My Red and White Dragon

The young Myrdhin when taken to the doomed tower of King Vortigern saw a vision. He saw that beneath the tower were two dragon eggs out of which hatched one white dragon and one red dragon. There have been many theories as to what this vision might have meant but the most popular is that it describes the oncoming battle between the Britons (the red dragon), and the Saxons (the white dragon). The red dragon is still on the Welsh flag, but the English sadly adopted the George Cross.

For many years it was thought that the English were the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, a simple dividing line that separated England from Wales, Scotland and Cornwall quite neatly. But some years ago extensive DNA tests revealed that it was not that simple. That a good majority of people living all over England also had within them the genetics of the indigenous Briton, as well as the Saxon and (in some areas) the Viking. This suggested that although there certainly were battles, these battles were not constant over time, and that the Saxons, rather than invading and forcing the indigenous population to the western fringes of the island, actually lived together with the Britons, and obviously found companionship in each other, and gave birth to children of both Briton and Saxon parents.

Therefore I know that within me flows the blood of the red, and the white dragon, and I find that very exciting. I am Briton, and Saxon (and many other things too I’m sure!). I have spent, and will continue to spend, much time with my inner Briton, and right now I can feel the eyes of the white dragon turning its gaze towards me – beginning to stretch its wings. Among the voices of the Horned One, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd and Taliesin, I also hear strange voices in another language speaking of Woden and Wayland. The Gods of the Briton and the Saxon are not at war within me, they are seeking a better understanding of each other, as they meet in this one body. Who knows what I might hear them say, what they might tell me, but their songs need to be sung too.

Return of a Dear Old Friend – The Mabinogion

1994 – I joined the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

1995 – I saw Fiona Davidson play the harp. Went to my first Druid camp where I met Siggy, and there I played the harp for the first time. I fell in love with the instrument. I also met Andy Letcher, Bard and Storyteller, and heard him tell his tales and play his music.

1996 – At a PF conference I bought a copy of a double tape album of The Mabinogion, told by Ronald Hutton.

I was a sales rep at the time – travelling the country in my company car, visiting farm stores, staying in pubs and inns whilst on the road. After I finished work for the day I also had time to visit the stone circles, long barrows and other ancient monuments that were in the area I was visiting at the time. But there was lots of driving between meetings. My area spanned from Cornwall to Scotland up the western side of Britain. I spent a lot of time listening to music, but I was also keen to learn the tales of this island. So when I found the tape that took over, and I spent miles and miles listening, learning, repeating, thinking about the underlying currents of meaning behind each tale, honing my Bardic craft.

The Queen Elizabeth Bridge over the Thames had yet to be opened. There was only the two-way Dartford Tunnel, and my day often started with a half hour queue to get through and on my way. Many times I caught myself looking across at the car beside me, quoting tracts from whichever branch I was learning that day, and seeing the odd look from the driver within. I just smiled and pointed to the car phone…

Some years later and I’m working for the Order. My suit has been hung up only to be taken out for weddings, funerals and the occasional visit to Glyndebourne Opera House. But I find the tape once more entering my life as the creator passes over the distribution to the Order, and for a number of years I am posting the tapes out to members all across the world. But progress is unstoppable, and the CD took over, then even this great breakthrough in audio technology begins to fade as the download starts to take hold… The Mabinogion, read by Ronald Hutton, disappears for many years.

Then about 6 months ago, like some archaeological expedition, we find an old copy, unplayed. I took it to my Dad’s house (he’s the only person I know who still has a tape deck!) and played it. I’m instantly transported back to those times. The recording still sounds fresh, exciting, and we knew what we had to do. I recorded it onto my MacBook and started the re-mastering process through Apple Logic Studio. It took quite a while to get it right. To me audio has to be as near perfect as it can be before I’m happy to release it into the world. I was working from an analogue tape, complete with hiss, and that all had to go. I also got to the final tape and found that the tape had suddenly slowed down, reducing Ronald’s voice to that of some kind of Dr Who creature. So it was once more back to the beginning with that one.

But on Monday it was complete. I uploaded it to CDBaby, and it’s already beginning to appear on iTunes. It really is a classic performance, and really should be available again. So go and have a listen. If you know the tales, this re-telling I’m sure will inspire knew connections. If you haven’t heard the tales, you now have the gift I had, and be prepared for a journey through time, to hear the tales that introduce us to Gwydion, Arawn, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd. But as with any myths, listen to the deeper meanings, not just the human tales as they evolve. There is magic here, so step through the hollow hills, and into Annwn once more.

To find it on iTunes just search The Mabinogion in the iTunes store, or click here to go to CDBaby – enjoy!

How to write a song – The Muse

The Muse. The cause of the Fire in the Head, the Awen, Imbas, inspiration. A blessing, sometimes frustrating, often turns up late, at least in my experience, but what is it? The answer, as with anything metaphysical isn’t clear or definitive. The Muse can take many shapes, sometimes a feeling, sometimes a figure of myth, sometimes male, or maybe female, or neither.owl.jpeg

I found my Muse by accident. It was a close encounter with the Goddess Blodeuwedd, and you can read more about that here. She can be gentle, or a hard mistress, and I could never predict her arrival. It could happen anywhere – ideally whilst noodling on an instrument, but more often when I didn’t even have a pen, paper, or tape recorder to hand. In these instances I just kept singing the line/tune in my head until I was able to write it down, or record it. This wasn’t helpful…..

So I decided one day to make an appointment with my Muse…. I would be sitting with my guitar, pen and paper ready, at 10am tomorrow morning. I would start to write, and if she turned up, great, if not, I’d start without her. You see I love writing songs, and I want to write more often. I know some of you feel the same. I love the feeling of creativity, the flow of Awen. So the appointment appeared to be the answer.

Well, I was on time. I picked up my guitar, and began to play. At first just cold, cliched tunes, nothing to Fire the Head, but after about 20 minutes something changed – she turned up. She was late, some might say politely late, but here she was….. Imramma (A Soul Quest) was the result.

I’ve done that more and more since then. It seems that I do have to at least make the appointment. If I just sit down and play, more often than not I’ll walk away after enjoying a good practice session, but with nothing new. The appointment works. So if your Muse is often late/fails to turn up, try making an appointment and see what happens.

subscribe.jpegWant to read more posts like this? Subscribe to my blog through RSS