Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

The breaking of the cauldron

By Jason Hine

Jason Hine is an earth based facilitator, deep ecologist, gardener, ceremonialist and coach residing in the South West of England who helps people to connect with their mythic self and the sentient dreaming intelligence of the earth to find vision, overcome obstacles, build eco-communities and resolve inner and outer conflicts. His website is https://earthbaseddreaming.com

His posts and essays chart a path for the future of human life nested in an other-than-human world, and finds a way of finding psyche in amongst the noise of fear and fantasy of a global human civilisation in deep trouble. As part of our follow-up to the publication of Unpsychology 6: the Other-Than-Human anthology, we are pleased to be publishing this important ‘unpsychological’ voice. This piece, based on the Welsh story of Taliesin, first appeared on Facebook on 2 May 2020.

The story of the birth of the Welsh sixth century bard Taliesin is a prophetic story about bringing science and mythos, discipline and magic, together. It was written down before the time science and magic got split apart, at the time of Descartes and Francis Bacon.

In the story the sorceress Ceridwen cooked up a concoction in a cauldron which contains the essence of both “awen”, druidic mythos, and rational science. This cauldron containing magic and science, may have something important to teach us at this time of pandemic.

In the story, when the one who was supposed to stir the cauldron for a year and a day, Gwion Bach, accidentally tasted of the fruit of the cauldron, the cauldron shattered and he fled from Ceridwen, who pursued him in multiple shapeshifting forms, finally consuming him as a grain of wheat.

Image from Wiki Commons

Through consuming Gwion she became impregnated by his essence and she bore him as a child. Gwion was reborn as Taliesin, the one who brings science and mythos together.

Just as the breaking of the cauldron may represent the dichtomy or schism between science and magic that developed around the time of the enlightenment, Taliesin may prophetically or mythologically represent a possible symbolic bond of science and druidic mythos.

Not for him the modern militant aetheist who rejects all mythos, or the modern conspiracy theorist who rejects all empirical data and science, or the alternative culture luminary with a psychological aversion to all control and structure. At times of plague, rumour and chaos, ungrounded magicians have always run riot. Taliesin symbolically represents a more grounded, boundaried mature approach

At the time of Covid-19 virus boundaries, structure, limitation, control, focus, sacrifice, determination, discipline and limits are now all potential allies. Turn them into friends if you can: they are not enemy powers, they won’t make you heartless. They may unfurl for you the power and beauty of limit. They might show you what you are called to do and what is sacred to you. They may show you what you have to do and what you must.

At this time it’s ok to reach out and ask for help and to be vulnerable if you need to. It’s ok to have needs and say them. It’s ok to ask. It’s ok to be without answers and without narratives. It’s ok to discover an immense power in just being needy and just asking for help.

It’s important to care for others: observe social distancing, wear masks, think of vulnerable people’s health. Your vitamins, herbs and meditation can boost your immune system but can’t confer on you supernatural invulnerability. Offer things as pay-what-you-want, engage in mutual aid, reach out to your friend who is experiencing anxiety. Its not all about you.

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Disprove those who have built their philosophies and politics on the idea that we are bunch of selfish bastards who put economic growth first and don’t give a fuck about anyone else.

It’s ok to be afraid: fear is a necessary helpful preparatory emotion when it is titrated and deeply rooted in the body. Somatically integrate fear, and fear will become an ally of your readiness and responsiveness. Love is important too, but don’t fall for that child like regressive application of the mantra “always choose love over fear” to every circumstance.

Your legacy to future generations and your soul will be revealed when you drop remedial spiritual narratives. Drop people who teach you to tidy your room, and, if that is what you need, find people who teach you to make a highly financially successful ethical business.

Drop the infantile refrain “choose love over fear” and find people who are building the infrastructure to regenerate entire bioregions. Drop “everything is love and light” and be a physical sensory grounded body. Drop ascension narratives and just realise it’s enough, it’s good enough, it’s sufficient, to care for a single fragile elderly person.

