Smoke Hole is a powerful, beautiful book, written for these strange times. Martin Shaw writes: “In Siberian Myth when you want to hurt someone, you close the smoke hole of their tent. That way God can’t see them. Close the smoke hole and you break connection to the divine world… close the smoke hole and we are possessed by ourselves and only ourselves…” It’s obvious: we need to find a new way, offered here as a piece of literary activism. Smoke Hole is the first footstep on a path towards a new truth, a new way to reconnect with wildness, found in the beautiful world around us. In these strange times, we need to rediscover the old stories, for these are our teachers. We can find our way through the minefield of our current global situation – but only if we want to.
Using three fairy tale stories, including The Handless Maiden, (which I am sure readers probably already know), Shaw examines, analyses, dissects, explains and re-identifies why these wonder tales are so relevant to us today. With his great and wise storyteller’s hat on, he gives the reader invaluable insight into how we can – no, must – learn from these stories and importantly how we need to change in order to escape the ever-closing smoke hole. Shaw doesn’t beat about the bush, (well, no more than any good storyteller). His words are sobering and definitely chilling. But we need to hear them!
The Spyglass (the third story in the book,) is undoubtedly a story that could have been written for the present day, when our lives are dominated by addictive technology, immediacy and identity; when we are so visible and scrutinised all of the time. Shaw uses his personal experience as a wilderness guide to sharply focus on the consequences of our virtual personas; how much we are damaging ourselves and, disturbingly, how much harm we are doing to future generations with our passivity in just accepting a big brother style society.
“Let these stories be your ally” Shaw urges; as anecdote, as activism, as an instrument of sharp truth. We need to find beauty and wild places again.
Book Details: Martin Shaw. Smoke Hole. Chelsea Green Publishers Co (20 May 2021). ISBN: 9781645020950
Review Details: Smoke Hole was reviewed by Thea Prothero for Indie Shaman magazine and this review was published in Issue 49.
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