Episodes

  • Traditional mythic, animist, and astrological systems have long told us that the moon is more than a distant, detached object in space, but rather plays an active role in governing the daily rhythms of life. The moon — in its repetitive pulse — gave early humans the first systems of measurement and the first calendars. So the word 'moon' is directly related to the words meter, measure, and memory, and is tied to all human endeavors that repeat. Repetitive ritual enactment — humanity's primal means of remembering — is something we learned from the moon. Poetic meter, in its repetitive cycles, is similarly lunar. But the influence of the moon goes far deeper than this. Scientists now find this lunar influence in all bodies, aquatic and terrestrial. "It is plausible that… the first life forms adapted to the different rhythms controlled by the moon," says one new study published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, and it is becoming increasingly clear that living bodies — all of which are made of liquid — have fundamentally tidal, lunar structures. Our somatic ancestry is lunar. The pulse of the moon lives in the valve structures that formed the very first sea life, and the very fact that cells pulse and breathe at all can be attributed to the moon. Within human bodies, the tides of hormones, neurological signals, and the feelings and thoughts of consciousness are built around the lunar rhythm. This lunar structure to consciousness has implications for everything from how we align our lives around ritual, to how we navigate cycles of thought and feeling, to the 'hard problem' of consciousness itself. In diving into lunar mythologies and Tantric understandings of lunar goddesses, we start to see consciousness not just as an isolated function of individual biological units, but a billion year agreement between bodies across time and space. The moon begs the question — if an 'inanimate object' is the source of so much animacy, is it really inanimate at all? Come, let us build a ladder to the moon. Featuring music by Sidibe and Robby Rothschild.



    Support the show
  • How many myths and stories and fairy tales take place in... the forest? The forest in these stories is more than just setting or backdrop. It is a character of its own, alive, awake, animate, both treacherous and beautiful. The forest doesn't 'represent' something abstract in the myths, it is exactly what it was for our ancestors — a place of beauty and peril, of life and death, of food and devouring, of danger and wonder. To step into the forest is to step outside of linear, organized time and space into the liminality of trance. In the forest, sounds are different, everything is immediate and up close, and every choice matters. To navigate the forest well — like the protagonists of so many fairy tales show us — is to use discernment, to cultivate sensory wakefulness and a deep respect for protocols of animacy. Animism, therefore, is not simply about acknowledging nature's beauty. It is about cultivating a deep relationality with the varying forces of the forest — some of which are perilous. Traditional forest-dwelling cultures recognized the danger of the forest, while the modern world tends to flatten the forest into something either to be destroyed or to be adored from a distance. But to deeply know the forest also means knowing how to navigate unfriendly forces. It's easy in the modern world to view traditional understandings of malevolent forces as 'primitive,' or 'superstitious.' Yet for cultures who actually navigate the forest and its intricacies, knowing how to navigate these forces means survival. And so — if we value animism, it means not looking at the forces of the forest as an 'illusion', or as something to 'move beyond' but something to be treated with deep discernment and respect. Take a step into the forest, this time on The Emerald. Featuring music from Rising Appalachia, Charlotte Malin, and Nivedita Gunturi.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Missing episodes?

    Click here to refresh the feed.

