In the beginning…

In the beginning…

It was Lughnasadh/Lammas 1995 and I was at a Wiccan camp. I wasn’t initiated into a Coven but had been invited to help by the organisers and I jumped at the chance. It was a fabulous opportunity to meet a whole lot of Witches and absorb the energy of the camp and community.

The week was hot as grain-harvest time can be. There was a trip out to the Long Man of Wilmington, some wonderful and deep conversations and magical moments. The rest of the crew (who were nicknamed The A Team by attendees of the camp) were all friends, and we were all fairly new to Paganism. I only began to explore the Paths in 1992 after emerging from a Ceremonial Magic Order who I had been with since my teens. It was an exciting time. I’m sure some of you will remember that first flush of Pagan magic. Cerri often quotes Terry Pratchett who wrote about opening your eyes, then opening them again, and that is truly how it felt. As if my eyes had been open for years, but had only now opened again to see the magic that was all around me. Swimming Grass snakes, magical gnarled trees, the sound of drumming through the woods.

Silver on the Tree and The Dolmen played. I’d been in charge of the music entertainment and had been delighted to have booked two of my favourite Pagan bands. The Dolmen played in a huge barn to an almost entirely skyclad audience – that was about the closest I’d felt to being at an ecstatic Witches Sabbat. And Silver on the Tree played under an old oak tree in a space lit only by a campfire.


Each night we would gather around a fire in a clearing in the woods. The first night as I walked out under the stars having finished chip-cooking duties for the night I heard the sound of chanting. Harmonious voices singing those Wiccan chants that are so familiar to so many. Lady Spin your Circle Bright, We are the Old People, We all come from the Goddess. Sang with love and accompanied by drums. As I walked to the fire I thought I’ve found my people. It was truly life-changing and wonderful.

It was a week-long camp. As night fell the next night so the chanting began again. Beautiful. Sacred. Connecting. But by the 5th night as I joined the campfire I began to think to myself – man, we need some songs. The chants were wonderful, don’t get me wrong, they really were, and chants can act as a beast on which to ride away on Journeys through Otherworlds. Songs do that too, but they can also bring a community together in different ways. It’s something we’ve been doing around campfires for thousands of years. I didn’t know or realise at the time but it was the Bardic tradition that was calling out to me. The Bard/Skald with one foot in the realm of entertainment, and the other in the realm of the Sacred/Otherworld. Who bring songs, stories, and myths to life.

A week later I was at my first Druid camp. Again in Sussex, and this one held by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. It too felt like a sacred space, and as the first night fell I listened out for those chants, and I heard some. But I also heard bagpipes being played to call us to ceremony, and as I lay under the stars I heard the sound of harps around other fires, of singing, and of storytelling. I heard a Bard sing and hold the energy of the campfire. And I knew from that moment what I wanted to do – who and what I wanted to be. I was right. We did need some songs. So I got writing. I bought a harp, a mandolin, and opened to the Awen.

And that’s how all of this began. I just thought I’d write some songs Pagans, Witches, and Druids, might like to sing around campfires. The Awen flowed and the words and music followed. I had no idea of the Journey that lay ahead. That the songs people loved here in the UK would be enjoyed by Pagans all over the world. That sitting at those Wiccan and Druid campfires in 1995, and the decision I made, would lead me to stand in front of Sydney Opera House, Niagara Falls, or the Statue of Liberty. That I would hear the songs I’d written being sung along by people all over the world.

I never saw any of that coming at all.

Music is magic. It speaks directly to our soul. Every one of us knows a song that has brought us back to ourselves, that has had exactly the right words and melody we needed to hear at that exact moment. That might just have saved our lives. And logically it doesn’t make sense. They are only sounds. But instinctively somehow we know they are so much more than that. Music is indeed magic, and I think I realised that at two campfires in 1995, and I am eternally thankful I did.

7 responses to “In the beginning…”

  1. Hi Damh….this is so true. I came to Druidry in later life (ie retirement!) and suddenly found a surge of creative energy that I’d never experienced before. I was the kid who was written off at school and someone who couldn’t do this, that or anything really. What Druidry really gave me was a sense of connection to the land rather than simply living on it. When Linda and I retired, it was to the east coast of North Yorkshire and I felt that I’d come home. That sense of the special nature of the place where the land meets the sea led me to write this song last month…thanks for all that you do and are, peace and blessed be.

    Where The Land Meets The Sea (JHD May 2023)

    I’ve lived in the country, I lived in a town;
    I watched the sunrise and I’ve seen the sundown.
    But something was missing, it wasn’t quite me;
    It took sixty-plus years to find what it might be

    There’s no other place that I’d rather be
    Than to stand at the place where the land meets the sea.
    No, there’s no other place that I’d rather be
    Than to stand at the place where the land meets the sea.

    There’s a spot on the earth where magic takes place;
    Twice every day at a slow steady pace.
    There’s a line in the sand which owns no regret
    Beginnings and endings, life’s stage is reset;…..chorus

    All life is a cycle with both ups and downs;
    The moon waxes and wanes as each month comes round.
    To stand on the beach, and watch the tide turn;
    A myriad lessons is there to be learned……chorus

    Experience builds the older we grow;
    But there’s so many things that still I don’t know.
    It becomes much harder, at least that’s what it seems;
    But it’s well worth the effort to follow our dreams…..chorus x2

  2. I agree wholeheartedly that while music is great to enhance a situation, there’s nothing like that connection you have with a song that just speaks directly to your soul. When I was first figuring out exactly what I was( raised Christian but never connected to that religion)later in my adult life, I started researching after a conversation I had with my parents while in the car driving down the road. We passed by a street called Druid Ln. and my Christian mother asked out loud what were the Druids about. Without missing a beat I replied,” They are a Nature loving group that in part worships Nature.” I know now, that it was a very fragmented definition but that lead me to start researching Druids that lead me to learning about Paganism. I had finally learned what I had been my whole life. I had never fit in with my family or community of the Christian faith, I had always had more questions than answers and the answers I got I didn’t quite agree with. During my research, I came across a Witch Youtuber that mention Damh the Bard. I looked you up and found your music. The first song I listened to was Cauldron Born and the phrase, “Come with me and let me show there are others just like you.” was like a awakening for me. I cried tears of happiness and acceptance. I had found my people. It’s very difficult, in the area I live in, to find like minded individuals ( I live in the “bible belt” of the Southeast in the US.) So through songs like you create, I feel closer to other Pagans and don’t feel as alone as I used to. Thank you for creating music and stories that people all over the world can connect to and have a sense of community!
    Much love from the US☺️

  3. yes, music IS magic and all of us fans of yours are really glad you heard the calling!!! 🙂 nice to hear your start in what you have done with your talents…how you got your start in this beautiful thing you bring to us all!! peace and blessings to you and yours!!! and a big hearty THANK YOU!! )O(

  4. Hi Damh it was great to hear what motivated you to write your songs. Thanks to the Goddess for directing you to those camps we can all now enjoy your songs. Blessings✌️

  5. How wonderful to read the inspiration that lead you to writing, singing and telling the stories in your way! Merlin Am I was the song for me, the song I shared with my sister to say I had finally found what I was searching for. So glad it was featured on the OBOD website at just the right moment in time. So much of your music still brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for listening to that calling and sharing the inspiration with all of us.

  6. There isn’t a lot I can say about your songs that other folk haven’t already said. However there are a number of your amazing words that especially speak to me and travel with me on my Pagan journey . For that I must thank the Goddess for guiding you to your path and you for the words you write.
    Blessing to my favourite Bard.

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