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The Power of The Land- getting to the grit of me.


I always had a sense that I didn’t quite fit in as a boy.

Maybe my stammer was to blame for this disconnect with other folk. And when my parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses and took me along with them my social alienation deepened.

Already unable to have conversations with classmates, having to be excluded from so many school activities certainly set me up as different. Religious eduction lessons, morning assemblies, lessons that mentioned evolution or sex, all after school activities not to mention Christmas, Easter, Hallowe’en and birthday parties were out for me. Often left to sit alone in a classroom I’d be given ‘copying’ activities by a teacher to keep me out of trouble. It really did feel like a punishment and made me an easy target for bullies.

But you know what… I had the overarching sense that I was right and everyone else was wrong, even as a junior school lad. That was the power of the religious indoctrination I’d been inculcated with. I was happy to be a martyr for my god. Looking back I can see just how damaging that was. Fortunately I did have memories of a deep connection with the nature and land around me even though I had turned my back on it, being told that talking to animals and plants was ‘the Devil’s work’.

A Moorland Childhood

Brought up on the edge of the moors of Anglezarke in Lancashire the woods and hills were my childhood playground and out there I had my voice. Even as a young lad I had a deep sense of connection with the place which was probably due to my ancestors walking the same landscape for many generations.

My mum was born not 50 yards away from where I lived (and still do), her mum was born some 400 yards away and the 5 generations before her appear to have been birthed at a hamlet called Haddock Fold just a stone’s throw from there. Many of my ancestors lived and farmed in small holdings on what is now Anglezarke Moor, my homeland.

This land imbued me with a power that I didn’t know I had, and which lay dormant within me until I was ready. The power of the land never did abandon me, although I turned my back on it for much of my life.

Photography kept me going.

It was my way of connecting with my world. I lived to bring back images and share them in family slideshows. I held a secret desire to become a nature film maker, but knew this was a dream that would never be realised. You see, from being 9 I was taught that God’s war was due any time soon and that everyone who was not a good, practising JW would be destroyed. We were told to live as if we only had 6 months left before this world changing event and that it would be better to spend that time door knocking and evangelising rather than pursuing personal dreams and careers, lest we be marked for death. I fell for this hook line and sinker.

The ramifications of living through my first 40 years of life truly thinking it would all end within a few month were vastly debilitating. And as a growing teenager I was convinced that because I was curious about things that drew my eye and could lead to sin (girls!) I would certainly be marked for destruction by fire and sulphur when God’s legions brought their justice.

Nature's Call

However nature kept calling me back, relentlessly. She never gave up on me, even though I always turned my back on her. Even as an adult I clung to ‘the Truth’ as the Jehovah’s Witnesses called their path. I married in the faith and even brought up two daughters within the confines of the ‘only months until God’s war principle’. We are still unravelling the deep trauma of this patterning from our bones, although we left those beliefs long years ago.

Working now as a photo journalist I did eventually begin to question certain points of faith, but the Elders always silenced me. I was flagged as a doubting Thomas by the organisation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society which was the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Becoming more and more disenchanted I kept my questions to myself, seeing no other way to live than the JW way. I had no power, no sovereignty, no autonomy. I was told what to believe, what opinions to have, what material to read and who I could listen to.But secretly I read BBC Wildlife magazine! My fascination with nature began to raise more and more questions. And then I stumbled upon a book called The Raptor and The Lamb which caused the dominoes to tumble around me as I realised that what I saw in nature couldn’t possibly sit with many of the core beliefs that I held as The Truth.

Yet still I clung on. I lacked the courage to step away as the ramifications would be disastrous. Nature had other ideas though. Seeing me ripe for connection she hurled me into a personal crisis due to an accident which yanked me away from the 5 weekly meetings by the scruff of my neck and helped me find the courage to know myself.

True I lost virtually all my friends, my family were hugely disappointed in me and divorce inevitable. It felt as if I’d pulled the Tower Tarot card, cast the Hagalaz rune and drawn the Yew ogham stave all at once as my world tumbled. But there I stood, small and vulnerable, but smelling the heady scent of freedom.

