Dark edge, thorn edge, reason’s edge. Beyond boundary stone and safe story. A place of hare and fox and healing herbs as yet unknown and unnamed. There the wild gods roam. Snarling and stained. Scent of decay and sap, blood and blossom. A place off the path where the wolf still waits. Where voices whisper from the water’s dark heart and call you in. Paddling at first, wading past your thighs, foot releasing from the pebbled land, water sucking, releasing control, sinking fast. Beneath the surface where an untamed part of you quickens with belonging.

Where voices whisper from the water's dark heart and call you in.

This is Utengard, the ‘outer enclosure’. Where giants and untamed spirits, wild creatures and out-laws roam. Where your heart beats faster and the taste of death makes life sweet. The place of endings and beginnings.

Our ancestors knew that Utengard was a necessary destination for all wisdom-seekers.  The practice of Utiseta ‘sitting out’ was practiced by ancient European seers who kept vigil at the places between the worlds: burial mounds, cross-roads, water sources, sacred groves. These places held wisdom, healing and power.  In Utengard we recognise ourselves as both potential prey and potential predator. We become more than we were. We cross from one phase of existence into the next. Through the journey into the wild we separate from ourselves and return different.    

In ancient times a birthing child emerged from the womb as a soul travelling out of Utengard. Through birthing rites a baby was welcomed in and made safe. Did you know the blessing of water began long before Christian times? It marked acceptance into the family, into the tribe, into Innangard. Imagine how powerful a being who started in the wild places must be? How untameable, how magnificent? 

Innangard: home-space, boundaried-space, safe-space, ‘inner enclosure’. Within its confines rules are agreed, we are taught to trust them, to let them shape us in return for their protection. In Innangard the fire stays contained within the hearth. Days are governed by walled spaces and scheduled events: mealtimes and manners, work exchanged for money, agreements of what is owned, what is borrowed, what is mine, what is yours. How easy it is to be lulled into believing you are nothing without it. How comfortable it is to stay cocooned within.

home-space, boundaried-space, safe-space

The dream of protection for ourselves, for our children. It is longed for, cherished, invested in. Yet how many of us crave the safe adventure? The risk from which we know we will return? In that craving is the knowing, the deep knowing that Utengard is also part of our human path.  To stay in Innangard is to remain the eternal child, uninitiated into maturity and wisdom, unaware of the danger or the possibility. Each new stage in life requires a voyage into the unknown. Into the wild places of the land and the soul. For danger is found in Utengard yes, but so is renewal. So is hope and strength and life.

For many of us Utengard is a story. A place we read of in fairy-tales or watch on the news. Yet, the truth is that Innangard is the story. A good story, a worthy story, a story to cherish and hold onto, but a story nonetheless. A story maintained with care and attention, kindness and thoughtfulness, collaboration and sacrifice. 

Utengard is the way of nature, the way of the wild and part of its job is to remind us that we are responsible for Innangard. We hold its potential and its possibility in our hands. Each time we hide from the wild, the cruel, the painful. Each time we deny sorrow, push down fear, give away our power, step back from the moment, crush our own dreams. Each time we do this we claim the path of the eternal child. Yet our wild souls know we were meant for more. Elderhood beckons, initiation into the shadow world where we find the strength to defend the dreams born in our beautiful, trusting, thirsting child-minds. Do not fade before you have had time to bear fruit. When the wild places call remember there is part of you that always lives there.

4 Replies to “On the edge”

  1. This is profound, Maggie. There’s so much to return to and explore in these paragraphs. Requires some utiseta indeed. Thank you.

  2. I really enjoyed this and could relate to a lot of it. Worth a few more reads to let it really sink in I think. Thank you for sharing.

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