Damh’s 8th album – if the 2012 album Antlered Crown and Standing Stone album was a more reflective collection of music (with, of course a number of rousing Pagan anthems!) this new collection of songs harks back to Spirit of Albion and The Cauldron Born. The anthems have a folk-rock feel, and the ballads have even more depth and meaning. The inclusion of the classic folk song Scarborough Faire and a cover of Lady in Black by Uriah Heep makes this an album that will surely please old and new fans of Damh’s music alike.
A song inspired by the old woodcuts that show Witches dancing with a horned figure from the times of the Witch hunts and the ‘Hammer of the Witches‘, the Inquisition (nobody ever expected them, apparently), Images that can still cut to the heart of some who see them, particularly those who still believe in a Dennis Whealtey-esque occult fraternity.
It’s all rubbish of course – propaganda to feed paranoia and build superstition for a power-hungry church. A topic I tried to address with my song Green and Grey.
But the Sabbat for modern Witches and Wiccans is a real thing. So I wanted to write a song that held within it that ecstasy of the union with Nature, the wildness of Dionysus, the drums beneath the moon, the roaring fire, the chanting, dancing – If you’ve been there, you know.
But you can keep your Devil, I’ll dance with Pan!!
The day is done I turn my gaze towards the setting sun,
I taste the incense on the air, I hear the sound of drums,
The chill of the evening descends.
All day long I’ve been working hard for the man,
But now’s the time to ditch this skin and be who I am,
Some people just don’t understand,
You can keep your Devil I’ll dance with Pan!
For I will fly free,
On the wings of ecstasy,
And I will dance free,
To the music of Faerie.
Lughnasadh and Samhain,
Equinox and Solstice,
On hilltops in forests tonight,
To the Sabbat I will ride.
I will dance with the Fearie Queen beneath the silver moon,
I will taste the honey mead and chant the Witch’s Rune,
My heart with the pulse of the land.
Witness now the union of chalice and of blade,
Of life and death and life again the union is made,
By power of land and of sea,
By power of will, so mote it be!
The night is done the sun will rise on a brand new day,
And I along with millions go out to earn our pay,
People see just what they want to see.
But I have danced with the Faerie Queen, shared the mead of the sun.
I have worn the Oaken Crown before the Horned One,
And I’ll know it’s time to return,
When I see those Pagan fires burn!
The Wicker Man
Inspired by the many Wicker Man ceremonies that are becoming more and more popular at Pagan festivals, but particularly the one at the mighty Mercian Gathering in the UK.
Gather branches of hazel, Oak and ash and thorn, Tie them with a green willow, Blessed by a crown of horn, The corn headless before us, Falls down to the scythe, Weave him with thanksgiving, Place the Corn Doll inside.Give thanks to our Mother, And the Green Man of the Spring, Thank the Goddess of Harvest, Thanks to the Fallen King, The three men from the west. Their fortunes for to try, And they did all agree, John Barleycorn must die.
Chorus: Wicker Man, oh Wicker Man, Like a mighty God you stand, You are guardian of our land, Take our prayers oh Wicker Man. Wicker Man, oh Wicker Man, Like a mighty God you stand, You are guardian of our land, Take our prayers oh Wicker Man.
What starts with the smallest ember, Is fed like blood through veins, Kissed by a flaming arrow, Aroused into towering flames, Give our prayers of thanksgiving, To life and John Barleycorn, Death is a new beginning, What dies shall be reborn.
Can you hear the chanting, To the sound of Pagan drums, Hear our voices singing, The sacrifice begun, The flames they will devour him, See him bow his head, Then we’ll jump the fires burning, The Wicker Man is dead….and we shall have our bread.
After the blue plaque was unveiled I was filled with a sense of arrival.
For years it had felt like us modern Pagans had to justify our paths, looking for links to a distant past that gave us some kind of authenticity. Much of this angst came from within the community itself. But over recent years I’ve noticed this ease off as the seeds planted by the likes of Gardner, Valiente, the Sanders, Nichols, have sprouted and have now pushed through the surrounding stones into more fertile ground to form strong roots.