Walking the Land

I began to walk the land once more and to see the real Truth shining through. I stepped into the Earth path and took many learnings from Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidry, Sorcery, Heathenism and Alchemy until shaman Robyn Fell showed me the way home. And the land rose to meet me. One day, as I walked with my distant ancestors and Tommy my dear hound we heard the far away throb of drums ebbing and flowing from Anglezarke, circling around us. Bells tinkled in the peaty ground beneath our feet and I saw the shadowy spirit of place welcoming me back to the old valley.

I’d begun to explore the shamanic toolkit and knew I was on to something as I realised it underpinned and supported much of what I had learned to be the old ways. I moved between pagan communities for a while, making friends and learning much and, having now found my voice, I began to see the important of building a community. How many others were trapped in a life that snuffed out their dreams, stole their power and taught conformity rather than creativity, division rather than cooperation?

As I sated my thirst to learn more I met Nicola and together we wove a plan to build community and share our stories with folk who hungered for the real life. This has grown from the tiny seed of a Cheshire drumming circle into The Mystery School, our offering to you as we step together into whatever is around the corner.

Earthlight Films

Ironically this has also given me the opportunity to live my childhood dream of becoming a nature film maker, but not to line the pockets of a production company. I’m able to create films for our clan, to bring the stories of nature home just like the slideshows of my childhood, only bigger. Much bigger and with truth and beauty at their core.

As I sit here now, between the massif of Winter Hill and the mystery of Round Loaf burial mound I feel the kiss of the moorland breeze on my face and burst with gratitude for the land. This land holds a power deep within its bones and so do we.

As ever, those who govern our lives seek to keep us quiet, subservient and limited in our belief of personal power. But the land tells us no, we must not stay small, we must not wither and give up on our dreams.

A full, natural and compelling life is waiting and the shamanic toolkit holds the keys to unlock the cage that dares confine us. Within our Mystery School Nicola and I lay out these trusty old keys and invite you to take them, one by one, and release those locks that bind you.

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  1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. Brought a tear to my eye as I heard how the land called you to it. I grew up a baptist, with instructions not to pay attention to either science or the way religion was taught at school, so I recognise elements of your story. I think my parents are waiting for that judgement day too. It's taken me years to come to terms with my grief at losing my place as their cherished daughter. But the more deeply I connect with nature, the more I gain a sense of coming home and of belonging somewhere again. I've just been recommended to seek you guys out. Really glad to have done so, looks like you're doing some brilliant work!

  2. It is so heart-warming to hear your journey through life, your suffering in the confines of an intellectual prison and nature bringing you the key – though through a very traumatic experience, to find stillness, go within and to listen to your own truth. Your story is very inspirational. I hope to join your mystery school soon. I am snowed under with finishing a Play Therapy Post Graduate Certificate at the moment though, so I am holding back until I have some time in the evenings to watch your wonderful films.

    Sending love and blessings to you and Nicola.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment Fiona, the sooner we heed the messages from spirit the better!
      Your Play Therapy Post Grad sounds a lot of fun, but I'm sure it involves a lot of effort too, good luck with the completion. And we look forward to welcoming you to our Mystery School.
      Love and Blessings, Jason

  3. It's so heart-warming to hear your journey through life, your suffering in the confines of an intellectual prison and nature bringing you the key – though through a very traumatic experience, to find stillness, go within and to listen to your own truth. Your story is very inspirational. I hope to join your mystery school soon. I am snowed under with finishing a Play Therapy Post Graduate Certificate at the moment though, so I am holding back until I have some time in the evenings to watch your wonderful films.

    Sending love and blessings to you and Nicola.

