• dalrymplemacalpin

A great conjunction~

Another moon has begun to grow above us, ever pregnant with possibility.

June 21st this year is the new moon, Father’s-day, and also it is the height of the suns power, the summer solstice. They all happen to coincide with one another today and so it makes writing this all the more special and perhaps potent with portents of power. It seemed when I began The Craneskin Bag last month, that I wondered, would I have enough to share with you all, to warrant this bag of skin? I feel the answer is yes. A drop in the pond is a month in cosmic time, yet if we discount time altogether, (And why should we not?) I find much has happened.

Illumination Tales, Supernal Maytime ~

Below is the first of five videos I am working on for Illumination Tales. They are snapshots of scenes which tell the tale of Finn mac Cumhaill’s search for the three poetic qualifications. I finished writing Illumination Tales this month and although the entire story/song cycle takes well over an hour to tell, I hope these short glimpses over the next several months will anticipate interest for the full length published production that is to come. Film created by BEAN.

Dortchen Wild~

As promised, I found myself putting the finishing touches upon the newest member of our family this month, Dortchen Wild. This name first belonged to a woman whom lived next door the Brothers Grimm and who related many fairy tales to them for their collection, one of which was Rumpelstilzchen. This Dortchen Wild ended up marrying Wilhelm Grimm and was a truly fascinating figure behind many of the most well-known and beloved fairy tales in the famous Grimm collection.

I wish to honor Dortchen and her storehouse of stories in my own special way. I am writing an opera based on an original back-story of Rumpelstilzchen. In the opera it is Dortchen Wild whom rears the infant Rumpel and teaches him the magic arts which includes the alchemical magic of gold… Her humble home is in the forest, where in her poison garden she grows many strange, forbidden and nefarious herbs. She is in effect the Yoda of my story and special attention was brought to the fore when crafting this crone you can be sure.

A few details which may escape notice are~

In an effort to make her lighter I hollowed out her head and body, then filled her with dried witches herbs from past gardens, datura, mandrake, monkshood, belladonna, henbane, etc. Her single tooth is one of my own wisdom teeth. The book which grows out of her head is filled with hand written music notation of the songs she sings in the opera as well as bits of poetry and alchemical lore. She stands naked, defiant of convention, untamed by law and she is very much brimming with new life.

Dortchen Wild Photos by Douglas Hooper

I also found it bewilderingly surreal that while finishing her carving, costume, etc I was at the same time building my own witches garden in the back yard. It was something that had been in the back of my mind to do for four years since we moved here, Dortchen was manipulating me into actualizing this procrastinated task. I dare not ignore her and as of now I have Belladonna, mandrake and henbane planted.

Witches Garden Photo by Douglas Hooper

International Puppetry Week at the O’Neill~

On June 8th-12th, the O’Neill theater center based in Waterford Connecticut hosted zoom master classes from these internationally renowned puppeteers~

Ronnie Burkett, Canada, Dissecting the mysteries, marvels and designs of the puppet theater.

Yael Rasooly, Israel, Creativity and compassion.

Jim Kroupa, USA, The mechanics of muppets, puppets and more.

Bernd Ogrodnik, Iceland, The ABC’s of professional puppeteering.

Fabrizio Montecchi, Italy, The profound meaning of the shadow puppet theater.

There was one class a day for five days and I took my notes, scribbled my ideas and asked my questions. I learned something from each of these puppet masters but it was Bernd Ogrodnik who really pulled my thought string. He seems to be something a puppet shaman, a man devoted to “going deeper.” He reminded me you can always go deeper with whatever art you are focused on. He made comparisons between ancient Japanese Samurai and modern-day puppeteers, stating that both disciplines require pre-meditated movements, stillness, awareness and devotion towards a higher level. He had a philosophy behind his puppets that brought him certain arcane insights, such as,

“If your puppet does not breathe, your puppet is dead.”

