Robert Macfarlane on the Celtic culture of retreat, & wildness

‘[The] Celtic Christian culture of retreat originated in the Ireland of the fifth and sixth centuries. Begun by St Patrick in the 430s, and inspired by the desert saints of the preceding centuries, the practice of retreat spread to what are now western Scotland and coastal Wales: a centrifugal motion, carrying men to the brinks of Europe and beyond.

It is clear that these edgelands reciprocated the serenity and the asceticism of the peregrini. Their travels to these wild places reflected their longing to achieve correspondence between belief and place, between inner and outer landscapes. We can surmise that the monks moved outwards because they wished to leave behind inhabited land: land in which every feature was named. Almost all Celtic place names are commemorative: the bardic schools, as late as the seventeenth century, taught the history of places through their names, so that the landscape became a theatre of memory, continually reminding its inhabitants of attachment and belonging. To migrate away from the named places (territories whose topography was continuous with memory and community) to the coasts (the unmapped islands, the anonymous forests) was to reach land that did not bear the marks of occupation. It was to act out a movement from history to eternity.’

The Wild Places: Robert Macfarlane

Here’s the link to Robert’s wonderful and important book:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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This entry was posted in boundaries, community, human condition, interconnection & belonging, meaning, natural world, perception, Robert Macfarlane, spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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