Final Spirit of Albion Movie Diary

Well, it was a year in the making and nearly three years from conception to the finished film, but just about a week and a half ago we went to the southern premier of the Spirit of Albion movie and it was such a wonderful night. The support this film received from so many people was really quite overwhelming, as the 5 minute credits of the end of the film will attest.

I opened the evening with a 30 minute set and then we all sat back to watch the film. The atmosphere was so wonderful and at the end there was a standing ovation from the audience to Gary and the cast and crew.

It was such an amazing and at times quite surreal experience to have been involved with, and I’m so proud to have been a part of this project. I really hope that this film will inspire more films with a Pagan theme. So it has begun, here’s to the Spirit of Albion movie, and to the other creative projects it might inspire!

Here is the final movie diary from that night. Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/JbvhVoUDXVI

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It’s a boy, no a girl, no – It’s a film!

On the 30th April 2011 the cast and crew gathered in a woodland in Sussex to begin filming Sprit of Albion, the Movie. Before we did anything else we held hands in a circle and asked for the blessings of the Spirits of the Land and of the Old Ones to see the film through to completion. We took some deep breaths, then the filming began – the first shoot being my performance of Pagan Ways, then I watched my song Green and Grey come to life before my eyes. It was an amazing moment I will never forget.

A year on to the day and there are two premiers being held in the UK tonight, one in the north of England which still has a few tickets left, and one in the south at the Hawth in Crawley that is sold out. Then tomorrow the DVDs go on sale. I can barely believe it’s actually finished.

I know that there have been independent films created in the past that have held magic in the hearts. The films of Kenneth Anger spring to mind, and I know that many Pagans (me included) love the old 70s horror film The Wicker Man, but that has really been adopted by us, and the final scene isn’t exactly the best publicity message for the Pagan community. I think with The Wicker Man it’s the magical vibe, and the songs, that we love.

Well, now we have a film that is truly ours, and I hope it will be loved just as much as Anger’s and The Wicker Man. A film that is about magic, and our relationship with the Land and it’s old myths and legends. It will take people on a journey, and there is one message held at the very heart of the film, a message that we don’t get very much from our regular TV, movies, or other media.

The message is one of hope.

Happy Birthday Spirit of Albion – The Movie!

Stillness and the Born Survivor

When we moved into our home back in February 2001 there was a massive shed in a pretty small back garden and trapped behind the shed was a very sad and misshapen Willow. The deconstruction of the shed brought more space, but when it had gone we saw that the fence that had been behind the shed was rotten, so that had to be replaced. When it came to taking away the old fence it became apparent that the roots of the small Willow had grown through the concrete of the original fence post. It all had to come out, and subsequently even the roots of this poor tree took a beating. When it was finally out of the ground it looked like a couple of branches with a ball of root. Both me and Cerri were really sad as there seemed to be something about this poor tree that held the Spirit of Place. The new fence was put in, and we re-planted the Willow, giving it pride of place in our newly developing garden. Although at the time neither of us new if it would survive, or wither and die.

I’m sitting on our sofa now, and as I type this I can see the Willow. Bird feeders hang from its branches, and blue tits, starlings, sparrows, blackbirds, doves, and even the occasional peregrine falcon and sparrowhawk, have hopped around in its branches. The bare branches have now been covered in big seed pods that attract bumble bees in the early Spring. And soon, as I sit in our garden, the wind will blow through a canopy of leaves that give off the sound of the forest in our little suburban patch of Tir na Nog. And although we have 12 Ogham trees in our little garden, to me it is the Willow that stands as sentinel, as Guardian of our home.

As Druids we know we can learn much from the example of trees. The Willow is a born survivor. Yet it remains still, allows the birds to run through its branches, is caressed by the wind, and is kissed by the Sun. And as I stand outside each morning during my daily meditation, it is this lesson I take from my friend. That some of the greatest lessons come from stillness, from observation and inner contemplation.

Let the rest of the world move around us. For a while each day be a Human Being, not always a Human Doing.

Update on the Royal Albert Hall concert

A couple of months ago I set up a Facebook page for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The idea came as I looked at the 7500+ likes on the my music page and thought I wonder if we could do this? So I created the Facebook page asking people to like the page if they would come along. The page got over 800 likes on the first couple of days, then levelled out as I updated it less and it now stands at just over 1000 likes. Which is a good start, but we still need more if the idea is to become a reality.

Obviously the first thing that happened, and I’m not at all surprised it did, is that I was inundated with offers from musicians to play at the gig. There were a few other enquiries that came up so I thought I’d better address some of them in this post so we know we are on the same page.

