Are you in that place between stories? Can you begin to feel the urge to let one part of your life fade away, yet you cannot yet see the new one emerging?
It is a difficult place to be and one that I recognise well. Past memories of this time in my life are being triggered in me this evening as Jason and I settle into our place for the night.
We have come to Humphrey Head, which a really special peninsular to us on the Cumbrian coast. This timeless piece of headland jutting out into Morecambe Bay is where England’s last wolf is reported to have been killed.
Jason and I have decided to bed down here amongst the buttercups and connect in with the Spirit of the place. We are running a weekend retreat here at the end of the summer which has been two years in the planning, and so now we are in the afterglow of our Space to Emerge retreat we are turning our attention to our forthcoming plans.
England’s Last Wolf
England’s last wolf was hunted down to extinction in the early Middle Ages. It was amongst the rocks down just one hundred yards from where I am sitting writing this that our last wolf, and all that Wolf symbolizes, finally gave in to the chase. As she drew her last breath and closed her eyes for the last time, she took with her something which our ancestors must have held very dear to them, and which we are slowly reclaiming back once more. Our wildness.
Over the thousands of years that we became civilized in our land, our human wild nature was slowly tamed. It would have begun as we moved away from the Paleolithic era of roaming the land as hunter-gathers, and moved into the Iron Age when we begun to farm the land. Over the years and through my research I have found there to be what I consider to be three pivotal moments in our history here in England when we were tamed.
The Great Taming
The first was the domination of the Roman Empire, when our Celtic tribes were lost. I won’t write any more about that here, as that is for another blog, and it is the next phase I am reflecting on most today.
Which was with the Norman Conquest, when Harold II lost to William the Conquer at the Battle of Hastings. I recall at school being taught that in that decisive moment in 1066 William brought great things to our country, including organisation and the Doomsday Book. But history is always written by the victors, and it was actually one of the largest land grabs known in World history, which is still in play today. Upon his victory William declared that all of the land, animals and people in the whole country belonged to him personally. This was called serfdom, a form of modified slavery where you were owned along with the land underneath you by whichever feudal Baron was in William’s favour. The number of people classed as free fell overnight from around 90% to 10%. Then in the immediate years following 1066 there was mass enslavement and devastation of the countryside, deliberate burning of fields, refugee crises and a famine which saw people surviving on insects and rats. These were the news stories of the day. Their descriptions match the worst horror stories of modern war reporting.
Now, close to 1,000 years later we are still living in the shadow of this change in land ownership. The majority of our land is owned by the nobility, traced back to French aristocracy, and then leased back to us on short term rents. Many of the largest land owners in the country still to this day proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were Knights or Barons of King William. Just 0.6% of the population own more than half of real England and Wales.
It was during this period as we entered into the Middle Ages that the Last Wolf of England was killed.
The third great taming of our ancestors was the Enclosure Act of 1801, when the Common Land was taken from them, meaning that they could no longer feed themselves. This provided the workforce for the Industrial Revolution, when millions of people moved into the cities and served as the engine force for the manufactured World. I know through research that my ancestors were amongst these people, seven generations ago, and it is the slavery of our people which I am closest too and get most fired up about. My great, great, great grandparents were to leave their villages and everything they knew to live in the slums of the cities for three generations over a Century, working in unimaginable conditions for incomprehensible long hours. They fought for our working rights and have helped reduced the average working week to something more bearable. My grandad was amongst those who joined in the fight in the middle of the last Century through the Unions.
Our working week is very different now to theirs, but although our hours have reduced and the conditions improved, the modus operandi in which we operate hasn’t.
The invisible bars
It has taken a few years of working for myself, outside of the system to see it more clearly, although I knew it felt wrong when I was in the thick of it, working inside the corporations.
I remember back in the day when I had a boss. I would carefully work out how to maximize my holiday entitlement to coincide over the bank holiday weekends, and take my form to him to sign off to give me permission to leave the workplace and go and enjoy myself.
