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The Shadowy Way - A Cosmology of the Earth


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Course dates: 
Monday, 21 November, 2016 to Friday, 25 November, 2016

With Carla Stang and Martin Shaw 

Shadow people, climbing
On the edges of mountain ridges,
Trotting along the rugged stony way,
Soundlessly talking along the shadowy way
of ancient grandfathers’,
Looking forward at the dusky way…

“Prayer of Dunänkän Clan”, Shirokogoroff

Tungus (Evenk) folklore and ritual contain some of the most dynamic and mystical practices we have to explore a vibrant relationship to the living world. The word Shaman (Saman) - so fascinating to the West - is first located in the spiritual practices of these hardy and sophisticated people of the Reindeer.

For five days, join mythologist Dr Martin Shaw and anthropologist Dr Carla Stang in an exhilarating journey into the heart of Siberian animism.

How do we approach a culture that regards the land, sky and stars as a trembling bell of relationship? Not as dead, exploitable matter, but teeming with spirits, opportunity and occasions for reverence? We will learn of a woven landscape - of visible and invisible dimensions, leading to participation with Buya - the earth itself as a majestic, sentient being.

And beginning to experiencing this, how can we in the West approach the business of becoming true human beings? Our time together will offer many clues.

Over the week we will encounter breathtaking tales of fire-lit tents and a healer drumming herself into manifestations of eagle, reindeer, bear and snake to risk all and bring blessings to her people. We will encounter edge-women, who, when they speak, precious red beads fall from their mouth, and hear of edgy decisions made at dusk at the crossroads: to go the road of the Sable or the Black Bear? What would you do? These electrifying stories are almost completely unknown in the west. For anyone with a love of eastern european or Russian fairy tales especially, this is a unique moment to glimpse tales packed with nutrition and mystery: stories from the edge of the fire.

On our way we will imaginatively trek the winding way of the Okto - paths cleaved in dark and dangerous cliff faces and through deep forest - and also utilised by the spirits to bring wisdom to the people.

How could we create such knowing paths through the landscapes that we live in?

To the Tungus what is called the Otherworld is also, paradoxically, embedded firmly in this one. We ask; how is this so? … and how does the work of the Romantics, Virginia Woolf and Henry Corbin encourage us to develop such an awareness?

In our time together we will experience myth as medicine, maps of taiga and river that are swirling and alive, and an unforgettable adventure into the soul of the world, what Corbin names; "the Mundus Imaginalis".

Expect to come away having being exposed to myths and folktales almost entirely new to the western mind (and maybe having told one on your own tongue), having studied a very specific way of relating to the earth that is both startling and ancient (yet rattles deep as almost a memory), and all this whilst being deliciously soaked in woodsmoke, fine language and convivial fellowship in the staggering beauty of Dartmoor in autumn. This will be quite the adventure. Are you coming? 


Carla Stang

Carla received her first degree at the University of Sydney and was awarded the Frank Bell Memorial Prize for Anthropology for her studies there. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Since then she has held the position of Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and Associate Researcher at the University of Sydney. Carla’s work explores events of consciousness in different cultures, in particular those of ordinary reality, mysticism, ritual and the experience of landscape. Most of this research has focussed on the Tungus people of Siberia, and the Mehinaku Indians of the Upper Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon. Based on her fieldwork with the Mehinaku Carla wrote a book called “A Walk to the River in Amazonia” (Berghahn Press 2011).

Martin Shaw 

Martin is a mythologist, writer and teacher of wilderness rites-of-passage. Author of the Mythteller trilogy (A Branch From The Lightning Tree, Snowy Tower and Scatterlings), he founded the Oral Tradition course at Stanford University, and has contributed to Desmond Tutu’s leadership programme at Templeton college Oxford. Recent collaborations have included “Lost Gods” with Mark Rylance and Paul Kingsnorth. Director of the Westcountry School of Myth in the UK, he lectures internationally and has a long standing interest in the folklore and cosmology of Tungus and Yakut culture. Much of his thinking comes from four years living in a black tent on a succession of English hills, exploring remaining pockets of British wilderness.


£ 795.00
Course fees include single comfortable accommodation, all meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions.