Monthly Archives: March 2020

táltos – the nomad mutant horse shaman

The last 20 years have brought about a new advance in thinking, in the way we view ourselves, in almost every field of science, new theories that stand against the mainstream approach, individuals that at points risked their whole careers to venture a theory. So little by little our story emerges from the clutches of convenience, I would not go as far and call it the truth, because a lot is missing in it, a whole other perspective, a prior way of seeing things we as humans lost, yet it is a step.

Books the like of, Against the Grain, Deciphering Ancient Minds, After Eden, have come out, at times it seems to me that we are at the end of an epoch, The Holocene, and we are writing our conclusions. There is on part of this story that has never been written, although it lurks in the pages of all those books, it is our non domesticated self, who we were.

The story of our consciousness and our civilisation, the way we conquered and dominated every inch of this planet has been written piece by piece, but the real hero of the story remains hidden between the lines of those books, that hero is the Nomad. Seeing that our way of life is being questioned now we are facing a worldwide pandemic, where we are caged in our stone tombs, we retreated into the distrust we have in our own minds, of the stranger the other, to a point we can no longer meet them, we can no longer touch, I think in this time of reflection would be a good moment to remember our real selves.

Before we go there, I would like to point out that some of the latest editions in the study of viruses has brought us some strange ideas, one of those is that our own memory is constructed from a repurposing of viral characteristics, meaning we create virus like capsid like units which we infect our own brain cells, or in other words we wrap information (mRNA) with which we infect our own minds, Freud spoke of the layering of memory as a structure of our identity, and so in a way we can also view the self as a sort of virus, and the story line which it tells us is one we construct continuously to hold an idea. There is of course a question if this idea is actually true, have we erased the memory of who we really are?

So the idea that some individuals are now working hard to rewrite our story, hatched from DNA research, from archeology, and anthropology is interesting, and I would add that the fact we are currently facing a world wide viral attack, on which we all have to question ourselves is an osmosis, it means to me that our collective memory is being rewritten.

There is this series currently on netflix which takes us back to Freud, in which the young Zigmund Frued, works out his hypnosis therapy, he is being ridiculed by everyone, yet he find this mysterious Hungarian girl, with whom he works, she is a táltos, an Hungarian shaman figure, even though that in reality, a táltos is normally a man, usually born with some defects or unusual features, like excess body hair, different strands of colour in the hair, extra bones, teeth etc. A person who is called at some point to a shamanic path, his power is very related to horses, but the same story applies to the táltos horse, he too is a mutant, with three legs, or strange features, he too must go a transformation in order to arrive it his secret power and potential, usually by eating ash from a fire.

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Like we said our minds are structured so that prior strata is erased from memory, and so even though that here in Europe in the not so long ago man of a secret power lived, we no longer understand their function, the táltos is interesting to us because of something else though, because unlike other type of shamans, his power relates to horses. So in this mystical figure we find three elements that were lost to our memory, the Nomad shaman, the mutant, and the horse.

It is hard for us to understand the meaning of that person, yet I would say he is an important link, it has been argued that the development of our consciousness has allowed us to hunt bigger prey, collaboration and shared mythologies have allowed us to work together like no other species, yet those myths and stories are somewhat lost to us because they lay in an earlier strata, before the Holocene, when we were magical nomads, before we domesticated the largest of animals, in After Eden, Kirkpatrick Sale, puts forth the theory that art, and painting came about when the power of collaboration and society came to such extent, that we stood to exterminate all the larger animals we lived with.

Cave art would portray Bison and Aurochs and horses, and I would venture to add something to that detail, I would say that we had an understanding in the epoch preceding our own, we understood that those races are the keepers of the ecology, we knew that killing them would bring life to some extermination, those were the animal races born to unite all the micro climates, they grazed the grasses in between the forests, they kept our world from desertification, so before we forgot what we knew, and because we lived with those animals so closely, we drew them on our walls, as magical ritualistic keepers of our world, we learnt their magic, which the táltos still performed only a few hundred years ago, he would stomp the earth, to indicate hidden treasure, he would go into altered states and call the rain, just the like first people tell us they always did, and we find a lot of that story in the San bushmen.

