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.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Post-Pooka

November 5th was our seventh annual Pooka's Pagaeant, a day-long performing arts event celebrating pagan mythology and legend through story, poetry, song etc. The day was a challenging one, not least because two of the performers pulled out due to illness so their places in the programme had to be filled with last minute turns. The audience was not a large one, though it was a very friendly and engaged one.
We had the remarkably talented harpist Shani Liz Wyman travel up from the far west to perform a series of beautiful pieces on two harps which her late husband had crafted for her. It was a very inspiring performance and the interludes between each instrumental, where Liz introduced the piece and spoke about both her life and inspirations, were both moving and informative.
The replacement activities for the unwell performers seemed to go down fairly well, with one set of poetry readings and another discussion on how the arts can be used to help create community in paganism (which seems to be an uphill struggle on the best of days - I'm feeling increasingly bleak about the future of paganism in this country) and the ways in which we tell our collective story both to each other and to the wider society.
The day finished on a jovial note with a series of seasonal songs from Freyja's Fire, a Suffolk-based folk trio. I particularly like a rousing harvest song they do, and they always draw the pageant together.
The event has always run as a charitable activity, raising cash for animal welfare. This year we were only able to make any money at all because of the considerable generosity of both Liz and the musical trio who all donated their travel expenses (particularly large ones for the harpist) to the good causes. Every year has been a struggle to either get enough performers or to draw a decent-sized audience, and it's now reached the point when the continuance of the Pageant into 2017 is frankly debatable. How long can one go on trying to push a gathering when the majority of pagans have dozens of things they'd rather be doing instead? The Pageant was inspired by the vital presence within a statue of a pooka (a shapeshifting Gaelic nature elemental) that was given as a Yule gift eight years ago. He has come to every Pageant and numerous people have commented on the magnetic quality of the statue. It would be a real shame if an event that seems a genuine novelty in the British pagan scene went to the wall, but getting any kind of activity to run these days feels increasingly like wading through congealing porridge.
Maybe someone will come up with a dazzling suggestion that would treble the audience size and make it all viable for 2017, but at the moment the pageant floats in limbo.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween 2016

A final story for the season. As I have recorded this tonight, on Samhain, I've aspired to a more traditional flavour in keeping with both the old Gaelic festivities but also the traditions of the Cree who occupied Nova Scotia before the Scots went there. It's a gentler tale than some of the previous ones, and a reminder that the dead whom we honour do not always have to be of our own kind.
I had thought about doing a werewolf story, but this one presented itself to my consciousness as more suited for tonight. Perhaps the wolves will emerge from the woods again next year instead!
As I've rather flooded this blog with stories of late, I'll take a break and add other things instead for a while - reflections, poetry etc.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Mirror, Mirror

Another tale for the Halloween season, this one about a man who wants to redecorate his bed-sit (which is probably a horrible enough prospect in itself). Apologies about the ending - it was meant to be somewhat more explanatory, but for some reason my brain decided to be pretentious and stop where it did. Maybe I'll record a better version in the future.