Sources of Inspiration 2 – Places of Peace


The Quest for the Awen, yearning for those three sweet drops to fall upon my tongue, to open my eyes and see the world through the eyes of a poet is still a Quest that drives me every day. Nature is the world’s most intoxicating drug and the great thing is that in all of my encounters with her, the side effects of this particular addiction have all been, without exception, completely positive.

I am blessed by the fact that my chosen medium, acoustic folk, is infinitely portable – from an acoustic guitar or for even more portability, the tiny mandolin. I have written many songs in the quiet of my own home, but a number of the songwriting experiences I remember with most fondness are the songs that I caught whilst playing outside.

Some people find inspiration in conflict. Friction can be a wonderful source of inspiration and it has been for me a couple of times, Only Human instantly springs to mind, a song that I had to write after watching a program about animal experimentation, but for me the main source of inspiration is peace. I guess some may find no inspiration in peace at all, finding it too dull, still or quiet, but I have always known that I have within me an inner hermit who yearns for that sacred solitude that opens us up to the Divine.

Oak Broom and Meadowsweet was written in a woodland near Beltane, the floor covered with bluebells, and the voices of the Faerie almost dictating the words; Noon of the Solstice was written in the same woods, near the time of the Solstice, singing the words to the Horned God standing with my back to a mighty Oak; Hills they are Hollow was written in the stone circle at Merrivale with the ‘Tors standing as Guardians to the rites to Nature’s Gods of darkness and of light’; and Grimspound was written in the large roundhouse at the site listening to the calling Ravens and the voices within the fallen walls.

Other sites have inspired songs that have arrived some time after getting home. Land, Sky and Sea was inspired by a visit to St Ninian’s cave in Dumfries and Galloway where every day St Ninian used to make a pilgrimage down to the sea, to sit in this tranquil cave, and here he said he could talk to God and hear his reply. When I went to the place I also sat and spoke aloud, possibly to different Gods, but still there was a sense of connection that I can vividly remember whilst writing this. It is taking these experiences and putting them into words that have been a large part of my songwriting over the years.

So what to do? Well, I get on my walking boots, go outside, take my instrument with me, and a pen and paper. Choose a site that I love, and make a sacred pilgrimage to the place, making my intent the connection to the Site, not writing a song – the song comes from the connection.

When I get there I open up to the spirits of place, sit and open my senses – look, listen, smell, and touch deeply. A technique I learned from my Bushcraft training was to see with the eyes of the deer, listen with the ears of the hare, feel with the skin of a new born baby, smell with the nose of the wolf. This intense opening to the senses quiets the voice that chatters in my mind about the washing up, the bills to pay, that I am wasting my time and shouldn’t be here, that kind of thing. If I turn my attention away from that voice and solely to my senses, that
voice cannot get through. Combine this with conscious breathing and the connection with the place, and its energies, open to me, and then, sometimes, something wonderful happens, and I begin to hear the words of the Ancestors, then voices of the Faerie, the stories of the Stones.

Usually I just ‘noodle’ on the guitar, playing the words I hear with notes. We know that sound is vibration, that music is tuned vibration, and notes do not end after the string is played, but rather carry on out into the universe, and endless space. That is the space I get into, and if I am lucky I will catch a word or two, and begin to sing over the tune, and sometimes these words become a song.

It is the sense of peace I feel at these places that lets me open up to the flow of Awen. It is when I allow my inner hermit his space that the songs I feel most connection with are given voice. Do you have an inner hermit/monk? Do they get enough space? If not, try to give them time and space, and there you too might find peace, and taste the Awen.

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Land, Sky and Sea

photo200-stninianscave.jpgThe ancient Celtic peoples seemed to have revered three elements instead of the usual four found in the Western Magical tradition – these being Land, Sky and Sea. I’m sure that fire would have featured somewhere because we know that they also revered the Sun. But here’s a song that speaks of the Wild Places, and my connection to them.

The inspiration for this song came when me and my partner, Cerri, traveled to Dumfries and Galloway to do the Wickerman trail. We had a book that showed the locations used in the original film (not the remake!) and set off to find them. We found the Green Man pub where they filmed Gently Johnny and Willow’s Song, the ruined church, I almost cried when we found the remaining stumps of the burned Wickerman, still on that cliff edge over 30 years later! But is was the cave from which Rowan Morrison is revealed that was the real inspiration for this song.

It is called St Ninian’s Cave, and it’s a long walk from the car park. Through a beautiful Glen and down to the sea. It is said that St Ninian used to walk this very path down to the shore where he simply sat in this cave and listened to the sound of the sea. He said that here he felt closer to God, that he could hear his voice in the sounds of the waves. When we got to the beach I began to understand why.