So simple, so pure, so succinct and beautiful to me was that one sentence. I will be taking his master classes again in the future. Here is a link to view his work~


It is a strange time to be an artist. Perhaps that is always a true statement, yet it seems to be much truer today. I asked a friend recently, “Do you think my music, my art, or anyone else's for that matter, is falling on deaf ears these days? If creative offerings do not pertain to the cataclysm of current events, i.e the political/pandemic/racial issues, are people still interested?” His response was, “I think so, people want a distraction from all this upheaval, they want an escape.”

This answer made me think. Art as a distraction and an escape from life? Or rather art, as an inspiring creative force that illuminates, uplifts and opens the door to new worlds within worlds? Both simultaneously? What is your answer? What are your thoughts? Has your view of the arts been altered in the current climate? Has your artistic appetite grown voracious or stagnant in light of worldly changes? Should art be a distraction from “reality"?


A film, which I dare say increased my awareness upon the world and its myriad entities and which astounded the senses with delight and awe~

Fantastic Fungi, directed by Louis Schwartzberg, 2019. This film traces the path of the fungal kingdom in mind altering ways. You will think upon the fruits of fungus with deep respect and reverence if you dare to ensnare yourself within the web of majestic mycelium. Did this film make me smarter? Did it altar my brain chemistry? Well, yes it did actually. Upon returning home from this cinematic experience, I played my piano, pieces I had been working on and developing for years, suddenly my fingers found solutions to musical conundrums which had hitherto eluded me or escaped my awareness that they needed solving altogether. My consciousness was opening its inner eye and seeing the light of a new dawn rise over the threshold of awareness. Paul Stamets is a new hero of mine. If you don’t know who he is, all you have to do is take a one hour and twenty minute dose of Fantastic Fungi.

Word to the Wise~

Euhemerism~ The Interpretation of myths as historical events. The etymology comes from a

4th century b.c. mythographer, Euhemerus.

I learned of this word while reading God’s and Heroes of The Celts by Marie-Louise Sjoestedt. I devoured this book in a few days this past month, it is one of those tomes always mentioned, always referenced with much respect in the scholarly world of Celtic mythology. Now It has found a lasting place not only in my thoughts, but also within the Illumination Tales bibliography, feel free to check this out on the storytelling page of my website. I will indulge one excerpt from the book which I found particularly ponderable and which will hopefully enable a better understanding of euhemerism.~

“The Romans think of their myths historically, the Irish think of their history mythologically…The Irish describe their God’s as pre-historic tribes who once labored and fought upon the soil of Ireland and still dwell there invisibly present, side by side with human inhabitants... Every strange feature of the soil of Ireland is the witness of a myth, and, as it were, its crystallization. The supernatural and the natural penetrate and continue each other…”

They continue each other, hmmm… I like that.

Farewell for now~

Until the next new moon brings us together again within the Craneskin Bag, Happy Solstice! Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again,

Your friend,

Tall and thin,

Through thick and thin once again,

~Dalrymple MacAlpin

New Moon, June 21st, 2020

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  • Dalrymple MacAlpin

Updated: May 27

Welcome inside the bag~

Happy new moon and welcome within the The Craneskin bag.

This will be the first in a series of blog posts which I shall endeavor to write every new moon in the vein of an artistic diary of ideas, incantatory musical, theatrical, puppetirical, mythopoetical and the ever revolving world of storytelling traditions. Please tell your friends and come visit me every month to see where the muse has wandered within the work, I encourage you to leave your thoughts and comments below so we can begin a dialogue together. So without further ado, let us let the beginning begin.

Photo by Angela Holm, poster design by Pam Hodges.

The Merry Month of May~ There is a poem which has haunted me and which has followed me for most of my adult life, it is a poem in celebration of the month of May, written in Ireland in the 8th or 9th century and is consistently accredited to the divine mythical hero and mantic poet seer, Finn mac Cumhaill. You may have heard of his name before, maybe in a book of Irish fairy tales, maybe in the voice of the wind atop a craggy cliffside, perhaps in the whisper of a foam white sea wave, maybe you heard myself telling tales of Finn, maybe your namesake is Finn... Whatever the case may be, Finn mac Cumhaill is a very complex and fascinating figure among the gargantuan corpus of Irish lore. Part God, part hero, part man, part giant, part trickster, part historical, part mythical and yes, part poet. What are the words he wrote which are today well over a thousand years old? They speak of nature as a lush and powerful supple creature of beauty, capable of being worshipped by both crowned pagan priest and ascetic monk alike. I will provide my favorite translation by Gerard Murphy from his 1956, Early Irish Lyrics~

May-Day, fair aspect, perfect season,

blackbirds sing a full lay when the sun casts a meagre beam.

