ABOUT SHARON

‘A beloved and highly respected thinker and a legend in the ecofeminist and nature writing world’

POSITIVE NEWS

‘She knows her archetypes, knows her Jung, knows her fairytales and knows her neuroscience, and is sick of being patronised by men who don’t.’

THE SUNDAY TIMES

‘My standout interview of the year’

Matthew Taylor, writer, broadcaster and host of the RSA ‘Bridges to the Future’ podcast

Dr. Sharon Blackie is an award-winning author and psychologist with a background in mythology and folklore. Her highly acclaimed books, lectures and teaching programs are focused on reimagining women’s stories, and on the relevance of myth, fairy tales and folk traditions to the personal, cultural and environmental problems we face today.

As well as writing five books of fiction and nonfiction, including the bestselling If Women Rose Rooted, her writing has appeared in anthologies, collections and in several international media outlets – among them the Guardian, the Irish Times, the i and the Scotsman. Her books have been translated into several languages, and she has featured in programs by the BBC, US public radio and other broadcasters. Her awards include the Roger Deakin Award, and a Creative Scotland Writer’s Award. Her next book, Wise Women: Myths and Stories of Midlife and Beyond will be published by Virago in 2024.

Sharon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and has taught and lectured at several academic institutions, Jungian organisations, retreat centres and cultural festivals around the world. She is online faculty for Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, where she teaches a Graduate Certificate Course on ‘Narrative Psychological Approaches to Finding Ourselves in Fairy Tales’ and other programs for The Retreat/ Pacifica Online.

Sharon lives in Cumbria, in the north of England, with her husband, dogs, hens and sheep. She is represented by Jane Graham Maw, at Graham Maw Christie Agency.

Sharon’s TEDx talk on the mythic imagination can be viewed here. Her publication ‘The Art of Enchantment’ is in Substack’s ‘Top Ten Literature Substacks’.

WRITING, TEACHING, STORYTELLING

Sharon’s unique approach to working with the mythic imagination, fairy tales and folklore highlights the insights these traditions can offer us into authentic and meaningful ways of being in the world, and the ways in which they can help us to cultivate a deep and enduring sense of belonging to the places we inhabit.

Read on for the official biography and Sharon’s personal story.

ACADEMIC & PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

BA (1st Class Hons) Psychology, University of Liverpool, 1982.

PhD in psychology and neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of London, 1985. Thesis subject: ‘The Behavioural and Brain Mechanisms Underlying Anxiety and Panic’. 46 publications in peer-reviewed journals (Brain Research, Neuroscience Letters, Behavioural Brain Research, Neuropsychobiology and many more) and academic books.

Recipient of Wellcome Trust Travel Fellowship (l’Hôpital Pitié-Salpétrière, Paris) and Mental Health Foundation Research Fellowship (Institute of Neurology, National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London), 1985-6

Practitioner Diploma, Clinical Hypnotherapy, London College of Clinical Hypnosis, 2003.

Chartered Psychologist with Practising Certificate awarded by the British Psychological Society, 2002 – 2007. Tutor in Narrative Psychology (working with myth and fairy tales) for clinical psychologists and other health professionals, via the Association for Psychological Therapies (UK).

MA Creative Writing (fiction route), Manchester Metropolitan University, 2007. Specialisation in developing a sense of place in fiction, and the use of myth and fairy tales to express personal transformation.

MA Celtic Studies, University of Wales, 2019, with a focus on Irish and Welsh literature and folklore. Dissertation: ‘The Cailleach in Gaelic Myth and Folklore: An Ecopsychological Analysis’. Winner of the Rev. Thomas Jones Creaton Prize in Welsh.

Greek Mythology, Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford, 2022

Old English Literature, Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford, 2022.

Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2022).

Current research interests:

The post-Heroic Journey, including the Fairy-tale Heroine’s Journey
Archetypes of midlife, menopause and elderhood
Ecofeminist analyses of European, especially Celtic, myth and folklore
Older women in European myth and folklore

I’m currently teaching an online Graduate Certificate in ‘Finding Ourselves in Fairy Tales: A Narrative Psychological Approach’ at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA.

WRITING

Sharon is the author of The Long Delirious Burning Blue, a novel which the Independent on Sunday called ‘hugely potent. A tribute to the art of storytelling that is itself an affecting and inspiring story’, and which The Scotsman called ‘powerful … filmic, and achieving the kind of symmetry that novels often aspire to, but rarely reach.’

