A glorious new moon is once more upon the horizon and truly the world has gone through many changes since we last encountered one another here in The Craneskin Bag. I do hope your last month has been full of miracles, be they small or be they infinite in proportion. Now is it just me or do you also hear multiple times a day the phrase that we are living in, “strange times?” I would venture to say that strange though the times may be, what is strange can very well be what is quintessentially fundamental for the world right now. Strange is not necessarily a bad thing, its root comes from France in the late 13th century, meaning; foreign, alien, unusual, unfamiliar, curious. The Oxford English dictionary adds, outside, without, external. One of the earliest written passages containing the word strange is from 1622 by J. Taylor,
“Ancient Bards and poets speaking in strange tongues…”
So it would appear that the intrusive experience of the strange and unknown is no longer rattling around in your unconscious dreams, it is rather sleeping right next to you in your bed and sharing your pillow with you. Don’t pull the covers over your head just yet, welcome the disruption of visible reality and you will find not a foe, but a new friend. And yes, I suppose it goes without saying that this new friend is perhaps a tad strange.
Many folks are eagerly anticipating the approaching new year in hopes that 2021 will herald a halt to the endless trials and tribulations of 2020 and the world will regain its internal rhythm and rhyme and return back to itself refreshed in the renewal of change. To those of you awaiting this new year with fingers crossed, I bring good news, the new year has in fact already happened! In Celtic tradition the new year begins on Samhain, November 1st, so let the rejoicing commence, I wish a very happy new year to you all. Why did the Druids choose this day of all days for the start of a new year? Well I suppose it has something to do with the belief that~
Life begins in darkness, as we within the womb, so to the earth and its seasons.
Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half of the year and the 1st of winter. Another custom which would determine when the new year was born is with the arrival of the first frost. The cold breath of the ancestors casting its spell of sleep upon the land.
To honor the turning of the seasons wheel on this most holy day we held a concert here at The Fairy Fort with music, story, song, puppets and a giant Trojan horse.
Dear friends and musical collaborators these many years, Faun Fables and Bee of Birch Book joined in the festivities with their own songs and tales of darkness and rebirth. Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables even regaled us with one of her most haunting pieces, Poem No. 2, from the 2004 release, Family Album. It wove a nest around the audience just as the night lurked its newborn head around the corner and so another spell was cast~
We held the concert outdoors amidst a backdrop of cedars, oaks, pines and an ever-shapeshifting sky which listened and sang along as we strummed the strings and beat the drums. It is always remarkable to perform a live show because that element of the unknown (and strange) exists always to remind you that the present moment has its own plans and so it is a perfect time for magic to manifest and epiphanies to emerge.
I choose to utilize this rare performance opportunity and ended my storytelling, harp and puppetry set with three Lasher Keen songs, Where The Wild Insects Roam, Dancing Sounds and Rainmaker. The sky had not offered us any rain in quite some time and as all those who reside in California know, we really need it! So, for my final song, I asked the audience to stand up and seize the day, stomp, scream, shout, clap and exult so we could make it rain. Dawn and Nils of Faun Fables joined me on drums and bass and together with the audience we surrendered to the moment and let the magic reign supreme.
It was cathartic, not only because we need the rain, but because we also need to connect as a united race of people and rejoice together as human beings in honor of the seasons wheel and the rites of passage, from one to another. Not a single photo or video was taken during this spontaneous madcap revelry (who would have wanted to do that?!) But seeing everyone triumphantly dancing with delightful abandon and feeling that energy blasting into the faint clouds overhead, we were all connected in the primal sense of community which has been missing this last year and we each knew with absolute confidence that rain was on the way. The above photos were graciously taken by Angie Holm before the abandonment of chaos kicked in to give a glimpse of our day of the dead celebration.
Here is the Lasher Keen Rainmaker music video from 2012 directed by Lara Miranda to give you a sense of the melodic exultation~ (Sound emerges at around 18 seconds in)
The Untitled Podcast~
I was graciously asked this last month to lend my voice to The Untitled Podcast, curated by Pal Csoke. Pal was born and raised in Hungry but now resides in the UK where he conducts his podcast, interviews, reviews, music videos and other forms of media all revolving around the themes of archetypal destiny, folklore and fairy tales. We had a grand chat about these very subjects back in October which Pal published today on his youtube channel, just in time to drop it in The Craneskin Bag. I was beyond tickled when Pal compared me to such an enigmatic and intriguing figure as the carefree Tom Bombadil from Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings cycle. Tolkien himself writes that Tom Bombadil~
"Remembers the first acorn and the first raindrop and that he knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless."
I very much love the sound of those words.
“Dalrymple MacAlpin; the Tom Bombadil of our times.”
I am still carving away without a finished puppet to show you as of yet. Felix will have a story to tell you next month but for now his spirit is still reclining in the wood chips. I began the foundation puppetry course of famed Icelandic puppeteer Bernd Ogrodnik last month and truly this has been a blessing and a gift which I am grateful to have the opportunity to glean from. Whenever I can, I sit and watch his puppetry videos and carve along with this modern-day wood wizard and puppet shaman. I promise to have my finished Felix friend to show you next time we meet, but for now please take a moment to watch Bernd in action. I found this rare video which showcases the incredible innovation of his puppetry skills and I thought it just might bring a smile to your face as it did to mine~
Another puppetry update~ After several months of Rumpel’s Riddles weekly videos I have decided to temporarily put this project on hold. Rumpel and I feel he has outgrown the puppet booth which we have been performing in, so we are using the time now to construct a new and better equipped puppet theater, not only for Rumpel's Riddles but for another upcoming show with Dortchen Wild called, The Poetry of Potions. Please be patient and secure in the knowledge that Rumpel’s Riddles will resume better than ever. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been so dedicated to following and engaging with these riddles every Wednesday, Rumpel really feels the love!
By now all of you readers must know my love of poetry, especially ancient Irish poetry. The power of the written word has wrought the wrinkled pages of time with many a rhyme and a wink of wisdom, this we know. Last month saw the release of the first edition of Hell Hued Zine, a UK based publication of fiction, illustration, comics and poetry, all inspired by the color carmine red. Three of my poems, A Game Of Chance, Dunsanian Lightning Witch and The Theatron were included in the debut issue along with the writings and works of many other talented and strange folks. For all you lovers of gothic macabre literature, this zine was made for you. The Carmine Red issue can be purchased at the following link~
Instead of an album or a film, this month I would love to share with you a painting which really sizzled my eggs in the inspirational frying pan. I was struck by this image today actually, on the new moon itself. This visionary dreamscape is titled, Epiphany and was painted by the German surreal artist, poet and sculptor, Max Ernst in 1940. I love and worship the power which art yields to those who dare to open its disguised doors. This painting communicated something to me instantly. I was struck immediately by the walking figure who seemed somewhat Entish in gait. A guardian of the wild. My love of fantasy, magic, symbolism, nature, trees and animals were here intermingling with one another but when they spoke it was in a language I had not heard before. What I hear is the music of this dream painting and I will find a way to translate this into a song to share with you when the time is right.
Farewell for now~
This season may we embrace the underworld traditions that revel in the gestation of darkness and shadow. Feel the inward pull, the decay and death of winter that howls through the hollow bone of time and be not afeard. I will be with you howling back.
Tall and thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, November 15th, 2020