For some now is a time to slow down, let go, surrender and soften. For others now is a time to develop readiness, focus and responsiveness and take swift decisive action.

For some folk both can happen at the same time: by slowing down, sensing in more, listening more, internally chatting less, being at the edge of your responsiveness, having less “small self” and being more embodied, the ground is set for allowing powerful decisive action to move through.

It’s a bit like being a skilled internal martial artist, whose deep sensory grounded embodiment and engaged readiness allows them to see their opponent’s action as if in slow motion.

This ability to slow down time isn’t a chance accident, but arises from sensory grounded centered embodiment. In such a place, one is “empty” of small self, but “full” of readiness and responsiveness. One is empty of small self, but “full” of sensory grounded embodiment and “full” of earthbody.

It is not helpful to minimise what is happening: suffering is really happening. Not only the most privileged are suffering. The most vulnerable, immuno-compromised, homeless, the elderly and marginalised and people in poverty are suffering the most.

Trouble isn’t waiting to arrive, trouble has landed. Don’t side with those cruel governments who want to sacrifice the lives of their people and sacrifice nature for economic growth. They don’t need to do that, even in the context of their existing systems, instead they need to be pressurized to redistribute resources downwards to the most vulnerable at this time.

Also, by making a few small (but momentous) economic changes we could shift to a temporary or permanent non-debt-based redistributive equitable degrowth economy supplemented by a basic income, that doesn’t go into a depression when economic growth slows, if we needed to.

People who say: “The coronavirus is nothing significant”, or: “it’s just something we have manifested”, or: “it’s only media hysteria” or: “it will only effect people of a low vibration” are displaying their rank and privilege, to do what they want with a callous disregard for those older or unwell people who are at most risk from the virus.

Ableist, classist and age discrimating rank shrinks the brain’s capacity for compassion and co-feeling unless folk actually wake up to it. Sober, scientifically informed, serious, robust precautions are necessary. That might mean interrupting “business as usual.”

Science is helpful for us at this time: it may be helpful to find a balance between mythos and reason. Read scientific journals rather than watching Youtube videos. Science doesn’t provide the answers to everything: it can get things wrong, it can be misused or taken out of context, and also if multiple scientists converge on peer-reviewed data points derived from hypothesis and empirical verification, it’s likely to be worth your serious consideration.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Ceremony and magic can be important at this time. But before you spiritualise please check that your spiritual insights don’t obfuscate the need for looking at empirical data and taking practical evidence based actions. Please check your spiritualising doesn’t obscure the need for generative economic change.

It is pure spiritual escapism to suggest that the Covid-19 or any other crisis will somehow automatically produce a more regenerative equitable world, conveniently stripping us of responsibility.

Instead, what may leverage a more regenerative equitable world is us doing the work of offering mutual aid to vulnerable people where it is safe to do so, regenerating bioregions, growing food if we can, collectively adopting regenerative agriculture and pressurising governments to adopt redistributive policies.

It may be helpful to look at what is missing in your psyche at this time. What is missing, but perhaps present in your dreaming? What part of you is wandering in some far off land? What part of you is hiding? What are you missing out?

Clarifying what you are here to do can be helpful for some at this time. Cut out distractions. Cut out lesser loves. Cut out the bullshit. Cut out pseudo-friends, time-wasters and psychopath-friends who you know won’t be there for you. Cultivate the real trusted friends and communities, even if they are only online communities at present.

Put what you must do first. That which makes your body shake with its rightness. Do that first. Fuck that irrelevant shit. Fuck that self-absorbed narcissist. It doesn’t matter about them anymore. Do what you need to do to live by your values. Do what you are here to do to protect those you love.

Do what you need to do to plant seeds, to care for some fragile person, to make art, to innovate new or ancient ways of making culture, to source medical equipment, to develop a new economic system, to further the relationship of humanity and the earth, to garden, to change the fate of the human race or whatever it is that you know you must do. Do it now.

