Cista Mystica is delighted to announce the release of a new series of books, starting February 2022 with Martin Shaw’s version of Tristan and Isolde. This is the first volume from a major body of work Shaw has been working on over the past few years. From the primordial caves of antiquity and up through the pagan imagination and Christian mysticism, Shaw wanders centuries, stories and ideas that reconsecrate our relationship to a living earth.

Based within the Celtic fringe of Britain, Tristan and Isolde is a standalone tale of love, both disarmingly psychological and profoundly mythological. Shaw’s version heightens the latent Dionysian tensions and at the same time masterfully transmits a story that can be located in the experience of every reader.

Martin says: “Growing up in the West Country of Britain I visited Tintagel as a kid and some kind of deal was struck. I was enraptured and became obsessed with the notion of a chivalric code. It’s never left me.
It is easy to take sides in the story, choose a position, ward off romantic love as a kind of temporary insanity. I won’t do that. But I approach the story of Tristan and Isolde in middle age, not first flush, and I detect possibilities that are hard to grasp when you are young. Some third ground between obligation and passion. My wider work is all an expression of this. Deeper experience can make a sustaining home from romantic love, not just a pig run.

“It needn’t go that way, that’s the adolescent mode. It needn’t be ruin. Sometimes a story teaches us what not to do, as well as what to do. With more years on us we can display greater inventiveness, employ more imagination, distribute more mercy in the face of love’s intensities.

“I for one will continue to visit the lover’s orchard, whistle to my love’s window, drift sticks down the river. But I will also lead my kingdom, turn up in the bedroom as my true self, engage with limit for the benefit of my people. We live in the warring directives of sovereign and lover. All of us. Our job is to put down our swords and turn the battle into a dance floor. Learn the steps, not in the mode of anguished, doomed youth, but with the seasoned, wry, delighted manner of a true human being.”

Tristan and Isolde will be released on February 14 and is available now to pre-order: The first 500 copies will be signed by the author.

Coming soon, volume 2: The Bacchae.

Pre-order Tristan and Isolde

The Hidden Country:
New Year Message from Dr Martin Shaw

“Joe Strummer once told me not to lose a sense of the heroic”  writes Martin. “Not in some overbearing, strutting, macho manner, but in a quieter, more vocational register. That certain beautiful things needed defending, and that itself was an organising principle in the scattergun chaos of these times. That you figured out what you stood for. You set free a little morality but held back on the judgement.” Read the rest of the message here.

Read Martin’s New Year message

 Bardskull: 108 per cent funded

Martin sends his heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported the writing of Bardskull, which is now 108 per cent funded, with 328 supporters. He is now busy writing this powerful fusion of memoir and myth, due to be published by Unbound Books later this year.

Read about Bardskull here

Remembering Robert Bly

Poet, activist and men’s work pioneer Robert Bly died on November 21 at the age of 94. In this podcast, Martin remembers his friend and mentor, and pays tribute to the “great wallop of gifts he gave the world”.

Listen here

Writings, extracts, news and videos

A treasure trove of resources including interviews, videos, articles, book reviews and essays can be accessed over at the news sectionof the Cista Mystica website. It’s our hope you’ll find something here to stash in your saddlebags for the road ahead, whatever it may bring.

See the archives