Martin Shaw2020-08-14T01:42:52+00:00

In this month of the goose moon
I fell into deep peace
It was as if god let me grip
His golden antlers
And brought her wolf milk
To my wetling mouth

Old World Romance

Wild geese from
The darkening reeds
Flutter the covers from our bed
And we are children again
Running through Kensington Gardens
In the snow, to the statue of
Peter and his pipes

Cista Mystica is a byre of learning, writing, listening and speaking. Some of the learning will come with dismay, at other times easily, maybe even joyfully. We are making a den of books, and sounds you can listen to again and again.

Are we Romantics? Hell yes. Naive, no. We know what time it is culturally, we are fully aware of the state of things ecologically. But this is not, as the Sufis say, a Caravan of Despair. We don’t roll like that. We are in the business of resistance and delight. Victory is not conditional to this position, old world manners are.

You may be able to tell by now, we’re not just trying to sell you stuff.

Whatever is truest, and deepest, and most complete in this endeavor may rouse something in you too.
It’s the best kind of infectious magic.

Are you coming?

We hope you’ll call closer the stories you already love. Bundled in Georgian silk and freighted with lumps of Ethiopian gold. The praise-singer that is in you calls down her cloak of bright feathers from the loosening stars and places coins in the prints of kiddies walking over the snow. Bring your Mathnawi, your tattered A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, your Poetic Edda, the moon-green poems of Czeslaw Milosz. Bring it all. And we don’t require a victory croon:

Speak of your time on
The ice flow, dear Rhiannon.

How you walked all of Russia
In one night.

Tell of the black bear
Alone and beautiful
By the waterfall

Who sang every night to you:

Holy holy holy
Lord God Almighty

In the Sylvan air.

“I need to be heard!” Is the quite legitimate cry of a child. “How do I speak?” Is the marking of a scholar. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust your own voice, but that you educate its articulation, maximise its potency.

An exercise in taking imagination seriously.

Cista Mystica is an exercise in taking imagination seriously. I am writing this in my cottage on the edge of wintering Dartmoor, you are somewhere else too—India or South Carolina or Dorset but we are both dwelling in the Warm Tent of Imaginalia which easily holds both realities. Point your thinking towards my thinking and let’s see what happens.

We hope Cista Mystica to be conversation with the wild old world that lives inside us.

And of course, the deeper we go, we start to realise that it doesn’t quite live inside us at all, we live within it. There’s often some long denied hunger in there, and all sorts of little beings that require feeding on blue steak and Parisian patisserie, there’s hummingbirds whirring with tiny bright eyes and far, far in, there’s hundreds and thousands of blue flowers.

To glimpse your kingdom
I have to be close
Only a few inches away

It’s being that close,
Close to the regal ark
Of your being

That I can hear
Your restless animals mutter

These days to tell a beautiful old tale is a radical act, both graceful and libelous, it pushes your nature out and into things: Prussian blue paint and synagogue doors, and the wise whorls on the fingers of the old woman who lives in the furthest cottage. It makes us deeper.

We don’t quite know what the press will be yet, and that’s the most precious of feelings. Doesn’t get much better. There’s no corral big enough.


Speak from the
Dervish of your heart
Speak from your
Deep enchanting sea

Owl, Cista Mystica
Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw

Dr Martin Shaw has introduced thousands of people to mythology and how it penetrates modern life. For twenty years Shaw has been a wilderness rites of passage guide, working with at-risk youth, the sick, returning veterans and many women and men seeking a deeper life.

Shaw has devised and led the Oral Tradition course at Stanford University in the US and is author of the Mythteller Trilogy: A Branch From The Lightning Tree, Snowy Tower and Scatterlings. He has recently set up the small press Cista Mystica and published The Night Wages. For the last 14 years he has led the small hedge-school, the Westcountry School of Myth, in the Celtic fringe of Britain, tucked into the south-easterly curve of Dartmoor National Park. Much of his teaching arises from a four year period living in a tent on a succession of English hills.

Bidden or unbidden, initiations come.

The Night Wages is a leap into the mysteries, a deep conversation between father and daughter, a ragged travelogue of a night sea journey to the temple of Aphrodite.

It’s a rumination on how we handle the volatility of romantic love, and how a parent communicates through stories a grief he cannot speak of any other way. Personal and yet mythical, poetic but earthy, this is a new form. The Night Wages provokes archaic images and modern dilemmas, it is the story of someone trying to comprehend the mysteries of their own heart.

The Night Wages, Martin Shaw
Go to Top