Every day apart from those precious five weeks a year, I had to be in a certain place at a certain time, weekends aside. Eyebrows were raised if I wasn’t there, and questions asked. I was given a set list of things I had to do, and a time frame I had to complete them by. If I didn’t achieve these things there would be consequences. I duly complied, as I really didn’t like the thought of getting into trouble.
In return I was given a salary, but at great cost to me. A much greater cost than I realized. I had signed over my freedom.
Now I know that this is still the reality of many people, possibly even you as you are reading this blog. You might be someone who is happy with their job and how this arrangement works … many people are and I know I was initially. Or maybe you have made the leap and jumped out of that World into the new one I am in now. Maybe you are following the call and beginning to put things in place so you can leave. Maybe like I was you are finding it painfully hard to stay in a job, and pulled between being unhappy in one job but too fearful of moving into something different. Or again like I was, not knowing what on Earth it is that you would like to do instead, or how to go about finding out and beginning to take the steps to move away.
It is a hard time being in-between stories. I would say it took me about ten years to get from the point of realizing that I was in the wrong job to actually making the leap to stop doing it all together. There were times when I was terribly unhappy with my work life. Through the stress I would be crying on the way to work and crying on the way home. This isn’t something I have ever really talked about much. I would spend my weekends worrying about one thing and another, my holidays exhausted and in recovery mode, and my evenings were really non-existent as I worked late and had a long commute home. Yet this was in a career I had chosen to be in and worked hard to get, and I found it very hard to leave, even though I knew it wasn’t doing me any good.
I found myself a good therapist and spent eight of those years working through the various blocks I had to making my own way in the World. I sought out courses and experiences which inspired me, and I used the money I saved from not going on holiday to pay for the course fees. I downsized and lived in a caravan for a few years to keep my expenses as low as possible. I developed a spiritual connection which guided me on my way, which was Shamanism and Shamanic Journeying. I worked hard at recognising the invisible bars I had created for myself and began to break them down.
I am still working on this even now. Those bars are very convincing and very ingrained around me.
I would never have thought it possible to be where I am now from where I was, sat at my desk looking out across the Manchester skyline out towards the Pennines. I would never have thought I would spend my days in ten years time working out of the bluebell woods and my nights sleeping out in the meadows. I am a firm believer that we aren’t shown these things for a reason. We aren’t shown what is possible because it is for us to shape this, and if we leave it to our conscious minds we would limit ourselves and never see the potential of what is out there waiting for us.
For the possibilities of what we can do in this world are endless. I wonder whether we are the first generation in Western culture to really be able to experience what it is to be free, to be wild… certainly since before the Industrial Revolution, and made even before the Battle of Hastings. Arguably the generation before us could, but they didn’t have elders to learn from, lean on, be guided by to help them push the boundaries. I feel extraordinarily lucky to be here on the front line creating new way of being in the World, knowing what my ancestors had to endure to survive though their lives, and the limited choices available to them compared with what I have now.
This landscape here at Humphrey Head has held the story of the Last Wolf for over 600 years, and yet it has not died. The Spirit of the Last Wolf lingers on and is beginning to stir within us as we awaken our own inner wildness. She speaks to me this evening drawing my own rewilding story out to share with the World.
There is something really magical about catching the end of one day and the beginning of another in locations such as this. A part of me drifts into another sense of being, as I lie in my bivvy bag and look up at the stars popping up in the darkening sky. As the sun rises if I am awake I open my eyes and feast on the spectacle which I miss almost every other day of the year. It inspires me to, more than ever, get out into nature this summer and rekindle my inner wild in whatever way calls me.
What are you planning to do to rekindle your inner wild this year?
The summer is yet young and full of possibilities.
If you would like to find out about our two Wild Retreats this summer then click here for Awakening Your One Wild and Precious Life in the Yorkshire Dales over the Solstice weekend, and here for England’s Last Wolf retreat to Humphrey Head.
I wonder, what message does the Last Wolf hold for you about your inner wildness?