That’s one of my deeper learnings of the Uncivilisation festival. In a slow and quiet and rolling conversation after most people had gone home, the mythology of sheep and unicorns really gave me something to wrap my head around.
There were two important lessons, I think, slightly more abstract than the actual mythologies, but maybe easier to recount without losing detail. (Unicorns are wildness, pure and untouched, but lured by virginal femininity, whatever that means…this connection between the female and the wild was intriguing to my storyteller, who identified positively with this link being seen by a deeply patriarchal society. Sheep are more complex, the sacrifice of Abel, a connected circle of care, shepherdness and sacrifice. The flock is tended but eaten. It’s an old way of being, caring for sheep, a connection to roots. Again, my storyteller connected vitally with this.)
The depth of these stories, the sense of intimacy with nature, and the spirits behind it, seemed utterly integral to the things we are losing. The mythology of beasts representative of the wild, and the possibility of reconnecting to the lives that might feed us, seems concretely necessary.
I jar with talk of spirits, but I think this is my problem, not the spirits. A talk I enjoyed last year, I enjoyed mostly for the speakers cynicism about the lovers of angels he was investigating being challenged wholly and obviously. ‘It’s a fucking metaphor, deal with it.’
And of course, the spirit is always a metaphor, like all words. It is a signifier pointing to a thing that we feel exists, but can’t think of in any less holy terms. Spirits are representations of things deeper than we can see. The stories about them are, on the right level, true. Possibly truer than the misleadings of reality, which seem so fixed and firm and so unlike anything we can see.
I find my personal connection to both sheep and unicorns come from Haruki Murakami. Literature I love when it’s inexplicability and storytelling brings my heart closer to the surface. I think of men in sheep’s clothing, hiding in hotel rooms, reconnecting cities to the truths outside. I think of a skull, trophy of the devestation of finally reaching the unreachable. Spoiling one last bastion of wildness, bringing back the spirit within.
I don’t really meditate, because my brain goes to fast, but in the woods, surrounded by the wild, at the right time of day, I can hear enough strangeness to believe in a layer beneath.
I’ve not many sheep and I know even less unicorns, but I would consider myself in kinship to them. They are icons and animals I can use to connect myself. I will carry them with me for now, markers of learnings. Connections to truths.
Stories that bring me closer, closer to the earth and a spirit I need in my heart.
I will visit my storyteller’s sheep. I will pay attention and learn.
And feel unicorns in my heart.
Illustration by Emma.