  4. This is so beautiful to read Jason. I have heard your story several times, but not in so much detail. This resonated with me more deeply than ever, as I was brought up by an evangelical pentecostal family, and like you was told the second coming was imminent and if we are not saved we would go to hell. This of course scared the life out of me, and as a child of course you comply with it. My brother followed this faith and still does and has brought his family up the same way. It never really felt right for me – and I went through several rebellious stages before being dragged back to the fold, holding my head in shame. I eventually broke away and found my own way – but only in my forties, so I understand the hold that these faiths have over you especially when you are raised as a child in this way.
    However, like you, Jason my soul just didn't give up with me – I explored several different spiritual paths- reiki, yoga, meditation and finally I found your community, and have never looked back. It all makes sense – all life is connected. Thank you Jason for sharing your amazing story, and also for the amazing photography and film work you do. Both you and Nicola have been such an inspiration to me as I'm sure you have inspired many others.
    A massive thank you to you both
    Alexandra x

    1. Thank you for this Alexandra, it's affirming to hear it took you into your forties to finally find your way, I'm glad I'm not the only one who found it challenging. It's been good to read your story here and a very big well done to you for your courage and determination here. It does feel lonely at the time, but now that we have found our clan those times are past.
      A huge thank you to you too.
      Jason x

  5. Jason, thank you for sharing part of your Souls journey. I find that your pen moves from your Soul ,and speaks written words woven with the tapestry of life. My own life's Souls journey took me to the Highlands of Scotland many years ago now. I seemed to be stripped bare of different things and found my way discovering Me …who was I really ? what makes me tick with the twists and turns of life ? I learned to listen to my intuition and trust it. This universe never lets us down if we trust. I also learned that to be careful what I asked for …its only when you know what you don't want the the things you do come into your life. Law of attraction and making sure that the right things are pulled in to the magnetic field around us. I moved in a few circles and met some incredible people of like mind. All had stories to tell and in particular in many sweat lodge ceremonies where safe space to unburden and for those stories to stay in lodge and be transmuted into love.
    My life took an incredible step into shamanism when I was introduced to an American shaman called Dwight. I was at a Reiki gathering in Inverness with possible 50 people and he was a guest to demonstrate shamanic drumming. We lay on the floor as he wafted white sage over us with an eagle feather. Then the drumming started and my journey began. I didn't want it to end and even though I was in the here and now I felt a calling. I sat in many circles with Dwight and became part of a drumming circle. It even allowed me to meet Tim Wheater and listened to his healing journey. This can be told another time as it is a long beautiful story.My own drum was made for me and I still use it. It has healed
    many and made a pathway for me. I have been back here down South now in Lancashire for 10 years. I was born in Stretford and it was classed as Lancashire back then long before Greater Manchester had been thought of. I am happy to be on my familiar soil and it brought my Partner Mark into my life. We all learn from each other and I think one of the hardest thing is learning not to judge. I feel my life is enriched by the well trodden pathways I have covered. I loved reading your story and how I can resonate with all the conditioning that we are subjected to. We all need to wake up and be true to ourselves and if a situation is not right, then remove your self from it for it is not supporting your Soul.
    Thank you for what you and Nicola have created and for the giving of yourselves. I will share more along the way. Merry meet to you all

    1. Dear Jewels, thank you for sharing your story here which enthralled me this morning. Yes, we absolutely have to trust don't we, and it's not usually in our upbringing, education or conditioning to do that at all is it!
      Well done on following your Soul's path right up to this point and I look forward to sharing the journey with you as we tread this way. I hope you choose to share the rest of your story at some point too.
      Best wishes and blessings
      Jason

  6. Your story resonates with me so much. I had from childhood wanted to know what the purpose of life was, and had explored many churches in my quest up until I was 18 . My parents never discouraged me and used to say , when you find out let me know. I came across the witnesses at 19 was baptised I brought my mum and sister along too, and for the next 20 years did as you did Jason. Married had 2 children was a regular pioneer. And still felt empty I suffered with depression and never felt good enough. I left and spent the next 20 years afraid depressed and crying. I then found the heathen path through a friend and started a whole new journey. I found you and Nichola on that journey and am still learning about the shamanic path and am beginning to feel better. Thank you so much for your gatherings that drew me to you initially, and the mystery school which I belong to. I haven't yet started on the lessons though it must be a year since I joined. I am hoping in the next year to understand more about myself and move forward with my life. Thank you so much in allowing me to be a fellow traveler on life's journey. ❤️

    1. What a story Kim! And you did the work as a regular pioneer too! There must be so many likeminded folk still trapped in the JW system who have not yet found a way out, and feel the emptiness of a life lived for others.
      It's great to have you alongside us on this journey and I tip my hat to your Heathen path which will surely guide you on your future wanderings with us.