The main thing to bear in mind is that we would only have the hall for the evening. It wouldn’t be an all day festival. Just to have the hall for 3 hours of music between 8pm and 11pm is going to cost around £28-30,000. Doors would open at 7.15 with access to seats at 7.30. The concert would begin at 8pm. So realistically there is time for one, at the most two, performers on top of my own concert for you all. Right now I have been speaking with Spiral Dance from Australia in the hope that they will be one of the bands performing on the night, but this is obviously in the very early stages. As for myself, I’ll be putting together a full band for this one-off concert with some very special guest musicians along the way. Whatever happens it’s going to be a great evening of music.

So the next stage is to begin to raise the finances for the concert as the Royal Albert Hall requires all of the money in advance for people hiring it for the first time. Here’s the plan…

I would like for the Facebook page to get to at least 1500 likes before Samhain this year. The Albert Hall holds 3929 people, so if each of those 1500 likes brings one guest we are close to a sell out. If we reach 1500 likes on the page I’ll then take that as a good omen and open a Kickstarter fund raiser page. Kickstarter is a safe and secure online service that allows people to raise money for artistic projects. I will set the target figure to £28,000 and ask each of you who want to be at the event to donate a minimum of £30. That £30 donation will buy you your ticket, but at the time of donation you won’t know the date of the event as I won’t be able to book the hall before we raise the money. Kickstarter only charge the donation if the project reaches its target by the deadline. If we don’t reach the target by the deadline no one will be charged and the project just doesn’t happen. If, however, we reach the target, or go beyond it, on the deadline date the donations are taken, we get the finances, and can write the Albert Hall a cheque and book the date for the concert. So the success of this event lies with the community. If we want this to happen, it will. I’d love the concert to happen next year. So if the Kickstarter fundraiser page goes live this Samhain, and we set the deadline for, maybe, Imbolc 2013, we can then look at the second half of the year for the concert itself.

How exciting would that be!! Imagine the Royal Albert Hall heaving with your friends and people you’ve yet to meet, all gathering to celebrate together and be entertained. Even if I wasn’t playing I’d want to be there. To have come from the early 90’s newspaper slandering to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall would really show just how much our community has grown. So I ask you to tell your friends, talk about this at your moots, in your magazines, on your Facebook groups, in your podcasts. Share the Facebook page and let us see if together we can do this.

Obviously none of this is written in stone and things can change, but If you’ve any questions. Do ask them!

New Lyric – Antlered Crown and Standing Stone

I found the tune for this song when I was ‘noodling’ on my guitar in the most beautiful chalet overlooking Loch Ness whilst Cerri and I were on holiday in Scotland last April. It was a cracking anthemic tune and it needed lyrics to back that up. So over this and last year, a few sets of lyrics for this song bypassed the blog, straight into the bin. For the past two days I’ve been writing these, and I knew that finally I’d hooked the right words and the Awen was flowing.

This is a devotional song, an anthem to the Pagan Horned God. Yes, I know, I’ve written about him a few times before, but to me he is the male principle of Nature, and deserving of praise and reverence many, many times.

I hope you enjoy the lyrics, and the song, when it is released later this year on my new studio album.

 

Antlered Crown and Standing Stone – Damh the Bard

Verse 1

I am the face within the leaves,

I am the voice within the trees,

I am boy, I am man,

The face of the changing land,

And I have been your constant guide,

From your caves on the mountainside,

We have walked hand in hand.

Verse 2

Everywhere that I have been,

My passing turns the grey to green,

The birds sing to the dawn,

And the land has awoken.

Now my Lady lays with me,

Our love weaves its tapestry,

Eternal threads, unbroken.

Chorus

I am lover, I am father,

I am Horned God and King,

I’m the life in all of Nature,

That is reborn every Spring,

Call of stag and cry of eagle,

I am Child of Barleycorn,

And I am the Antlered Crown and Standing Stone!

Verse 3

I am the oats, the corn and grain,

A bearded man with a crooked cane,

Cut me down, I must die,

For the land to be born again,

But don’t you cry and don’t you grieve,

For soon the Wild Hunt I will lead,

On the night of Samhain.

Verse 4

The air is cold,

The sky is grey,

Where am I this Winter’s day,

Bones of trees, fallen leaves,

The time of the Winter Queen,

But through the wind and snow and rain,

Know a part of me remains,

The Holly stands, evergreen.