So the nomad mutant was the keeper of the magical properties of those races, it symbolises a sort of balance between man and the envioerment, nomads were the keepers of ecology, they lived with the races that ate grass, keeping the big steppe and swathes of land that allowed our forests and smaller ecology zones to prosper. My addition to those ground breaking theories trying to rewrite our history, is that we knew the importance of those animal races, it is obvious to a point we learnt their magical practices, we knew how to stomp like a horse in a certain situation, in order to find treasure, so we too must have known everything else, we knew that our grass lands, where nature could not evolve further, and grass being the first cycle, were kept and fertilised by horses and bison, and the magic of living with those animals, and possibly the idea of lising them as was suggested, was a big chapter in our evolution.

I would say that now that we face constant new strains of viruses, because our forests no longer stand, and ecology has been taken out of balance, the loss of the mutant, the shaman and the horse with the bison brings it all up, nomads even in our own epoch were the keepers of the grasslands, when those were lost, when their mythical keepers were brought to the edge of extinction they came into the last surviving ecology system, the pockets of forest, so in a way climate change, is a process of losing man’s relationship with the animals, and I would say that our attempt to domesticate some of those races, could have come about as a way to save that balance, rather then trying to create a new food source.

Now we are in the concluding chapters of our Epoch, and we wonder if we will be allowed to go on, and the answer to me lies first in the shaman and the horse, the nomad and the mutant, they are the fringes of our society, yet they groom it, like horses groom the steppe, it is no wonder that shamans took the form of bulls or horses, the ancients knew something the virus in us has forgotten, the lost chapter, yet we lost it so little ago, so táltos is the answer, the nomad-mutant-shaman and the way for us to save our place in this world is to bring the nomad back, and allow him to cultivate the empty spaces, to fight desertification, which would allow our forests to flourish again, and possibly we would not have to die or forget even more because of viral episodes, its an earlier strata in our memory we have vacated in order to hold on to the little ecology we have left.

 

 

The pandemic and the case for rewilding.

We have launched the Heartland programme a few years ago with this idea in mind, to try and direct the glamping industry into another paradigm, the issue is that what started as eco tourism has turned into a money machine, this amazing industry have grown on the backs of small companies, small farms, and campsites, and more than all on the backs of nomads, in our view it should have created a more natural integration. and so although we have had an amazing response which comes to show that a lot of people feel the same, with over 200 projects contacting us to see how they too can become more naturally integrated, people we worked with to find different platforms and integration between peasant framing and the campsite, a lot is still lacking.

I thought it is time to write down a few guidelines seeing the whole world is put into lockdown, and hope you have time to read through.

The story is that for the last 13,000 we have been cultivating nature through domestication, we championed wheat (in other words grass), which allowed us to create surplus, we built cities with millions of people over that surplus, and we have cleared big parts of Europe in order to farm the way we do, even still we were still periodically hit by famine, because the earth could not supply our demands, in order to mitigate famine, we went and conquered new lands, to create offshore farms, and as last resort we have modified our crops in the green revolution, now the situation has become unsustainable.

It means that from the point of view of agriculture as we know it we have possibly 5 more years to keep going, in fact famine is already everywhere, it is just that we dont see it because it is mainly in third world countries.

So business as usual is our set of mind, but as we constantly clear nature we also take away the balance that keeps viruses from ourselves, in fact without wild animals and forests, without natural habitats around us we will see more and more pandemics, what is remarkable is not that it happened, the remarkable thing was that it did not happen already at such a level, yet it does so every two or three years now.

So now the whole of Europe is on lockdown, we see a lot of our clients standing to loose a years work, people can not go on holiday, and it brings up a lot of what we are trying to help people establish, the only way out of the situation in the long run, is to rewild nature, to farm in a different way, we can no longer afford agriculture, and I am afraid to say that the glamping industry must play its role.

There is a simple and natural balance, between man, animal and nature, forest and field, so now we all have to sit back, and rethink, and although I know most are just counting the days, thinking that their season will eventually start, and manufacturers are thinkin “soon we can go on again”, yet we can’t. We need to rethink, just as much as farmers need to rethink, so as we make your tents during lockdown, I hope you too can re-think.

There needs to be light in the end of this tunnel, and a clear strategy of rewilding, and sustainable tourism, with mini farming of heritage varieties is the only way forward, and maybe now that there is no longer spare time to loose, people can apply it, it can happen in each campsite, see it as a replacement for the mask you will have to wear.

One example is European bison, because every landmass had its grazers, animals that used to migrate and create ecological balance, there are amazing projects like Rewiling Europe, who are trying to implement this exact strategy, by recreating the Aurochs and bringing back non domesticated species to manage big reserves of natural land, together hand in hand with sustainable tourism, this is where we need to aim.

