Friday, July 11, 2008


Yesterday Duncan and I wound our way into the old-growth forest behind our house with two friends -- forest I adore, gift from Goddess.

But only a few minutes into the woods, one friend said:

"These woods are scary. Did you see the Blair Witch Project?"

I said no. He said, "If you'd seen the Blair Witch Project, you'd be scared too."

Instantly the multicolored balloons hovering over my head -- a multilayered excitement over sharing these woods -- all burst at once, as if my friend had popped each one all in the same second.

And instead of moving deeper into Goddess, we turned around and trudged back home.

And then there's this: One of the last Stephen King books I poked into was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon -- about a young Maine girl battling for her life against Nature, which King turns into a devil/demon stalking this pre-teen for all of 250 pages.

I'm wondering: is our problem not valuing Nature? Or is it that many of us are gaga petrified of it?


Anne Johnson said...

This is a situation with a great deal of gray area between the two poles. Growing up in the mountains where I could walk all day and not see another human being has made me very conscious of both the beauty and the danger in natural places. When you're out in the gorgeous woods all alone, and a panther screams at you (I'm not kidding), you understand that all experiences of the wild world fall onto a continuum. Some are transcendent, some are deadly, and the vast majority are in between.

Athana said...

You make a good point, anne. The forest, like the Goddess, is to be respected for both its beauty and its ongoing life-death cycle.

After getting lost in it not long ago, I've become very respectful of the forest. When I finally got unlost, I was about a mile south of my house -- even though I was certain I'd been heading north for about an hour.

Livia Indica said...

When I was young I was terrified to be alone in the woods, even if I was only a few hundreds from my backyard. Even now as an adult I sometimes get the spooks out in the wildness by myself. I now recognize that I'm feeling the presence of the Green Man and green fairies. They're not threatening or overtly hostile, but watchful and extremely protective of their green charges. I sometimes wonder if this isn't where the fear of wild nature comes from; a menace from the green spirits of the land who are justified in mistrusting us stupid humans.

Aquila ka Hecate said...

I guess we know, somewhere, that she's not only our mother and mistress, but our grave as well.

We used to make myths about these fears -oh, hang on, maybe we still do. But many of us just feel the fear, not the inevitability that life will, indeed, kill us .

Terri in Joburg

Athana said...

Livia, I certainly agree that the green spirits have a right to mistrust us stupidos in the industrialized nations.

I do think, however, that a part of the fear I see of forests comes from the fear of Goddess, a fear that's been handed down through the ages.

The bogeyman in The Girl Who Loved Tom Jones was a horrific, shapeless, nightmarish monstor who tortured deer, and then tore them apart to rot in the forest.

And, come to think of it, the bogeyman in the last novel I read -- The Wednesday Night Witches -- had the same bogeyman in it: tortured deer and then tore them apart to rot.

On the other hand, maybe these are our atempts at coming to grips with the life-death cycle. The modern myths you mentioned, Terri.

I think you're right, Terri. If we accepted the inevitability of death, our myths about it might not be so violent.

Luna said...

We only go so far into the woods, into our feminism, our pain, our art; we stay where it is safe but pretty enough to entertain us. At some point we retreat, too scared or too lazy to go on.
But then sometimes we either get stuck out there or dragged along by someone else, and then there we are staring down the "screaming mountain lion" that Anne mentioned. Nature has been used so often to "represent" something, that we can forget its reality, its dangerous reality.
Humans do this with anything that is difficult. And things that are difficult make you grow.
I wouldn't change my miserable, fear-charged nature experiences for the world. They remind me of where I am and who I am.

Athana said...

luna, well put! This sounds like something the Goddess Herself might want to say to us. You're so right about us staying where it's safe, and about dangerous nature experiences reminding us of our place in the universe.

I do seem to be outnumbered, here. I'm used to seeing the positive vs negative side of nature. Maybe it's because we don't have any "screaming mountain lions" in Maine, or any other animal that feeds on humans. There aren't even any poisonous snakes in the state.

The only forest animal harming humans in Maine is the male of the species -- and this happens infrequently.

Our big deal is getting lost in the forest, getting swept out to sea on a wave, geting sucked down by the undertow, or just plain, ordinary drowning.

Anonymous said...

Agree with what others have said. Mother nature is cruel and nurturing. There are fluffy bunnies and ickneumonid wasps. I live in a forest with bears, eagles, wolves, poisonous snakes and scorpions. All need to be treated with respect, love and some fear.

In addition to this, there are the forest spirits, who are at times mischievous, cruel and benign, as Livia said.

Many of our fairy tales feature the dangers of the forest, but often these stories were actually told by older women to younger women. The danger is not just nature but people. The Greek legends about the forest satyrs, seem to me to be saying: "In the forest are crazy, scary, lustful, drunken men (bandits? perverts?) who may harm you. Don't go there alone". It sounds like advise for young women in dangerous times.

I haven't read any Stephen King, but
I get the impression that his enormous popularity with the public (and contempt from the literary elite) comes from his use of archetypal myth in his stories.


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Athana said...

Dear Pignut,

I'm reminded of a German word, "hasseliebe" (hatelove). English doesn't seem to have words like this, combining opposites into one single concept. But that's what the forest is, I think: goodbad combined.

About the Greek satyrs: they were, I think, probably not harmful before the Indo-Europeans got hold of them. I suspect that the forest before the war gods got to it was not a place with fear-inspiring humans in it.

Stephen King: I've always been struck by his lack of fear over tackling the subject of "good" versus "evil."

Morgaine said...

Our patriarchal indoctrination includes "biophobia" - fear of life, fear of Nature. We see it as an opponent to be conquered, wildness to be tamed, etc. That's been a problem for a long time. Now, though, at least in America, we also have an opposite and equally disharmonious tendency I've heard called the "Disney-fication" of Nature. Too many people think all forest creatures are Bambi and bears that sing and dance.

Maybe we're too lazy to stretch our minds to perceive the whole of the Living World, so we try to shrink Her down and put Her in a category instead of realizing that She contains infinite potential within Her? Most people don't think much, it seems.