Tag Archives: Land

Mythopoetic fields

I returned to a book by David Tacey this morning, Edge of the Sacred: Jung, Psyche, Earth, and opened up at a page on which he wrote about landscape as a mythopoetic field. Tacey (2009) writes:

‘Landscape is a mythopoetic field which acts on human beings from without, causing them to conform to ancient patterns and re-enact lives and movements of ancestral animals and other beings’ (p. 145).

This single sentence is so rich with meaning and immediately resonated with multiple threads of my research… country speaking to us and through us… each place has its own feeling (liyan) which makes it right for doing certain things (including avoidance)… Bugarregarra as a dreaming/process of co-creation imbues places with this liyan (perhaps it could even be described as a kind of affordance for doing certain things).

How do interpret or understand Tacey’s statement about landscape, or Country, as a mythopoetic field?

Beyond the materiality of Country or place, there is a larger field (not seen but sensed), from which stories emerge. These stories might just be there, lingering, waiting to be spoken; perhaps spontaneously, or maybe through a felt sense of a word whispered to us in a time of deep listening. The emergence of stories from a field that is inextricably interwoven with place, that is place, tells a bigger story about how storytelling binds people and place… we emerge together through stories. This is a vastly different conception of stories and storytelling as compared to egoic authorship.

I am reminded too of a post I wrote a few months ago about memory in nature/place and Rupert Sheldrake’s work on morphic resonance:

‘Perhaps the ‘memory’ in a place, which may have been created through repeated ritual practice in that place, acts like an intention of how beings should interact with place and each other in situ. Maybe morphic resonance is like an affordance of place…’

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The Land makes us

I have returned to the literature of Kombu-merri woman Mary Graham, who writes about storytelling as an Indigenous methodology that is grounded in place. Graham (2009) writes:

The inclusion of Place in a story provides an authentic explanation of how and why something comes into the world. This in turn provides a balance between agency, whether human or spiritual, and point of origin or Place. Balance and re­balance is achieved when Place is used like an ontological compass (p. 75).


Place, as an Aboriginal category, implies that there is no division between the observing mind and anything else: there is no “external world” to inhabit. There are distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, but these aspects of existence continually interpenetrate each other. There is never a barrier between the mind and the Creative; the whole repertoire of what is possible continually presents or is expressed as an infinite range of Dreamings (Graham 2009, p. 76).

I like the way that Graham addresses dualism and creates metaphors for a unified existence between people-place. She speaks beautifully about the agency of Land in her interview with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio.

The way Graham speaks about Land – as a great life force and the holder of knowledge – reminds me of Paddy Roe’s description of Living Country – land that is alive and has the agency to act upon us and reveal itself to us when we are ready to learn. In, Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Frans Hoogland (1999) describes Living Country as:

… where the land is whole and complete; where the interaction between people and land is alive through law and culture; where the spirit of the land is ‘standing up’, and ‘vibrant’ (p. 30).

The dynamic relationship between people and place is most often depicted from the perspective of human direct experience by non-Indigenous writers. It is so important that Indigenous people’s perspectives rise to the surface to voice their perspectives and give voice to the Land. Graham talks about the recognition that Land has of its people in her interview:

…The Land knows its own people, because it hears the language of its own people and it’s, I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s sweat, it recognises the sweat of people and they know, ‘Ah yes, that’s the sweat of the people, our people, my people, the people that belong to this area and that sweat, that other people’s sweat I don’t recognise that,’ that land is saying…

Her edict, I am located therefore I am, puts place at the heart of identity and belonging, and I am reminded again of what is slowly coming up and becoming visible, seeking to emerge; narratives of belonging for settler people and subsequent generations through a deep acknowledgement that we are becoming of this place and are becoming of this home, but based on a deep respect and reverence of Indigenous peoples who have always been at home because this country is theirs.

Graham, M 1999, ‘Some Thoughts about the Philosophical Underpinnings of Aboriginal Worldviews’, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture & Ecology, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 105.

Roe, P & Hoogland, F 1999, ‘Black and white, a trail to understanding’, in J Sinatra & P Murphy (eds), Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp. 11-30.

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