What is a spiritual homeland? I suppose it means somewhere one’s spirit feels at home. The sensations are deep and resonate within. What emerges in these posts is that one also doesn’t have to live there to access it.
Like the poet Kathleen Raine, I too was born in Ilford, Essex. Raine is rude about Ilford as a spiritual place. She writes,
‘Ilford, considered as a spiritual state, is the place of those who do not wish to (or who cannot be) fully conscious, because full consciousness would perhaps make life unendurable … It is no wonder that in the Ilfords there are more who fear than who desire the stirrings of consciousness. For one who escapes, many more must be thrown back to suffer in a prison-house made only more intolerable by every glimpse of the world of unattainable freedom.’
So how is it that some places feel spiritual, and even from far off and rarely or never visited still become a spiritual homeland? Raine’s mother was from Scotland, spoke Scots, and from her Raine inherited a love of poetry and the past. There is a melancholy to the Scots language mainly because it has been so taken over by English, it’s not the Gaelic of the islands but the language from the North East coast and the southern borders – Kathleen Raine says it is because the Scots language is so entwined with the hills and mountains and streams. It is not the language of the town, or the suburbs, though some is spoken in Glasgow.
For many Scottish people who moved south there is a lingering sense of displacement. I have lived in England all my life, but every summer we went to Montrose, on the NE coast where my father came from, and where Scots is still spoken, and once or twice to the Highlands to see my other relatives. Something of what Scotland meant got into my psyche (as it clearly did for Kathleen Raine) and experiences of past generations rise up from the collective unconscious.
The poet Violet Jacob (1863-1946) was born in Montrose and her poem ‘I saw the wild geese’ especially the sung version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT3GwWTkVFo is about this sort of longing and yearning for a spiritual homeland.
‘Oh tell me what was on yer road, ye roarin’ norlan’ Wind,
As ye cam’ blawin’ frae the land that’s niver frae my mind?
My feet they traivel England, but I’m deein’ for the north.’
‘My man, I heard the siller tides rin up the Firth o Forth.’
‘Aye, Wind, I ken them weel eneuch, and fine they fa’ and rise,
And fain I’d feel the creepin’ mist on yonder shore that lies,
But tell me, ere ye passed them by, what saw ye on the way?’
‘My man, I rocked the rovin’ gulls that sail abune the Tay.’
‘But saw ye naething, leein’ Wind, afore ye cam’ to Fife?
There’s muckle lyin’ ‘yont the Tay that’s mair to me nor life.’
‘My man, I swept the Angus braes ye hae’na trod for years.’
‘O Wind, forgi’e a hameless loon that canna see for tears!’
‘And far abune the Angus straths I saw the wild geese flee,
A lang, lang skein o’ beatin’ wings, wi’ their heids towards the sea,
And aye their cryin’ voices trailed ahint them on the air –’
‘O Wind, hae maircy, haud yer whisht, for I daurna listen mair!’