Her word-of-mouth bestselling nonfiction book If Women Rose Rooted offers up a new Heroine’s Journey for this challenging age of social and ecological crisis, and was described by novelist Manda Scott as ‘mind-blowing in the most profound and exhilarating sense … an anthem for all we could be … an essential book for this, the most critical of recent times.’ If Women Rose Rooted was a 2016 Nautilus Book Award winner.

A second nonfiction book, The Enchanted Life, was published in 2018. A collection of original and reimagined fairy tales about shapeshifting women, Foxfire, Wolfskin, was published in 2019, and Hagitude, a nonfiction book about the mythology and psychology of elderhood in women, and reimagining the second half of life, was published in 2022.

Wise Women: Stories of Midlife and Beyond will be published by Virago in October 2024.

Sharon’s articles have been published in several national newspapers, including the GuardianThe Scotsman, the i and The Irish Times, and in many popular magazines and academic journals. In 2009, she was the recipient of a yearlong Writer’s Award from Creative Scotland. In 2022, she was given the Roger Deakin Award by the Society of Authors.

From 2013 to 2017 Sharon was the founder and editor of EarthLines Magazine, described by Jay Griffiths as ‘a deeply intelligent publication’, by George Monbiot as ‘a rare combination and much needed’, and by Robert Macfarlane as ‘a real point of convergence for many thought-tributaries and philosophical paths’.

Sharon is represented by Jane Graham Maw, at Graham Maw Christie Agency.

TEACHING, SPEAKING AND MEDIA

Sharon has led workshops on the mythic and archetypal imagination, myth and personal narrative, finding ourselves in fairy tales and reimagining the second half of life at venues in Europe and North America (teaching at major retreat centres including the Esalen Institute, the Garrison Institute and the Rowe Center). She has lectured at a variety of academic and Jungian institutions in Europe and America. She is online faculty for Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, where she teaches a Graduate Certificate on ‘Finding Ourselves in Fairy Tales: a Narrative Psychological Approach’ and other programs for The Retreat/ Pacifica Online.

Sharon has performed at a number of cultural events and festivals, from the Edinburgh International Book Festival to the Dark Mountain Project’s ‘Uncivilisation’ Festival. Her TEDx Stormont talk on the mythic imagination can be found online here.

Sharon has appeared several times on BBC Radio in the UK, and on NPR and other stations in the USA. She is a regular guest on leading podcasts, including Sam Baker’s ‘The Shift’, Mary Portas’ ‘Beautiful Misfits’, ‘This Jungian Life’ and the Royal Society of Art’s ‘Bridges to the Future’.

THE JOURNEY

I was born in 1961, in County Durham in the far north-east of England, to a Scottish father and a mother with Northern English and Irish roots. A portion of my ancestry is Irish, then, but most is rooted in Yr Hen Ogledd, the ‘Old North’: Northumberland, Cumbria and southern Scotland – the borderlands. They were miners and master mariners, farmers, industrial labourers and gamekeepers, and to my great delight there was also an 18th-century book publisher and printer.

I was raised from an early age on an imaginatively rich diet of Irish and Scottish myth, poetry, music and history, and on fairy tales of all kinds, in a profoundly poor working-class household mostly free of television but with a great respect for books. And so my fascination with the mythology of these islands started young; at the age of ten I was making copious lists comparing the names of the Knights of the Round Table in Sir Thomas Mallory’s work to their ‘equivalents’ in the wider British, French and German Arthurian literature. Although I’ve studied and researched mythological systems from all around the world over the years, it’s my native British, Irish and other Northern European traditions that have always drawn me more, and on which I now focus.

Although I had originally wanted to study literature, my first degree was in psychology, and I then spent several years as an academic neuroscientist/ psychologist specialising in the field of anxiety and panic, with research fellowships at l’Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris, and the Institute of Neurology at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London.

After a few twists and turns, including some unwise years advising a tobacco company on smoking and health and safer cigarettes, and a six-year-long profoundly transformative dislocation to America, at the age of 42 I moved to a coastal croft in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. There I returned to my early intentions for life and practiced as a psychologist and teacher of narrative psychology, as well as working extensively with other creative/active imagination techniques. Today, after two decades living there and in the Outer Hebrides, Ireland and Wales, I have returned to my northern English roots and live in an old stone house by the Upper River Eden, in the beautiful Westmorland Dales of eastern Cumbria.

