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Showing posts from 2017

Speaks for Wolf

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Should have posted here earlier, but work has been manic.... On Saturday 17th June, 7.30pm at the Ipswich Oddfellows hall on the High Street I will be telling myths and legends involving wolves as a means of fundraising for the UK Wolf Trust (which looks after a number of wolves in their sanctuary and does a lot of educational and environmental work as well).

Turn up, bring alcohol if you want it (I will provide tea/coffee) and make a donation to the charity tin. Stories are drawn from various cultures and sources - Roman, Irish, Greek, and assorted others.

Driftwood

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I wrote this poem some years ago, and it appeared in the Moon Books anthology (published in 2014). It was inspired by the Greek myths of the sea deities Poseidon, Nerites (who was transformed into a sea snail), and Proteus the seal herder - a lovely idea, of a god looking after seals and steering them through the oceans.
I'm recording this because 2017 is the anniversary of the decriminalisation of gay sex in the UK and so this year is being marked with various events, films etc. Also recording this because I'm sick to death of the General Election, but also more than a bit perturbed by the sudden elevation of the very hard line anti-LGBT Irish political group, the DUP, to the position of "king makers". So, this poem is my attempt to focus on a more positive view of such issues.


London Pride

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Watching the unfurling horrors in Manchester and London, I am as bewildered as anyone else by the level of hatred and malevolence on display. I was born in London and still have family and friends there, so yesterday's incident is particularly close to the bone.

London is a city rich in mythology and legend (I'm sure Manchester is too, but I know very little about its stories) and the incident brought to mind both a favourite song - I am an admirer of the Golden Age of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s, including the Noel Coward number below, which I heard delivered to great effect by Kitt Hesketh-Harvey and Dillie Keane some years back. The song in turn brought to mind a semi-prophetic folk story from London's wide raging traditions. My spin on the story is included below - I hope it does not feel "too soon" to tell it.


Omnomnom

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A revolting little story, of which there are several variations in different regions of Italy. Not recommended as an aperitif, nor for those of an anti-capitalist disposition (though you could chose to see it as an indictment of the degree to which the rich will not be parted from what is theirs, no matter what).

Ixion

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We held a day long seminar on Greek mythology and its continuing influence in literature, film, psychology, politics, medicine etc. at West Suffolk College today (part of the ongoing programme within the Religious Studies & Ethics department). It was an enjoyable day (for me, if not the people attending!) and to make the most of my good mood after a rather heavy week, I've recorded this Greek myth about the life and demise of Ixion. It's a somewhat lurid tale and not suitable for any younger viewers.


Academic conference

On Tuesday 16th May the Religious Studies & Ethics department have organised their annual conference, at which I will be one of the speakers (talking about Roman and Greek notions of sexuality). The theme for this year is Gender & Sexuality. It is a free event - contact me at robin.herne@wsc.ac.uk if you wish to attend. The programme of speakers is as follows:



A Doctor Calls

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Two days ago the sad news was announced that British character actor Geoffrey Bayldon had died at the grand age of 93. Younger readers may not recognise the name, he having been retired for a while, but those old enough to remember Worzel Gummidge and Catweazle certainly will know him as the both the Crowman whose magic brought scarecrows to life, as well as the ancient time travelling wizard who landed in 1970s Britain to discover the perverse magic of electrickery and telling bones. He also appeared in a long old list of TV shows and films.
His magical characters inspired me with the visual image of Doctor Winter, a real life Cunning Man who lived in the 1700s and early 1800s in Ipswich. When writing fiction I find it helps if I can put a face to my characters, so often draw on both celebrities, people I know, and random strangers I see whose faces interest me. I wanted to restore Winter to life as the sleuth in a short story called 'A Doctor Calls' (part of the crime antho…

The Horse Queen's son

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Today is the eve of Calan Mai - the first of May, Beltane in the Gaelic calendar. The story below is the tale of Rhiannon's child. She is described as a magical queen in the Mabinogion, but some historians and many pagans believe that she is the euhemerised form of an ancient British horse deity, Rigantona. She certainly has a presence in ritual.
The story was recorded in two halves, due to an interruption, so I have learnt how to splice them together - hopefully without causing too much discordance. Calan Mai, or Beltane, marks teh start of summer - hope you all have a peaceful, productive, and joyful one.


Shaggy Dog Stories

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Due to an unexpected event, this storytelling session is being postpone - I will post the new date when I have confirmation from the venue. If you fancy an evening of canine storytelling - myths. legends, and tales involving dogs of various breeds - then on Wednesday 24th May I will be in the upstairs room of McGinty's Pub in Ipswich (right next to the bus station in the town centre) from 8pm till roughly 10pm. The nearest car park to the pub is on William Street (IP1 3JA) which is about a three minute walk away, if that. The car park is free after 8pm.
Unfortunately there is no wheelchair access to the room, it being a very old building, but if there's interest from people with mobility issues then I'll stage a similar event in a downstairs room once I've found an appropriate venue (suggestions of free/cheap ground floor rooms in Ipswich are welcome - it's difficult to know quite where to book).
Donations to the Dogs Trust will be collected at the end - it's …

Leaping Hare 2017

Saturday 25th March is the annual Leaping Hare pagan convention in Colchester. We have an excellent series of speakers and workshops over the day, as described below. I will be joining with Clan Ogma to tell the story of the Hound of Ulster (part of an ongoing series of canine-related events this year, as a thanksgiving for the recovery of one of my dogs from potentially serious illness).
More details of the conference can be found on the website.


Book Review

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I've been meaning to post a review of this book for some while, as it is one of the recommended reading texts on the Classical Polytheism module of the Religious Studies degree that I run. Brendan Myers' "The Earth, the Gods and the Soul" is an excellent resource in the study of both early pagan thought and its more modern expressions. The author summarises the key beliefs of a wide range of philosophers who either were pagan (such as Pythagoras) or whose writings have had a strong influence upon the development of pagan philosophies (such as Rousseau and Graves).
Myers' precis of the central beliefs is both accurate and succinct, and he ties the assorted ideas together to build an overarching set of arguments around the necessity for institutional structure to help in the building (or rather rebuilding) of a cohesive philosophy of the world, weaving together such strands as animism and Neo-Platonism.
The author also addresses such issues as the enchantment of t…

Happy Lupercalia

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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 spec…

National Storytelling Week

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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!


Gung Hey Fat Choy

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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.


Fermac

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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.


Telling Tales

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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.