  • The horrors of war have been part of the human story since the beginning. While there have been differences in how different cultures have done it, war is so widespread that it is impossible to see it as anything other than a primal human drive that fulfills some type of deep somatic need. What is that somatic need? It is easy to chalk war up to a base and 'primitive' aggression or to cold, calculated policy objectives. But an increasing number of scholars and thinkers are finding something else when they examine the roots of war — war involves many of the same protocols and therefore serves much of the same purpose that traditional ecstatic ritual once served. Both traditionally involve group syncopation, drumming, invocation, consciousness alteration, all built around a ritual enactment within a dedicated time and space that leads participants towards a sacrificial catharsis that follows a mythic narrative. So war becomes a way of fulfilling the human need for ritual intensity. In a day when we live without initiation rites, when we have no ecstatic ritual outlet for the intensities we crave, war becomes — sadly, tragically — the acceptable way for people (men, particularly) to feel ecstasy. So to truly understand war involves understanding why human beings crave ritual intensity to begin with. This inquiry takes us deep into our ancestral past, when the intense ecstasies and traumas we felt were hardwired into us as the basic experience of being within the cycle of predator and prey. Drawing heavily on the book Blood Rites by Barbara Ehrenreich, this episode goes into the origins of war, and as we understand more its ritual, ecstatic foundations, leads to the conclusion that the way to peace is not a process of 'reason' triumphing over the 'primitive' — for humanity' s worst wars have come during the age of 'reason' — but rather in looking to rediscover ecstatic ritual outlets for our need for intensity.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Shapeshifting is nearly universal to global mythic tradition. The myths of the world feature shapeshifting gods, shapeshifting animals, shapeshifting spirits, and, of course, shapeshifting people who assume the forms of tigers, bears, wolves, eagles, and more. The prevalence of shapeshifting in myth challenges our assumptions about the static nature of selfhood. Yet even from the scientific view, we are shapeshifters. We contain multitudes of beings within us — we are at once fish, bird, mammal, reptile, and more. Understanding and connecting to this permeable, malleable self was key for our ancestors for many thousands of years, as we learned about things primarily by becoming them in states of conjunctive trance. Shapeshifting, accomplished through the animal dance, through the assumption of the animal form in states of ecstasy, formed the foundation of how we learned, communicated, and cultivated empathy for the world. In a world that has turned its back on the sensate animal body, shapeshifting is more important than ever, as it offers a way back to a deep relationship with the living world. Simon Thakur of Ancestral Movement and Biblical Scholar Dr. Natalie Mylonas join us for this episode on shapeshifting, conjunctive knowing, and the sensate body.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • There’s a lot of cultural clutter these days around 'The Goddess.' She appears everywhere, her many names are invoked free of context in a hundred thousand ways. She’s what? An empowerment tool. An archetype. A self-help course. A political symbol. Something that is invoked to bring more creative energy or material abundance into our lives. Something that, in an individualistic modern world, always seems to have a whole lot to do with us. Yet the goddess, traditionally, is much more than this. She is the animating power of the universe itself, felt in bodies, realized in states of deep conjunctive rapture, accessed through ritual protocols, alive in trees and stones and living geography, alive in song, alive in the myths and stories of her, alive in sound, alive in longing, alive in trance, alive in the states of consciousness realized by those who feel her. This devotional episode honors the goddess as the animating power of creation, drawing on her texts, her myths, her songs, and on personal experiences of journey to her sacred seats to evoke her as a living presence rather than as a conceptual abstraction. With songs and slokas from special guest Nivedita Gunturi.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Modern culture increasingly encroaches on unknown, uncharted space, both geographical and mental. This primordial space is accessed during times when we unplug, slow down, and allow ourselves to incubate and connect to a deeper rhythm. Traditionally, this space was accessed in trance rituals, in journeys to underworlds and otherworlds and in festivals which exist outside of mundane time. Access to this space is the true intention of the holidays — the holy days — that are meant to be time outside of time and so serve as portals to the eternal, to true unknown wild. Yet in the modern vision, this unknown space must be quantified, categorized, mapped, and regurgitated into a commodity at all costs. Why? Beyond the obvious monetary implications, the want to colonize these imaginal slow spaces stems from a deep-seated fear — the fear of nature, of an order that exists beyond our control... and the fear that if we succumb to this larger order we may experience the annihilation of our mundane concerns and encounter instead a world that operates in slow, spiraling, billion-year cycles that have very little to do with us. Yet we vitally need these unknown spaces. Defined, articulated access to unknown space is essential to maintaining our alignment to the greater rhythms of the world around us and is therefore vital to the process of planning for and creating lasting change. In a world that is facing the consequences of its own addiction to urgency and anxiousness, access to such spaces remains essential, even in the midst of all that needs to be addressed right now. Special guest Leah Song from Rising Appalachia chimes in for this episode on the ongoing necessity of access to the deep, slow, primordial and wild.