Interview with Sophie Strand: empires & myths, rot & extinction, and queer ecology

Story-Telling & Narrative

Interview With Sophie Strand: Empires & Myths, Rot & Extinction, and Queer Ecology

Article with Sophie Strand, Tammy Gan on Tuesday 20th September 2022

In conversation with Sophie Strand, the host and curator of our upcoming, multi-teacher online course rewilding mythology, we discussed: the rise of empire and the deracination of myth; the lost art and knowledges of oral storytelling; reframing storytelling as emergency; the wisdom of rot and inhabiting spaces of extinction; queer ecology as a lens to reframe love as ecological; and more.


This is a lightly edited transcript of an Instagram live conversation with Sophie Strand, ahead of the upcoming course Rewilding Mythology, of which Sophie is the host and curator. Register to join the course here.

Header image via

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Hi everyone, welcome to our live today with Sophie Strand, whom a lot of you will probably know. Sophie is a writer based in the Hudson Valley who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling and ecology. Sophie is the host and curator of our upcoming multi-teacher online course rewilding mythology.

I want us to begin today’s conversation with (what I understand to be) the central problem of the course. As you write: “For most of human history, myth was a durable mode of knowledge transmission, kept alive by the breath-laced web of communal storytelling.” Embedded in myths were practical knowledge, held together by multi-species communities, and these myths themselves were localised, yet powerful and reliable, adaptable to whatever circumstances would come their way. Then you write, “But the rise of empire depended on the deracination of mythologies. … these stories ossified into abstraction and reinforced the anthropocentric hyper-individuality and colonial capitalism of today.”

What happened with the rise of empire? Can you historically contextualise this and talk us through how the myths were uprooted and consequently corrupted into what we see today?

SOPHIE STRAND: I do want to first distinguish empire from civilisation. I also think it’s important maybe to point back to that live that you did earlier this week with Pat McCabe, who was problematising this idea that all human relational communities are problematic, but the truth is that there were civilisations all across North America before colonisers came in, that managed to have reciprocal adaptable relationships with the environment that didn’t completely destroy it. So I wanted to distinguish empire from civilisation.

Civilisation is often the first step in a process that leads to empire. But it’s important to decouple the two.#

And to problematise the Eurocentric assumption that civilisation always necessarily arrives with empire. Empire comes from the Latin root imperium, meaning to command, and earlier even than that, it comes from the proto-indo-European root en: in-, from inside, and pere-: to produce and to prepare. So we can gloss the word as being inside of the command—and inside of the command of production.

So what’s interesting to me is that you have commercialisation, mass production and hierarchy as the etymological underpinning of empire. So empire for me is best summed up as a commercialised agricultural state, where the growing profits of a minority elite are buttressed by the labour of an unlanded peasantry, and a subjugated intermediate mercantile population in a satellite state. Put more simply, it’s a good example of our own problematic relationship with nature.

So since the birth of capitalism in Europe, alongside the mind-body, man-nature bifurcation of the Enlightenment, we have begun to look at the world and its inhabitants, as standing reserves, rather than, as [a] polyphony of autonomous beings in and of themselves. And the nucleus of an imperial state begins to look at other states, not as individual units, rooted in specific ecologies, but as resources. And it grows by consuming those states and populations and ecologies and mythologies, and incorporating them non-consensually into their own body, their spiritual and political and commercial body. So it’s like you take someone else’s arm and attach it to your body and make it start doing the work of your own body. And that’s true also, of the myths of those satellite states that are taken over.

It’s only relatively recently that the secular and the religious are seen as separate. So for the creation of most empires, there was a real need to create a psychosocial justification. And [so] a good myth, and when I say good, I mean an effective myth, built with many breaths, can be a better prison than any solid structure.