Our idea is to try and influence the leisure industry to do the same, by creating circles of natural belts, in which if you are a farm, you focus on heirloom foods, and the campsite part goes hand in hand, with farm to fork, with artisan bread etc. The idea is to crate more natural habitat again, and to pull back a little from the crazy rush after income, in which more and more sites in the country side, no longer invest in nature, and instead of taking people into nature, they take away from nature for people.

Most people these days live in the cities, and so our countryside (being taken over by the leisure industry in the UK in the last 5 years) should focus on rewilding, and organic farming, creating natural defence belts, cleaning the air, and protecting us all from viral mutations and infections.

We developed some amazing strategies, like natural restaurants in yurts, we work a lot with ancient wheat varieties, and although there is a big waking up, the UK as a whole finds it hard to divorce from the rush for progress and economy, and a big driver in that is the glamping industry, it feels it is better because it operates in nature, yet it has harmed farming, more than any other industry, because it allows people to make an easier living instead of working the land, farms are bought to become holiday cottages, and even yurt campsites prefer to run events on manicured lawns than to focus on farming.

You who are a campsite owner, need to do your bit, it is hard to be telling you this, but you work in nature, and you need to stop regarding it as a hotel, I know no one likes to be told, but the earth is not ours, we are guests here, if you have a farm, which you inherited or maybe bought as you moved out of the city it is your responsibility to cultivate nature, we make nomadic structures, and in truth we see that the missing person in all of this is the nomad.

It was always the nomad who lived amongst the breeds who cultivated nature, maintaining bison herds at a level, going around the dry lands that will support no one else with goats, and I am afraid that losing nomads, meant we also lost those breeds, and as such have seen the desertification of some massive parts of this earth, in fact this is more of a cause to climate change then all the carbon emissions put together.

So from now on, this needs to be a clear direction, if you want to run weddings in nature, do not just trim the grass, plant some trees, and bushes, if you want to buy farms that used to farm locally, you also must find a way to work them, and having a successful business is not enough, and more than all if you have the luck to own big parts of wild land, you must rewild it. And so Glamping can not be an excuse anymore, now we are sick, we wear masks because we cut too many trees.

In the 1800’s settlers spoke about clearing land that they settled on, one of my favourite qoutes is from a book called the backwoodsman – “But nature will not allow laws to be prescribed to her without taking vengeance, or have changes made in her domestic arrangements forcibly by human hands. With the felling of forests and the turning up of the soil she sends diseases which check her insulter in the work he has begun, and punish him for his audacious inroads. It usually takes half a century ere nature is appeased and ceases to contend in this way with the mortals who trouble her; at least in Continental North America the diseases produced in this way usually increase for thirty years, and decrease for so long a period, until they entirely cease. This is the case with the interior, but not in the cities, where other relations occur in proportion with their expansion. At my settlement there had been for many years no malady, save those caused by external injuries; but now one or the other frequently complained of ague, bilious fever, flux, &c., and we often cursed the time when we saw the first white face settle amid our solitudes. At Lasar’s matters were proportionately worse, for a hundred negroes would be down at the same time. For my part I had as yet been spared, while all my companions had been ill.”

This is why we would like as a company to focus more and more on that side of our work, we have been making tents for you all for over 15 years, and maybe it doesn’t really count, yet we feel that there needs to be a new way of life, and the glamping industry can become its arrowhead, because currently it is just another system that deprives nature of itself. I know we have been saying it over and over, and maybe it is tiring, yet it still not enough.

We are working on taking 12 hectares on the edge of abandon in the mountains of Italy and develop them in a natural symbiosis, whilst at times we lose money from pushing people into a more natural way of operating, we feel that as nomads that is the core, We lived for 16 years on the road, and now there is no more nature one can simply live in, and so this is our payback, so if you do not want to be sick, rewild, and grow a forest, and help us bring the bison back, and heritage wheat, and maybe you would not need to wear a mask next year. Glamping can not be manicured as it is anymore, and it can not be the escape from small scale farming.

So with that the lecture is over, I hope you all hold through the next months, and that they help you reflect and stop thinking about how to make as much money as possible, and think about sustainability.

Contact us if you are a small farm, if you own wild land, if you want to find ways to cultivate the natural and nomadism again, and we can look at it together. We can not wait for green policies to take place, or the government, especially now the economy has taken such a hit. So it’s up to us.

A Few Thoughts about Circles

Most nomadic tents are circular, the circle being the simplest, stable structure and also arguably the most beautiful, no corners to break up the continuity of curve, and for the energy to get stuck. The Native Americans have a saying that ‘the devil lives in corners’, probably originating when they were forcibly moved out of their tipis, into square stone houses on reservations.

