New Lyric – Branwen’s Lament

I was ‘noodling’ on my guitar and found a sequence of notes that I knew were going somewhere but couldn’t quite find my way into their meaning. I played them to Cerri and we both agreed that it sounded like a lullaby. But then in one of those special moments when the Gods just open their mouths and whisper into our ears Cerri said, “It’s Branwen’s tale.” We sat in silence for a while as it sank in, and both of us found our eyes welling with tears.

Branwen’s story from the Mabinogion is one of the saddest tales we have within the mythology of the British Isles and I felt I had to give her voice the respect and honour she deserved, but sadly did not receive in life.

I wrote these lyrics yesterday and just played the song to Cerri. I didn’t make it all of the way through without tears.

Branwen, White Raven, I offer you this song,  so you know that the Bards still tell your story.

So mote it be.

Branwen’s Lament – Damh the Bard

(Branwen sings)

Dearest Brother hold me here,

Safe in your embrace,

For I feel, death is near,

Her breath upon my face,

Across the Irish sea, you came to rescue me,

Leading an army to avenge my shame,

Two islands torn apart, like my broken heart,

From your army just seven remain.

(Bran Sings)

Sister I heard you calling to me,

O’er the Irish sea,

I brought a war to those foreign shores,

For to set you free,

Now I feel I’m dying poison in my veins,

But for you my dear Sister I’d do it again.

(Branwen Sings)

I can hear as I close my eyes,

The screams of my young Son,

Cast into the burning fire,

By Efnysien,

After death I’ll find  peace, all of my pain will cease,

Brother you are my dearest friend,

Now I will welcome death, I will draw my last breath,

And this Raven will fly again.

(Bran sings)

Lay her body within the Earth,

In this four-cornered tomb,

So her Spirit will know rebirth,

From our Mother’s womb,

And though you lie in the earth so cold,

Know that your story will forever be told,

Bury my head facing over the sea,

And while it remains this land will be free.

Proof and Faith

Yesterday I read with interest a blog post by my friend and Druid author Kristoffer Hughes and it got me pondering my own relationship with Celtica and Druidry. The original blog post is here. 

I too was originally drawn to Druidry through its connection with the ‘Celtic’ world. It seems to me these days that it’s so hard to say things like ‘Celtic’ because there is always the person waiting on the sidelines to ask exactly what you mean by Celtic, that there was no Celtic race, that it was a culture, that the perception that the Welsh, Irish, Breton, and Cornish are the inheritors of this Celticity is wrong, and that there is just as much ‘Celtic’ DNA in the English as there is anywhere else. In fact I’ve recently read an article that suggests that the Irish are more Spanish than ‘Celtic’… That the Druids never wrote anything down so how can I call myself a Druid? Etc etc. So open your mouth and say the word Celtic at your peril! But I’m going to say it anyway, as it was this that was a big contributing factor that drew me to Druidry in the beginning.

It is also the Brythonic Deities that have always made my blood pump harder. Another historical hot potato that one. Mention the Mabinogion and the Gods from that wonderful book of tales, or the themes from the poetry of Myrddin or Taliesin, and once more you may find yourself being cornered to produce evidence that the ancient Druids even knew the name of Gwydion, Blodeuwedd, Rhiannon, and that is as difficult as proving that Jesus actually existed.

So already if I say something like ‘I am a modern day Druid who seeks to follow in the footsteps of my ancient ancestors and revere the Gods of this magnificent and magical island in the form of Rhiannon of the Horses, Blodeuwedd the Lady of the Night Sky and the Spring Meadow, Mryddin of the Druid Way’, there are many ready to question that, as much as they might question how someone can be a Christian Druid, or A Buddhist Druid, they ask how I can be a modern Pagan Druid.

My answer? I can’t prove it, nobody can, but I don’t need a history book to confirm my inner connection has that validity – I guess the person asking the question might but not me. See I have something that I’ve noticed some people find quite hard to say let alone admit. I have a faith. At some point I had to let go of searching for an accurate history of Druidry, and begin a deeper, less intellectual but more intuitive, quest.

I have never wished, nor needed, to find my personal spiritual connection to my Path through history books. If I did there are far easier options for a Pagan to follow than Druidry! My connection comes from our songs, our stories, our folklore. When I hear these old myths spoken by a master storyteller, they draw me into an inner experience, and it is there that I meet my Gods. Then, when I return, I find their same faces in the trees, in the mounds of the Hollow Hills, in the cry of the Owl, or the thunderous pounding of hoofs.

