The quotes and ideas on this page are from The Enchanted Life, by Sharon Blackie (2018)

what is enchantment?

I believe that enchantment is an attitude of mind which can be cultivated, a way of approaching the world which anyone can learn to adopt: the enchanted life is possible for everybody.

Enchantment, by my definition, has nothing to do with fantasy, or escapism, or magical thinking: it is founded on a vivid sense of belongingness to a rich and many-layered world; a profound and whole-hearted participation in the adventure of life.

The enchanted life is one which is intuitive, embraces wonder and fully engages the creative imagination – but it is also deeply embodied, ecological, grounded in place and community. It flourishes on work that has heart and meaning; it respects the instinctive knowledge and playfulness of children. It understands the myths we live by; thrives on poetry, song and dance. It loves the folkloric, the handcrafted, the practice of traditional skills. It respects wild things, recognises the wisdom of the crow, seeks out the medicine of plants. It rummages and roots on the wild edges, but comes home to an enchanted home and garden. It is engaged with the small, the local, the ethical; enchanted living is slow living.

Ultimately, to live an enchanted life is to pick up the pieces of our bruised and battered psyches, and to offer them the nourishment they long for. It is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lies at the heart of the ordinary. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again. This is an active choice, a leap of faith which is necessary not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of the wide, wild Earth in whose being and becoming we are so profoundly and beautifully entangled.


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Manifesto for an enchanted life

  1. Everything around you is alive: believe it. Tell stories to stones, sing to trees, start conversations with birds. Build relationships. You’ll never be lonely again.
  2. To be fully in your body is to be fully alive. Get out of your head and into the world.
  3. Look for the wonder wherever you go. Be all your life, as American poet Mary Oliver suggested, ‘a bride married to amazement’.
  4. Embrace mystery – don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.
  5. Cultivate your mythic imagination: the inner and outer landscape of myth.
  6. Know your place. Learn to belong, because wherever you go, there you are. There’s nowhere else real to be.
  7. Cleave to the local and the ethical. Cultivate community spirit, and autonomy.
  8. Slow down.
  9. Create. Buy handmade. Live folklorically.
  10. Don’t have a career: have a life. Find your calling – but above all, find your meaning in the community of the world.
  11. Foster meaningful ritual; make each day a ceremony, or make a ceremony in each day.
  12. Cherish otherness, in all its forms; confront in yourself, and explore, the forms of otherness which make you uncomfortable or afraid.
  13. Treasure change: it’s the stuff from which lives are forged. Stop looking for the eternal and immutable, and enter into the daily dance with the transitory.

Enchantment is about waking up

We’ve forgotten who we are. We’ve travelled a long way from the natural world that is our home, and the sense of enchantment we once knew there, when we were children.

We’ve all felt it: that nagging sense of something missing, something fundamentally wrong at the heart of our lives, a sense of profound disconnection from the wider world around us. We feel it in our burned-out, stressed-out bodies, in our anxiety-ridden thought patterns, in our broken and dysfunctional relationships, in the sense of futility which haunts our days, in the breakdown of communities and the increasingly frightening breakdown of social order, even in countries we’ve previously believed to be immune.

We’ve fallen asleep. We’ve forgotten where we came from, and where we truly belong; we’ve stopped believing that there is anything beyond us, maybe even that there’s something greater and worth fighting for. More than this, though, we’ve forgotten our calling: forgotten that the purpose of the journey we’re on is to discover the rare pearl which was always intended to be our unique gift to the world.

It’s time to remember who we are. In our hearts, we’ve known for a long time that something is wrong. We’ve seen the veil shifting, caught glimpses of the finer reality which lies behind it. It’s time to finally wake up, read the letter, set off on the long journey home. It’s time to change.


Reclaiming the magic & wisdom of the natural world

Taking the inspiration and wisdom that can be derived from myth, fairy tales and folk culture, this book offers a set of practical and grounded tools for reclaiming enchantment in our lives, giving us a greater sense of meaning and of belonging to the world.

‘Engaging and inspiring, Sharon Blackie’s beautiful book will empower people to find wonder in everyday life.’
Clover Stroud, author of The Wild Other

‘Sharon Blackie weaves a rich tableau of what a life full of wonder and authentic connection might look like, supplying practical ways to approach ancient wisdom. Her book is a beautiful roadmap to purposeful change.’
Lynn Thomson, author of Birding with Yeats

‘A master of her craft, Blackie weaves beautiful threads of folklore, psychology, history, philosophy, and much more into this remarkable work, reminding the reader of the magic inherent in all of our lives, whether we live in the suburbs, the city, or a remote wind-swept island. Enlightening as it is poetic, The Enchanted Life is a fable for our modern times. I will walk differently through our world after reading this book, paying attention to what is alive, which, if you look closely, Blackie shows us, is absolutely everything.’
Emily Urquhart, author of Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes

