Tag Archives: Sharon Blackie

The Enchanted Life – a review

Sharon Blackie’s The Enchanted Life is a non-fiction book about enchantment and re-enchantment. It’s written for people who are suspicious that there are fundamental things wrong with life that they need to fix. The book offers stories, the author’s experiences and useful exercises to help you recognise your disenchantment and do something about it. It includes a solid analysis of how we collectively got into this mess in the first place – the beliefs, values and philosophy that brought us here – and how to rethink that.

It’s a very readable book, it ambles round subjects with the leisurely grace of a wild river and it has a lot to offer by way of insight and inspiration. I think it would be a good book for anyone just starting out on the Druid path as well as for anyone feeling the first yearnings for re-enchantment in their life. For the person a bit further along this road, it offers affirmation, and ideas and may well prove useful.

Most of the time, the assumed reader seems to be middle aged, middle class and winning at life by conventional standards – they’ve got the house, the job, the busy life, the generally accepted signs of success. Many of the people whose work the author draws on seem to fall into this category. They have it all, and then they take a massive risk and jump into another, more authentic, simpler and happier way of being. There’s not much here about how you go the other way – from the pressures and miseries of abject poverty and insecurity towards this more liberated way of life. How do you do it if you don’t have personal resources, or skills? Going self employed calls for a massive skill set, you have to do all the things a company does – the legal and financial obligations, the marketing and building a client base as well as doing the work. It’s not, I think, something everyone could do.

There’s also an underlying assumption here that you are an able bodied person who can walk every day, and sit outside every day. Now, as disability goes, I’m at the not so afflicted end, and I cannot go for a walk every day, and sitting outside in cold weather would cause me considerable harm. I’d like to see re-enchantment work that doesn’t assume an able body.

Sharon Blackie has a lot to say about the rise of stress, depression and anxiety in our culture and the relationship between that and our working lives. I’m very glad to see this getting properly explored and discussed. However, much of the book focuses on solitary, personal re-enchantment, and while that’s a good place to start, I wanted her to go further. I wanted more about how we enable re-enchantment in each other, how we build communities of mutual support. I think one of the big problems in our culture is that we make problems personal that should be seen as collective. How disability and mental health impact on us are fine cases in point.

What can I do, as a person who has broken out to a fair degree, to help someone who is stuck in the consumerist machine still? What can I do to support the people who can’t easily get out and connect with nature? How can I be part of the solution for other people, not just myself?

My guess is that the cover and title will appeal to readers who are already exploring this path. Folk who are reading Robert Macfarlane, and slow movement books, people interested in the Transition movement, permaculture, people who are already looking at sustainable and low stress lifestyles. Probably the people who most need to read this book are actually the ones who don’t yet consciously know they are in trouble. So, here’s my suggestion. If you are the sort of person to be automatically attracted to this book, buy it, read it, figure out who you know who would most benefit from it, and press a copy into their hands.

More about the book here – http://sharonblackie.net/the-enchanted-life/

If Women Rose Rooted

I’ve spent rather a lot of the last week slowly reading and thinking about Sharon Blackie’s book, If Women Rose Rooted. It’s a fascinating mix of autobiography, Celtic mythology, the stories of modern women, and the idea of the heroine’s journey.

I’ve read some Joseph Campbell, and he’s certainly very interesting, but the reduction of all story down to this idea of a hero’s journey has never agreed with me. Story should mean more than this, surely? I’ve never been able to see myself in the hero’s journey, not even when Martin Shaw reworked it so beautifully in his book ‘Snowy Tower’.

Before this starts to sound like a gender issue, I should flag up that the point at which I really started thinking about multiple narratives, was when, in 2013, I interviewed Ronald Hutton for the Moon Books blog (http://moon-books.net/blogs/ronald-hutton/) Hearing him talk about story and interpretation at the PF Wessex conference recently means this has been on my mind.

Stories shape who we are, and where we are going. What we say and how we say it can define a culture. The stories of the hero’s journey – as Sharon Blackie illustrates – are stories of adventure and conquest, triumph and dominance. These are the stories that celebrate ‘power over’, competition and winning. These stories underpin capitalism and the destructive exploitation of the planet.

I found Sharon Blackie’s book to be a fascinating and rewarding read, full of ideas that resonated with me and lessons I needed to learn. Even so, I’m not going to rush out and restyle my life along the lines of the heroine’s journey either. It’s just too gendered for me. Too defined.

What I am going to do is keep thinking about those other story shapes. There have to be other ways of writing and other kinds of stories to tell. We’ve got used to certain forms and habits in stories, certain shapes and underlying ideas about what a story should be. Not least, we favour stories that are tidy, with clear endings, clear meanings, with winners and losers. I guess people have been telling these kinds of stories for a long time, but perhaps not forever.

More about the book here – https://ifwomenroserooted.com/