  7. Wow! This is such an incredible blog. I resonate with so much of what you say. You write so eloquently. Thank you for sharing xx

  8. Beautifully honest, inspiring and welcoming. I take a little more strength today to change to a truer path for myself, though it means breaking from most everything else in my life. Thank you 🙏🏼

  9. Amazing Jason. Thank you for sharing. I was a member of the drumming circle in Lancaster for a while, until my husband became ill (and we subsequently lost him). Now a senior citizen (!) I was bound by conventional Methodism and SIN until a few years ago when I acknowledged it wasn't working for me. It was a crisis in my life. But I have persevered and find a new understanding of 'the God of my understanding' which I think is more of a panentheism. I am still exploring – but as a member of the Kendal Unitarian chapel I am among people who question and grow – and are not afraid to change their minds. It is liberating. I am again drawn to Celtic shamanic practices – Jason helped me journey successfully although I have yet to identify my spirit guide.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Susan and for sharing some of your story with me here. The ability to change one's mind is a key to growth I think, rather than sticking doggedly to opinions and beliefs that deep within we no longer hold as our truth.

  10. This is quite traumatic to read,Jason, even though I already knew some of your story. Funnily enough, I shared with my daughter some of a short autobiography I’d written about my convent schooling, and my daughter found it incredibly sad. Religion gives comfort to some, but causes a great deal of psychological damage. I’m so glad you came out the other side and found love, passion and purpose. Inspired by your films 🤗

    1. Thank you for your comment Jean. I found that when I was right in the middle of the transition it was traumatic to the point of being scary, but looking back, although I can still feel the scars, the pain fades and the beauty of life can be seen.

  11. Thankyou for sharing your story, I too felt pressured much of the time to conform to the societal values in which I was living and constantly strayed off my earth based path because of it. After a break down and my parents dying within the last 6 years I really started to re-evaluate my life. Its been a ongoing process starting at the doctors, spending lots of time in nature and like you photographing the nature I see. I finally feel I am on my true earth based path now and since joining the Mystery School I feel I have finally found a community in which to nurture my beliefs.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Hannah. Sometimes it can take a crisis to show the way can't it. And to have a community to walk along with is, I think, a major key to finding our way.

  12. I really enjoyed this blog and thank you for your openness and honesty. It gives us all a lovely flavour of who you are and why you find yourself here, at this stage of your life.

    What I find interesting about "spiritual" paths is that people come to them in so many different ways – some out of chaos and disorder, some out of sorrow and a multitude of other reasons. Some even come to it out of a curiosity. All paths are equally as good.

    1. Thank you for your comment Richard, I appreciate it. Yes, whichever way we found a route to this deeper understanding, it enables us to open up to something bigger.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. So much of it rang true in my own life, but thankfully although brought up a Christian there was never any pressure there. I stammered as a child, the ramifications of that I still feel. My love of nature has always been there throughout my life, and later my connection with it has grown steadily to be a source of comfort through my difficulties.
    Thank you again.

    1. Thank you for your comment Pam, and for sharing some of your story. Nature does hold us doesn't it, if we allow ourselves to listen quietly.

  14. A lot of his resonated with my up bringing. Never really shaw about being bombard with religious dogma. Could not accept some of things that were professed as absolute. As I grow in to adult life I couldn’t reconcile these fundamentals. Even further underlined by the revelations that have been in the media and being a victim.

    All this left me seeking a new way. I have come late to Celtic shamanic influence and The old ways.

    I have always been drawn to the moors even though I was brought up in a city. Being dragged around the Pennines on a school holiday. When I was 11 years old, planted a seed that has grown within me. I long for getting out on the hills and mountains. I also have a strong connection to the sea.

    The land can teach us much. If only we listen.

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