Wolfshaman my name, Woden working in the dirt, tramping again in the North, rewilding the land beyond the wall. My hooves cover stick and stone, from dawn til’ dusk in the clearcut making the seeds take root. I am dwelling in a village called Kielder, recently given an award for the darkest skies in Europe, which lives up to such a statement. At night the porous milky way is permeated with millions of those white celestia, while the surrounding dark maw looms like a wolf’s mouth swallowing up the parapet of the sky. Full of AWE, and mystery. I read the runes in the nature around; in the forests and hills, in the sunburst sky, in the feral fauna, and the stars. The land conjures up images of pioneers, and pagans in elder times, living off the hunt, and worshiping at the cairns and earthworks that are set into every square patch of the map. The place is Kielder, maintaining a population of less than 300 year round, 3 miles from the Scottish border. The area has a history of bloodshed, and outlaw raiders who stalked the borderlands during the war between Scotland and England. The vitriolic behavior of the peoples here reverted to survival-ism as families tried to ensure their livelihood. Folk were forced into this predatorial method of living, back to primitive human concerns of fight or flight, fuck the weak mentality. Livestock was stolen and taking across the lines, and people for ransom. The bastles (stone defense protection houses) and barmkins (stone wall surrounding bastle for catttle) are broken yet remnants remain in hundreds of areas along these parts. If one person was raided, they were allowed to make a counter-raid within six days, carrying a burning turf on a spear to announce their presence, and using sleuth-dogs to follow tracks of the former raider. Being so far from both hubs of governmental law in Glasgow and London, the borderlands were somewhat a lawless region. It reminds one of the utangard of early Germanic society, the ‘heath-land’, where heathens lived. Outside or on the fringes of the country where nature had more sway than the powers at be. Though no longer hostile, and not nearly as dangerous, this is where I live for my treeplanting season, and the sentiment of the past casts a silhouette on my thoughts often, being outside civilization, and much of the modern trappings allows for the cultivation of local story. The heritage. The myth. This is what this journal is about. It is on building your own myth. Transcending the mundane through the medium of the profane, and finding the sacral in the simple.
“To the darkest place that we know, Outside of the rider’s domain
To the heart of the wood, To the hidden places beyond the briar thickets” ~Wolves in the Throne Room
Thousands of other planters have entered the fray, as a greener, a crew boss, a highballer, they plant their trees and give their orders, and supply the timber for the logging companies, and the government makes their money and everyone is (mostly) happy, but then they leave after the summer ends and go back to their normal boring lives. It was just another job, money for university, or a place to ‘catch up with friends’. I am turned off by this banal mentality, of doing something just because it serves another complacent void you need to fill in your life. Working for the hierarchy, and I hate to say it, where you have no fucking choice in much of anything, you are the bottom tier, the thralls who are getting paid 10 cents an hour to perform masochistic labor for the profit producing companies at the top who will exploit you at every chance they get, the tree salesman I am talking about. I know this because I have done it as well. This season though, the winter of 2013 I am going a different way. I may still work for a Forest company but this is not the means to an end. I aim to fortify my planting experience this year with more than just numbers or quality specs. I feel the need to conquer, and if not redefine at least innovate what it means to be a treeplanter. Does it sound arrogant, or crazy? Maybe it is, but change never happens by sheep in wolves clothing.
The saga goes…
Well underway in the planting now, becoming more attuned to our animistic diurnal activity clock. I wake while the moon is still a starling white, and by the time the first tree is patched into the soil, the dawn has come and Sol, pulled in her chariot starts its course above the horizon. I see the land with blithe eyes, and breathe the cold northern ether. In a mad run, I could pound in almost 2000 bare root trees before the darkness comes again on these December days. The runes swirl about in my headspace, on a circuit of 5-10 seconds, the time it takes to find the next tree and repeat. A day deep in the logging roads, isolated a half hour from the closest thing resembling a town, one becomes instinctual, if they allow themselves to realize it. I am not merely going through the routine, but enveloping myself completely within my own consciousness, and meshing the physics of my body to the rugged natural elements, the final law. Here, the primal initiative takes place, and I turn into the beast. I slough off weakness and dross, limits and expectations, and trade them at the crossroads for life experience, apostasy, and mythic revelation. Thor strikes the fallow earth with the Mjolnir hammer and fertilizes the ground, god of the good harvest. And I am one in the same, striking soil with shovel, instilling the might and main of my power back into the earth.