So alongside the creation of empires, you see the necessary project of empire-justifying cosmologies.#

But the problem is that the mythologies of the civilisations and states that these empires are coming in and subjugating, have deep taproots. So we can think of them like dandelion, the hardy bane of gardeners… you can pull up all the plants, but if the roots are still there, they’re going to propagate. You also have yarrow… that grow these deep underground vegetal maps. So those are a really big problem for farmers. You can’t just remove the aboveground plant, you have to dig up the taproot or the subterranean map…

NOTE: CONNECTION IN BETWEEN WAS CUT OFF [I was talking] about the metaphor of having a lot of agricultural plots you’ve stolen from people, with all of these weeds, that used to be part of the diet of the Indigenous people there, but you want a monocrop, and you want to dig up all these weeds, but they have these super deep taproots. So how do you how do you handle this? You need to process and make crop-ready all of these fields. So we can look at the Roman Empire as being a really good case example of an alternative technique. Instead of getting rid of the weeds, how can you co-opt them into your own system? How could you incorporate them into your mythology?

NOTE: CONNECTION IN BETWEEN WAS CUT OFF I was talking about how the project, inherited by the Greeks, and perfected by the Romans, is kind of pantheistic colonialism. It’s not actually monotheistic.

It says that the best way to really undermine cultures is not to try and erase their gods and goddesses, and their rituals and mythologies, but to co-opt them so completely…#

That they can’t be used to help people revolt, or to have experiences of relief and freedom and liberty. So, they’d be happy to take on a horned God or fertility goddess, as long as they became neutered and Hellenised.

So Hellenisation is a term that relates to the Imperial cultural influence of the Greeks after the conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE. So the wide swath of violently suppressed states all across the Mediterranean basin down into India and Egypt, and North Africa, were compelled to adopt Greek customs, beliefs, language, styles… And not only were the people supposed to change. So were the mythologies and deities supposed to Hellenise and come into Imperial conformity. A really good example is you begin to see Osiris become Osiris-Apis; a lot of Isis iconography becomes Venus. So you see, it’s syncretic… but it’s also subjugation.

So, just like resources, where a breeder can extract it from subjugated satellite states, so are mythologies uprooted, translated into different languages, and then turned into the very tool of oppression that had been originally built to help people resist infringement upon their culture. So the great example that Myth & Mycelium—my last course with [advaya]—was about was Yeshua, who was an anti-Imperial Galilean Jew, who was preaching anti-Imperial rhetoric, who is killed by the Roman Empire, but then adopted by it, and his teachings are neutralised and used as the tool of empire. That’s a very classic example of how this happens.

Also very personally, I’m interested in how you have this rhizomatic continuity of love goddesses in the Mediterranean basin where the initial ones, sometimes they’re transgender, they have a phallus and breasts. They’re often associated with warfare, they have swords, they’re very powerful figures. We have Inanna, we have Cybele. But then as empire gets a hold of these love goddesses, it turns them into the capricious Aphrodite, and often begins to depict them as looking younger and always nude, when they used to be powerful, armed, often holding a sword. So you see, the rhizomatic love goddesses getting neutralised as they’re co-opted into the Roman Empire. And also Dionysus is a great example, many of the bull gods become monsters.

Oftentimes, a way of explaining how these cultures terraform and transform nature, they have to make natural deities into monsters because they’re terrified of the nature they’re trying to suppress. They have to make the deities associated with that nature into monsters, so they can justify their constant subjugation of nature with these mythologies. Also, another great example is Hermes, who becomes Apollo, like Apollo inherits Hermes’ gifts. And then Hermes is downgraded into a silly psychopomp. But he’s this much earlier, mischievous, chthonic deity of Mycenaean culture.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Thank you for the very detailed history lesson.

I wanted to move on and talk about another topic that we’re supposed to talk about in our live today, which is about storytelling—which is a lost art in “modern” times. I wanted to say that a lot of the teachers on the course are actually storytellers; naturally, because Sophie is one as well. So there are many storytellers on the course. And I wanted to note that in modern culture, a lot of times storytelling is seen as very frivolous, magical, traditional with these negative connotations. In this context, why is it important for us to revitalise oral storytelling, as you write, “as a relational mode of knowledge transmission”?