I wanted to write a song that reflected that, so here are the words.
Ancient stone, shadows of firelight, conspire to conceal,
This was my home, a shelter from the night, now every brush reveals,
How I ran with the wild, I ran with my brothers, with arrow and with spear,
I leave you this gift, of 10,000 years.
Romans came, a mighty army, to the shores of Ynys Mon,
I’ve heard it said, I’ve heard the story, the Druids have all gone.
But what stays in our hearts, remains in our memory, with story and with song,
And they have been here, all along.
The Ancients opened the door,
We’re the same as ever before,
We will hear you forevermore,
So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.
Is the path lost, is it broken, fallen from our hands,
Like shards of glass, worn by the ocean, into grains of sand.
But they’re raised by the wind, and scattered like ashes, all across the land,
And we won’t forget, we understand.
Iron from Stone
Scarborough Faire is an amazing song. Such a wonderful melody and lyric that tells of all of the impossible tasks a human woman would need to achieve to be with a man from Elfland.
But I began to wonder…
These wonderful folk songs have been left us by anonymous writers from years ago and have been sung ever since. But is there another story behind Scarborough Faire? What about that songwriter from years ago? What inspired them to write such a song?
So I thought I would tell that story. Hope you like it!
As I rode out one morning,
Just as the day was dawning,
I gave my usual greeting to the Sun.
To seek my inspiration
I knew my destination
A standing stone down where the river runs.
Seeing no one else in sight
I sat down to write
But I was not alone
The Sun a little colder
A hand upon my shoulder
A shadow fell across the ancient stone.
He asked what I was writing
It sounded so inviting
I said I just tell stories with song.
The melody compelling
Said he had a tale worth telling
And promised that it wouldn’t take too long
He never would forget
How his true love he met
At a county faire
Of land by the sea
A Cambric shirt with no seams
And of a life that they would never share.
He thought they’d be together
To live their lives forever
But realised that he would soon be gone
Behind doors that were closing
From the will we were imposing
On the land we depend upon.
Their story will be sung
For many years to come
But we reap what we have sown
Two broken hearts
Two worlds torn apart
From the day we made iron from stone.
Lady in Black
She came to me one morning, one lonely Sunday morning, Her long hair flowing in the mid-winter wind. I know not how she found me, for in darkness I was walking, And destruction lay around me from a fight I could not win.
She asked me name my foe then. I said the need within some men To fight and kill their brothers without thought of men or god. I begged her give me horses to trample down my enemies, So eager was my passion to devour this waste of life.
But she would not think of battle that reduces men to animals, So easy to begin and yet impossible to end. For she the mother of all men had counseled me so wisely that I feared to walk alone again and asked if she would stay.
“Oh lady lend your hand,” I cried, “Oh let me rest here at your side.” “Have faith and trust in me,” she said and filled my heart with life. “There is no strength in numbers. have no such misconceptions. But when you need me be assured I won’t be far away.”
Thus having spoke she turned away and though I found no words to say I stood and watched until I saw her black cloak disappear. My labour is no easier, but now I know I’m not alone. I find new heart each time I think upon that windy day. And if one day she comes to you drink deeply from her words so wise. Take courage from her as your prize and say hello for me.
When You Were Born
Songwriting is cathartic. It’s a spiritual journey and things build over time until there is no way a songwriter can resist the pull to see a lyric through. Many years ago I wrote the song Only Son – it started its journey as a song called Herne’s Apprentice, but it gradually morphed into the song about a parent moving on from this world, talking to their son about the love they have for them. I love the song, but it never said all of the things that I feel for my own two sons. For a start there is no ‘only son’, there are two, loved equally, with their own stories and lives. Very different birth experiences.
Anyone who has a child should know the overriding, overpowering love a parent feels for their child. It’s that power I wanted to write about. It’s a personal song, but I hope that, if you have children of your own, you will identify with some of the words. They grow up so quickly, every moment is precious, and no matter how old they are, they will always be our children.
I haven’t managed to play it through without tears yet…
When you were born,
The nights were getting longer, and I knew I must be stronger,
Than I had been.