I love archaeology and history, and if I wanted to know the history of a site these would be the people I would ask, but if I wanted to know the local folklore, the stories and myths that were told about a certain hill or woodland copse, I wouldn’t necessarily go to a historian, for those I would seek a local Bard, a storyteller, a poet. No proof necessary, just take me on that journey.

New Lyric – You are Sacred Moon

Yesterday I started recording a song I wrote last year called Silent Moon, but as I worked on it I realised that I just wasn’t happy with the lyrics I’d written. This is one of the reasons that, although I’ve been playing a number of the new songs at concerts, this one never got played. So I went back to the beginning and wrote a new set of lyrics that I am much happier with.

So the song continues, it might even be the one I share with people who have signed up for my monthly newsletter as the demo progresses! If you want to hear the song as it changes, the newsletter signup form is on the front page of my website at www.paganmusic.co.uk.

So, here are the lyrics!

 

You are Sacred Moon

by Damh the Bard

Verse 1:

Silver you fly, a ghost in the sky,

Like a ship on an endless deep sea,

You are a Goddess to this holy novice,

A spiritual refugee.

Bridge:

So to you I dedicated my Rites,

Keeper of the Mysteries of the Night.

Chorus:

You are Sacred Moon

You are Sacred Moon

Verse 2:

My right hand it catches your power as it waxes,

A silver smile in the night,

I feel you growing the seeds I am sowing,

Blessed by the Maiden’s moonlight.

Bridge:

On this night when you are born anew,

Lady I will share my dreams with you.

Verse 3:

When you are waxing and times they are changing,

I offer into your care,

In a world gone insane you heal the pain,

As the Mother you’re always there.

Bridge:

Lady you are Mother of the Tides,

Standing here where land and sea collide.

Verse 4:

I cannot see you but I can feel you,

When the veil has hidden your face,

And as the Crone you lead the dead home,

To the comfort of your embrace.

Bridge:

I know it’s true that everything must die,

But for now I ask you pass me by.

Chorus:

You are Sacred Moon,

You are Sacred Moon.

Concert at the Royal Albert Hall? Make it so!

It’s good to have role models in life. People who have achieved something that you admire, and maybe aspire to yourself. To look at how they did what they did, and maybe use that as a model. One of my role models is the folk band Show of Hands. They are a folk duo made up of Steve Knightley (the main song writer) and Phil Beer (the instrumental genius who takes Steve’s songs to an altogether higher level). They have, from the beginning, remained independent of any major label, they set up their own tours, they are in control of their music and life direction. All wonderful inspiring things. Then one year they decided that if all of their fans came along, they could fill the Royal Albert Hall. It was a huge risk for an independent folk band, but they went for it, and it worked. they had the support of their fans to do something outstanding. It had to be the Royal Albert Hall too. It’s a venue full of tradition and beauty with great acoustics.

So when I saw this it must have laid an idea in my head. When my Facebook page reached 5000 likes I jokingly said, “If you all came along we could fill the Royal Albert Hall,” and a lot of people said they’d come along. I’m now at just over 7000 likes on the page and I thought it was about time to get the ball rolling!

So at this early stage I’ve set up a Facebook page for the concert. In the first day it got 615 likes, but I’d like to keep the momentum going, hence this blog post. If you would come along just ‘like’ the page, and over time we might reach that magic 5000 likes and we can make it a reality.

So what about some detail?

I see this happening in the next 2 years.

At the moment the lineup for the evening is myself and possibly two or three other acts. I really don’t know how long you get the venue for. Who these other performers will be is still a way off any announcement yet.

My concert will not be a regular Damh the Bard concert. For just this gig I will form a band to play with me, there will be guests, lots of surprises, it will be a magical, one off, night, and it will be recorded for a live album. Maybe a live DVD also – well you’d have to wouldn’t you!

It’s going to cost a lot of money to put this event on, and there is quite a lot of financial risk, to say the least. But it would be my aim to keep the concert as affordable as possible, taking the venue and costs into consideration.

This is all a way off yet, but imagine, a Pagan music event at the Royal Albert Hall. Around 5000 people gathered to sing, chant, meet up, and celebrate where we have come from, and how far we have come. It would really be something. So click the link below, and like the page. Let’s ‘Make it so!”

Pagan Music Concert at the Royal Albert Hall

Bards know how to rock out!