SOPHIE STRAND: So I want to draw back to this story that I’ve spent a lot of time with, which is the frame narrative for One Thousand and One Nights. And it’s the story of Scheherazade. So in the story, King Shahryar weds thousands of virgins, and so he’ll marry them, and then he’ll kill them off, one by one after a single night. And finally, at the end, he’s almost exhausted his entire supply of virgins, and he selects the vizier’s own daughter, Scheherazade. But Scheherazade is really canny and well-educated, and she understands that she’s going to have to really fight for her life. She’s in a radical state of emergency, it’s not a whimsical night of storytelling for her. So as the story goes, she tells such a good story, [that] the king lets her live for another night, and it goes on for a thousand and one nights.

And that becomes the frame, the holobiont—the ecosystem that holds all the other ecosystems of all the other stories, is her telling these stories. And you can look at that as kind of precious. But what it really is, is it’s an adrenaline-fueled, life-saving storytelling act, it’s storytelling as emergency. It’s the shiver of air between your neck and the guillotine. For a long time, when I was teaching young women how to write—I was doing these writers groups—I would always frame it as a feminist perspective, which is, we have to do all of these narrative backflips on a day to day basis to stay alive, to deescalate violent people, to try and get out of risky situations; we’re constantly trying to tell stories to keep ourselves alive.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of the planet, which is, the planet is telling all of these stories, but the words it’s using are storms, and shifting temperatures and climatological changes. It’s trying to stay alive, we might be King Shahryar. We’re the ones who perhaps need to listen to these stories.

Stories, when they are not fickle, but attached to the desperate need to survive, to keep knowledge alive and to keep relationships alive, are some of our most powerful tools.#

They’re very often the tools we use to save ourselves when nothing is left. And many people understand this in a high stakes way.

My favorite example lately has been physicians who do not listen to patients’ stories often miss key diagnostic information and fail to develop empathy and then deliver incorrect care. So a patient’s ability to craft a compelling medical story… Also, this is really, really true for minority people, for trans people. If you’re not adrenaline-fueled, in an emergency room, explaining your situation so hard, you will not get care because you will not be listened to. You have to craft a compelling narrative. So I’m really thinking that stories can literally literally be what saves your life.

Also, in terms of species that are invisible or … under the Earth’s crust, microbes, mycorrhizal communities, storytelling is a way of engaging the heart rather than dry accounting information that won’t rouse anyone to activism. So empathy and storytelling are really deeply connected for me. Two quotes that I’d like to share are philosopher Marilyn Strathern warns that it matters what ideas we use to think ideas, and Donna Haraway develops that to say, it matters what stories tell other stories. So even if we think of stories as being these infantile experiences that happen with teachers and little kids, there are larger invisible cultural narratives that limit the futures we are able to create and imagine, that characters we creatively imagine and creatively include in our politics and our activism, the ways we care, the beings we notice and protect.

I also think of Ursula Le Guin’s explanation that modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict and this reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition, while cultivating ignorance of other behavioural options. No narrative of any complexity can be built or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behaviour. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing, change is the universal aspect of all of these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.

So the way I felt into this quote is… story is movement, that there’s a deep time sensibility there. I believe that storytelling is the gradient between the mountain and the valley. That gravitationally draws water into a stream, and that storytelling is older than human beings. I believe that matter is agential, is a storyteller, that the ancient Mesozoic ferns compressed into coal and plastic are telling deep time stories, your greenhouse gases. That stories can be viscous and ahuman, and that they are often so big and large, we’ve hardly registered, as humans, a scene, or even as a single word.

So it’s to these larger older contexts that we can look to for our new frames, such as Scheherazade’s adrenaline-fuelled wedding night is a frame for her assemblage of stories, we can look at these longer planet wide, deep time stories for our frames, as we move forward and begin to address our collective emergencies.#

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I think the thing that will stick with me most is the contrast of… when you think about storytelling as an emergency, the urgency of that time, and then thinking about that, contrasted against the deep time of stories that are embedded within ecosystems. I think that, to me, is really interesting. Because to have both of that, we have to hold and embrace, at the same time, two different conceptions of time. And I think that that’s not easy for us, in like “modern” culture to be able to do.