The hardy vigorous cuckoo calls. Welcome to noble summer,

it abates the bitterness of storm during which branchy wood is lacerated

Summer cuts the stream small; swift horses seek water; tall heater spreads;

delicate fair foliage flourishes.

Sprouting comes tot he bud of the hawthorn; the ocean flows a smooth course;

Summer sends the sea to sleep; blossoms cover the world.

Bees of small strength carry bundles of culled blossom on their feet;

The mountain, supplying rich sufficiency, carries off the cattle.

Woodland music plays, melody provides perfect peace;

dust is blown from dwelling place and haze from lake full of water.

The strenuous corncrake speaks, the high pure cataract sings of joy from warm water;

Rustling of rushes has come.

Swallows dart aloft; vigor of music surrounds the hill where soft rich fruit flourishes,

The hardy cuckoo sings, the trout leaps; strong is the swift warrior.

Men's vigor thrives; the excellence of great slopes is complete;

Every spreading wood is fair; fair every great goodly plain.

Delightful the season: winters harsh wind has departed;

Woodland is fair and bright; water fruitful; peace is immense; summer is joyous.

A flock of birds settles on land where a woman walks;

There is noise in every green field through which a swift bright rivulet flows.

Fierce ardor and riding of horses; the serried host is ranged around;

The pond is noble in bounty and turns the iris to gold.

The frail man fears loudness; the constant man sings with a heart;

rightly does he sing out loud, "May-day, fair aspect!"

Illumination Tales film series on the way~

I have found the time within this time out of time to have recorded some short films containing excerpts from my upcoming work, Illumination Tales~ Poetic magic from ancient Ireland, Stories and songs of Finn mac Cumhaill. The first one will be released upon the next new moon/blog entry and contains a piece of music I wrote for the above poem which I dappled a bit here and there with my own lyrical paintbrush. The first round of filming took place May 17th and below is a photograph taken on set in the Hollow Hill studio. I am very excited to share the results with you next month!

Photo by Angela Holm.

A new member to the puppet family~

On another note I have nearly completed work on my next puppet for the Rumpelstilzchen marionette opera. She is an ancient crone with one eye and a book growing out of her head instead of hair, sagging breasts and a single wisdom tooth. I began carving her during the winter months and at last she is beginning to find her voice and take her first steps in the world. I will wait to post photos until she is finished, but rest assured by next new moon her unveiling will be worth the wait.


One film which I saw this last month and which lit a flame of inspired light within my head was, Searching for Sugarman. Released in 2012 it tells the story of 1970's Detroit based musicical icon, Rodriguez. If you have not seen this film I urge you to seek it out and without delay and without doing any homework on it beforehand, it is worth the watch. I grew up a stones throw from Detroit and my father taught in the Detroit public high school system. Motown is in my blood and will surprise me by influencing compositions I write to this day. There are few films which bring a tear to the eye, this one brought tears to both. I immediately purchased Rodriguez's albums and as I write I am in fact listening to his debut 1970 album, Cold Fact. This man is undefinable, undefeatable and an undeniable poet.

Word to the wise~

Fabulate~ 1. to tell invented stories; create fables or stories filled with fantasy.

2. To relate an event as a fable.

3. To relate, to fabulate, to orate, to narrate and ruminate upon the fates whom both create and devastate while dreaming and awake.

Three similar yet very distinct meanings for this word of the month. What was your last fabulation?

Farewell for now~

Stay tuned for the next new moon upon the summer solstice no less.

Until then may the wind be always at your back,

Your friend,

Tall and thin,

Through thick and thin once again,

~Dalrymple MacAlpin

New Moon, May 22nd, 2020


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