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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life & behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia
- Charles Lindbergh
There are times in life when we find ourselves in the wilderness.  We may have moved home, changed jobs, ended a relationship or literally trekked off into the sunset in search of new adventures. Times of transition and transformation invite us to let go of our known identities, stories and comfort blankets and connect with the wonderful wilderness of the unknown.

The Wild One

One darky wintery night on the streets of a small village in Austria, I encountered the Krampus - a long horned hairy beast who goes around scaring naughty children on the eve of St Nicholas Day. Unlike St Nick, who comes bearing gifts, the Krampus comes with a whip and may even carry you away to hell in a bathtub.  His big beastly footsteps track back to mythological wildmen and women including Old Father Winter, Jack Frost, Pan, Odin, The Green Man, Werewolves, Crones and Witches like Baba Yaga and Hekate, Satyrs, Fauns, Sprites and Elves.  Different forms of the Krampus can be found stalking across Europe from Befana the Italian witch, La Pere Fouettard the French Whip Father and the currently controversial Black Pete of the Netherlands. I share the deep discomfort of protesters about the use of blackface by white people, even if used to impersonate a character who emerged soot-faced from the chimney to leave gifts for children in their shoes.  It is no surprise that these wild characters provoke intense debate, for that is their role - to catalyze chaos and transformation.

The Call Of The Wild One
The Krampus myth is a big, bad, hairy monster which calls to acknowledge the wilder aspects of life.  Krampus is not just the bad cop to good cop St Nick, he is actually in service of our development. In some myths he asks children to sing a song, recite a poem or answer a riddle, in others he is St Nick’s adopted helper, much like Santa’s Elves.  Like the Roman winter feast of Saturnalia where masters and slaves reversed roles and cross dressing orgies were rife, on Krampusnacht wildness roams the streets.  The message is simple: if we want the gifts of life, we must take a walk on the wild side.

Getting Wild
We need the tonic of wildness.  At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.
- Henry David Thoreau
The wild ones come from the woods.  They live on the outskirts of our consciousness in dark places, under stones and prickly leaves.  All of a sudden they may spring out on us - in unexpected dreams, passions, conflicts, crises and transitions.  They live in the parts of us that we don’t know we don’t know, in the places where we are far more than our familiar identities.  They have no concern for traditional morality and conventions - being a ‘good girl or boy’ has no meaning in their realms.  Their ‘gifts’ do not come neatly wrapped nor do they give out easily interpretable ‘life lessons.’  Their wisdom is not easily discovered or illuminated, it emerges from the deep dark, lost places. They have access to a naturalness that defeats the intellect as to meet them requires meeting the wildness in ourselves.

The Riddle of the Seer
The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask - Nancy Wynne Newhall
The riddle of our wildness is that in order to see we need to become present to our blindness. Much of our energy and potential can remain hidden in our blindspots - our everyday perceptions, filtered by our conditioning.  To live fully, we must release our creative wisdom which often emerges spontaneously from leftfield - through lightning strikes or the whispers of breezes.  To gain insight many mythological heroes, prophets, sages and deities spent time undergoing strange trials in the wilderness.  The Norse and Anglo Saxon God W/Odin hung upside down on World Tree Yggdrasil for 9 days and received the runic alphabet in a revelation.  He led the Wild Hunt across stormy wintery skies, followed by a trail of spirits - a myth now assimilated into Santa’s magic sleigh ride. W/Odin means seer, poet, sound, awe and the wild fury associated with ecstatic states.  Sacrificing an eye in exchange for a mouthful of the waters of wisdom, his quest for inner vision demonstrates that in order to grow, we must release our ‘normal’ perceptions and open to the great wild unknown.

Following The Underground River
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver
When our wildness is not honoured, our growth is stilted, and like an underground river it will emerge where it can, sometimes violently.  Street gangs are formed from the need for initiation and expression in young people.  Crowds of sports fans revert to howling, chanting mobs in tribal warfare. Corporates driven crazy by stress seek out urban retreats and drum circles.
Our wild places, like the Underworlds of mythology, have rivers that run through them, deep archetypal strands that weave watery themes through time, passing through our own lives and those of our ancestors.  Charting a course through these dark waters may seem daunting in the shadows and may require us to shatter illusions about all we have known and held dear.  Yet connecting to this wild self is where we gain a deeper more satisfying and nurturing sense of power.  It is where we come home to the unknown within us and where our wildest dreams can and do come true.

Wishing you all the wonders of your wildness

Photo: Elizabeth Gadd whose photography captures Wanderlust in Magnificent Landscapes

Take a Walk on the Wild Side
* Challenge your habits - sleep on the other side of the bed, wear odd socks,
* Channel your creativity in an unusual way - paint with your feet, draw with your other hand.
* Visit a wild place in Nature or in your Neighbourhood :)
* Dare to say No - to unfulfilling obligations, oppressive situations and unnecessary social niceties
* ROAR!! - find somewhere safe to let rip!