SOPHIE STRAND: Yeah, well, I also think we can make it really simple. I think that oral storytelling is a really, really good way of saving the things that you love—it’s the most durable form of knowledge, there are 37,000 year old Aboriginal stories that are our oldest scientific data about climatological events. Stories are a way of saving what you love. So we can also really, really simplify it, we can take off this temporal frame, and say that, in a moment when things are shifting socially, culturally, climatologically, you can plant what you love in a good myth, in a good story. And you can learn to tell it really well so that you can give it to someone else someday, and maybe it will last.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I love that. I’m going to leave that there for people.

And also, move to the next question, which is about the wisdom of rot, and the spaces left behind by extinction, which are the phrases that you use. So you’ve shared with us before about composting, but I wonder if you can talk us through how you’re thinking about rot and extinction, especially in what we are living in right now, which people call endtimes, apocalypse. I also want to ask about this in relation to the progress-oriented paradigms that you speak to. It’s a broad question, but I think the starting points are just how you’re thinking about rot and extinction and progress, as you’re preparing for this course.

SOPHIE STRAND: I just first want to begin by saying that apocalypse is always perspectival. And most Indigenous people are post-apocalyptic. People who were brought over here on slave ships are post-apocalyptic. When you’re living in ecosystems that have been blighted, that’s [a] post-apocalyptic landscape. So apocalypse, as deferred, is always a Eurocentric project. It’s already happening. It has happened, it’s happening all the time. But to address the specificity of the rot and decomposition perspective, I was really struck by Merlin Sheldrake, [who] writes in Entangled Life, that we live in the space that fungi, by virtue of decomposition, leave behind. When matter doesn’t break down, it swamps out other life…

We only live in this space, in the open air, that has been opened up by things breaking down, compressing, being worked back into food webs.#

So a great example is in the Carboniferous period, when woody lignin plants first developed but white rot hadn’t developed at pace to break down that hardy material, so that dead matter accumulated and it pretty much swamped the world and sucked carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere so intensely and quickly, that it actually caused a global cooling event. It caused climate change. And the interesting, poetic—problematically poetic—thing is that it’s that compacted, undigested, undecayed matter that constitutes the fossil fuels’ warming of the planet today.

So we can think about when things don’t decay, when decomposition is interrupted, it creates problems in these cycles—that regenerate, break things down, keep things moving. We can also think in terms of deep time and extinction, extinction events create openings, and openings draw in biological experimentation, where before, all the ecological niches were already occupied and filled. So after an extinction event, which we’ve had five and 90% of beings are extinguished, there’s all this open space for new experimentation. We are the product. We, as human beings, occur in this space opened up by an extinction event, which is an intense responsibility to carry and to understand.

Extinction events are like the extraordinarily dilated, lengthened out, respiration of the entire evolution of the biosphere. Things diversify, diversify, fill all the niches and then there’s an event. And it goes down, bottleneck, only a couple of species make it through and they experiment in new ways. This leaks well past moral binaries of good and bad, we can’t say good or bad, all we can say is these things happen. And they produce biological novelty—they produced us. It’s mind-boggling but important to remember that almost all of the species that have ever evolved, like 99% of the species that have ever evolved, have gone extinct, and most, in a brilliant flash, [in] one of these apocalyptic events.

I also think of oral storytelling, the way that it has to be constantly resurrected to be kept alive, how it’s always changing, and always relational. I think of it as being like composting, itself. It relies on the decay of the last syllable, you need one sound to decay, for the other sound to emerge. The impermanence of breath underpins the communication of meaning, decay of the sound opens up the space for the next sound. So there’s this understanding in verbal and oral cultures, that things must decay, that room must be opened up for another breath.

