[This issue, we sit down with author Carol Day. Here, she discusses her new book, Story Compass; the importance of myths and fairy tales; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Carol Day: What a brilliantly phrased question! I honestly feel like I have been searching all my life for a way to define this and not segregate myself! How long have you got? Hahaha.
The main thing that I value is connection. Connection is key to everything. In fact I often use the word connection to define spirituality. When there is connection there is a flow. So I define my personal spiritual tradition as a tradition from a long line of listeners who are always looking to find a way to include and allow a harmonic communication system to take its place so that there can be connection. This is what the shamans, priestesses, seers, artists, counsellors, musicians and visionaries of all times have done. I could call myself any of these words and many more. Your words intuitive and eclectic are perfect to describe what we need to bring to the table to allow the traditions to meet the needs and longings of an age. I carry Creative Earth Ensemble as the name for the ‘tradition’ I am a part of as I feel it describes the ensemble that we are creating together with the earth and all its realms in these times and the fact that I am just a listener to the whole. Listening is key.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers do you honor in your tradition?
CD: I honour absolutely everything and everyone. I work with what I call the ‘wholeness template’ which is a circle of inclusion, resonant with the medicine wheel. When I work with individuals and groups with healing projects, I really just trust that whatever can best listen will appear and bring the listening, empathy, understanding and balm that is apt and healing. I am forever surprised and forever growing and deepening to include a wider cosmology. So for example it could be deities from different cultures and faiths, trees, plants, ancestors, stars, animal guides, archetypes from different stories, rocks, rivers, water, a friend, a pet – anything and anyone.
ev0ke: You recently released Story Compass: An Unprecedented Journey of Discovery with Myth and Life through Moon Books. Congratulations! How did this book come about? What inspired you to write it?
CD: Thank you! I was really lucky and feel very happy that the manuscript received a yes by Moon Books! And here we are twenty months later – the book is out there! I started writing Story Compass because I wanted to take my work more into writing and art making again. I had been holding courses and individual work intensively for twelve years as well as parenting my son and daughter and I felt like the nurturing side of me needed to step to the side a bit. I had a real longing to be more in the creative process. So I thought it would be good to collect some people to go on a six month journey with to explore the story fields through the four directions of the Earth Ensemble wheel which I work with in constellation work. I wanted to understand more closely what story is about but I also wanted it to be an adventure with a purpose of enabling the creative self to come more through for everyone. ‘By chance’ I had been watching the film ‘Titanic’ with Marcie my friend’s daughter the night before I started writing and the ship captured my imagination. I just woke up, put fingers to the keyboard and before I knew it a ship’s journey through the compass points had begun.
ev0ke: The book is divided into four sections, with each associated with a particular direction and concept. How did you come to develop this “medicine wheel” and these particular associations (e.g. south with ancestors, west with myth)?
CD: The medicine wheel more consciously entered my life when I gave birth to my son in 1999. I felt connected to source through birthing him and wondered at how to keep the connection strong for him. I just started to follow the rhythms of the earth and live in keeping with the seasons. It was like a switch that got turned on in me. This got me to work with the medicine wheel and mark the festivals. Fast forward ten years when I set up the little red drum Centre for Creative Shamanism and wrote ‘Wheel’ – a Foundation course working with the wheel of the seasons that also became a book. My own children and then the children at The Secret Garden Outdoor nursery where I set up the ‘Nature as Teacher’ spiral curriculum with its founder and my friend the late Cathy Bache had taught me so much about how living in tune with the earth’s rhythms and seasons could bring a sense of order and ease to life. I went on to write another course Drum working with the moon cycles of the year also became a book. Everything I do is about balance and cycles. Carol means a round so perhaps it’s all in the name my mother chose for me!
Meanwhile, I had been working with soul retrieval through learning with various shamanic educators (please see my website About Me page for acknowledgement of all my teachers) and the people who came for sessions were showing me how the information for soul loss could be found through the body, the life line, the ancestral stories and then through archetypal expression in the mythical. I studied Family Constellation work for a number of years and then one day the two practices just fit together within the medicine wheel. In Story Compass I call it the 4Directions wheel and it is the ship’s wheel at our finger tips too.
The idea is that each of these four directions can hold the information for healing (ie where the cut off of connection is) and they can also hold the medicine (where the empathy, deep listening and restoration can be accessed).
ev0ke: Readers of Story Compass are led on their journey by four archetypes: Mother Goose, Wild Merlin, the Prince from “Sleeping Beauty,” and Anansi the Spider. Why those particular archetypes?
CD: I had written two story courses before working with archetypes like Baba Yaga, Sedna and The Cailleach. I had Mother Goose and the Sleeping Beauty in the wings who I knew were valuable archetypes and were going to help lead something at some stage. It was a surprise when it was actually Sleeping Beauty’s Prince who stepped forward from that story, but made perfect sense in the writing of it. Wild Merlin was a favourite who had been introduced to me by the very gifted Story teller Owen Pilgrim and we had included the story in the MuseuM course we led together in 2014. Anansi came through the memory banks from 1995 when I was teaching in a school in Handsworth Wood, Birmingham. Anansi had showed me more about story than I had been able to see before. So these four archetypes led the process. Mother Goose is the author guide and she is the Keeper of all stories, enabling the Author within to find their stories. Merlin is the lifeline and is the one who goes into nature and then comes back to the people with the medicine and the way. His story enables the coming back to the nature self through the lifeline. Sleeping Beauty’s Prince holds the ancestral story banks. I am struck time and time again by how much power loss is from incomplete initiations that are locked in the ancestral lines. The Prince follows the calling, keeps going through the thorny thickets, breaks a spell and wakes up a new age. His story awakens a lot. Finally, Anansi the Spider as the space holder for the mythical is the one who holds the key to emancipation and will never be caught. The Trickster element of the unexpected and the weaving in a way beyond human comprehension is key to the ways of the mythical.
ev0ke: At one point, you state that “the Fairy stories and Myths I had hidden for hours in libraries as a child to read [had] the keys to unlock this relationship [with nature].” I heartily agree! Can you give us an example of a personal favorite? A story that helped lead you back to or heal your relationship with the natural world?
