Book review: Wild Signs and Star Paths by Tristan Gooley


Standing at the foot of a small tor of the edge of Dartmoor, I gazed up at the cloudless sky. Above my head, shapes danced before my eyes in the black of the night. Suddenly, my phone beeped, ‘Night Sky,’ the text from my boss read. The name of an app which would help me to decipher the illuminations before me.

The next day, after a journey up Hay Tor, I stopped into a tourist information hut where a beautiful book caught my eye – Wild Signs and Star Paths. Within its pages, Tristan Gooley promised to give me the thing I had been searching for the previous night; how to understand the natural world without the unnatural use of an app.

Gooley takes you on a journey of rediscovery; looking for our lost sixth sense and how we traversed the planet before the technological inventions that we rely on today. By dipping in and out of research, animal behaviour, the study of tribal activity and drawing on his own experiences, Gooley is able to put across the relationship our ancestors had with the environment, and how that is still inside us if we simply allow ourselves to engage with it. Beautifully written, Gooley has managed to interweave myths with tips and skills, all backed up with scientific anecdotes.

This book is more than just about how to tap into our natural instinct. It is a commentary of the current situation we find ourselves in; a species which is tearing its way through time like an out of control dog, destroying everything in our sight as we desperately look for technological quick fixes. In doing so, we are getting further and further away from our own natural history and wreaking irreparable damage on both ourselves and the rest of the planet. Wild Signs is a great way to help you reconnect in both a practical and a mental sense.

Just so you know, I never downloaded the app. And whilst I may still not quite be able to pick out my Casis Major from my Ursa Minor, I do now understand how to gauge my direction using just Orion and by letting myself engage further with the natural world before me, I hope to continue to tap into the intuition that we have lost along the way.

Wild Signs and Star Paths by Tristan Gooley. Hodder and Stoughton. £20.

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