Death is the alambic that opens up space for other beings to come into life.#

I also think of honey fungi, which are seen as parasitic and problematic in a very narrow conservation view of forests. But what they’re really doing is they’re meadow-makers, which is they aerate forests and they’ll open up meadows by bringing down certain trees. And then those trees will become nurse logs that will nourish the soil, then these open spaces receive more sunlight, more mammals and small rodents come there, more invasive species come in. All of a sudden you have biodiversity and refreshed species web in a forest because of these honey fungi being like death doulas in these complex ecosystems. Decomposition, for me, is fascinating. We can also think about decomposition as food making. When something is decomposing, something is eating, when something is rotting, something is eating, it’s a microbe, it’s a bacteria, it’s a nematode, it’s a saprophytic fungi. So decomposition is also the symptom of something else having a good meal.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I was just going to take that down, and open up my notes for the live session we’ll be having with Andreas next week. [And Andreas,] he talks about, and I think this is something that I guess is quite obvious, but [often] people don’t really point it out, but decomposition is eating, [it] is living. And it’s really interesting to think about the life cycle in that way, about how death and life are [deeply] interconnected. And how, as Andreas would put it, to die is to truly live.

SOPHIE STRAND: To enter life, be food.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s something we spoke about before in a previous live, too. So it’s nice to come back to it. I also wonder, and this is also jumping ahead to the live next week, how to think about that with the awareness of the kind of place we are in right now in … modern times where death is very much political, and also [thinking about] death under capitalism and patriarchal capitalism… [Which is] to say that, I’m very wary of saying, to die as to live. But I mean, I [also] think it’s different than that in the in the ecological frame. I’m just going off here, but I don’t know if you have any thoughts, as I’m just speaking now.

SOPHIE STRAND: Early, painful, unjust death is very unequally distributed, and it’s outsourced from white civilisation centers towards populations that aren’t really doing anything to harm the planet or to deserve these early polluted, intensely painful deaths. I think COVID was a really good example in that it went to populations that were most at risk, who were least responsible for the systemic failures, but were also most at risk. And so I think Donna Haraway writes about… what is it now, I’m trying to remember, I’m forgetting, she’s [essentially] saying that we also force to live, we force animals to live to die too; I think about that a lot too. We force all of these pigs and these cows to live these lives that aren’t even lives, that we then kill.

And so our whole culture rests on this invisible agricultural project, which is forced life, and then death as always being the thing that’s created that life. And I’m not a person who thinks that veganism is morally easy, or a way to step outside of the framework of some [sort of] entangled culpability.

NOTE: CONNECTION IN BETWEEN WAS CUT OFF These are things I think about a lot. And … another way of thinking about it is we create a lot of waste that we don’t break down. So we also are abstracted from waste, as death has been related to waste, as we create complex pollution that we don’t weave back into food webs. So food webs are actually constituted by waste. And a good food web has a lot of waste, that’s always alchemically fitting into another creature’s appetites.

So something that—if you’re in a position of some kind of privilege—you can think about is, how can I make my waste into food? And that’s not just your physical waste. It’s also the chemicals, the exhaust, all of the types of waste you’re producing, but then not accountable for…

How can you weave it back into a food web? What would that look like?#

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Again, [this is] going back to a live [in which] we’ve talked about [this] before—I think people should go back and listen to that one. [In that] … I think we talked about cities, and about people in cities and what people do with their waste. This can add onto that very nicely. So if anyone wants to return to that conversation, please go ahead and go listen to that one. Because that one’s a great conversation as well.

So I wanted to move on to the last question. Since we’re already talking about Andreas’ ideas, I wanted to talk about queer ecology, which is something that I think I’m definitely reading a lot more into these days, especially with the two courses that are coming up, in which this plays a really big part in both of those courses. I wanted to quote you, you write: “How can we understand heteronormativity as incompatible with the wild biodiversity present in both sexual expression and romantic traditions? As we compost normative ideas about sacred couples and love stories, we arrive at lichenized multi-species lovers, more suited to the tangled, biodiverse ecosystems we actually live inside.” So I want you to talk about and maybe bring in your essay on Queer Ecology here, which we will share soon, how you’re drawing from queer ecology to question the idea of love in mainstream thought, and also talk us through how a different story of love can lead us to a more ecological framework. And here I think it also might be useful to explain queer ecology, what queer ecology is doing, for people who have not ever heard of the term.

