For just a little while, we ask you to consider trading comfort for shelter. To ask: what does it mean to be dreamt rather than dream, or to be claimed by a place? For some of us, these are yearnings almost painful to contemplate.
The wilderness vigil is something immeasurably ancient, and the way our ancestors tuned their ear to the furry emanations of the living earth.
Here, under the emerald bough of Dartmoor forest, we invite you to seek what they sought. In this place they called Dumnonia, or Defenascir, on the island they used to call Albion, we invite you to walk out of this century altogether.
What does that look like?
Four days and nights alone in the forest.
Just like the fairy tales.
Everywhere people are talking about the desperate need for a new story. We suggest that the stories worth attending to arise from the earth itself. We don’t need commentary about the earth, we need disclosures from the earth.
The wilderness vigil is a moment when the grinding of your ambitions and your griefs settle into the ground of something far deeper. This is always the place we have gone to mark transition – from one stage of life to another. It can be difficult, wonderful, resolutely un-ecstatic, and absolutely life-changing. Tribal folk have always known it was where you go to die and get born. A place where big questions get asked, things bend their heads to die and green shoots spring up.
This is not a teaching from a human realm. This is the old bones of the mountain as teacher, the swift raven overhead as guide. This is ancestor time. They can be tough instructors, but grip blessings in their beaks.
These vigils involve a re-calibration of what some of us understand by the words wilderness rites-of-passage. There has, we believe, sometimes been a little too much emphasis on a giddy upswing of psychological transformation as the wilderness cheers us on. Nature as a trilling and warbling backdrop.
We join the voices of many before us and say we believe it’s really about the move from the psyche that lives in your chest, to you within a wider psyche of lapwing, oak root and granite tor. That’s the big move.
We are out there to hear more than the whirring cogs of our own drama.
That is the journey from dreaming to getting dreamt, getting claimed by a place. It’s usually a slow, sometimes difficult and often mysterious process. Without a long term commitment to stewarding the experience afterwards, it can be hard to grasp quite what transpired. Friends, that’s where the work begins. Don’t come looking for honey if you don’t want to become a bee.
These vigils are part of a long standing engagement from the School of Myth to offer deeply experiential work with the living world. We are really interested in a deepening conversation with a specific stretch of land over a long period of time.
Having long been in love with oral culture we are paying specific attention to the local, rather than an emphasis on the pan-global relevance of the ceremony. This will grow straight out of the dark soil of Dartmoor.
The School has a particular way of approaching the wilderness fast; to develop what has been called “a community of wild ethics” (Abram). We place an emphasis on mythological literacy as a profound medium with which to deepen understanding of what actually transpired out there out the hill.
It sees these forages into the bush as a dialogue with a non human world, and such an experience needs subtle handling. What makes this experience so nourishing is in part the holding – the professional support, the telling of your story to trained guides who have both fasted themselves and can assist you in the locating of the deeper story within your experience.
The wilderness vigil spans eight days in total and includes four days and nights fasting alone on private land on Dartmoor – no tent, no fire, no food. Just a tarp, sleeping bag and water.
Wilderness Vigil Programme 2024
The Ground We Stand Upon:
Exploring the Ancestral root
May 22nd – 29th
The 2024 programme begins with a wolf milk vigil with a specific focus. Most of us in the West come from family lines that lost a deep relationship with the Earth in some indeterminate distant past. The legacy of this lies all around us in the modern world.
Despite the freedoms to choose where we call home, and what we do with our lives, many people feel a longing for a lost connection to an unknown past. This vigil will explore the idea that rather than having endless choices, we were actually born to be something particular, that our feet were meant to stand on a specific mythic ground.
With the forest as an ally, you will begin a process of restoration of an ancestral root, and examine the mythic threads around it, to get some sense of your place on the earth and how you can be of service.
These two summer vigils will be led by Lucy Cooper, Michael Martin and David Stevenson.
The Peregrini Sit August 21st – 28th
In high summer, Dr Martin Shaw will lead a small group into a Dartmoor forest to ponder what it means to be a Christian in these times, and to perhaps find something of their bush soul. This is the Peregrini Sit, and like some old desert sister or brother, you’ll find a brooding vigil spot out in the woods to sleep, dream, think and pray. This experience is very much for Christians interested in a relationship to trees, night, wind, owls, dreams and more. Martin will be assisted By Lucy Cooper and Michael Martin.
The first few days are spent orienting to the area and finding your spot. There will be a one-to-one session, and on-going sessions with the wider participants (groups will usually be six).
Then you leave base camp and head for your alone spot. For the next four days you will be completely alone fasting in a wild place, while the guides keep watch at base camp.
On the fifth morning you will return to base camp for a gentle re-orientation to a new world. When fed, watered and rested, you will tell your story which will be mirrored back to you by the guides.
May, June, July: £720
August: £864 (£720 plus VAT at 20% )
If you would like further details and information on how to apply please contact . Please note that participants of our Stalking the Rebel Soul 5-weekend programme get priority for places.
The School of Myth wilderness vigil guides have been trained by Dr Martin Shaw. Tim Russell, David Stevenson and Tina Burchill are in their 10th year, and Lucy Cooper and Michael Martin are in their fourth year.
Martin Shaw’s book Wolf Milk is highly recommended for anyone considering participating in a wilderness vigil. You can find it here.
What does it mean to be dreamt rather than dream, or to be claimed by a place?
entering the forest
thirsty for wolf milk
It’s a radical position, to enter a wild place and willingly go without food. To be a different kind of hunter, to leave more than you took, to make prayers not chainsaw cuts.