The fatherless boy

Fear (pronounced Far) the Last Ancestor descends from the stars; the child lies helpless and songless upon the roots of the Great Tree, all the Children of the Forest look on.

Untitled1In that weakness it is Bo the Mother Cow and Muk the Mother Sow that come to tend and nurture the child. Fear grows and becomes an adult in the Forest never doubting that he and the Forest are one.

There is a moment in the story when Fear is confronted with his reflection in the moonlit sea; in this moment HE realises HE is alone. HE runs in dread of HIS loneliness and falls into the great sleep in which HE stands on 2 legs and leaves the Forest. It is HIS dream we all exist in; a dream of a purposeless man.

I am reminded of Peter Pan, another lost and lonely boy who lives his life in a fantasy gathering to himself the fatherless boys, their lives cycling in perpetual childishness and fantasy. The purposeless man is the child waiting and dreaming, lost without identification.

It is said that young boys whose fathers do not live with them are likely to have their first child earlier than those who grow up with both parents, a new British study has found.

The study by researchers at London School of Economics found that boys who grow up in homes without fathers from the age of seven or earlier are almost seven per cent more likely to become young fathers than those who do not.

Losing their father between the ages of seven and 16 made boys four to five per cent more likely to have a child by the age of 23 than boys who continue to live with a male parent, the research found.

The study also linked absent dads to delays in their sons experiencing the key puberty milestone of voice breaking, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The study of 9,500 men born in 1958, published in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters journal, showed that 25 per cent of boys living with their father saw their voice begin to break by the age of 13.

In boys whose fathers left when they were eleven or older, this figure dropped to 19 per cent, and in those who grew up without fathers from an earlier age the figure was 23 per cent.

“Our research suggests that it’s not just the absence of a father that can affect when a boy experiences puberty and becomes a father, but also the timing of that absence.” said Paula Sheppard, one of the study authors.

I am left wondering if Peter Pan and Fear maintain a cycle of lost boys for our current modern society.

During the Gathering of the Blue Circle (the Gathering of the Ceann-Iuíl of the Sagh’ic), the group in their tending reflected on a list of events that they had been asked to consider:

  • The murder of 14 indigenous male shaman in Peru
  • The continuing contamination of children in Japan as a result of the destruction of the nuclear reactors
  • The ‘’To much blood spilt’’ in connection the middle east
  • The mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

To these we called the Ancestral spirits and sang into our drums.

From the drumming we were brought to focus on the common theme; Money & Fear, which the spirits hung on Power & Control; and this hung on a deeper and seemingly more primal wound…

The absence of the Hunters – men!

When we reflected on the ‘cases’ before us, they all seemed to have this theme at their core.

This brought the Gathering to sharp focus and to a point we had not expected; we took a moment to consider our expectation and the expectation of the spirits!

We considered the imbalance between male & female energy in the world, and the probable missing relationships of the father in the guidance of men; and without this, men were lost in direction or the deliverance of their manhood. Was this at the heart of the issues we were tending; a heart bereft of Father?

We spoke gently on the miss-expectations of men, the miss-usage of men, and a focus of misbalance on the Goddess against the God. We spoke of how this pendulum may have been swinging to extremes for generations.

In our modern times with its greying and dumbing of potentials, we hear the question, “Where are the heroes?” Perhaps this greying and dumbing is due to the question we are not asking, “Where are the fathers?”

The Tradition speaks of the time when the Hunters gather and go to the Women’s house. Here they call for the boys, whom the women must give up. The Hunters take the boys deep into the dark green of the Ancestral Forest and in secret ceremony teach them of the blood of man; the hunters call; the father’s path.

Around us we have men who have never known the passion of the male blood within them and yet that passion is inherent in them.

With out the coming of the Hunters, that blood rages and despair in the same tide.

The fatherless are the lost; lost in the ways of the sacred hunt, which calls for honour and respect. The world around us is immersed in power struggles and ownership desperation.

We have again called the male gods and again they come more rageful than before.

And we might speculate that it is this rage that has victimised the world and created the imbalance of male and female.

Toronto University researchers after studying 6647 adults, including 700 who had been under the age of 18 when their parents divorced, found that men from these families were 3 times more likely to have considered suicide than adult males with both parents. Such figures speak to the despair of the male soul with male guidance.

Similar reports on the impact of fathers on boys’ mental health, highlight the connection between divorce and suicide ideation which is particularly strong in male children who suffer from paternal abuse, addiction or unemployment; suggesting a desperation to follow the father even though the path may be destructive. For some males the need to redeem the father in order to have a positive figure results in a soul torment of fracturing between son and father internally.

