A Folk Tale Of Wounding And Healing
One of the problems of describing therapeutic techniques is that they can seem dry and remote. It occurred to me that writing a folk tale would be a good way to talk about the Identity Healing process in a way that spoke to the metaphorical part of ourselves that delights in a story. This tale is one way of telling you about it without talking about it. I hope you enjoy the story and see its potential. – Andy Hunt
In a land far away and long ago there lies a village remote and beautiful.
A scattering of rough stone houses and tangled gardens surrounded by high hills and deep forest.
The villagers lived the simple lives of villagers everywhere.
They worked, slept, laughed, cried, were born and gave birth, grew up, grew old and died in all the ancient and familiar rhythms of the world.
To their occasional visitors they looked the same as villagers everywhere and anywhere.
To those visitors who stayed a while they seemed happier than villagers ought to be.
In spite of the hard work in the daily and yearly struggle for survival these villagers had found a way to be contented with themselves.
The villagers had an easiness of being. A deep contentment with themselves and the world. And although they had all the familiar vexations in their lives, they lived them to the full without struggle.
Children growing here suffered all the usual knocks and blows of life.
If you saw such a moment in a child’s life here you would see all the things you would expect to see anywhere. The shock, hurt, anger or fear would run through their bodies and over their faces.
What you wouldn’t see, what you couldn’t see, if you were not from this village, is the secret way each child protected themselves from their pain.
If you could see it you might doubt your eyes.
In the moments of greatest pain and distress you would see a faint outline struggling out of the child like invisible smoke. This ghost of pain and distress would drift off into the dark safety of the forest carrying away all the pain and hurt the child had felt.
After a few moments of distress the child would return to their happy selves. If you had eyes to see you might notice a slight tightness around the eyes, a hunching of the shoulders a hidden knowledge of things to come.
In the deep history of their community they had discovered a way to separate themselves from their pain. Sending a part of themselves off into the infinite and eternal forest.
Unfortunately the villagers soon discovered that every good solution has a problem.
Although the children could be happy again, the suffering ghosts of themselves roaming in the forest could not. The pain they carried filled them, haunted them, cried out for relief.
Because what is sent away is never gone.
As they grew up the villagers would be haunted by the ghosts of their younger selves, calling to them in their distress and pain. Though they shuttered their windows and bolted their doors they could not stop the calls of their younger selves.
The villagers would notice these hauntings in different ways. Perhaps they had bad dreams, or a dull aching of the heart, an unspoken fear or just a feeling that there was something wrong with them.
Fortunately, over many years, the village elders and shamans had perfected a ritual of healing for the split selves of the people.
Everyone in the village learned to recognise the signs of such a haunting. When they knew that a younger self needed to be healed they went to one of the village healers for the ritual of the Enfolding.
Seren, a young woman of the village had noticed the signs of a distressed younger self. In her dreams she heard the sobbing of a child from the deep dark woods. She felt, in some way that she could not describe, that she was not whole, that some part of her was struggling to be happy.
As many before her had done, Seren walked the beaten track up to the old stone house of Tanwen the healer.
Full of herbs and flowers Tanwen’s garden glowed in the spring sun, a wisp of wood smoke curled up from the chimney into the clear blue sky.
Tanwen sat in a chair by the open door enjoying the light and warmth of the sun. She did not seem surprised that Seren had come to see her.
Although not old in years Tanwen had kind eyes and the keen sight of someone much practised in the art of Enfolding.
She greeted Seren warmly and listened to her troubles. She talked about her bad dreams, the calling from the forest that only she could hear. She felt that there was something wrong with her, something that needed healing.
Tanwen nodded her understanding and agreed with a smile to perform anEnfolding ritual for Seren and the wounded younger Seren.
They agreed to perform the ritual during the next dark of the moon, a time of special darkness where hidden things can be seen more easily.
On that night, Tanwen and Seren walked the well used path to a small hut beyond the edge of the village. Although no one lived there the villagers kept it clean and comfortable for healers to use.
Although sturdy and well-built the hut was quite bare. There were two old wooden chairs by the fireplace, a comfortable bed in the corner of the room and an old leather bag hanging on a hook by the door.
Tanwen and Seren sat in the chairs by the fire.
Tanwen smiled at Seren seeing the apprehension flickering with the firelight on her face. Tanwen knew after years of experience of healing and being healed in the Enfolding that waiting for the call of the wounded spirit could be difficult. Not knowing what would happen, wanting it and being afraid of it at the same time.
Together they sat in the warmth and firelight in companionable silence.
After some time (it may have been a little time or a long time, they couldn’t tell) Tanwen noticed a change in Seren’s face. Although Tanwen could not see or hear the wounded spirit herself (because only you can sense your own wounded spirit) she could see that Seren had heard its call.
Seren said, “Tanwen, I hear her.”
“Then, it is time for us to find who is looking for you”, said Tanwen as she stood. “Let us go Seren and take that bag hanging by the door.”
