Welcome to our 61st episode which delves into betwixt and between.
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The very first time i heard the phrase the betwixt and between, I think was when I very first started my journey into shamanism and my teacher at the time was learning Welsh. His family was from Wales and he referred to this place in between spaces, the betwixt and the between. I’ve since read this term in various books and I have also come across the term betwixt and between referred to the space between the wick and the flame. I like the words betwixt and between. I think they sound kind of funky. But have we ever talked about them? Do we know about them? Do we know that they live in our world? Do we know that the betwixt and between are talked about extensively in our stories, myths and fairy tales?
It is often referred to as the wilderness or the place that which is between the known and unknown. I find the question of who or what determines what is natural and what is wild to be something that is quite facinating to ponder. It doesn’t mean I have an answer, but it is interesting to ponder. There are various relationships to the forest or to the woods that we see in many different stories. Or different ways that culture or countries have preserved there forests. If you have a relationship of fear with forests, I believe that countries will more easily take down their trees, or have less relationships with parks or natural preserves. I think countries with natural spaces and good relationships with the unknown would have far more trees.
I’ll give you an example; in Germany there are approx 35% of the land is still trees. In their myths and stories they generally have good relationships with trees and the wilderness. As opposed to the rest of Europe which on has about 11% of it’s land mass which is covered in trees. And if you look at some of the stories such as Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood and you can see their relationship to the trees in the stories has shifted the relationship to the forests and the wildness.
If I stand back from my completly untested hypothisis and view it from the perspective of relationship to the seeker’s soul and relationship to the great unknown; I would postulate that those with the wilder spirit, or those that are less confined to structures and rules of religious dogma or religious structure may also have a greater relationship to the wilderness and wildness. I cannot speak for Germany by any stretch of the imagigination. But I do know what the church and the structure of the church; not god or the spirit of church, but the structure of the church have imposed their views of wildness as being not sacred.
So that’s all I’ll say on that and I’ll continue on with the betwixt and between. I really like Handsome Lake, he was a Seneca chief and he said that the space between this world and the spirit world is the width of a maple leaf. Because I’m Canadian and because we’ve got the maple leaf on our flag, that one has always stuck with me. It is true that there is that space between what is mundane and what is sacred. Where is that divisible line? What makes something natural and what makes something wild?
In myths and stories from Greece and Rome, and even from the Gauls and the Celts, there is this unspoken place where you have knowingly or unknowingly stepped off the path of civilization and into the world of the mysterious. There is the story where upon witnessing the Goddess Athena in all of her naked glory, she turned a poor hunter into a stag. As a result he called out as a stag in agony of losing his former life and his hunting dogs heard him, cornered him and killed him. So we always have to be careful of where the place between the mundane and the sacred lie. There are also myths that refer to fairies, and taking a fairy path and next thing you know you’ve stepped into the world of the fae. The idea that you can step into the fairy world and if you’re there for a day you’re gone for three years and if you’re there for three days you’re actually gone for three hundred years. The message I get from that is that when you enter into the sacred, you cannot come out and not be changed. The story of three days becoming three hundred years really speaks to us that if we dance with the sacred we will come back changed. And it speaks to the superstitions and fears that if you travel beyond the known, when we come back we might not fit in or be part of the norm.
So there are two parts to the change. The type of culture who encourage you to go beyond or enter the betwixt and between, and to enter the sacred. And there are those that are afraid of the wilderness and are afraid of stepping past the boundaries. And therefore if you go there you will change and I cannot accept you. And if I cannot accept you, why would you go because; isn’t my opinion (that of the over-culture, not just the individual) more important than your desire who you wish to be? That’s an aspect of how the betwixt and between that has continuously morphed in our society. It is that place that is uninhabited by human beings where the natural and the free are. The wilderness is filled with what we fear in ourselves and what we fear in society. Wilderness in stories is where we have expelled all of that stuff. The things that we don’t like in ourselves, our culture and society. That which we see as dangerous or disordered. This is someplace that is both of us, and not of us. It is what is near to us, yet far away.
…please enjoy the podcast for the rest of this discussion.
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