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Science fiction writers and tech enthusiasts have long spoken of a digital Metaverse — a virtual otherworld that, as the narrative goes, is the logical next phase in human technological development. This Metaverse serves a deep mythosomatic function — it satisfies our collective need for otherworlds, for trance, for mythic narrative, for journeying, and even for shapeshifting. Yet it does so removed from all somatic context — without the accompanying ritual, without any somatic sacrifice, without the sweat of the dance or the fast or the vision quest and without providing any larger contextual purpose or individual/cultural renewal. The brokers of the new digital Metaverse seek to sell us a shamanic otherworld, while traditional access to such otherworlds takes place through the simplest of all vehicles — the body. Traditional trance practices harness breath, movement, vocal invocation, and artistic visioning as portals to otherworlds, whose ultimate purpose is not escape, entertainment, or distraction but to re-invigorate our relationship with this world. And so the magisters of tech veer into what, according to the myths and fairy tales, is profoundly dangerous territory — misusing the power of the otherworld, harnessing mass trance-induction techniques for profit rather than for communal transformation and renewal. Tech dystopias, shapeshifters, plant beings, Tantric meta-anatomies, fairy woods and more... on this episode of The Emerald.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Just in time for Holiday season, an episode that dives into the deep role of festivals in providing regular, ritualized access to states of rapture and initiation. For thousands upon thousands of years, the festival formed the drumbeat of culture. Festivals forged bonds and provided communal and individual focus. The festival gave space for grief, for rapture, for joy, for renewal. Hurts were healed at the festival… thresholds crossed, revolutions hatched, at the festival. The festival renewed our relationship with the vegetal world and established us in right relation with plants. The festival was able to accomplish all these things specifically because the festival was a shared agreement around time, an architecting of temporal reality to construct a portal to the eternal. Yet at a certain point in the history of the modern west, the festival was de-sanctified. And so, we are left with a schism between the sacred and the profane, in which the festival and its associated arts become simply ‘entertainment.’ The results of this schism are deep. Traditional festivals took participants on a fully enacted journey through pain, grief, loss, death, and then renewal and ecstatic communion, while the modern holiday celebrates only the consumptive side of this cycle. The ethos of modern capitalism removes all possibility of ‘sacred time,’ and gives space only for debauchery as an antidote to the numbing cycle of the workplace. What do we lose with the de-sanctification of the festival? Ultimately, we lose the potential for the festival to provide one very important thing — enacted access to the initiatory moment, to what Byung-Chul Han calls the brilliance of eternity.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • The word ‘resonance’ is commonly used these days to convey agreement with a point of view or perspective. But resonance is much more than this. ‘Resonance’ implies a universe that is sonorous and reverberatory and that operates according to the principles of harmony. Within this, many cultures have seen the role of the human being to become an instrument — to cultivate, through ritual repetition, a resonance with our fellow beings, with land, and with cosmos. This vision is not metaphorical. Science is increasingly finding that nature operates through resonance, that music predates language, and that when human beings decide to do things — to embark on adventures, to vote for politicians, to join groups — the primary driving force to do so is not ‘fact’ but resonance. Culture itself almost certainly arose through resonance, as we entrained to one another, in sync, through musical somatic ritual in resonant spaces. From the deep sounding board of the Paleolithic cave to the resonant spaces that birthed Greek prophecy to mythic visions of humans-as-instruments, this episode explores how resonance is utterly central to human experience, how modernity has become what one sociologist referred to as a ‘catastrophe of resonance,’ and what we can do to reclaim our deep resonance with one another and the natural world.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Sophie Strand describes herself as a writer, an animist troubadour, and a giant pile of composting leaves. Her lyrical, eco-centric vision of the mythic has gained her a wide following, as she blasts monomyths wide open into swarms of glittering spores. With essays entitled 'My Saint is a Weed,' 'Confessions of a Compost Heap,' and 'Becoming a Ruin,' Sophie's work brings the mythic into the tangible, helps myths regain their body, and places stories deep in the middle of a living ecosystem of time, place, and specificity. In this episode, Josh and Sophie discuss her model of looking at stories through the triple lens of Myco Eco Mytho, and then go on a rhizomatic conversational journey into kingdoms of astonishment, Orphic root systems, flowering wands, and visions of how to give the Gods back their bodies.