To begin with let me quote from one of my all-time favourite songs ‘Sunscreen’ by Baz Lurhmann:
‘………my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience’....... and what follows is food for thought……
Last week I blogged about my wonderful flying visit to Assynt for the talk about the Inchnadamph Bone Caves and my life as a busy mama Bear in Glastonbury and the dance of polarities which that brings to my Priestess life. But that dance last week also left me wondering about how polar bears are perceived by us.
In the picture attached (and in this link https://youtu.be/t8NBw3jglas ) is a polar bear on a float at the famous illuminated carnival in Glastonbury. This carnival is all about partying and consumerism at its finest, and, yes! I love it and have struggled with that for a while. My Sister Priestess Katie Player resolved this for me when she reminded me that the parade of floats covered in millions of lightbulbs probably has its roots in a very ancient (and long forgotten) fire festival. So there amongst the dancers, megawatt sound systems, candy floss and hotdogs……polar bear appears! My initial excitement is rapidly followed by sinking sadness as I see how my beloved polar Bear is portrayed amongst the ice blue lights……there are rows of huge model polar bears each chained round the neck pulling a sleigh, surrounded by dancers wielding ice axes and tridents (?) wearing historical explorers gear. It left me feeling very sad and confused……yes this was in some ways a bit of Saturday night fun….in other ways it is the shadow that has been cast by the loss of sacredness of She Bear. In my mind it also portrays the glorification of over exploration, and exploitation of our polar regions….easy to forget in the midst of the party what we were actually seeing lit up in fabulous technicolour. The Arctic homeland of polar bear is under threat from climate change and increased commercial use…..the float shows us the extolment of patriarchal ‘power over’ and ownership of nature, of Her sacred body. For hundreds of years explorers have been venerated as heroes conquering Mother Nature, and indeed they have taught us much……but I think these Bears have come to remind us that what we do to them we do to ourselves…...what will happen when we unchain our necks from living in a society which rewards ‘ power over’?
The photo in my last blog (My flying visit to Assynt) shows the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph, a place where the bones of a polar bear and brown bears , some as old as 48000 yrs. old have been found. So deep beneath the snow dusted peaks lies the Spirit of Polar Bear and news of Her discovery has been bought to us by……yes, you guessed explorers! Over many years of hard work a group of cavers have dug out tunnels, cleared passageways and dug out the bones. There were also two sets of human bones (4800 yrs. old), and a Viking bone pin discovered. Sadly because the work was being done by geologists rather than archaeologists these were not recorded in huge detail at the time of unearthing and have not been given much attention – as far as I can find out.
I am feeling stuck with a sad dilemma at the moment, in that, the work the explorers in both cases are doing seems to have both revealed the magic and wonder of polar Bear, and has the potential to damage Her arctic home, and a sacred site . In many cases these explorers are men who themselves are working within a patriarchal system that does not recognise the Earth, and hence Polar Bear as the body of the divine feminine, nor the possible relationship between our ancestors and Her Body in the shape of polar Bear. This is not knocking the individual men who do the work; in fact I hear their devotion to what they do as individuals is driven by their love of the places they are exploring. Here in the Highlands I am aware that the current ‘power over’ relationship to the land goes deeper, as the land in which the bone caves lie is owned by the wealthy Vesty family. The history of land ownership here has is sad and turbulent.
Taking a side step in my thinking, it occurs to me that another potential power place for She Bear in the Highlands is the Allerdale Estate. The very different wealthy landowner here has a vision to return brown bears to his land, and is knowledgeable about and experienced in rewilding work. He himself stands in an unusual place amongst the traditional landowners and I’m guessing he may face struggles with patriarchal views from that community.
So it is time tip the balance and return Polar Bear to Her sacred place as part of spiritual lives. I call on She Bear to guide us to a place where future Priestesses of Ursa, and all who honour Her, are working alongside the men who are currently making the decisions about Her arctic home and sacred sites. Imagine a place where we are all working together in true relationship with Her Body, the home of polar bear, the sacred land…….fantasy??? maybe…but we have willingly given our power to the fantasy of the electrically illuminated commercialised polar bears on the carnival float….lets reclaim the empowered fantasy, dig out Herstory from history, and bring honouring ceremonies ( and true fire festivals) for Bear back to Her sacred sites.