CD: Oh I am so happy that you agree! As a child we are so blended with nature and the mythical aren’t we? I guess I have to go back to 1996 to answer this question. This was when my grandmother died. I had a profound experience at the time of her death and at her funeral. Three months later, I woke up to have seemingly lost most of my powers overnight. I went into a kind of living death. I have always had a thing where books just appear for me at the right time. I managed to get myself to Kings Heath library in Birmingham. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estees did that glowing out at me appearance on one of the book shelves and I took it home with me with a glimmer of hope. The first story La Loba about the woman who collects the bones of the animals, sits by the fire and waits to divine the song to sing to bring the wildness back to life hit the deepest chord in me. It was such an effort to read those stories, everything felt so heavy back then, but I read the whole book in the end. Fairy stories brought me back to the world again.
ev0ke: You are also the author of Drum: The Rhythm of Shamanism. The second section is designed as a course that aligns with the thirteen lunar months. How did you devise this course? What resources did you draw upon?
CD: So that was part of my guidance to work with nature, the natural rhythms and take people through the wheel of the year with the moon cycles. It was a surprise when the trees turned up and asked to be included too, but honestly the trees have been my major guides since then (‘Trees are our Letters’ is being published also by Moon Books and will be released in January 2023!). I collected information by visiting the trees and researching online. I chose to use the tree calendar which Glennie Kindred uses. But mainly with Drum, I think I was trying to bring through an understanding of shamanism being about a pulse of creation and that we are all artists working with this all the time. I was also wanting to present the idea of mystery schools as being paths of initiation and direct revelation that worked with the cycles of life. In my books and courses I try to provide spaces for people to connect with what we are all inside together and then see what it uncovers for them.
My first ever courses were New Moon group monthly classes at the Synergy Centre in Glenrothes. I studied Astro-shamanism as my first meeting with shamanic guides and worked with the sun and moon cycles dedicatedly for a number of years. My ascendant is Cancer so the moon is really strong for me.
ev0ke: Your book Wheel: The Little Red Book of Shamanism has a section modeled after the Celtic Medicine Wheel, with each season associated with an element and direction. Can you give an example of how these three elements work together?
CD: Wheel is pretty simple as a concept. It was written after working with the children in the Secret Garden for a year and watching how they mirrored the seasons and the weather with their play and exploration. So as you know, the wheel of the year goes East as Spring Equinox, South as Summer Solstice, West as Autumn (Fall for some of you!) Equinox and North as Winter Solstice. For me with the Celtic Wheel that is East as Air element, South as Fire, West as Water and North as Earth. So these are East as the mental body, South the passionate body, West as the Emotional body and North the physical body. (Are you lost yet?) Each season has three sections that are divided into astrological months. So for example, East has Aries, Taurus and Gemini months of Spring and is set up with a month journeying with the spirit guide, spirit of Air and element of Air, then the middle month with mindfulness in nature with one of the senses in focus (eg sight or hearing), then the last month of the season incorporating a healing practice with the element (with Air this is the practice of Recapitulation). The book rotates and repeats this structuring with each season, direction and element. The idea is that at the end of the year we each feel the elements and the seasons as one with us and have an understanding of how to balance ourselves more and live in the moment. I ran the book as a course for five years from 2010 – 15 and people still tell me that it was one of the best things they ever did. Some people stayed on the wheel for a second year.
ev0ke: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events do you hope to attend in the foreseeable future?
CD: I am currently making a short film about Story Compass so I will be taking the book and the film to some book launches and workshops over Summer and Autumn and these will be listed on my website.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
CD: I am currently studying on a two year accelerated degree in film making! The idea is to work with film to bring the mythology of the land and people through and also to in future work with film making to enable story telling projects to come through for others. It’s also part of my return to creative projects.
I wrote a year course all about the three archetypes of the Artist (Poet, Actor and Diviner) through the wheel of the year and am taking a small group through that for its second year. I would like to get that into print too at some stage as I love working with people and seeing together that art is really the creative communicative spirit in everything.
I am currently gathering people to begin the two year Earth Ensemble Constellation Practitioner training. I have written the sequel to Story Compass (Story Vessel) that works with the mountains and mythology of Scotland so I am hoping that will come out there soon too.
Findhorn Press are publishing my book Shamanic Dreaming next year so I am writing a year’s online Shamanic training that includes that material and this begins in August. The training is about listening to the path of Initiation as a way of shamanic healing.
I personal work with Carol, the medicine wheel, the trees, the lunar months and the wholeness template. Carol’s work is life changing. I long to create time to dream into mythology and inclusion. Carol has a way of holding space and bring in archetypes for deep profound healing and change.
A true teacher and enabler.