The Spirit of Outdoor Learning

Going slightly off track from the normal blog style, here is something that I feel is important to encourage the experience of the outdoors.

The enigmatic Corfe Castle, with much history beneath its surface, set in the pass or corfe in Anglo-Saxon of the Purbeck Hills of Dorset, excellent location for story telling and raiding the keep as if Vikings - picture: purbeckfootprints.com

The Enigmatic Corfe Castle, with much history beneath its surface, set in the pass or corfe in Anglo-Saxon of the Purbeck Hills of Dorset, excellent location for story telling and raiding the keep as if Vikings – picture: purbeckfootprints.com

Many of us that have, lets say, an alternative view point to the norm and connection we do tend to go on about being in touch with spirit, the land, sea and sky. But how many can physically put this into practice with the modern pressures of life, but it doesn’t need to take much effort.

As part of my working life I do the Shamanic and Runic stuff, but I am also mainly an Outdoor Education Tutor working on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset in the UK. Teaching everything from ropes course teamwork, environmental studies, local history and just about being outdoors and encouraging a respect for the natural world.

The respect for the natural world is inherent within all of us it is only pressures of the media, which influences the modern peer pressure which leads to conformity that only humans are important and as such they only have a spirit. So why then in my Forest School do the children give names to the log that they sit on, the bugs they collect and call them ‘Fred’ and ‘Doris’. This shows that young people have an inherent memory of animism, that everything has a spirit; it’s not just a woodlouse it’s ‘Fred!’ living in the woods, and from this there is a series of learning and links

Fred the Woodlouse  (picture from public domain: peaktimetales)

Fred the Woodlouse
(picture from public domain: peaktimetales)

Fred the Woodlouse

  • 40 species in the UK
  • He is a crustacean, related to crabs and lobsters
  • He evolved from life in the sea and still has gills and 14 legs
  • The female has a brood pouch
  • He eats rotting wood and plants releasing the waste to fertilise more plants and trees

And there is the natural cycle of connectivity, action to create a reaction

Fred from the sea to the land finds the niche, in that niche supports his home and habitat and within that community of life, one of the cogs turning in his ecosystem.

We are all cogs in a system of a kind, and to a lesser or greater extent; others, our culture, business, spirituality and most importantly our home, the Earth, rely us upon which could be argued as by being the spiritual quest in its own right. The present and ancient hunter-gatherer tribes would have known you can only take what you require and put back or leave alone what you don’t need and pass on the gifts of the hunter, the herbalist and the healer; the shaman.

Cairn building by my grandson on Exmoor

Cairn Building by my grandson on Exmoor

In this generation we have seen one of the fastest moves away from the natural world, save the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, and the gifts of knowledge and wisdom have become watered down and even lost over this short time.

Looking at the need and our thirst for wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors and that of a traditional way of life, we then should be aware that in time the next generation too would need our knowledge and experiences to learn from. In the UK there has been a number of cuts and outdoor centre closed or others, like my own ‘Wide Horizons’ become charities, the Scouts are still in operation as too are the Woodcraft Folk and for pre-school and upward there is Forest School from Scandinavia bringing a natural form of pupil lead activities in the woods and fields into which engage students positively and is proving to be a success on the holistic development of a person. In other countries this is just away of life and is instilled in their education culture, for others its not the and in other countries its in flux of popularity depending on how much they’ve spent on their nuclear budget or bailing out bankers bonuses.

So what’s this got to do with shamanism?

It the spirit of connection, the relationship between ourselves, the world of society and the natural world, the things I do as an outdoor tutor I bring into shamanic practice, to encourage adults to look and remember.

Here are some examples to try yourselves with your children

The Journey String – adapted from the Aboriginal map string used during the ‘Walk About’ by those achieving manhood initiation.

Take a piece of string about 18” long and go for a walk, as you walk tie on pieces of the environment from a leaf, a stick, a stone and so on

Nature’s Pallet

Cut some 4” square put a strip of double-sided sticky tape on it, go for a walk create a rainbow from nature or your own micro picture from petals, grass and soil

(Don’t forget to take a litterbag with you)

All sounds a bit fluffy, but give it go, to connect even deeper write a poem your Journey String or Nature’s Pallet.

Or just sit listen to the sounds and draw the patterns of the sound and create a map of sound in the environment

Nature's Pallet and Journey String example to bring the story of a walk in the outdoors

Nature’s Pallet and Journey String example to bring the story of a walk in the outdoors

These little activities start the thought process opening up the imagination and therefore magical spirit connections open up to further investigate, to talk with people, and from a child’s point of view doing something together that does not involve electronics or pressure to do it right, because there is no right way. And by reconnecting again through a child’s eyes and mind, you too might see their ‘imaginary friend’ or even yours that was with you all those years ago.

Knowlton Henge and Church at sunset. But to my granddaughter, its a castle where she is a princess and lives with a kindly dragon

Knowlton Henge and Church at sunset. But to my granddaughter, its a castle where she is a princess and lives with a kindly dragon

The path of our life is our own and for so long we get shaped by others, this unavoidable, but the purpose of this blog is to say, that we, and I include myself, don’t have to do it all the time to let the conformity of detachment or fluffness of the natural world be instilled in the next generation, so as the wanderer lets go for a wander outside, to walk, to look, to remember, to learn, and to respect and protect the generations of the natural world.