(Copyright Damh the Bard 2012)

Respect for our Ancestors is Respect for Ourselves

At the beginning of the week I watched the documentary Standing with Stones. It’s a wonderful journey through many of Albion’s ancient sacred sites that took 8 years to film and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in archaeology, Paganism and the ancient ways of our ancestors. At the end of the film the presenter gave a wonderful speech that asked where are these people now? His answer is they are still here. It is us. I think that can be quite a hard thing to accept, living in a country that has been invaded a number of times, with it’s own boundaries and human-constructed barriers that keep people apart. But then you have the story of the archaeological dig in Cheddar caves where they checked the DNA of prehistoric bones found in the legendary cave system in the village with school children and teachers who lived there today. Remarkably one of the teachers had similar DNA as some of those bones, and two schoolchildren had exact matches! Their families had lived in or near Cheddar for over 12,000 years! Cheddar on the political map of Britain is in England, a place supposedly over run with not only Romans, but also Anglo Saxons and then the Normans. Some would have it that all of the ‘indigenous’ peoples of Britain migrated to Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, and Brittany, but obviously they didn’t.

Now I’m a Gemini. An air sign, so when I get thinking I really get thinking. And I got thinking… and where these thoughts led me was to the way we treat ancient remains at archaeological digs.

There is currently discussion about bones that were re-dug up from the grounds of Stonehenge. I say re-dug up because they were dug up in the early 20th century, then reburied, then dug up again more recently so people can explore them again using our current advances in science. There are two arguments concerning these bones. Obviously we want to understand our ancient roots so this research is extremely valuable, but some say we should keep them in a box in a museum for further research. Then there are others who say that these were living people and that their remains should be returned to the ground once the research has finished. Being a typical Gemini I could see both sides, and found it hard to have an actual opinion. However, after hearing the speech of the presenter of Standing with Stones it made things clear to me.

I’ve heard people say about their own bodies, and I have agreed with them in the past, that once we die it doesn’t matter what happens to my our bodies. We have gone, it’s just an empty shell. It doesn’t matter. But what does that say about my relationship to my body? What does that really say about how I feel about this wonderful city of cells, of blood and bone, that has been my home in this lifetime? Of the brain that has imagined music, the voice that has sung, and the fingers that have played their music? Of the arms that have held my children and the people I have loved? Of the tears shed in pain and joy? Have I become so disassociated with my body that I just see it as a vehicle to carry the real me around until I die and then I’ll get a new one, like a new car? When I realised this I also realised how wrong these thoughts were.

For thousands of years when a loved one passed away those who remembered them wanted to say goodbye and the body is what represented the remains of that loved one. Now if we apply that to our ancient ancestors they not only loved these people, but they built massive Long Barrows and Chambered Tombs to hold their remains. Sometimes the bones would be taken out, but then they would be replaced. Some of these tombs were in use for nearly 1000 years. Since ancient times humans have respected the remains of the dead through burial or cremation. So how long have human remains got to be in the ground before it’s alright to dig them up and keep them in a box in a museum, or even put them on show as a exhibit? Would we dig up a Victorian grave? Further back? You see I think it’s our disassociation from these people that makes it ok. Many of us look at Stonehenge and don’t see a monument built by our direct ancestors. But why?

I recently joined ancestry.co.uk to look into my ancestry and managed to trace my family tree on both my parent’s lines right the way back to the early 1600s. Just 10 generations, but in those 10 generations are 882 ancestors. Take that back to the Neolithic and we are talking crazy numbers. Without doubt some of those will have been living here on this island. So the bones in that box in the museum could be our direct ancestors. So for me this disassociation between myself and the bones from these ancient graves has dissolved completely.

So I am of the same people who built these sites. They are our ancestral sites. This brings them even closer. And the people who built them, the people who lived there on Mount Caburn, Cadbury, Cissbury, some of them are probably my ancestors. They are a part of me, and you. So what to do about the bones?

Most of us will agree that it is important to learn more about the ways of our ancient ancestors, and a part of that is learning through remains. But when we have finished, I do believe we should return them to their resting place. In the same way as Native Americans holds dear to their hearts the spiritual homes of their dead, I think we should honour them in the same way. At some point, way too far back for many to care, these bones were placed in the earth, in the tomb, by a community that loved them. They were human and had the same emotions we have now. Those seemingly empty shells held the spirit of a human being who laughed, cried, ate, drank, loved, just as we do. And although I once didn’t really care what happened to my body after I die, I realise how crazy that way of thinking was. There is no separation between body, mind and spirit, so I will ask those who I leave behind to honour this body. Give it to fire, and place half of me on the Long Man of Wilmington, and half on the cliffs of Boscastle – my two spiritual homes. And there a part of me will remain. That is my wish, so if you are reading this in 5000 years time – DON’T DIG ME UP!

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.