I shared this on my Facebook page, but it really needs to go on my blog too. AC/DC have been my favourite band since I was about 14 and this video, created by Robbie, a son of one of our Grove members, has allowed me to live out one of my fantasies! It’s really well put together, and is great fun. I love Paul jumping around in time, and the cut to Corwen playing the pipes is simply genius.

Have a laugh, and enjoy!

Albion Diaries – Production Diary 8

Here it is folks, the final Production Diary from the Spirit of Albion movie.

The Blessings of the Wheel

I love the way our Pagan Wheel of the Year works its magic. It lies at the very heart of my spiritual life and I’m sure, like many other Pagans, the more I have worked with it, the more my own life has changed to reflect the turning of the seasons. So now, as the nights have drawn in, and the leaves have fallen once more to the ground to nourish next year’s growth, I too can feel the busy-ness of my own life changing. But just as the birds and animals are still busy searching for food, so I am searching for the Awen to inspire new songs, and to bless me with the insight for the arrangements of the songs I’ve already written.

I’m heading back into the studio to record a new album – the first album of my own songs since The Cauldron Born released in late 2008. I have a couple more concerts this year, and a couple early in 2012, but I have consciously created a space for that Awen to enter. And as I look outside at the late Autumn day I can see and feel that the energy is right.

The origin of some people’s inspiration is action, from friction and intense activity. Some people find their spiritual connections also come from that space, from drumming and dancing, screaming and chanting. I love that too, but I also know that the foundation of my inspiration comes from stillness, from peace. And that is another reason why I love the Wheel of the Year. The Spring and Summer are times of activity, when I am out playing at festivals, dancing around a burning Wickerman, running through a labyrinth, losing myself to the fire and power of the Pagan drummers. So when Autumn and Winter arrive I am ready to welcome their energy too – energies of reflection, and peace. I know that my spiritual life is enhanced by these changes. If all I knew was hot, how could I fully understand and appreciate it if I never felt cold? If all I knew was light, how could I fully understand and appreciate it if I never knew darkness? So if all I knew was wildness, how would I fully understand and appreciate it if I didn’t know stillness and peace? 

The Ancestor is standing at the Threshold. The woodland is still, and filled with the aroma of decaying leaves. And I am now ready to approach the Ancestor, to seek entry into the Grove of Reflection, to sit in stillness with eyes open, and to allow the woodland to accept my presence. Only then will the Faerie come out once more to dance, to show themselves to me, and allow me to hear their music.

Motley Crue and Morris Dancing

Around Lughnasadh this past Summer I was interviewed by Phil Widdows for the UK’s premier folk and acoustic music podcast Folkcast. Well, I am delighted to say that the interview has now been released as a Folkcast Special Edition. Me and Phil talk about my music, my path to Druidry, Motley Crue, glam rock, Morris Dancing, the Spirit of Albion movie and much more. So make a nice cuppa and have a listen.

You can find the link here

Tales from the Road – He was searching for the Grail. I told him we’d already got one.

A very short flight took us from Prague to Frankfurt airport where we were met by Petra and then taken to a lovely German coffee house in her home village. A quiet night in led to us travelling the next day to the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids German Mabon camp.

The venue was beautiful. A YMCA centre with lovely chalets surrounding a gorgeous green where we would hold our rituals and workshops. The weather was still uncharacteristically warm for October so a great weekend was in store.

As dusk fell on that first night we walked into the woods, set our circle, and prepared for some Ovate initiations. The Moon shone through the treetops, owls called somewhere in the forest, we were blessed by a cloudless, star-filled sky. One of those skies that remind you just how small you really are. The initiations were magical. We walked back to go to sleep to awake at 6am, just before sunrise, for the Bardic initiations.

I have trouble getting up in the morning. I admit it. I have real trouble getting moving at 6am. But once dressed in my robe I opened the door and was caressed by the most delicious air that just filled me up and drove away any tiredness that was still hanging around.

We walked to the same location as before. Just over a stream, and into the woodland. We set the circle and the initiations began. What I haven’t told you is that we were sharing the site with a group of Live Action Role Players (LARPers). They were all in the next field. As the Sun rose bathing us in the most glorious early morning light, and the Bards saw the first dawn on their new Journeys, we were about halfway through one of the initiations when we heard a metallic stomping sound. I’d never heard this sound before, and it got closer and closer. We all stopped, there was a silence and stillness in the circle as the sound got louder, and we waited in anticipation, all wondering what would appear. We turned to see a knight in full plate-mail walking up the forest path towards us. Now I’ve seen some weird stuff in my time as a Druid, but this was about the most surreal.