SOPHIE STRAND: So very simply, queer ecology seeks to disrupt heteronormative projections onto nature, sexuality and ecology are both culturally slotted into value dualisms that buttress bioessentialism, ecofascism, racism and eugenics. These dualisms of natural and unnatural are remarkably incompatible with the efflorescence of contaminated intercorporealities that actually weave together our lifeworlds.

Queerness, it turns out isn’t a rarity inside of our ecosystems. It’s ubiquitous, from flowers to insects to fungi.#

I’ve been interested recently in albatross couples that are primarily female, they’ll mate with the males, get their egg, and then they’ll always have female pairings. There’s a great book I just read by a zoologist Lucy Cooke called Bitch, which goes through all of these different amazing queer ecology examples. So if you want to have a romp, that’s a great book to read. I’ve been personally very drawn to all female parthenogenic salamanders and bdelloid rotifers that asexually reproduce, that they have no males, and they always clone themselves. And so there’s a lot of debate in the biological community about how they don’t go extinct, because they’re not having this genetic remixing that would allow for mutations and adaptations. So there’s a lot of question there. And I shared an essay I wrote about that recently. It’s fascinating.

So queer ecology seeks to interrupt the tired monologue of hegemonic heterosexuality and the sterile fiction that we are differentiated from the natural world. It encourages thinking not just outside of dualisms, coupledoms, but also extractive eroticisms. It pulls the rug out of the narrative of sex. If we are fruitings of our ecosystems, densities of mineral and meaning erupting from the forest floor, how is our individual queerness an echo of larger tentacular sexualities?

But lately, I’ve been going into something I’m calling Deep Queerness in ecology. How the fact that our very multicellular bodies are the product of the anarchic merger by single-celled bacteria, a permanent lovemaking. I’m interested in lichen, as replacing this very narrow idea of sacred marriage, which is composed of algae and fungi and bacteria that forego their singular selves and their species line, to fuse into something totally different. And lichen are usually the first species in wildfire obliterated zones and rocky zones in disaster realms, that they go in and terraform and create new soil and underpin the emergence of new life. And it’s really interesting that this symbiotic merger often underpins the ability of new worlds to come into being.

And as someone who’s disabled and queer, I locate myself in this off-centre home of coupling that even leaks past the idea of sex, that sex must be involved in order for it to be erotic, in order for it to be ecological. So I’m interested in symbiotic lovemaking, that is, for all intents and purposes, permanent. For example, mycorrhizal fungi 500 million years ago, teaching plants how to grow roots, and now 90% of those plants are still combined with those fungi, vertically transferring those fungi through their seeds.

I also love the example of the [mint-sauce] worm that’s mouth has atrophied—it doesn’t use its mouth anymore, because it eats photosynthetically, by the algae that live inside the worm’s body, and calls the worm’s body its home. And then personally, the one that I identify with most is Ghost pipe, which is Monotropa uniflora, a mycoheterotrophic plant, that’s white, because it doesn’t need to photosynthesise, because it gets all of its nourishment from an underground mycorrhizal partner, but it doesn’t give back anything quantitatively to this fungal partner. So in very simplistic scientific terms, it’s a parasite.

But how can we look at this relationship as queering our idea of disability and neediness and reciprocity and body sharing?#

As someone disabled, I very intimately know what it’s like to be the plant that doesn’t give back, but depends on incredible networks of support. So how can mycoheterotrophs queer our ideas of intimacy and dependency and neediness? One of the biggest thoughts I have been parsing out, is what if disability, what if our physical lacks are actually invitations to collaboration, the lacks that draw in and precipitate the risky symbioses that have the potential, like lichen, to terraform and transform the geological face of the world? What if those lacks in us are invitations to really interesting, new collaborations?

I [also] want to offer that this course really, I think that it’s going to be exciting, because there are people from many different story perspectives. Speaking of fungi, one of the real experts on queer ecology and fungi is going to be one of our teachers, Patricia Kaishian, and I’m so excited to learn from her. She’s really going into some interesting terrain and her paper on queer ecology and fungi is out there, if you want to look it up and prepare.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): On that note, I wanted you to just talk a little bit about the course.

