word magic

Word Magic – Lost Spells and the Speech of Things

Join us as we explore fresh ways of speaking, or writing, that bring them into deeper participation with the breathing earth and reclaim the songful dimension of language.

With Dr. David Abram and Dr. Sharon Blackie

Is this for you?

This is a course for all who would like to explore fresh ways of speaking, or writing, that bring them into deeper participation with the breathing earth.

For those who yearn to discover their own creaturely tongue. Who wish to free up their senses and fluidify their voice, loosening their tongue from the jargon-ridden constraints imposed by overly abstract and objectifying worldviews. For those who wish to explore ways of wielding words that open seamlessly onto the mystery that exceeds all our words…

In the native traditions of these islands, along with other traditions around the world, words had power. The right words, spoken in the right place, at the right time, and sometimes while adopting a particular stance, could quite literally change the world. They could make it, or unmake it. They could topple kings or conjure up winds. A plant wouldn’t heal unless words were spoken over it. Words spoken in the language of a place – words which both named and reflected the deeper stories of elements of the landscape – opened you up to their mystery, and bound you to the land. Addressing a crow, offering a praise poem to a tree – conversations and poems and songs were normal ways of interacting with the animate and expressive eloquence of the world around us.

What are the particular powers that reside in the written word, and how are they different from the magic of the spoken word? How do we harness the powers of language — whether of oral speech or of the written word — to help us more deeply embody ourselves in the world? And how, in return, do we learn to listen to the language of bird and rock and river? How do we recognise the whispers of the dreaming land in our own night-dreams, and in our waking ventures through the many-voiced forest of this world? How do we court the soul of the Earth – the anima mundi of ancient tradition – with eloquence and living ritual?

In this residential course, we’ll consider the ways in which the wielding of words – so often used, today, is a way of hiding or separating ourselves from the unruly wildness of this darkly wondrous world — can instead be a way of participating, ever more deeply, in the more-than-human conversation that surrounds. A way of opening our creaturely senses to the Earthly sensuous.

What To Expect

Teaching, rich discussions, experiential and practical exercises, and time spent listening to and dreaming with the elemental and expressive land of Embercombe. We will work with these questions, and more:

  • How can we reclaim the songful dimension of language which was so obvious to our oral, storytelling ancestors? How might we learn to wield the music of language – the rhythmic, melodic layer of speech by which earthly things overhear us?
  • How do we engage in re-storying as an act of co-creation with the land?
  • How do we engage in reciprocal conversations with the living land, and with the other-than-human presences who inhabit it with us? How do we attune our ears to their voices? What practical methods can we use to expand our listening abilities?

What does prayer mean in a secular, contemporary world? How do we reclaim our ancient oracular roles, become the Voices of the Wells of ancient tradition?

Key information:

2021 Dates TBC

Residential course based in Devon, at Embercombe

Accommodation is at Embercombe in our yurt village or selection of vintage glamping caravans

FEE: £645 includes accommodation and food. / £475 camping/non-residential
Limited bursary places of £425 are available: apply here.

word magic


Dr. Sharon Blackie

Dr. Sharon Blackie is an award-winning writer and international teacher whose work sits at the interface of psychology, mythology and ecology. Her highly acclaimed books, courses, lectures and workshops are focused on the development of the mythic imagination, and on the relevance of our native myths, fairy tales and folk traditions to the personal, social and environmental problems we face today. www.sharonblackie.net

David Abram

Dr. David Abram

David Abram – cultural ecologist, geophilosopher, and performance artist – is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Pantheon, 2010), and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World (Vintage, 1997). His essays on the cultural causes and consequences of environmental disarray are published in numerous magazines, scholarly journals, and anthologies. A recipient of the international Lannan Literary Award, as well as fellowships from the Rockefeller and the Watson Foundations, in 2014 he was elected a Fellow of Schumacher College. In the same year, David held the honorary Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and Ecology at the University of Oslo. Dr. Abram’s work engages the ecological depths of the imagination, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, poetics, and wonder inform the relation between the human body and the breathing earth. His philosophical craft is profoundly informed by the European tradition of phenomenology (in particular, by the work of the French phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty) and by his fieldwork with indigenous peoples in southeast Asia and North America. Abram’s writing has been nourished by his friendships with the archetypal psychologist James Hillman, the Gaian biologist Lynn Margulis and the radical social critic, Ivan Illich — as well as by his esteem for the American poet Gary Snyder and the farmer and novelist Wendell Berry.

Upcoming Dates & Booking

We aim for all of our courses to be as inclusive and accessible as possible – please contact us for information on paying in installments.

There are also a limited number of bursary places available for this course on application.

If you have any questions please call +44 (0) 1647 252 983 or email support@embercombe.org

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