Our gatekeeper walked over to him, obviously asked him to avoid the circle, and he dropped his shoulders in a rather dejected manner, turned, and stomped away with that same crashing sound. It was like a knight searching for the Grail, coming upon a group of Druids in the forest who told him ‘He Shall Not Pass This Way’ or like Monty Python, “well old chap, we’ve already got one.” It probably fitted his role-playing perfectly. The initiations were beautiful, and what a memory for that initiate to hold!

After we then found ourselves with some free time. Me and Cerri added our wishes to the ribbons, pictured below.

On Saturday night I played my concert. People gathered in the concert hall and I just couldn’t wait to get playing. This was my second concert in Germany and I could tell from talking to people at the camp that they were all up for a great evening. There was no need for translation here, people just understood the words of my songs and just joined in with me. By the end people were up and singing at the tops of their voices with a good number dancing in the isles. Apparently this is quite unusual for a German audience. It was s great night.

On the Sunday Cerri held her Awen workshop, and I did a talk on the Ogam, and a tree identification walk. More sunshine, more smiles. Then on Sunday morning at dawn we were once again up at 6am for a lovely naming ceremony. We had already packed our stuff as immediately after we were in the car, and on our way to Frankfurt airport to hop on a plane for the last leg of the tour. To Milan.

Tales from the Road – Damh karaoke in Prague

After the Austrian Broomstick Rally our next port of call was Prague in the Czech Republic. I remember a good number of years ago meeting Eurich and Jo whilst they were in the UK. They came to one of our open rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington and Eurich shook my hand enthusiastically saying “you’re Damh the Bard! Your music is HUGE in our country! We all sing them around our camp fires!” and I remember thinking, “But I’ve only sold one CD to the Czech republic…” and now I was on my way to play my third annual concert in Prague. Selling that first CD and having it passed around the Czech Pagan community led directly to these concerts. It’s a funny old way to make a living is music.

The Monday before the concert we met up with people at the Prague pub moot. The Czech people have a seemingly endless energy and zest for life and being around them this feeling is infectious. The beer flows, the folk songs are sung at the tops of their voices, they seem to have no fear of judgement or inhibition when it comes to singing, and dancing their traditional dances. It’s a delight to be around. And by the way, I have to say that Czech beer is some of the best I’ve ever tasted! Miraculously I awoke the next morning hangover free.

Before the concert we made a visit to the Mucha museum. Art Nouveau is one of Cerri’s favourite periods of art history. I must admit that I’ve never really understood the attraction. My favourite period of art is probably the pre-raphaelites but this gave me the opportunity to take a good look at it, and Mucha’s work. So what did I think? Well, I understand it a bit more. It doesn’t fill me up like it does Cerri, but at least I can appreciate it more, and a couple of the posters I found incredibly moving.

Later we made our way to the Mandragora Bar, the same venue I played last year, and I was so happy to meet friends there, old and new. Some of my concerts I know that people will remain seated and listen to the words and sing along. With the Czechs I know this is never going to happen. By halfway through the opening song of the first set I could hear them singing, and by halfway through the dance floor was full and the singing had moved up a number of notches in volume. By the end of the concert I was being beaten in volume, and for Lughnasadh I stopped singing altogether and just played along with them in a groovy Damh karaoke. As the organiser of the concerts said, the first concert was a one-off treat, the second was an encore, the third makes it an annual tradition. I do hope so, and look forward to playing again in Prague in 2012.

The next day I hadn’t managed to entirely avoid a hangover having indulged in some very fine wheat beer and mead after the concert, so after a little bit of a lay in we made our way to Prague’s finest monastery to visit it’s gallery and library. I love being at places of faith, and I really enjoyed the architecture, but by the end of the monasteries gallery I had really had enough of seeing paintings of Christ on the cross, and the torturous deaths of myrtyrs. I found myself wishing to see a painting of a positive point in Christ’s life, some point of celebration, but then the culmination of his life was his dying for the sins of the people, so I guess that’s why most of the images portray his death. It obviously works for many people as an image of faith, but it doesn’t for me. Each to their own. The library was fascinating though, and I would still recommend a visit to both.

So the next day, and after another wonderful trip to Prague, we found ourselves at Prague airport heading to Frankfurt for the OBOD Germany camp. But that, as they say, is another story for another blog…

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