When you were born,
Looking forward to your chatter, and the little pitter patter,
Of your feet.
Son I heard your heart stop,
And the silence felt forever,
I called out to the land the sea and sky,
I held my arms out to you,
I’d hold you close forever,
Fell to my knees when you opened your eyes.
When you were born,
The lessons from your brother, to me and to your mother,
Kept you safe.
When you were born,
You looked so unconcerned, like you had just returned,
To this place.
Hand prints on the walls,
Little pictures home from school,
Are gone in the blinking of an eye,
But there’s no love that’s stronger,
No love that lasts longer,
You’re my sons, until the day I die.
Time moves on,
Falling grains of sand, I let go of your hand,
And watch you go.
Time moves on,
From the day that you were born, to the men that you’ve become,
I’ve watched you grow.
Your hearts may break,
And you will make mistakes,
Life it can be hard it’s true.
But when your baby cries,
And you look into their eyes,
You’ll know the love I felt for you, I feel for you.
Forgotten, Never Be
Stepping outside under the moon last night, hearing the fireworks, tasting the smoke in the air, in an atmosphere of chaos was as amazing as ever. Our bonfire night is very Samhain. Some don’t like it, and I get the contradictory ethics of a country full of bonfires and a care for the Earth.
To me bonfire night is about more than Guy Fawkes. In fact I wonder if it was ever just about that. I live near the county town of Lewes and last night this normally reserved middle-class town swelled in numbers by thousands as it held its annual bonfire night. It’s quite something as the video shows.
These living traditions are important. The Wassail, Morris dancing the dawn at Beltane, the Abbots Bromley horn Dance, the Bacup Coconut Men, the Mari Llwyd, there are strange traditions all over Albion, and this song celebrates them.
On a winter’s night,
Bathed in starlight,
We’ll sing our Wassail prayer,
Some toast and good beer,
Raised in good cheer,
To apple and to pear,
Our guns will inspire,
The fruit of desire,
And ale we will share,
Ale we will share.
And the snow is falling,
Her Cloak is laying all over the land.
On the 1st of May,
At the break of day,
Summer is born,
We’ll dance a Morris tune,
With the setting of the Moon,
And we will greet the dawn,
The Winter we dispel,
With the sound of Morris bell,
So pass the drinking horn,
Pass the drinking horn.
And the Sun is rising,
The Green Man growing all over the land.
As night it falls down,
On quiet county towns,
It’s hard to believe,
Torches they are raised,
And the bonfires blaze,
This November eve,
The Pope we defy,
As fire fills the sky.
The prayers they decree,
Forgotten, never be.
And the fires are burning,
And the sky is blazing all over the land.
Last night I had a crazy dream, I’d built myself a time machine, Said goodbye to all my friends, Set the date and off I went. I went back to 69, Heard Hendrix play for the very first time, I cried when I heard Jim Morrison sing, Gave the 12 steps to the Lizard King.
Chorus As pages turn, Let us learn, let us learn. As pages turn, Let us learn, let us learn.
So I went to meet Jesus Christ, Before he paid his father’s price, I saw Prophet Mohammed too, Didn’t try to change their point of view. The only thing I wanted them to hear, Was to make their message crystal clear, That peace is love, and love is peace, Just hear those words and find release.
I went to hear Taliesin sing, Spoke with Merlin about the future king, I saw Stonehenge and what it’s for. But I don’t think I should say much more. My dream, well, it made me see, That our time machine is our history. And we have to do all it takes, To stop making the same mistakes.
When Cerri and I did our deep ancestry DNA test with the National Geographic’s GENO 2 program it really didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that I had a good chunk of Danish Viking in my genes. Tall, blonde hair, blue eyes, it was pretty obvious, but it was good to have it officially confirmed. Since then I’ve wanted to write a song dedicated to the beliefs of my ancient Scandinavian ancestors.
The song was inspired by a local site here in Sussex that is about 45 minutes walk from my home. On the South Downs is an iron age hill fort that is named after the bronze age Barrow that stands just beside it called Thundersbarrow. With a name like that it is sure to have been named after the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, so I took a walk up there and asked the site to tell its story.