Every time someone enters a yurt for the first time, and I still have this even after 14 years of making them, there is what I call the ‘cathedral moment’, when entering the circular space and the eyes rising to the central roof wheel with the sky opening above.

yurt wheel

And as the late Bill Coperthwaite, the first person to make a yurt in the West, said, “there is something indescribably beautiful about the view from a round window”.

yurt windows

Obviously in yurt-making we work with circle geometry a lot. At the simplest level, we calculate the circumference from the radius or diameter (2πR or πD), and floor surface area (πr2). We work out the spacing of gaps in the wheel based on the number of rafters, size of yurt based on the gaps between the trellis tops and the number of rafters, window placing with numbers on a clock etc (There is a lot of backwards and forwards between metric and imperial measurements as we talk about a 20 ft yurt but work in metric so to get from feet to metres divide by 3.28 and from metres to feet x3.28).

Why do we find circles so inuitively beautiful? In a 1921 study conducted by the Swedish psychologist Helge Lundholm, subjects were asked to draw lines representing a set of emotional adjectives. While angular lines were used to depict adjectives like hard, harsh and cruel, curved lines were the popular choice for adjectives like gentle, quiet and mild.

And what about the deeper beauty? Once upon a long ago there live Euclid, of Ancient Greece (c. 300BC), who was known as the ‘father of geometry’. His treatise ‘Elements’ is one of the greatest works in the history of mathematics, and is a collection of mathematical definitions, theorems, geometrical constructions, and mathematical proofs. In it he defines a circle as:

Definition 15 (abbreviated): ‘A circle is a figure contained by one line (the circumference) such that the length of all the straight lines (the ‘radii’) falling on it from one point (the ‘centre’) equal one another.

This is a definition as beautifully smile (that should have been ‘simple’ but spellcheck gave me ‘smile’ !) as could be, but mathematicians are extremely subtle and rigorous creatures so it should be noted that a definition such that as this describes what circles ARE, but definitions do not guarantee the existence of the things they define. We won’t however be wandering down that pre-existential corridor here.

From this basic definition, using just Euclid’s ruler and compass one can create endless geometrical beauty. The most basic is the equilateral triangle:

Construction of Equilateral Triangle using intersecting arcs

And (once you have constructed a square, also using only ruler and compass – not a trivial thing), we have Square in a Circle. (The lighter lines are construction lines).

Circle Geometry
Square in a Circle

And then Square around a Circle

Circle Geometry
Square around a Circle

And ….

A familiar construction, and ancient symbol, associated with sacred geometry is the seed of life, constructed from overlapping circles, which can be extended infinitely to the flower of life. This symbol has been of particular interest of us as the central structure of our Zodiac Tent, the helix zome, as when looked at from above, you will see the intersecting struts form the flower of life. Here is a blog post from the archives with some references to this.

Seed of Life

Flower of Life

Then, of course we come to the magical number pi, π, originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics.

Most people know:

C=πD or C=2πR

Less well known is the formula for surface area of a sphere:

And Volume of a sphere is given by

The digits of pi are like gazing into the infinite as it is an infinite series, with no apparent pattern. Infinite series have fascinated mathematicians for centuries.

In 2004 an autistic savant by the name of Daniel Tammet set the record for pi memorization, memorizing 22,514 digits in just over 5 hours. A savant is someone with significant mental abilities, far in excess of average. These people are often defined as having a mental ‘disorder’ such as autism, but I think this definition lacks a magical element, that these people are tapping into a much greater psychic field than is usually accessible. He says he sees the numbers as complex, 3-dimensional landscapes, complete with color, texture, emotion and sound and journeying through this inner landscape, unfolding like a beautiful poem is how he memorises the numbers. I am fascinated by these incredible powers but Tammet explains that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated; autistic thought, he argues, is an extreme variation of a kind of highly rich and complex associative form of thinking and imagination, a kind that we we all use, from daydreaming to the use of puns and metaphors …… maybe if the consensual reality wasn’t as it is, and the education system wasn’t such a sausage factory, and the world was oh so different, more of these magical abilities would emerge, and would become a normal occurence. ‘(If anyone is interested in reading books by Daniel Tammet, who is quite a rare savant with extremely advanced abilities, who is able to describe his inner processes, I can recommend ‘Born on a Blue Day’, ‘Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning and Math’, and ‘Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind’).

The circle represents the infinite.