At the same time you don’t have to do something enormous, it can be tiny, basic, effortless or simple. You don’t have to “try” or to “grow” or to “self-improve.” Let a force of nature or the synergy that comes from the collective intelligence and mutual sharing of community come through you.

More power and more effectiveness might happen when you get yourself out the way and allow the power of a raven, Buddha, Allah, your ancestors, your community support network, a millipede, a black cockatoo, a bear, Dionysus, Odin, a river, or a mountain to move through you.

As well as having boundaries, conflict resolution can be important too. If you need to communicate with someone you hate or find mildly difficult, or if you are called to help them, listen in detail to their story and to their deepest values and essence. Shape-shift into them a little to get a sense of who they are. If they feel genuinely listened to in enough detail, its possible they might listen to you.

A deeper relationship to death, loss and grief is helpful at this time. And also remember if you are a young and healthy person, it’s probable that the immuno-compromised, refugees and elderly people probably already know more about death than you.

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

Don’t patronize these veterans of death-awareness by trying to teach them your newly learnt insights about death. Instead listen to them and learn from them. Also, obsessing over death can be a form of dissociation. Obsessing over death can be a form of trauma-based escapism from life and from survival, just as obsessing over personal survival can be a form of escapism from death. The will to live is deeply psychologically healthy and spiritually grounded.

If you work ceremonially with the virus, you don’t need to see it solely from the perspective of being the Pleiades constellation or from the perspective of being a sea squirt.

It’s ok to see things from a human perspective sometimes too. It’s ok to feed the gods and ask certain gods to cool it down if appropriate. It’s ok to ask for a win-win result that benefits humanity and the earth.

As long as you work to ameliorate the roots of this crisis in the nightmare of history, its ok to ask for us to learn the lessons we need to learn with less suffering. As long as you are working to bring humanity and the earth into a better relationship, it’s ok to ask for protection for your people or to ask for plagues to be lifted.

It’s true also that the perspective of a sea squirt and the perspective of the pleiades, a blackbird or of a narwhal on this crisis ARE important and perhaps essential.

So at this time, whilst you are socially isolating from humans, for those who are called or able to, now is a good time to be more gregarious with faery queens, hedgehog elders, bluebells, walking elder trees and the vastness of the sensory-grounded earthbody world. Now is a time to make ceremony which brings this world and Annwyn together.

There may be some fate gods who need ritually feeding at this time. Euminides, Mother Holda, Hela, Hekate, Cailleach, Calypso, Kali, Klotho, Baba Yaga: there are a thousand faces of such beings. These aren’t like monotheistic angry gods with a grudge. It’s not good for the mythbeings or for us or for the fates that we being stopped or halted by a virus in such a painful way (its not even good for the virus) and its not romantic.

But we do need to comply with the command to stop. Luckily right now this stopping is mandated by the most ethical and reasonable scientists. But also, now and when this crisis ends, we need to go willingly into slowness and degrowth, where we have been forced.

We need to go willingly into slowness rather than being forced. The fate beings may want some things to be dematerialised. But its not human vs nature. Its not technology and science vs nature either. It’s not that simple.

Some things need to be dissolved, destroyed or dematerialised. Some things that are now materialised need to be dematerialised. Travelling to work for some folks, flying around the world without good reason, extractive industry, infinite extractive economic growth. These things may need to be dematerialised.

Other things that are now dematerialised or scattered across the world need to be materialised locally. Such things that need to be materialised include local food networks, solidarity networks, agroforestry, abundant eco-communities and even the money system, which needs to be limited by material resources rather than by credit.

Also spirituality itself, which needs to be brought down from abstract escapism to earth based embodiment. All these things need to be materialised.

Feed the fate gods by ritual and embodiment and also by materialising what is now dematerialised and dematerialising or dissolving what needs to be dematerialised. Then you may help to bring the human world and the more than-human-world world back together.

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Steve Thorp

Steve Thorp

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Integral counsellor & poet. Warm Data host. Edits Unpsychology Magazine & COVID Poetics on Medium.