‘A new Sharon Blackie is always a cause for celebration.’
Melissa Harrison, author of Clay and At Hawthorn Time

‘Filled with “acts, antidotes, and alternatives”, Sharon Blackie’s book is a guide to re-enchanting ourselves and our world. At its heart are practical things, small and large, that we can do to recapture our sense of enchantment and a firm and convincing belief that it’s not only worth deeply wanting, but that it’s possible for everyone.’
ForeWord Reviews

Myths & Fairy tales as agents of transformation & enchantment

Fairy tales declare that there is more to life than we can ever possibly know, and reveal to us glimpses of the mysteries which lie behind the world, and which usually are hidden from us. And at the heart of all of these stories is transformation: they help us to believe in the possibility of change. Brothers changed into swans and then back again; the ugly duckling turned into a swan; Cinderella transformed into a princess.

We come to see that there are other ways of imagining the world and our place in it – because stories can help us find our path in life. When we’re lost in the dark wood, they can show us how to find our way back home – or our way forward, as we set off on a new adventure. Whatever journey we imagine ourselves to be on, myth and fairy tales can inform our sense of what is possible, and enable us not just to cope with life’s challenges, but to live more intensely, and more richly, in the world. Because spiritual growth also lies at the heart of every archetypal tale: as the hero or heroine leaves an often-disturbing home to set off on an uncharted journey, and to face and eventually overcome seemingly impossible challenges, they are led ultimately to develop their highest potential.

We are often drawn to specific stories or characters, and if we explore the reasons why, deeper truths about our life and our character may emerge as a result.

in praise of impermanence

Here in the West, so many aspects of our lives are aimed at protecting us from risk and change, and instead establishing a state of what we imagine to be permanence. We manage the minute details of our lives so that we can stay safe – which usually means staying put. We embrace repetition and routine. But when we insist on permanence, when we cling tight to what we know, when we resist change, refuse the journey – we are in a very real sense refusing life. Life is an act of creation, of ongoing transformation. The world changes with every cycle of the seasons. We change with every cycle of our lives, from birth through adolescence to adulthood and, finally, to death. And perhaps, in the end, clinging to permanence is a way of protecting ourselves against death – an impossible feat, but one which we blindly pursue, anyway.

Change is possible, and change is life.

the four components of enchantment

I believe that the state of enchantment has four major components:

  1. It is founded upon a sense of fully participating in a living world – a feeling of belonging rather than separation.
  2. It incorporates feelings of wonder, and curiosity. To be enchanted is to be comfortable with the fact that not everything can be explained; to tolerate, even welcome, the presence of mystery.
  3. Enchantment is not all in the head, it is very much a function of our lived, embodied experience in the world.
  4. Enchantment is an emanation of the mythic imagination, and is founded on an acknowledgement of myth and story as living principles in the world.

an animate earth

If the world is alive, if nature has consciousness, then I am not just some singular, solitary being plonked on a lump of inert matter surrounded by inert space in an inert universe. Everything around me is alive – there is no such thing as ‘inert’. I am standing in the midst of an aliveness, and that aliveness deserves my attention, my respect, my care. It deserves my awe and my reverence. The stars are no longer cold, unknowable objects, scattered shining but ultimately lifeless across the vast empty distances of black space: they are active participants in their own journeys of becoming. The insects and birds and animals are singing themselves into being; this autumn land is dreaming and I am a part of that dreaming. That beautiful emerald-bodied dragonfly over there by the beehive is no longer a soulless creature, capable only of mechanically carrying out the simplest of genetically preprogrammed tasks. It has its own purpose and path. It is a participant in the unfolding of the world, just as I am; a unique expression of the prodigious, indiscriminately varied life of the cosmos, no more and no less than I am. I see a dragonfly; what does it ‘see’ when it sees me? There are patterns and webs and weavings – lines of becoming all around me that I cannot ever begin to imagine I understand. The world is alive, and in the infinite extravagance of its multi-faceted aliveness it is full of mystery again.

What could be more enchanted than that?

embracing embodiment

The world is multi-layered, multi-faceted; how much more alive would we feel if we travelled on in awareness of those many and varied facets? Awareness of the lifeworld of rock, of animals and plants, of stones, soil and weather . . . of the wind, which dances over the land, interacting with it, interacting with us as it goes. In a world like this, there is no possibility of true disconnection – there is only our own blindness and forgetting. But what we have forgotten, we can surely remember again; and we only need to be reminded how to look in order to begin to see. And above all, in this wholly embodied, radically present conception of what it is to be fully alive, we begin to remember not only what the world is to us, but what we are to the world.

mythical misfits

Change begins with individuals, and it begins with imagination. It begins with a different story which succeeds in capturing the imagination more effectively than the now-crumbling old story. And if the dominant cultural myth is failing us and failing the planet, then we need to transform it. Why not? After all, humans have always been mythmakers. Carl Jung wrote that when the myths of earlier generations fall into decline, the mythmaking process resides in individuals. The birth of a new personal myth in the imagination of a single individual, or a group of individuals, he said, might lead to the rebirth of new (and more functional) myths in the imagination of the culture.

