Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Happy Lupercalia

Today is the festival of Lupercalia, time of the wolf gods, when Ancient Romans engaged in ceremonies so old and mysterious that even they were unsure what half of it was about. Two priestly bodies, made up of wealthy young men, gathered in a cave - the Lupercal - to take part in secretive rites that involved the sacrifice of a puppy and a goat. The latter was skinned; the meat probably eaten, whilst the hide was cut into strips. The nearly naked priests ran round the Seven Hills, beating the bounds. Young married women wanting to become pregnant would line the streets hoping to get get thwacked with a goatskin thing (which would have been very soft, and probably still dripping blood and gobbets of fat!)
Lupercalia is still celebrated by some modern pagans, though in much more sedate ways these days. For some it is a way of honouring the She Wolf Lupa, foster mother of the abandoned twins, and the Roman Way in general. For others the focus is on wolves themselves as an endangered species, with Romulus and Remus as an afterthought.


Monday, 30 January 2017

National Storytelling Week

As it is now National Storytelling Week, I have asked friends to suggest themes for stories so I can record a few tales for the week. Carol gave the idea of snakes, so this is a short story rather loosely based on a Mohawk account of how snakes came into the world. Unusually for me, this is quite a brief account.
There are quite a lot of stories from around the world that see either humans as being sired by one or other animal species, or vice versa. It's a curious way of inter-relating different species and perhaps explaining such things as totemic emblems within tribal culture, and something I may reflect on at more length when my brain is working. 
A nice morning was followed by a stressful afternoon, so I'm using this as "narrative therapy" to cheer myself up!


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Gung Hey Fat Choy

Today is the beginning of the Year of the Rooster on the Chinese calendar - so best wishes to all those Chinese people celebrating it. This is my sign in the zodiac, so an auspicious year for me. To mark this, I've recorded my take on a story about the creation of the Zodiac by the August Jade Emperor - with particular attention to the role of the chicken. The mythological tales of this ancient culture are fascinating, and I'll be learning some more in the coming months.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Fermac

One of our dogs is having a health crisis, the severity of which we will not know till we hear more from the vet. As such dogs have been much on my mind, and the significant role they play in ancient and some more modern religions. Our relationship to dogs has been a tremendously significant one in human evolution, and their role as hunters and helpers may have given many communities the edge they needed to survive in time of hardship and scarcity.
Some of the folklore around dogs is ghoulish, like the Japanese stories of the Inu-gami, whilst other tales are far more joyful. This Irish story is really little more than an anecdote about a magical dog, an aside in a larger story accounting for how the radiant god Lugh acquires his hound - in that version called Failinis. Another story, slightly different in context and taking place latter (by which time Lugh has either lost his dog or loaned it one), renames the dog Fermac. This is the version recorded here.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Telling Tales

This waffle was initially recorded for the Pagan Federation virtual moot. The theme was self-care (not my forte) and the only thing I could think of for it was this reflection on the recreational and re-creative nature of storytelling.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy 2017

Happy New Year. Dear Readers (both of you), may 2017 bring you opportunities to shine, people who will truly value that light, lots to laugh about, ideas to inspire you, activities to fuel your passions, new things to learn, enough money to meet your needs and to treat others, moments to melt your heart and restore your faith, and come this time next year may you look back with pride.
On a less positive note, 2017 is set to be a difficult year of world politics for many - so lets treat this as a challenge to deepen and (in some cases) create community to support those being ill-treated, to devise innovative ways to help people when assorted governments abandon their responsibilities to do so, and a time to think of new and practical ways for the world to run instead of just doing the same old shit century after century. Incidentally, I don't just mean people thousands of miles away whose suffering becomes picturesque by benefit of distance, but also the people who live next door, or sleep in the adjacent doorway, who may equally be in dire need - financially, practically, emotionally, spiritually etc. When the world is increasingly run by parasites, it behooves "ordinary" people to go the extra mile to transform the world and dispense with a need for our autocratic "leaders".
Let us make the story of 2017 one that will be worth telling.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Merry midwinter

The longest night holds sway as we are once again halfway out of the darkness. I have been working on a Yuletide poem for several years, in dribs and drabs - usually adding a verse and then getting sidetracked and forgetting about it again for another year. I thought I would post it here as a work in progress, in the hope that it will help to keep it in focus for me and I might actually finish it!
It's a narrative poem inspired by Russian folklore of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) but with elements of Irish lore worked in, for no more sensible reason than that the story is flowing in that direction.




Grandfather Frost


“Sleep my son, sleep, on this darkest eve,
Outside the White Maidens flakes do weave;
Warps of ice, wefts of snow;
Let silence flow, unto midnight cleave”.

“Rest has flown, the night is far too deep
Tell me a story to help me sleep -
Yarns of frost, chords of rime
To freeze time whilst nightmares outside creep.”

Snow-heaped rafters creak, the timbers groaned,
Outside the wind its razor edge honed,
Sculpts idols lost to sight,
Gods of frozen light whose hymns intoned

By wolf and belling stag echo still
In cathedrals of wood, the choir’s skill
Grants to the fearful mind
Forms to which eye is blind, winter’s quill

Transforms bare trees into works of art -
Ice giants looming, a live rampart.
Amidst the ents he lands,
Grandfather Frost stands on his sled-cart.

Six the snow-dogs that pull the old lord:
Great-paw, Long-tail, Red-flash and Fang-sword,
Four brothers paired, ice-eyed,
Eager, the huskies ride as a horde.

Flame-fur and Snow-song leading the pack,
Warbling and restless, churning the track,
They watch Grandfather go,
Pristine snow undisturbed by boots black.
Cyan robes cut from a frozen sea,
Sagas stitched in silver thread are key
To knowing the pale sage -
Still heart of blizzard’s rage, waits with glee.

Ancient is he, Lord of the Ice Age,
Culler of the unloved, not harsh mage
But healer of the tired
Takes the expired on to their next stage.

“Father, where does he dwell, this strange sprite
Who rides with dogs in the dead of night?
Not fearful but so wild.”
The boy smiled, snug and safe from frostbite.

So his sire described the ice-built Hall
Where lived Grandfather ~ called Summer’s Fall
By his dearest grandchild,
Where snow dogs, wild bears, and seals held thrall.

There his seat since the Age of Great Beasts.
Joyful mortals partake in his feasts,
Most of all solstice night
When Earth’s might is praised by pagan priests.
“See, a boy of ten runs to the sled,
Takes a seat with the dogs, at the head.
It could be you, my lad;
How glad he is to chase the white thread!”

“The what?” asked the child, wide-eyed in his bed.
“The path down which all hope is led,
Old Frost’s dogs love the scent.
Veil rent by his blade, gives them their head.”

Sled bells jangling, dogs yipping, they ride
Through the rift, sealing behind they glide
Deep into winter’s realm,
Old Frost at the helm, the stars their guide.