Here’s the first little trailer for the forthcoming movie, enjoy!
Here’s the latest Spirit of Albion production diary. Love this one!
Last Sunday, after the Anderida Gorsedd open ritual at the Long Man of Wilmington, many of the people stayed behind to be extras in the Spirit of Albion movie. It was an amazing day, and here is a short interview conducted by my friend Greg while I had a little time out of filming, and had the opportunity to watch a scene from the film develop.
On the Spring Equinox 2000 7 people met up at the Long Man of Wilmington to celebrate the season. We walked up to the flat hill beneath the figure, and there we set our circle, uttered the Druids prayer and oath of peace, and drummed on a sour cream and chives Pringles tin. Small beginnings indeed for the Anderida Gorsedd that this Spring Equinox celebrates 10 years of open rituals at the Long Man. Now you will find anywhere between 50 and 100 people there on the Sunday nearest to the festival.
10 years is a long time in magical circles for anything to survive, so maybe it’s time to look back and reflect on how this small gathering developed into a group of people who celebrate 8 times a year at the Long Man, have held 11 camps, and two conferences. A group that without aiming to be, has become a tribe in the truest sense of the word.
That initial 7 quickly grew, and by the Summer Solstice of 2000 the average attendance was around 35 people. In the Winter of that year after our Winter Solstice ritual I called down to the Giants Rest pub in Wilmington to see if they were open. The landlord said they were closed, but how many people were with us. I told him around 35 so he said, “come down, I’ll open for you!” So it was that the Gorsedd’s relationship with Adrian and his glorious pub began. I gave him the dates we were planning to meet, and he opened for us. After a few years he opened on Sundays as a matter of course, and now he also offers food. But each year I still let him know the dates, and he gets extra staff in to cope with the rush. In the Winter the pub provides a warm shelter, and a friendly place to retire after the rituals so that the Anderida Clan can continue the celebration with a social pint. In the Summer the garden at the front of the pub is full of Druids, and Pagans, sitting in the sunshine together. If the Mythago Morris have danced for us up the hill, they will often also dance outside the pub – perfect!
Over the years we have met some amazing people who just happened to be at the Long Man when we were there. A Peruvian Shaman, a group of Native Americans, some Egyptian Dancers, to name just a few. Walkers, people on picnics, and ramblers often join the circle and celebrate with us. The Long Man, being a Sacred Site to many people seems to draw people of a like mind, and many of these random encounters have developed into long lasting and close friendships.
Over the years we have heard the clash of swords as the Oak and Holly King do battle at the Solstices, we’ve created Flesh-henge and Flesh-grange out of the people attending, we’ve walked labyrinths, planted snowdrops, called out the names of loved ones who had moved on from this world to let them know they are still being thought of, we have regularly chosen the May Queen through divination, and the May King by hunting the Stag Horns. In February 2007 we held the first open Eisteddfod competition for the Bardic Chair of Anderida, an annual event at Imbolc ever since. In sunshine, high winds, rain and snow we have let the Old Gods know that there are still those who honour the Sacred Days, and still love them dearly.
But it hasn’t always been easy. For many years we held the rituals in the picnic area near the Long Man as this had easier access for people with walking disabilities. But the picnic area land was leased to the local Council, and the landlord complained, so we were given no choice but to move the rituals back up the hill. Sadly some people just cannot make that walk. We did fight as hard as we could, but in the end we lost the fight to ignorance and prejudice. We have been up the hill ever since, and although we thought it might put some people off, it seems that the Gorsedd is made of sterner stuff, and even in bad weather people will make the trip to mark the time of year. No fair-weather Pagans here!
In 2003 we held our first Anderida Gorsedd camp. We wanted the Gorsedd camps to be tangible magical journeys that worked with a theme throughout the weekend. Over the years we have worked with the Wickerman, a Three Worlds journey, the Faerie, Arthurian Legend, the Battle of the Trees, and many more. We keep the camps small and intimate with a maximum number of 60 adults. This has also resulted in the feeling of a true tribe with people returning to the camps time and again. The Anderida camps now sell out within 24 hours of the tickets going on sale. We could easily make them bigger, but we don’t want to do that as the size and intimacy is one of the things that make them special. But this year in July we are putting on AnderidaFest – our first open no limit camp. Still the same idea of working with a theme, just bigger. Check out www.anderidagorsedd.org for details.
The Gorsedd has also held two conferences at the wonderful Southwick Community Centre, but this year we have replaced that with AnderidaFest. We do plan to put on another conference in 2011.