It’s the people who I think of as the ‘mythical misfits’, then, who kickstart the transformation of the world, and who begin to imagine more sustainable and meaningful ways of living. Today’s mythical misfits are rejecting a culture which values neither intuition nor imagination, which values neither the living land nor its non-human inhabitants. They’re deserting the stagnant institutions, and creating communities which celebrate life rather than destroying it. When the great blazing bonfire of a culture goes out, what remains are a few individual flames. When those individual flames come together, we can kindle a new fire.

That fire’s name is enchantment.

the places we are

If I were a place, I would be an island. I’ve lived on islands; I know how they are. I know how they get under your skin, and I know how it is that some of them can flay that skin right off you, leaving you naked and exposed in ways you never imagined you could possibly bear. I lived on such an island once: a land of sea and stone. A wild, inhospitable beauty that would break your heart – and it broke mine, for sure. That island shaped me, and the memory of it shapes me still. I’ll carry it with me always, for some places will not permit their forgetting. The island I would be carries the possibility of that wild inhospitality. Its weather would of course be affected by the day on which you approached it, but it would depend much more on the kind of vessel you came sailing in. Come in a simple wooden coracle, and it’s yours for the taking. Come in a pirate ship, or a flashy rich-man’s yacht, and it’ll wreck you on its beaches without a second thought.

My island’s edges might be fraught with danger, but its interior would be lush and green. You’d have to scale the mountains to get there – mountains forged from age-old gneiss, carved and curved like the secret folds of an animal’s pale-grey brain. These are dark mountains, not easy to cross, but behind them you’d find the treasure you sought: hidden green valleys loud with tumbling water, and the thick oak forest where the old gods still dwell. Follow the river to the heart of the wood: a woman lives there, in a cottage whose walls are studded with shells. A fox sleeps by her hearth, a raven roosts in a dark corner, and a sealskin hangs on the back of her door.

This is the island I would be.

the land imagines us

We think that we imagine the land, but perhaps the land imagines us, and in its imaginings it shapes us. The exterior landscape interacts with our interior landscape, and in the resulting entanglements, we become something more than we otherwise could ever hope to be. We take on and begin to express something of its mysterious, earthy qualities; in turn we offer it our stewardship, our poetry and our songs. We offer it too our breath, blood, bones and endless flakes of dead skin. Each place has its own identity, each place deserves to be approached carefully, and with respect. Here are some of the ways that the land teaches us: a mountain range teaches us to come to terms with immensity; a cave teaches us to go deep; a river teaches us about flow. The land teaches us something about what it is to be human in this world – and sometimes, the most challenging places teach us the most. But above all, the landscapes we inhabit teach us that, in every way that matters, we and the land are one. To welcome those entanglements – to become in them and through them something both greater and infinitely more interesting than a single, isolated human life – is to be enchanted – to be sung into – indeed.


This world does not belong to us. The world is a great dreaming being which shelters other beings, and we are just one among a countless number of species who live in her and of her. Once, we had contracts with the plants and animals who share this world with us. We would treat them with respect; like them, we would take only what we needed from this earth and no more, and they would share their wisdom and medicine with us. They’d be companions on our journey through a life that can sometimes be hard, but whose loads are always lightened by communion.

We’ve come so far from that old wisdom. We want to know the stars, to solve all the great mysteries of the universe – but we don’t even know ourselves, or how to be in relationship with the land, animals and plants around us. To alter that state of affairs, we need not only to act differently, but to be different. If we can re-enchant ourselves – fall in love with this complex and mysterious, animate world all over again – then we might stand a chance.

Begin, if you will, with a tree. Congratulate a young, fragile willow on its summer growth. Watch the first turn of the leaves of an old ash, all scars and stories, as she begins to grow autumn-sleepy, just as you are. Feel the dreadful heave at the roots of the tall birch after the winter storm, and wonder what sense it is that tells you how the deep roots had nearly lost their hold, down there past the iron lick of the lower soil and onto the fractured rock. Do you hear the bruising of the deep roots, find yourself wanting to reach out and touch the bark of the tree that withstood the wind – knowing that you too have withstood a storm or two in your time? The graceful birch, that lady of the woods whose silver-white bark is like no other’s, and you.


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