Spider Silk in the Moonlight: Myth and the Underworld Journey – May (France- Price in Euros)

May 21, 2017 - May 26, 2017 Cost: $590.00 Venue: Manaska Retreat Center
Guides: Sage Magdalene
Requires application backpacking divider Accommodations camping
prerequisite     retreat center


Please contact Anna Hewitt, annahewi@yahoo.com for information, registration and scholarship inquiries. Completed applications should also be emailed to Anna.

Price shown in Euros

Spider Silk in Moonlight: Myth and the Underworld Journey

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush.—Robert Moss, Dreamgates

This program is an underworld focus immersion and an application is required.

Once upon a time Silvery Moon was sitting in Granny Spider’s parlor in the dark, dark wood drinking tea.  The two old friends were sharing stories, as they have done since the beginning, Silvery Moon shining light on Granny’s knitting.   It was coming near to the time when Silvery Moon would go traveling with Father Sun.  As she gathered her cloak about her, there came a tapping at the lintel.  Granny Spider put down her handiwork and bustled to the door.  Her dark eyes gleamed and her smile was extremely wide as she ushered a young man into the parlor.  This fellow spoke:  I heard in the old stories that you sometimes help people in trouble.  My village is in the worst trouble imaginable; we have lost our way and I don’t know what to do.  I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Granny Spider said, did these old stories also mention that many die who come to my door?

Yes, Madam Spider. And he bowed his head. I am ready to risk everything. He risked looking into her eyes.

It came to pass that Silvery Moon took a liking to the young fellow, beaming her smile upon him. And so these two ancient ones took him down into Granny Spider’s basement and sent him through the trapdoor, telling him, you will be in the Underworld for three days and three nights.  We will send you a sign to call you back.  While you are in that land you must respectfully greet everyone you meet, tell them of your longing and your grief.  But also be helpful, for there may be troubles in that world, too.

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To pass through that narrow door the young man left everything behind, even his name.  He did carry round his neck a tiny silken purse woven by old Spider herself.  She told him to fill it with whatever gifts he might be given in that strange land.

Then Granny Spider waited silent and still while Silvery Moon went on her long journey with Father Sun and the young one traveled in the Underworld.  Granny’s only work was to spin a shining rope with a loop at the end.  She wove prayers into that rope, for she, too, was concerned about so much trouble in the world.

On the evening of the fourth day, Silvery Moon came sailing into Granny’s parlor.  Together they went down into the basement.  Using her sharp horn, Silvery Moon pried up the edge of that trapdoor and Granny Spider spooled out the rope.  Moon shone her light on that long strand falling underground.  Spider dropped a bit of glue on the loop at the end.  When the young man saw the glimmering rope, he stepped near and was snared.  The old ones drew him up through the trapdoor.  His eyes shone in his wild face.

Back in the parlor Silvery Moon and Granny Spider listened with pure attention to the young fellow’s story of his journey.  He drew from the silken purse three gifts:  a tiny blue feather, a sharp golden tooth, and a shoe to fit a mouse-sized foot.   Even as he spoke he began to lose the threads of his story, as if he were waking from a dream. So he told the tale three times, holding tight to the gifts he had received.  And then he began to know what he must do with the blue feather, the sharp golden tooth, and the mousy shoe.  He thanked Granny Spider and Silvery Moon with all his heart, and he began walking the path back to his village, carrying his gifts wrapped in spider silk. 

Modern mainstream culture is bursting at the seams with a tidal wave of electronic stories flowing through billions of radios and televisions, computer screens and cell phone gadgets.  News stories, audio books, streaming movies, pornography, advertising promotions, twitters and facebook pages flood us in endless streams.  We humans are story makers, built to receive and offer stories from the time we are very young.  However, in this modern melee, there is a dearth of stories that explore and emerge from humankind’s embedded mystical kinship with Earth and Cosmos.  We have largely lost the stories that grow from relationships with the land and the other-than-human beings with whom we are inextricably connected, stories from the ones who have traditionally taught us how to live.

At Animas Valley Institute we believe that each human being is meant to have a unique, mystical relationship with the world.  This relationship is the key to the individual soul’s purpose.  The discovery of this particular mystical relationship with the world occurs through the underworld journey, the descent to soul.  The soul tends to speak in the language of image and story, and the soul’s story is mythical and poetic.  Because mainstream culture has generally forgotten mythopoetic language and meaning, it is deeply supportive for the underworld journeyer to practice dwelling in mythological consciousness, remembering and discovering stories that tell of the meaningful relationships between humans and wild others.

For five days and four nights, we shall immerse ourselves in the deep waters of mythological consciousness.  We will wander in the enchanted landscape of the Massif Plantaurel, which was once the deep ocean bed and is now the dragon spine crest of the Plantaurel, the pre-pyrennees that run east to west parallel to the high Pyreneen range. In this archeologically unique region we will pass through prehistoric Dolmen portals following the descending footsteps of Parzival and Persephone, Tall Girl and Hummingbird Boy.  Passing through the roots of the Tree of Life, we will go further yet, and listen for the songs and stories whispered in that other (under) world where every move holds meaning and every turning tells a tale.  Tuning our senses and imaginations to the subtle storylines of frog and wren, river and bog, star and mountain, we will court the bards of myth and dreamtime, inviting the true tales that offer hints and intimations of who we are meant to be and how we are meant to live.  Imagine that each of us, should we follow spider silk and moonbeams with great care, might come upon the deep and unique story that holds a secret truth, the nested promise from which our real life must spring.  We will explore sacred story through multiple practices, such as wandering, painting, deep listening, deep imagination, improvisational theatre, dance enactments and dream embodiments. Each of us will ask: what deeper story awaits me in this enchanted world of wild and unbearable beauty?

When Stories nestle in the body, soul comes forth. —Deena Metzger

590 euro is for shared double occupancy room. There is also a dormitory or camping option at a reduced cost.  Early bird discount of 50 Euro is registered by March 31st. Includes organic, locally sourced food which we will take turns in preparing for breakfast and evening meal, please provide your own lunch and snacks.


Sage Magdalene

Sage has a gift for hearing and reflecting the deep stories of all beings. She invites people to thresholds and opens gates between worlds. She has been an educator, artist, dancer, and gate keeper in many ecosystems. Her greatest joy is to hear and converse with the wild others: moon, spider, frog, human, river and stars. She brings a light touch and embodied wisdom to the serious work of transformation.

Manaska Retreat Center