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.

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The Strength of our Roots help hold the Tree

I’ve heard it said that a tree doesn’t benefit from having its roots dug up, and this is true, but every now and again I feel the need to take stock and look back at what brought me to the Path in the beginning. To make sure that my roots are still secure, as sometimes they do need some kind of repair.

So yesterday I stopped looking forward, and placed my gaze firmly on the past, yet from this present moment. I got out my old Grove Books that I wrote during my studies with the Occult Church Society, and then the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I read what I’d written for the first time in probably 8 years.It was lovely to read my own words as I set out on this path, a time when I had no idea how my life would change. I hadn’t yet written one Pagan song, so all of it lay unknown, in the future.

One beautiful thing that came from this was a great sense of re-connection, of getting back to my own roots, and it was wonderful. During one of the rituals I wrote that I believed I had met Brighid who had told me that the “source of my poetry and song lay in my own Spirit”. When I asked what that meant She just kept on repeating the same words, over and over again. There were other beautiful messages about the future hidden within the text, and a couple of times I couldn’t help but have to dry away a few tears.

There is a lot of sense in working with the Power of Now, especially if we have a tendency to live in a perceived future when we believe all will be better. But every now and then, and particularly as Samhain approaches, I think it does me good to look back and acknowledge the ancestor of my life today. To water the roots that keep my feet on the Path, and to be able to then take a new step forward, held by my life’s experiences.

Spirit of Albion movie film diary day 7

Here’s the latest film diary!

New Lyric – Brighid

A couple of years ago, during an Imbolc ritual, I made a promise to Brighid that I would write a song for her. Last week I made good on that promise and I hope that

She is pleased with her song. I’ll be playing it at my forthcoming concerts over the next few weeks, so I hope you all like it too!

Brighid

(Verse 1)

There’s a tree by the well in the woods that’s covered in garlands,

Clooties and ribbons that drift in the cool morning air,

That’s where I met an old woman who came from a far land,

Holding a flame o’er the well, and singing a prayer.

(Chorus)

Goddess of fire, Goddess of healing,

Goddess of Spring, welcome again.

(Verse 2)

She told me she’d been a prisoner trapped in a mountain,

Taken by the Queen of Winter at Summer’s End,

But in her prison she heard a spell the people were chanting,

Three days of Summer, and snowdrops are flowering again.

(Verse 3)

She spoke of the Cell of the Oak where a fire is still burning,

Nineteen Priestesses tend the eternal flame,

Oh but of you, my Lady, we are still learning,

Brighid, Brigantia, the Goddess of Many Names.

(Bridge)

Then I caught her reflection in the mirrored well,

And looked deep into her face,

The old woman gone, a maiden now knelt in her place.

From my pocket I pulled a ribbon,

And in honour of her maidenhood,

I tied it there to the tree by the well in the wood.

(Chorus)

Goddess of fire, Goddess of healing,

Goddess of Spring, welcome again.

(copyright Damh the Bard 2011)

Spirit of Albion Film Diaries – Day 2

Last Saturday filming began on the Spirit of Albion movie. It was my first time on a film set and I found the whole experience really exciting. We shot my appearance in the film, Pagan Ways, and Green and Grey. It was really very emotional seeing Green and Grey unfold before me complete with Horned God and Priest exactly as I saw it in my mind when I wrote the song.

Here’s the diary of a great day’s shoot!

The Winter King – Where it was written

A couple of weeks ago I played at the PF Devon and Cornwall conference, a gig I love to play each year, and a great reason to step foot upon my home county of Cornwall. On the Sunday after the conference the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft opens for that one Sunday, so many of the people at the conference descend upon the town to see what’s been happening at the museum.

Now I cannot go to Boscastle without walking to the top of the cliffs to look out upon the mightly Atlantic ocean, and it was here, about 14 years ago that I heard the refrain that opens my song The Winter King in the sound of the sea as it struck the cliffs below. So this time I took some footage on my walk up to put into a video to go with the song.

It’s VERY shaky, but it does show the beauty of the place, and the inspiration behind the refrain, and the rest of King Arthur’s song. I hope you enjoy it, despite the wobbly videoing!

Story of the Song – The Greenwood Grove

From the album The Hills they are Hollow.

As with many of my songs I had the tune for this song for a number of weeks before the lyrics finally arrived. Looking back I think I wrote two sets of lyrics for this and both ended up in the bin. But finally I was noodling with the tune on my mandolin in the living room and it was the chorus that came first.

Come follow me, come dance with me,

Come with me to the Greenwood Grove such magic there to see,

The Lord of the Wild with his Faerie Kin,

Deep within the Greenwood Grove,

We’ll dance the Magic Ring.

I remember looking at these words and thinking, ‘the only way I’m going to find out what this song is about is to do as the chorus asks, and follow the Lord of the Wild into the Grove itself.’ So I carried on playing the song, and closed my eyes.

Music takes me away. I can lose hours simply playing an instrument, closing my eyes, and riding the notes to wherever they take me. On this occasion I was taken into a woodland (no surprise there then!) and pretty soon I heard the sound of music being played, coming towards me through the woods. I hid behind an oak and waited as the music drew closer and closer. A huge horned figure led a procession of dancing spectral figures past me. Then came others walking behind, laughing and smiling, and others on horseback. Now I’m quite familiar with the stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, but I had to follow, I had to, the music was irresistible.

I kept a small distance so as not to be seen, and soon the host began to gather in a clearing up ahead – an almost perfectly circular Grove. There was a hill in its centre that reminded me of a large round barrow, and the large horned figure slowly climbed the hill, and silence began to fall around the glade. He had a large club in one hand which he raised above his head, then brought it down onto the hill which resounded with a deep, hollow, sound. He raised it again, and once more it fell upon the Hollow Hill below, and then again, and again, until I realised he was creating a consistent bass rhythm, as other drums began to join him. The figures began to circle and dance in a magical ring dance around the edge of the Grove, then from the hill emerged a Man of Birch, followed by a Lady of Rowan. Other leafy-faced figures began to step from the Otherworld, through the Hollow Hill into the grove, and join the dance. I realised I was watching the Spirits of the Ogam trees join the dance, and in that moment the words of the song began to form.

I am the Birch of the new beginning,

The Rowan star with magic guarding…

The images around me began to fade, and I became aware that I was still playing the tune on my mandolin, and had been throughout all of this, and that it was this tune that the Faerie Host had been dancing to. I became more and more aware of the room around me, until I opened my eyes, and began to write. It was finished in no time at all after that. A gift from the Spirits of Nature!