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Modern studies of mystic states focus on the 'ineffability' of the ecstatic experience — the impossibility of explaining what the experience was like. Yet mystic experience might be indescribable in modern culture simply because we’ve failed to culturally describe it. For those cultures historically who tread the mystic space with great regularity, there’s nothing indescribable about it. Mystic unity has been mapped. The people who have tread its spaces for thousands of years describe in scintillating detail landscapes, architectures, points, vortexes, luminosities, mandala-like configurations, all alive with animate entities. And these geographies are not simply described as personal visions, but as tangible externally existing landscapes that others can visit too. So where do such mystic scapes live? Are they a function of brain chemistry? An externally existing reality? An overlap of individual consciousness and the external world? All of the above? This episode unpacks the articulated geographies of mystic states and looks at the mystic experience beyond 'just brain chemistry' but rather as a state of alignment to greater patterns and forces that already exist within nature, forces that shaped our biology to begin with. Within this ongoing relationality, art, ritual, story, and song, work together to create a fully formed mythic structure through which human beings contextualize the world, and in an age of decontextualization and fragmentation, this mythic structure is as vitally important to the human bodymind as it has ever been.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Author Kurt Vonnegut once proposed that stories have shapes — that there are a few common wave-trajectories that underlie all of our stories. This episode builds on Vonnegut's thesis and explores the energetic shapes and trajectories of myths — trajectories that serve, within oral myth telling cultures, to take the listener on an experiential journey of scattering and rejoining, of rupture and cascade, of coiling and release, and of journey and return. These wave dynamics exist throughout nature and are inherent to our somatic structure, which is also why certain story structures, like the Hero's Journey, are difficult to get away from. Stories of journey and return mirror energetic cycles that exist in the breath, in the brain, in seasonal cycles, and in the phases of the moon. So while the socio-political externals of Hero's Journey stories can — and in some cases probably should — change, the underlying circular energetic of departure and return is as fundamental to human experience as the breath is. From the tale of Sisyphus, a breath-journey of rise and fall, to the vibrant spiral dynamics of the Indian goddess tales, this episode explores myths in terms of their directional energetic dynamics and cracks open a way of understanding and feeling story that is somatic rather than analytical.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Trance, traverse, transformation, tradition, transcendence, transgression — all come from a single Indo-European linguistic root TRA, which signifies some type of crossing over. Crossing over is something human beings have always been inclined to do — populations migrate across great expanses as explorers seek new horizons. Too much emphasis on crossing over, however, can lead to worldviews of transcendence, in which the purpose of existence is to 'get past' rather than exist in harmony with what is. Transcendence worldviews are alive and well in modern apocalyptic religion and in modern science, which seems determined to transcend nature, blast us to mars, and extend human lifespans. Yet traditionally, this human need for traverse was addressed through ritualized trance, which carried practitioners across a great inner divide. The great inner traverse offered by trance practice brought the practitioner into a state of focused presence, a flow state that is the heart of mystical tradition, and that requires the greatest of traverses to reach — the traverse across the torrent of agitated discursive thought to a state of seamless integration. These days, this traverse is harder and harder to make, as we are inundated with technologies that 'carry us across', and we spend most of our waking lives in an unwitting trance, perpetually crossing over without even realizing it. TRA is for trance — choose your trances wisely.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Modern discussions on healing individual minds, cultural wounds, and painful societal histories now revolve around the word ‘trauma.’ Yet addressing trauma is nothing new — traditional cultures across the globe have historically had their own forms of trauma work, without ever labeling it trauma work. For many cultures for many years, cathartic ritual practice that bypasses the conditioned mind has served multiple purposes as it regrows and re-patterns brains and bodies and communities. These ritual enactments, communal ecstasies, and group catharses — these weepings over the bodies of lost gods — are traditionally tied to something very specific… vegetation. There is a profound link between the myths and rituals of the old vegetation gods and what we might now term trauma work — because the cycle of vegetative birth, growth, decay, and death mirrors our own cycle. This episode explores the deep link between the repatterning of the nervous system — which itself is described in a language of trees — and vegetation, from the numerous studies that show the healing power of the presence of plants, to the plant medicines that are literally regrowing nerve tissues, to the old vegetation deities whose theatrical ritual enactments, repetitive singing and dancing, and relationship to altered states of consciousness are deeply tied to trauma repatterning. The stories and rituals of the vegetation gods reveal a language around trauma which does not vilify or sanctify trauma, or isolate it, or see it solely as something to be extracted or released, but rather addresses it as part of a larger network of patterning and repatterning, regrowth and assimilation, a greater cycle of nature. If we start looking through this ritual lens, we see ritualized trauma work everywhere in cultures around the world. And it doesn’t always look like we think it would. Sometimes it even looks fairly… traumatic.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Reflections of gratitude, some info on ongoing study opportunities, and a little bit about the long-term vision as The Emerald turns two years old.