I cannot tell you what an honour it has been to have been a part of such a group. These things begin as dreams, and we are blessed to be surrounded with people who listen to what me and Cerri dream up, and then dive in fully with it. Pure magic. So here’s to the next 10 years!!
About this video:
‘A documentary about the nature of modern druidry, its historical origins and spiritual message made by the Holistic Channel www.holisticchannel.org.uk‘…holisticchannel
Yesterday about 100 people gathered on the flat hill beneath the Long Man of Wilmington to celebrate the Spring Equinox together. The Gorsedd Mound, as we call it, is probably part of the remains of the chalk pit on the right hand side of the hill figure, but to us it has formed the perfect place to gather for the Anderida rituals. The day couldn’t have been better. The sun was shining and the Weald and Downland looked breathtaking. The fields below the Long Man were green with freshly growing corn.
For the last few years the Spring Equinox has felt anything but Spring-like, so it was wonderful to be there and to actually feel and observe the changes. We created the circle, a space for our rites. We do this for a number of reasons – to ask permission of the Spirits of Place for our Rite, to set the space for the central part of the ritual, but also to help people who might have driven many miles, then walked up to the hill, still feeling somewhat hassled, to slow down and relax.
The circle set, we all faced outward and took in the view of Spring across Sussex. Then a horn was blown 3 times and the people, after each sounding of the horn, shouted “Wake!” to the God and Goddess of the Land. To let them know that we want them to return, that the realm of Annwn must now be growing colder, and darker, and that Abred needed them to bring their caress, to feel their feet falling on the Earth, to touch the bare branches and coax the leaves into being.
The Goddess spoke her words, giving her blessing to seeds we had brought with us, and she asked us to bless them too with our voices, as the Awen was sung 9 times. Then four children gave out the seeds, one to each person, to plant, and watch it grow.
The circle was unwound, and finally we held hands, closed our eyes, and imagined the darkness behind us, and the light before us. We were standing on the point of balance, the Equinox, and when we were ready, and with full intent, we awoke, took a step forward, and stepped into the Light of Spring. Hengwah!
As ever, the welcome at the Giants Rest pub was warm and friendly, and for the first time this year, we could sit outside, in the sunshine, with friends, and enjoy the moment.
Well, 2009 is now here, but what of 2008? I have to say that, if 2006 was the year I finally decided to put my all into my music, then 2008 was the year it all started to come together. A new album that has received positive reviews all over the world, a song book of my first three albums, gigs almost every weekend including overseas concerts, my songs being covered by other recording artists, I’ve met the most beautiful people playing smaller home concerts, it was truly a wonderful year.
I started playing the guitar when I was 8 years old, so it’s not been quite an overnight, X Factor thing for me, but 35 years later and I feel I can finally call myself a professional musician, and it feels so good, a dream. So thank you 2008, and to everyone who has sung along with me live, or to my music in your homes, to everyone who is strumming along and hopefully writing your own songs, who has taken time out to travel and see a show, to all of you who read my blog, get my newsletter, listen to the podcast, to everyone who has come to the Long Man of Wilmington to one of our rituals, or our camps, to the musicians I’ve played with, and everyone else.
I write my music because I love the tradition, I love this land and our Old Ways, and it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to be able to share that with you. So please allow me a gushy moment to thank you.
So have a wonderful 2009! I do hope our paths will meet this year and if they do, come and say hello!!
Here in the UK Lughnasadh has just passed. What was a fresh green landscape at Beltane is now gold, with corn swaying under a somewhat illusive Sun, but ripened none-the-less. Now John Barleycorn, the Spirit of the Fields, is being cut down by the combine harvester.
The days of scythe are far behind us, and I guess it’s easy to look back at times when our relationship with the land and our food was closer. I’m sure those who worked the fields with scythes would look at the combine harvester as a great gift that could save their backs from great pain, but every year at Lughnasadh I step into one of our local corn fields and, with my own sickle, cut a few ears of corn for our Lughnasadh ceremony by hand, offering my own prayer of thanks to the Earth, and John Barleycorn, for the gift of our food.
The ceremonies leading up to the Summer Solstice with their growth and promise are often celebrated by asking for that same energy to enter our lives, but for me Lughnasadh marks the first festival of thanksgiving. As the year begins to wane so we gather the crops of the harvest, both of the land, and of those gifts that may have entered our lives, and offer our love and thanks, unconditionally. Last weekend about 45 of us gathered at the Long Man of Wilmington to offer this thanks. It was cold, windy, and rainy, not the expected heat of late Summer, but somehow this made the ceremony even more poignant. When we can gather our own harvest from the shelves of the local supermarket, our personal sacrifice of a little bit of discomfort to mark and honour the gifts of this beautiful, miraculous Earth seems like the least we can do.