England is a region with layers of ancient history, and surviving heritage. The remnants of which can be seen on a walk in the country. There are stone structures, burial grounds, centennial old homesteads, Celtic and Roman fortifications and some surviving native forest. Most common here are the cairns, and Celtic buildings, Hadrians Wall, and medieval architecture. I shall relate the experience from a 60 hectare Sitka Spruce block. Planting near an abandoned defense house, as I clambered over slash and jumped over water pits deep enough to submerge me, my pulse and heartbeat holding a rhythm above sixty the whole day. I found some ruins of an old Celtic settlement with what looked like 2-4 rooms. I climbed on top of the walls, built of individual stones. 3 old growth tree stumps marked the true age of the ruins, the girth was at least 6 times that of the surrounding forest, which probably only lives to 60 at its wisest before being cut. The surviving stumps drew back my perceptual time frame several centuries, and I started to ponder what life would have been like. What would have been around the house at the time, surely no graveled roads, and mass farmlands. I started imaging the peoples of the Celts, and maybe a few Scots who could have come down to trade, being so close to the border, where they may have buried the family members as they died, probably in the corners, what the looked like and bizarrely, what they would think of their home now, as it is with the extreme change in environment. On a returning day, while planting in a gale that hit the northern counties. 100mph winds, forcing my way across the broken and scarred wasteland, while Odin tried to pick me up into the skies in his chariot and Midgard’s breath became my bane. I planted my final tree as I was nearly knocked off my feat, and a spruce 10 times my height fell to the ground 20 feet from me. I ran and threw my gear in the truck and we left with other trees falling ahead and behind us. I cultivated the experience because I had the choice to stay home, but I didn’t and left soaked to the skin, feeling completely vulnerable to nature yet, like a primal energy moving through the land. We went home early to a complete power outage in the village, :UR: and I cooked a dinner of blood pudding, root veg, and apple strudel over a fire that I kindled in the backyard, then sitting with candlelight, fire and some rebel country tunes playing on in the night, I hail Freyja for the food, and sat glistening with the Wodened sneer of a day done well.
Mistral wind, chaser of clouds, Killer of gloom, sweeper of the skies, Raging storm-wind, how I love thee ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Living in Northumbria and so close to Lindisfarne, I feel a connection to ancient ideals, the wilderness has become domestic sure, but the local lore still survives if you know where to look. After dark, if I take a walk into the bush, I see the sky as it was when the Vikings would have seen it, untainted by artificial light, when they raided here in the 8th century and ran with torches under night cover on the beaches with their loot. There are places named after the Germanic gods, and the ruins of Bastles for miles across the borderlands. Between planting days, I work out at the castle, or do some crafting at the smithy. My personal Yggdrasil tree is halfway up a hill, where I go to make offerings of my DNA and pilfering I have collected from months past; shells, feathers, Norwegian rocks, food….
Planting is the REAL work, testament of what the body is capable of. I always think about the bygone stories of the forefathers who who spend all day in the mines, building their homestead in the dead of winter, or in the bush for days, hunting for the family. These are the kind of people that are remembered, and the ones I honor, because they actually make stuff happen, instead of watching other do it for them. Treeplanting to me is of the same ilk. It’s brash, hard, sometimes monotonous and a test of mettle. Not many people want to do it, and there is no special treatment. But when I plant a tree, I don’t think about the 10 cents I am earning per seed. I think of the habitat for that roe deer or I just drove by on the way in, the hyperborean landscape it will resemble when trees grow 40 years on and the snow comes to douse them in powder, the refuge and stalking grounds for the hunter and trapper, and the resistance against a society that believes in exploiting the natural lands. There is an acute feeling of feral abandonment when I am walking the logging roads, and see a falcon or a buzzard spying for it’s supper, or two ravens quarelling with bleating croons. The wights symbolic of north country have accepted me into these places, and I am privileged to observe them in their ways. I am unfurling my own modern mythos back into the land.
I am here in Northumbria until the end of March, but before me I have the prospect of planting for the Ojibwe and Cree peoples in Manitoba and Northern Saskatchewan for next Spring Summer. I would like ideally like to live with them as well, and partake in other re-wilding projects concerning their ancient customs and traditions. I support Native resistance in anyway and would not like to see their boundaries and property become raised into non-existence. I believe the mythic and spiritual aims can be accomplished on a grander scale and make more powerful change in these setting, and am working my Wyrd will to make such potential a reality.