I now make my living as a fulltime writer; this, along with lecturing and occasional teaching, is rooted predominantly in depth (Jungian/ archetypal) psychology. Over the years, I’ve deepened my lifelong work with myth by completing a Master’s degree in Celtic Studies at the University of Wales, and courses in Greek Mythology and Old English Literature at the University of Oxford.

A SENSE OF PLACE

My husband David Knowles and I founded independent literary publisher Two Ravens Press (now closed) in 2006; we were soon described in the national media as ‘a quiet publishing revolution’ and ‘the most talked-about publisher in Scotland’. In 2012 we launched EarthLines Magazine, the UK’s first full-colour print publication for writing about nature and place. These days, after many years nurturing the voices of others, my focus is firmly back on my own writing.

All of my work – writing and teaching – springs from an intense connection to the land, which is rooted as much in the re-storying of place as it is in a detailed knowledge of the local ecology. These are acts of re-enchantment, of creative place-making, of radical belonging.

For twelve years I was a crofter, both in the far north-west Highlands of Scotland and on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, sandwiched between mountains and sea in one of the wildest and most remote places in the country. (On a clear day, we could see St Kilda from our kitchen window.) We produced a large proportion of our own food, keeping sheep, cows, pigs and a miscellany of poultry; a large thriving polytunnel, and a herb garden which allowed me to indulge in my love of ‘weedwifery‘. That long, hard work, which required us to be outside in all weathers tending other living things, as well as a daily practice of long walks to explore rocky shoreline, bog and mountain, has given me a deep and nourishing sense of connectedness to the spirit of place that I feel drawn to share with others.

A MISCELLANY OF ASSORTED FACTS

We share our lives with rescue border collie dogs Jess and Luna, and Maeve, The Cat Formerly Known as The Kitten of the Apocalypse; we also tend a handful of ageing pedigree sheep and a tribe of hens.

At the beginning of 2021, in the heart of the COVID pandemic, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Thanks to the brilliant team at Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, I’m now in remission.

Once upon a time in the deserts of New Mexico, in the throes of my third midlife crisis, I learned to fly to overcome a fear of flying – and perhaps of life – and obtained my pilot’s license.

I speak French and some Spanish, back in the day also learned German and Latin, and have a very small smattering of Scottish Gaelic and Irish (favouring the Donegal dialect) and an even tinier smattering of Welsh. I could sing you anything from a vast repertoire of the old Irish rebel songs on which I was raised. I’m a national of both Britain and Ireland.

When I was 16 I was taught how to play darts by a crowd of homeless people and ageing alcoholics at an organisation I volunteered with. Although I subsequently beat them all and pretty much everyone I ever played with, an arthritic right forefinger tragically put paid to my ambitions of world domination.

I adore the Pre-Raphaelites. I have a deep love of all things canine. I have a fern phobia (as apparently did Sigmund Freud). I am a super-early riser, usually awake and writing around 4am.

My favourite fictional character is Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax, an old mountain witch in whose image I plan to model my old age. When in doubt, I ask myself, ‘What would Granny do?’

Favourite writers of fiction: so very many, but those that stand out include Janette Turner Hospital, Alice Thomas Ellis, Doris Lessing, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy. Nonfiction: harder; probably Gretel Ehrlich, Rebecca Solnit, and several writers of diaries and memoir. Poetry: W.B. Yeats, Ted Hughes, Adrienne Rich, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Basil Bunting, Rainer Maria Rilke, Robin Robertson, John Burnside and many, many more.

Major inspirations and influences – an unlikely and eclectic list. At various times of my life, they’ve included D.H. Lawrence, C.G. Jung, Emily Brontë, Leonard Cohen, W.B. Yeats, Jacques Brel, Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi, James Hillman, Anaïs Nin and Ursula Le Guin. But mostly, for ever and always, Granny Weatherwax.

JOIN MY PACK

Subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, ‘The Art of Enchantment’, on Substack, and be among the first to hear all the latest news about my books, courses and events – as well as personal seasonal reflections and reading recommendations. You’ll also receive a special gift as a thank you for joining me!

If you’d like to become a paid subscriber, you’ll have access to exclusive articles, podcasts, chat and much more