And, of course, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere were at that same point celebrating the gentleness, and growth, of Imbolc. So as one half of the Earth offers thanks and begins to gather the harvest, so the other looks towards hope, growth, and the gift of new life. And so the Earth spins ever on, as the Wheel forever turns.
In 2006 I finished recording my album Spirit of Albion. It seems that it was only a day after I received them that the first song from what was to become The Cauldron Born was written. That song was Green and Grey. The tune for The Cauldron Born had been written while I was recording Albion, but no words would come at that time.
The next songs were Immrama and Only Human, both written on the same day, and using a very different writing technique – I usually write the tune first, then the lyrics, but with these songs I decided to try writing the lyrics first, and then finding the tune. I guess whatever comes second is the hardest part. With these two songs I found the lyric writing much easier, but the tunes were difficult to find, but they both finally came.
And still no words for The Cauldron Born tune…
It was about this time that the tune for Land, Sky and Sea arrived, and I just couldn’t find the words to go with it. So that made two tunes, with no lyrics.
It was in September 2007 that the first chords were struck and recorded for the new album. I had 6 songs written and I gave myself the deadline of 8th March 2008 to write the rest of the songs, and finish the recording. But I came up against a problem straight away.
Cue the boring techie bit! - I had recorded my previous three CDs on a Dell computer on Logic 4 (if you know sequencer programs you’ll currently be going Logic 4!!) Apple computers bought Logic and there hadn’t been a new version for PCs since Logic 5 – the lovely Apple people had just launched Logic 8! My beloved Dell had had enough of my music and flew off to the computer Summerlands. I didn’t want to have to learn how to use a new sequencer, so tried to record my album on my Apple iBook G4 with Logic 7, but it just wasn’t up to it, so in the end I had to get a new iMac, with Logic 8. It arrived at the end of October, and this was when the recording began in earnest.
I had by this time found some words for both The Cauldron Born, and Land, Sky and Sea, but wasn’t completely happy with them. There was something missing from the first, and a line I just couldn’t get in the second. I had written Pagan Ways after my enconter at the Long Man of Wilmington with the Trinny and Suzanna Show (see this post for details of that!), and things were taking shape nicely.
The last song I wrote was On Midwinter’s Day, a song that came out of nowhere after a particularly wonderful Winter Solstice ceremony at the Long Man with the Anderida Gorsedd, but still these other two songs wouldn’t complete. I cannot tell you how many times I had sat with my guitar searching for the missing words!
But then, in a sudden flash, just as I was beginning to think they just might not want to be written, the words came. The missing verse from The Cauldron Born was the very first one, as it invited the listener to come with me as I showed them other spiritual people just like themselves. And the missing line from Land, Sky and Sea came and is one of the favourite lines I have ever written – Oh, this town is so cold, Neon Magicians they offer the Fools their Gold.
These were the last words I sang, and the album’s recording was complete.
It had taken over two years to find the lyrics for The Cauldron Born song, and just over a year for Land, Sky and Sea. They are always there, some songs just need longer incubation!
I’ve been watching an incredible program on the BBC called Extreme Pilgrim. It’s a documentary about a Christian Vicar who spends about a month with devotees of three major religions to try and experience their way of connecting with God. Last week he was with Buddhist Monks who connected with the devine through Kung Fu, and this week he spent a month learning the ways of the Saddhu, the mystic Hindu holy men.
What struck me was the way in which religion was a part of everyday life in India. The passion of their beliefs really came across in the program. When he arrived in a small mountain village to spend time meditating in a nearby cave, the villagers gave him gifts and food – they treated him as a special holy man, someone with honour. They believed that his presence would bring good fortune to the village. And he pondered that only a few centuries ago, he, as a Christian priest might well have been offered the same within villages in Britain, before our society became so secular.
It got me wondering about Paganism, and Holyness. How would local Pagans react if, say, a Wiccan Priest set up camp in the woods near Wilmington, living simply, with daily meditations – spending time with the land, connecting with the Spirits of Place. Would they visit him with gifts, and honour his Journey? Or would they view his actions with suspicion, thinking that somehow he was being ego-driven, and wanted to ‘be someone important’. I’m sure some would see the honesty in his personal Path, but sadly, because of some of the posts I’ve read on some Pagan message boards, I think many would also respond with the latter.
What does this say of the way some Pagans value their our own spiritual path? If someone is naturally inclined to view a spiritual practice with suspicion, where is the foundation of their own beliefs? I would love to live in a place and time where this kind of practice was encouraged, not viewed with cynicism, wouldn’t you?