SOPHIE STRAND: So I’ve been thinking… so the last course I did with [advaya] was very lecture heavy, and then intense class discussion. And it was really going into a very narrow slice of history, really deep. And I’ve been thinking, I preach a lot about biodiversity about probiotic as story. And the last course was really about one slice of history and one teacher. While that can be fun, it’s really important to highlight that the best thinking happens when you put a lot of different voices together, and see how they all interact with each other. So I’m looking at this course as being a toolkit, which is, it’s going to give you actual perspectives to tell your stories, and to learn. This is about looking at all of these different people and the ways that they have approached the dominant paradigms, rotted those paradigms, from the underneath, made something new. And then you’re going to be able to go off and do your own thing. I think that it’s also like pick your own adventure—there are going to be so many different perspectives that you can really go deep with the one that you feel most compelled to follow.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Amazing. And for anyone who wants to find out more about the course, you can go to All the details about the teachers, and the course breakdown will all be there. The course is very incredible. We are so excited. It’s almost an upgraded version of Myth & Mycelium, which was already amazing.

SOPHIE STRAND: I think it’s like all the teachers I referenced in the course came on. So it’s a really exciting thing.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, it really is. And there are so many incredible teachers, some of them are new to advaya, some of them are not. But the combination is really incredible. And it really brings together many different spaces, different fields and different conversations. [Which] has all been lovingly curated by Sophie.

So thank you, Sophie for putting it together. Early bird tickets are on sale, still, until the 27th of September. If you’d like to get tickets, early bird tickets are available. And if you would like to join but don’t have the finances to do so, please apply for a bursary. We have spots available, and you can pay as you wish. So anyone who wants to join the course, anyone who has capacity to join the course, please join us! Finances shouldn’t be a barrier to participation.

And lastly, I wanted to shout out Sophie’s work. Sophie’s work is on Instagram [@cosmogyny]. If you’re on this live, you will probably already follow Sophie, but if not, follow Sophie. And check out Sophie’s Substack. And [finally,] Sophie, I wanted to give you a little bit [of time], the last few minutes, to shout out your book.

SOPHIE STRAND: Thank you! I have a book coming out called The Flowering Wand—it comes out November 22nd. It’s about rewilding myths of the masculine with fungi and ecology and showing that there used to be a biodiversity of ecologically minded feral masculinities, before empire and civilisation took over and suppressed all of those different juicy stories, but composted with modern science, modern anthropology, with poetry with our own sensibilities. So that book is coming into the world. And that book was written online, in community. That it was born, I never thought it would be a book, and it was written in conversation with people. So I’m really excited to share it as a thank you to all the people who helped me think better. And the more I do these conversations and do these courses, the better I think. Because I’m like an ecotone. It’s like that place where the ocean meets the shore. That’s where the most biodiversity is—the places where we all rub together.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I love that. And you can preorder the book through the link in Sophie’s bio. So there’s that. Other than that, that’s all we have for today. Sophie, thank you so much. And I will be in conversation with you next week on Facebook. So no more Instagram! Thank you so much Instagram for the technology not failing us this time. And Sophie, thank you again, so much, for your time.

SOPHIE STRAND: Thank you so much, Tammy. Thank you, everybody. Have a lovely day.

Sophie Strand #

Sophie is a writer based in the Hudson Valley who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, & ecology. But it would probably be more authentic to call her a neo-troubadour animist with a propensity to spin yarns that inevitably turn into love stories. Her first book of essays The Flowering Wand: Lunar Kings, Lichenized Lovers, Transpecies Magicians, and Rhizomatic Harpists Heal the Masculine is forthcoming in 2022. She is currently researching a mythopoetic exploration of ecology and queerness in the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde.

Read Sophie Strand’s profile

Tammy Gan #

Tammy Gan is the Head of Content and Storytelling at Advaya.

Read Tammy Gan’s profile