The link between parental divorce and suicidal ideation is no longer significant among women who do not experience these childhood stressors, however even without these stressors, adult men who were children when their parents divorced still had a twofold increased risk of suicidal ideation compared to men of intact families. The reason why men appear more distressed by their parents’ divorce than women was not determined from the study, however researchers suggested that male development is negatively affected by the loss of close contact with their fathers at a young age.

Patricia Morgan a researcher and author on family life says, “We are learning more and more about how significant fathers are, it is not enough to have a cardboard cut-out called a father figure.”

These findings echo recent research by the Princes Trust showing that young men without a male role model are 3 times more likely to be depressed and demonstrate once again that Dads make a difference to boys’ mental, emotional and seemingly psychic wellbeing.

Untitled2Part of the research had an intriguing thread:

  • Boys without fathers or separated from fathers are 3 times more likely to be excluded from school
  • Boys who are victims of child abuse at the hands of fathers are most likely to commit truancy
  • Boys excluded from or truant from school are 19 times more likely to commit suicide.
  • 81% of young adult suicides in the UK are male and figures suggest similar numbers worldwide.

There is a term, Katabasis, which refers in psychology to describe the depression some young men experience. Author Robert Bly proposes in his book Iron John: A Book About Men several reasons for the “catabasis phenomenon”, amongst them the lack of Western initiation rites and the lack of strong father figures and role models. The Katabaic Journey in Shamanism refers to the males descent into the Underworld to retrieve a great treasure that will establish his destiny as hero and king; it is part of the story that the male is sent by a father figure. Also part of this mythological quest is that the male leaves not as a hero,but as a helpless boy and is accompanied by other men. Only on his succesful return do the other men sing of his valiant deeds to the father who sent him. Upon hearing the songs, that father surrenders his crown, his trust, his belief, his life to the proven hero. In The Tradition of the Hunters, the boy returns a man, blooded and with the prey in his arms, so that all the men and the women know him to be a true man, and one assumes a desirable mate!

Katabasis is a term found in literature, which simply means when characters must descend into their own personal hell in order to return with a newer outlook on life.

In ‘Lord of the Flies’, William Golding uses Katabasis in all of his characters to varying extents. In this tale many British boys have been stranded on an inhabited island. There are no fathers or male adults there to guide them and this is bringing out the worst in them. With no male adults among them the children have to take their own decisions having no guidance from male adults on the correctness of their actions.

Isolated from a male/father determined world the boys begin the predictable path to savagery, which brings out the basic primal instincts of the human male searching for boundaries and guidance; money & power.  In the tale the savagery moves the boys to murder and division. There is a poignant line at the end of the story, when a man finds the boys, now divided into warring camps. A boy covered in blood looks at the man and say. “It’s just a game, isn’t it?” as if waiting for approval to leave a childish game and become a man.

One cannot help but then look up from such stories and see re-enactment in the world theatre; we see the fatherless boy and his despair played out in wars, power struggles, and mistreatment of ‘The Forest’.

Untitled3In this moment of realisation we must return to a solemn commitment to call to the men and ask then what they have always wanted; we would teach them not to fear each other or the fathers; we would let them be men and not imposed roles. That even though they might not be sitting in circle with us at this moment we must not forget to invite and extend the invitation to them; if we assume that they might not be interested or that they would probably not come, then we have put the limitations up right from the start.

As men and women facing the fracturing world we are pressed strongly in thinking, and deeply feeling, that this work of honouring The Father is essential and must go forward, maybe in this current time stressing in more as we begin because we have catch up to do after so many years of calling forth The Mother.

We must make a commitment to keep asking and extending, planting a seed so to speak and let them know that they are welcome and needed!

In the Time Before Time was not the Lightning called? Without giving it its true role it can only discharge its fire in seeking recognition; much like a lonely lost boy looking for some recognition.

Name the Lightning and give it purpose and it becomes a creator and a lover, both qualities of fatherhood.

In the balance of continuous creation, without the purposeful father, the mother becomes valueless.

As a community of value and purpose we are called back to the ancient rites of calling the boys from the women’s house. And the boys will come if called by the fathers. In our ceremonies let us invoke the blood of the Lightning as the First Father and blood the sons of our families; the male soul cries out for that blood, which fire, that purpose in life.

Rev Seanair John-Luke Edwards