There are certain places on this Earth where one can feel the presence of the Gods, and this is one of them. I thought about St Ninian, a simple man, searching for a spiritual connection, just like many Pagans. And I sat and listened for the voice, and it was there. It is said that all paths leads to the same Great Centre, and it mattered not to me that he heard this voice as his God, whilst to me it was the voice of the Spirit of Place, it in some way touched us both, and it was beautiful.

I have a great respect for some of those early Christians. The search for God/Great Spirit/Goddess in solitude and peace is something most Pagans can also relate to. I feel I am also on that quest.

Land, Sky and Sea
(Damh the Bard)

You are the rock, and you are the stone,
Rivers your blood, mountains your bone.
You are the Source, of all I’ll ever know,
Forever my Mother, forever my home.


(Chorus)
Oh this town is so cold,
Neon magicians they offer the fools their gold.
For there is somewhere I’d rather be,
In your wild places with the Land and the Sky and the Sea


Every step, follows those gone before,
Mystics and Saints, down to the shore,
Echoing waves, and the curlew’s cry,
I call out your name, I hear your reply.


Cynical thoughts, and lies that distort,
All that is true, all that is true,
They disappear, when I feel that you’re near,
When I’m with you, when I’m with you.

Home, and an early birth!

Two days ago Cerri and I were having a snowball fight in the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus. We went there for some sunshine and warmth amidst the British Winter, and apparently chose to holiday during the worst week for weather Cyprus had seen in 5 years! Having said that it mattered not. The country is beautiful, the people honestly open and friendly, and the Cyprus Meze a culinary delight. Oh, and the beer was lovely too! It’s 20+ degrees out there now, apparently…

We arrived album_cauldron.jpgback yesterday, and I took delivery of my new CDs this morning. An early birth – two weeks premature, but parents and child are doing well. Those people who ordered in advance will be getting a lovely little surprise on Saturday morning when they open a CD sized jiffy bag and find a shiny new The Cauldron Born CD to play. It was due out on the 8th March, ready for the Pagan Federation Devon and Cornwall conference, but as we were going away on holiday I had to have it ready and sent off for pressing before we left – I didn’t expect it back so early, but I’m so excited to finally see, and hear it!

The PF conference in March will still be the launch party, but it feels so good to be sending this CD out to people nice and early.

From the Cauldron 8: The music is done

I’m sitting here listening to the finished new CD, The Cauldron Born. I thought I had so much more to do, but after Eala came over here on Friday night and put down her vocal on Willow’s Song, I realised that all I had to do was a couple of my own vocals, and then mix the album. I tend to mix as I go along, so by Sunday night the music was finished. the next job is for Cerri to design the album cover, and she’ll do that over the next couple of weeks. Then we’ll send off the masters around the 12th February, and 10 days later we should have the finished album to send out. I can’t wait. I’m really pleased with it.

It’s a weird feeling, sitting here, typing these words, knowing that it’s done. Having said that, I’ve already found myself planning the next one. It’ll be a selection of my favourite traditional folk songs, ones that have a spiritual edge, or that I just love. At the moment the working title is Lore, but that could change… But hang on! I’ve only just finished this one 🙂

There’s a couple of songs from the CD on my website at www.paganmusic.co.uk, so go and have a listen, I hope you like them!

x

From the Cauldron 6: Willow’s Song

Yesterday I had the best afternoon of recording I’ve ever had. I decided to get on with my cover version of Willow’s Song from the film the Wicker Man. I’ve been mulling over how to approach this song for a long time. The version in the film, in my opinion, is perfect, so I didn’t want to simply copy it. Then the inspiration struck.

It’s such a sexy song as it is, but what if it was sung as a duet with lines for the male coiling around the lines for the female. Teasing, sensual, yearning. Phew, it’s getting hot in here! So I recorded two acoustic guitar parts, a scratch vocal, and a very subtle, dark bass line. The final musical part came in a beautiful flash of Bardic Awen. The rhythm is so sensual, so erotic, that I thought I’d try adding a very slow trance drum beat. Oh…..my…..Gods…..! It worked.

Musically the song is complete. All it needs now is the proper vocals to be added, and the female voice will be Eala’s, who has already joined me on two of my songs, Samhain Eve, and Morrighan. I’m so looking forward to hearing the completed song. The sound, with the trance drums sounds a little different to my usual folky style, but I do like to push my boundaries, and it is definitely what the song needed.