The Dark Mountain and the Big Black Cat

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Tales from Hedgespoken

Lying in my tent with gentle rainfall filling my sound-world I mused on the first evening of my weekend at Embercombe, down in the woody depths of Devon. Hedgespoken story tellers had held the stage for the past couple of hours, filling the darkening night with tales of magic and mystery, conjuring yarns that pulled at deep things in my soul.

I’d sat into the wee small hours on the dew-gathering grass, gazing into a campfire as aberrant rhythms of accordion, whistle, fiddle and guitar entranced the words from gypsy clad story-carriers.

The tangle of permaculture plots, wild edges and laughing woodpeckers had welcomed me heart and spirit into their midst and I felt a homecoming of like minded lovely-folk. Little did I know the turn of events that were to take me as the weekend flowed through the drizzle soaked land.

Despite the place of it’s birth the Dark Mountain held an unexpected release from judgement and aloneness in a changing world. Here was a group of people who knew. Earth lovers who felt the depth and horror of the incoming changes and yet could rise above this and work on resilience and personal growth, exploring ways for humanity to survive, no… thrive through the chaos of world evolution. This is what I came to explore, this is what I wanted to put in my pocket and bring home to our folk, yet the land had other plans.

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Beast

Paul Kingsnorth spoke of his new book on the Saturday afternoon, reading the magic from a handful of pages. Beast. A shocking, deep, short, piercing read. He spoke passionately about the big black dogs that wandered our wild places, our moorlands and forest edges since memory began. How lone walkers met their smouldering red eyes when vulnerable and weather-worn. He mentioned how this all changed fifty years ago as the big black dogs stopped appearing to wilderness wanderers.

Now was the time of the big black cat. Slinking over the wild places, muscles rippling, green-gold eyes burning, owning the land, sightings multiplied. Reputable scholars saw them, respected naturalists witnessed their walkings, and thousands of everyday solitude seekers met with their hair-raising gaze. Yet no one found proof. No one found their homes, their scat, their prey remains, their dead… nothing.

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Sharing wildness

Kingsnorth then brought into the room the otherworldly big black cat. The beast that came to share wildness from the other realms. To remind us of the edge of life, that we need more than this tame existence, that we aren’t alone. Black Panther was a messenger, a reminder, a memory. This possibility sank deep within me and lit a flame of knowing which burned with clarity and eloquence.

From that point I could no longer attend any of the lectures, the room acoustics messed with my already messed up hearing, stole my balance and fed my tinnitus. So I retired to the solitude and solace of outdoors. On Saturday night my world flipped. I couldn’t stand. Vertigo flew around my head with such rapidity that the whole planet whirled around me.

Helplessly I crawled into a nearby woodland and dug a hole to take my vomit as I curled up on Mother Earth. Her cold, wet breath soothed my sweat soaked body.

By Sunday noon I could stand again so I wobbled back to the community circles to say my goodbyes. Casting my gaze to the wooded horizon to steady myself, I saw him. Stalking along the fence-line between forest and moor-edge Black Panther surveyed his kingdom, long tail twitching above the wet grasses. He graced the land with unspeakable elegance, his lines fluid on the land. He belonged there and knew that.

I hurried to the lunch tables and called out to a couple of folks. “There… See… Big Black Cat!” Story-telling friend Judy followed my finger and failed to see him. I willed her to witness this moment as I watched panther sleek between the silvering birches. The guy next to us shouted ‘yes – I see him’, then Judy too picked up his shadowy form and stood aghast as he melted back into his own realm, leaving open mouths and wildened hearts in his wake.

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Wild Freedom

Four days later I woke in my bed, knowing old things, new things that would seep through the rest of my life. My otherworldly time took me to a ruin on Anglezarke Moor, the one time homestead of Old Rachel. Black Panther came to meet me. Tales of future work, of bringing wild freedom to folk and of a new animal spirit guide washed through me as another adventure began to unfold.

Last night Nicola and I hosted an experiential journey night for a group of enquiring Preston people. During the interval a lady spoke to me of her previous night’s dream.

She recounted how since childhood she had never had a single dream but “last night I dreamt deeply. Four Black Panthers stood around my bed, green-gold eyes gazing into mine. What could this mean?

The page has turned, a new chapter has begun. Will you walk to wild freedom with us?

jason

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. What a wonderful place. Reminded me of ancient times when people told stories round a fire before retiring to bed. Letting the imagination and creativity unfurl making your own movie in your mind’s eye.
    The photos as usual are amazing almost like you have a special magical filter over your lense. Always a pleasure thank you both ❤

    • Thank you for your kind words Linda. Yes, the Dark Mountain gathering at Embercombe was indeed like stepping back a few hundred years in many ways. Already looking forward to next year’s. 🙂

  2. Hi Jason, I love the story. It pulled me in because i dreamt of a big black cat/ panther vividly a few months ago and the image has stayed with me strongly since. She skulked into my lounge a few days ago infact during a meditation. It makes me hiss like a cat thinking about it! I will walk to wild freedom with you!!

    • Amazing Jess! Thank you for sharing your experiences. There’s something afoot here and if we engage we may well have an interesting venture ahead!

  3. Hello again. I’m feeling the darkness tonight and it feels…wild…

    Black Cat

    Skulking forth,
    Wild, unapologetic.
    Smashing through boundaries,
    Collapsing frameworks of inertia,
    Chaos and destruction of Old Ways.
    The river banks move,
    The earth quakes as she shifts her gaze.

    Defiance of defeat.
    The art of magic and mystique resides in all but do you dare to look within,
    And see the calibre of supreme darkness in your bones?
    You’re deathly stare, you’re evil glare.”YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!!!” Black Cat says.
    But do you Dare? Do you Dare??

    • Thank you Rachael. Yes it was quite personal however I think it’s very important to share the deeper aspects of our land and spirit connections.

  4. Isn’t it amazing how the experiences we expect from events are always entirely different. I am sure you did not go to Embercombe expecting to have to wander away from the gathering you way you did – and yet look what you brought back. It had never occurred to me to equate the black cat phenomenon – where the media are always willing to laugh off the sightings as perspective (just an ordinary house cat at an odd angle) with the folk black dog. Now it has been pointed out I have been asking my spirit guide Cat about it and look forward to sharing in Circle. Jess has some interesting insights in her poem that are the same as I got.

    • Yes Yes Cindy! We are taken where we need to be to have the experiences we need to bring back. Looking forward to hearing your insights at our upcoming Circle. There’s so much synchronicity at the moment isn’t there!

  5. Wow, what a fantastic experience! I have always been fascinated by the tales of the black dog and the black cat that purportedly roam around the British Isles, and your story is wonderful. Yes, we are all sensing this shift in the world at the moment, some of us more deeply than others. I for one am eager to step into the shadows and face my demons, so that we can all move forward into a world of understanding and empowerment.

  6. Wow. I remember doing a performance in Leyland in which my group re-told the story of the giant cat who moved the stones of a church from Whittle-le-woods to Leyland. Whilst re-telling the story I was struck by a really vivid image of it slinking its darkness through the streets and alleys, the last thing seen its long, black tail…

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