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • In his book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, author, teacher, artist and Apalech clan member Tyson Yunkaporta presents a model of five minds — kinship mind, story mind, ancestor mind, pattern mind, and dreaming mind — that together form a way of seeing, knowing, and interacting with the world in a relational context. This episode looks at the rampant fragmentation in the modern world — which impacts everything from spiritual movements to transhumanist science to conspiratorial worldviews to progressive discourse — through the lens of these five minds. From Aboriginal rain rituals to QAnon pattern-seekers, from sorcery and curses to alternative communication models, this vibrant and polytropic discussion between Tyson and Josh explores what context means in a fragmented world, and how to truly find it requires seeing beyond obvious dichotomies into deeper layers of connectivity.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Stories of lightning and lightning-bearers pervade global mythology. With so many tales of mighty gods who punish mortals with lightning it can be easy to view the presence of lightning in the myths as simply a metaphor for power or brute force. Yet the lightning myths go a lot deeper than this. Across the world, the traditions most familiar with states of ecstatic rapture use a common language of lightning. This lyrical episode re-awakens the story of Semele, mother of Dionysus — herself incinerated by lightning — and uses it as an entry point into a network of global myths and traditions that sing of lightning as a central aspect of the rapturous experience. Across the globe, we find a common somatic language of interiorized lightning from the Dionysian mysteries to the Kuṇḍalinī traditions of India to the Sufi illuminationist traditions to the trance practices of the Kalahari. In an era when Kuṇḍalinī is a buzzword, Zeus is a scorned adulterer/patriarch, and the story of Semele is a scholar's footnote, this episode seeks to restore somatic sanctity to the force of living lightning that has guided ecstatic practice for millennia. Listen with headphones, preferably in a quiet meditative space, and maybe even in the dark.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • Tricksters and culture disruptors populate global mythology. From Loki to Coyote to Èṣù and Hermes, they bend rules, cross boundaries, commit deliberate and unintentional offenses and generally mess with established orders. Yet they are often seen as indispensable to these orders — they are renewers and cultural innovators and often pave the way for great change. So in many cultures, Tricksters, despite their shenanigans, are seen as sacred. In modern society, we have no such ritualization of cultural disruption. Trickster is relegated to the margins. So when Trickster comes along these days, he tends to upend everything. Sometimes, we welcome that change — it's a wonderful thing when Trickster shows up and topples the gods that we want toppled. It's a lot more disconcerting when it's our gods being toppled. And ultimately... Trickster isn't on our side. He's the mythic embodiment of the other side. From ritualized mockery in Ancient Greece to the Merry Pranksters to Ol' Dirty Bastard to the Capitol riot, this episode explores how a society acts in relation to its own dirt...and how, when Trickster is not honored by keeping a society fed and renewed, he shows up in darker ways. Warning: This episode contains explicit subject matter — because that's how Trickster rolls.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)
  • With the announcement that water futures have begun trading on the stock market, it's time to take a deeper look at our relationship with water. Water challenges us to ask how we are in relationship to something that is both continuous and discrete, something that flows, moves, evaporates, seeps, and pours forth. Yet rather than honor this multivalent nature of water, humans have tended to treat water as an object and a servant. Water is compartmentalized, sequestered, and marginalized, bottled and sold in plastic, all in the effort to make it 'just another commodity.' This episode examines what right relationship with water looks like and advocates a relationship not simply based in metrics of quantity but in metrics of quality — in feeling, in longing, in reciprocity, in reliance, in ritual, in art, in song, in bodies — a relationship in which we construct our lives around water instead of expecting it to serve us, in which the mutable aspects of water are honored. Water, beyond plastic, beyond lines. Special guests include Water Activist Isabel Friend, Designer and Professor Dilip Da Cunha, and Greenpeace USA's Oceans Director John Hocevar.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)

  • Human beings need ecstatic trance. Trance states have played a vital and necessary role in human culture and in the shaping of human history, causing some anthropologists to label the attainment of these states the 'main need' of the 'ceremonial animal' that is the human being. Trance states traditionally help communities reinforce shared bonds, establish values, gain insight into the nature of reality, establish reciprocal relation with the natural world, and even heal. Yet in the modern world, trance states have been pathologized by both institutionalized religion and science, and ecstatic ritual has lost its centrality. Finally, anthropologists are recognizing what many cultures have known all along — that trance states are essential for human thriving, and that when we lose access to these states we seek ecstasy in darker, more destructive ways. This episode goes deep into the trance states that have defined cultures and traditions for thousands of years. We look at trance in India, Ancient Greece, Africa, South America, and beyond and explore what it means when a culture loses its ecstasy.

    Support the show (http://www.patreon.com/theemeraldpodcast)