, I would like to be one of the voices that speaks for the Earth, if I can. 

After much thought, I decided to create this blog to be an outlet for my creative work, and to call it Offerings from the Wellspring, for all the ‘offerings’ I post here will be drawn up from my own personal well, from my River of Creativity. These offerings will be poured out into the world to express something of me, and, I hope, to inspire and influence others. 
(Of course, it must be said that offerings were also made to rivers and other bodies of water, back in the old days when people lived in close relationship with the land, so the giving and receiving goes both ways.)

Interestingly, the word ‘influence’ itself is associated with water. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it originates in late Middle English, from Old French or medieval Latin influentia ‘inflow’, from Latin influere, from in- ‘into’ + fluere ‘to flow’. The word had the general sense of ‘an influx, flowing matter’, also specifically (in astrology) ‘the flowing in of ethereal fluid (affecting human destiny)’.

Influence is flow is fertile. And from fertility comes new life, growth, abundance.

So, like a well that never runs dry, I hope my work here will flow abundantly, and become an offering back to the Earth, to the sources of life, and to any visitors who come this way. To bring regeneration and renewal back to the wasted lands that we inhabit in this modern world. To bring the same back to my own life.

I leave you with an excerpt from ‘The Well’, by Irish poet and writer Cathal Ó Searcaigh, that prefaces that water-filled chapter from If Women Rose Rooted. Let us all find and go back to the source: 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Beginning

Today I am 33 years old and I think I am finally ready.

What I am about to say is perhaps somewhat subversive, preoccupied as mainstream society is with youth, health, productivity and success, determinedly shying away from the often discomfiting, shadow side of life, from any admission of weakness or unconventionality . . . But I have never been one for conformity, and I am determined to speak my Truth, come what may.

That Truth is that I have lived for well over half of my life with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). And yes, I am not afraid to admit that for many years it made me withdrawn, isolated. 

Existing, but not really living. 

Hidden.

Silenced.

Yet with time, and some much-needed advice and encouragement to assist me on my way, my perception underwent a radical transformation, for my illness, in a strange and roundabout way, became a gift. (Though please understand that I am not making light of the seriousness of it, for it still imposes many limitations). 

So, this blog is not going to be about how my illness affects me negatively. 

Instead it will be about how CFS has become an ally, a fellow traveller in this life—an enabler. In the sense that it allows me to spend time working on my own development, to read much and widely, and to pursue creative and spiritual work. It has led me to follow a certain winding and wonderful path, and for that I am grateful. 

I intend to use this blog as a place to share something of my perspective, as someone living with a chronic illness, and therefore living on the edge of ‘normal society’, dwelling in the borderlands, the shadowlands, where things are not always as they seem. 

In addition: 

To share my creative endeavours in word and image, as well as ideas, books I am reading, and art and writing that I love.

To find my way to a better place, a more magical, handmade life. 

To create beauty.

There will, I hope, be an ecological focus, an emphasis on the feminine, the wild, the riotously creative, and the oh-so-important work of reconnecting with the more-than-human, with the Others who we share this planet with. This is part of my own small contribution to the healing of the Earth, which is so sorely needed in this time of planetary destruction.

More than anything, this blog will be about connection, about forging relationships—in the teeming and tangled web that is the Internet—and finding a community of likeminded souls. My kin. My tribe.

It will be about no longer being silent, hidden, masked, but coming out into the light and speaking with my own voice, authentically and fearlessly. 

Welcome, one and all, to the Wellspring. I am glad you have travelled this way.

Landscape II (after Alan Lee)

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