There are loads of recourses to have a look at for inspiration in the outdoors; here are some links

Wide Horizons Outdoors Educational Trust

http://www.widehorizons.org.uk/?gclid=CL6j2NDWjMUCFc3MtAodxVsAVQ

George Monbiot at Wide Horizons Tyn y Berth

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2015/apr/08/time-to-rewild-your-child-george-monbiot-video?CMP=fb_gu

Institute for Outdoor Learning

http://www.outdoor-learning.org/

Woodcraft Folk

http://www.woodcraft.org.uk/

Forest School Learning  Initiative

http://www.forestschoollearning.co.uk/

Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives

http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/

Andy Goldsworthy

http://andygoldsworthy.tripod.com/

Scouts

http://scouts.org.uk/home/

*please note this blog was made using only one finger of my non writing hand while on morphine after an operation*

 

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Runes and Shamanism

There is some, lets say, ‘a variety of opinions’ to when the Runes came into practice, the oldest view is they are over 2,000 years old. The Runes themselves come from the Teutonic and Scandinavian spiritual traditions and the word ‘Rune’ itself means mystery. The Runes have been used in casting for divination, communication in the form of writing, used in protection and healing charms.

The Elder Futhark of 24 Runes, divided into their families or 'Aets'

The Elder Futhark of 24 Runes, divided into their families or ‘Aets’

Each Rune itself is a shamanic guide, for in the Poetic Edda their coming into being was indeed a shamanic experience for Odin as detailed below from the Havamal of the Edda.

(For the purpose of this blog the not all of stanzas have been used for more in depth view please see Havamal stanzas 137 to 163)

I know I hung on the windswept tree whose roots no one knows

For nine nights and nine days

No one brought me food

No one brought me drink

………………………….

Spear pieced, sacrificed myself

Odin to my self

I searched the depths I spied the Runes

Raised them with song and fell once thence……….

……………………………

…….I began to thrive, to grow wise

To grow greater, and enjoy

For me words led from words to new words

For me deeds lead from deeds to new deeds

……………………………………

Runes shall you know and rightly read staves

Very great staves, powerful staves

Drawn by the mighty one who speaks

Made by the Vanir (fertility gods), carved by the highest rulers

This excerpt tells of a shamanic death and birth, being suspended between the worlds, being sacrificed harmed by the spear, and the raven pecking out his eye in the quest for wisdom. The metaphor for Odin losing his eye is being able to see in this world and the Otherwords. The tree itself is Yggdrasil (Odin’s Steed), trees as mentioned in the ‘Theory’ page are Axis Mundis used to travel from this word to the Otherworlds in shamanic journeys.

The Vanir are indeed fertility gods such as Freyja, but they are also shamanic gods too in the form of Seidr in the Northern Traditions, so for the Vanir to have ‘made’ the Runes it would be obvious to think of the Runes to have shamanic qualities

The Runes themselves, the Elder Runes or Elder Futhark (Futhark coming from the first Runes, Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido and Kenaz) is the most commonly used and the one with the most research as there are a number of Futhark that have come into practice over time such as the Younger and Anglo Saxon Futharks to name a few

The Runes have associations with a particular god/dess, with an element, an animal, a tree, a herb and so on, and a core interpretation, for example

The Rune Ansuz

The Rune Ansuz

Ansuz

God – Odin

Element – Air

Animal – Raven

Tree – Yew/Ash

Herb – Fly Agaric (mushroom)

Core interpretation – Odin as god, mouth, speech, communication and consciousness of thought and mind

With each one of these attributes links into the unconsciousness of the Rune reader to portray the message, inspiration or action. Each Rune is individual, but is also part of the collective, with its own meaning being transmitted and influenced by other Runes it has been cast with, similar to a tarot reading.

Runes can be put together to create a ‘Bind Rune’; this is a magic spell or charm as are the Runes singularly in their own right. A common Bind Rune used as form of protection is ALU a combination of:

Ansuz – the god and communication

Laguz – the life force

Uruz – primal will strength and healing

And when linked and binded together each Rune influences the other to create a very powerful charm of protection and to enhance this they are sung as did Odin sing them, known as ‘Galdr’ the chanting of the Runes. In Seidr, songs were/are sung to carry the shaman to the Otherworld and carryout their work there.

The Runes Ansuz, Laguz and Uruz binded together  to create ALU Bind Rune

The Runes Ansuz, Laguz and Uruz binded together to create ALU Bind Rune

Please follow the link, which explains ALU in more detail

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5h21vYQ0eA

Singing in shamanism is a common practice across the world and is one of its core principles. And to follow another principle, one of ‘animism’ everything is alive and has consciousness, and this is so true with the Runes.

The Runes themselves are not static, they evolve with the ‘Runester’ and to work with them is a lifetime’s study and indeed rewarding.

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