As Seren took the old leather bag from the hook by the door it seemed to fill and grow heavier.
Tanwen noticed her puzzled look and said, with a smile in her voice, “It is the Bag of Gifts, it contains everything you need even if you don’t know what that is yet.”
They left the small hut walking down another well worn path to the edge of the deep dark forest.
Facing the trees in the starlight, Tanwen asked Seren, “Where is your younger wounded self?”
Without knowing why Seren pointed to her left.
They set off in that direction.
As they walked that way it seemed to Seren that a path that had not been there before opened up in the trees. They walked through the woods on a path lit by starlight and scented by pines.
With each step Seren felt calmer and safer, for even in the deep dark woods anEnfolding has its own protective magic.
After a while they came upon a glade in the wood. An open meadow, ringed by sheltering trees and lit by the carpet of stars in the sky.
As Seren stood at the edge of the glade she saw, or thought she saw, a faint shimmering in child’s form at the other edge of the glade.
Sensing that Seren had seen the ghost of the younger Seren, Tanwen asked the first question of the Enfolding.
“How old is the one that suffers?”
Seren wasn’t sure how she knew but she understood at once that this younger Seren was just seven years old.
It was as if the question had made the younger Seren seem more solid. In the pale light of the stars Seren saw her sad, pained face. She felt an ache in her heart for her young self, she wanted to help, to ease both their suffering.
Although Tanwen could not see the wounded younger Seren, she could see that Seren was already deep into the ritual.
“Move closer Seren. Look, listen and feel for how she is hurting … When we know of her suffering we can soothe her.”
Seren and the younger Seren moved towards the centre of the glade. She could see all the sadness, anger and fear that young Seren was suffering. It saddened her to realise that this part of her self had been suffering all these years.
By and by Seren and the suffering child were close enough to touch.
With great gentleness Tanwen invited Seren to reach out to the ghost of younger Seren.
To hold her hand, stroke her back, hold her face in her hands and look on her with eyes of kindness.
To do all the things that a good mother or good father would do to soothe a suffering child.
In the starlight she soothed the young Seren that only she could see.
Little by little she eased the hurt received so many years ago when this young Seren split off and was left carrying this burden of pain.
Tanwen knew that there could be just a few simple hurts to soothe or perhaps a great tangle of wounds to care for. The soothing is deep work and it takes time.
With great kindness and patience Tanwen waited and guided Seren as she soothed all those wounds.
After many kind words and tears the young Seren became calm and peaceful.
Tanwen said, “Now the pain is gone the healing can begin. What does young Seren need?”
Tanwen knew this was a question of many answers for the wounded spirit may need many things to heal. She also knew that whatever Seren needed was already here.
Seren knew at once that young Seren needed love.
Tanwen told her to look in the Bag of Gifts that she has carried to this place.
Seren opened the old leather bag and, to her surprise, found just what she needed.
Taking a deep red blanket of love she wraps young Seren in it, who smiles and relaxes as the love surrounds and warms her.
“What else does she need?”, asked Tanwen.
“She needs calm.”
“Look in the bag”, said Tanwen.
To her greater surprise Seren found a cool blue ocean of calm in the bag and surrounded young Seren with it. Watching as the calm found its way in and soothed her.
“What else?” said Tanwen.
“Courage”. Seren reached into the Bag of Gifts and pulled out the silver sword of courage giving it to young Seren.
With each gift young Seren looked stronger and more real.
“Peace.” Seren found a lighted candle of peace in the bag and gave it to her younger self.
“What else does she need?” said Tanwen.
“Nothing, she has everything she needs.”
“Then wait and watch as that younger Seren receives those gifts and makes use of everything she needs.”
Seren watched as the child, no longer wounded, became whole … solid … and real.
Without thinking Seren reached out and took young Seren’s hand.
“Now”, said Tanwen, “we must bring the healed child home.”
Tanwen led the adult and child Seren back through the woods and down the path to the waiting hut.
Tanwen brought them in to the friendly warmth of the modest room. Seren and younger Seren were both tired from the hard and gentle work.
Tanwen suggested that they lie on the comfortable bed in the corner of the shack.
Young Seren lay in Seren’s warm embrace. They curled up in each other’s arms, safe, sound, protected, encircled and enfolded. All the pain and distress had gone only warmth and peace remained.
Tanwen sat by the fire watching the embers glow and fade until Seren and her younger self fell into a deep sleep.
Tanwen stood and walked to the foot of the bed.
As the last part of the ritual she recited the Spell of the Enfolding. An invitation for the two that separated so long ago to become one.
Once the spell was cast Tanwen’s work was done. Because she knew that Life will look after itself she quietly left the hut.
In the ember’s glow young Seren dissolved into particles of soft light that flowed into Seren. This newly healed self flowed in returning to its rightful place.
With each sleeping breath Seren’s selves merged and were made one.
The next morning, when the sunlight streamed across the room it found only one Seren. She slept in peace – healthy, happy and whole.