The Bones of Albion – Our Stories and our Songs
A year or so ago a friend of mine mine recommended that I watch a film. It was called Dreamkeeper, and is the tale of a Native American Grandfather, travelling to a tribal gathering, being driven there by his teenage grandson. The grandson has been seduced by the modern age, and is in trouble with a gang, and has pretty much dismissed the Old Ways of his tribe. As the journey progresses it becomes apparent that his Grandfather is a keeper of the sacred tales of the tribe and, as mile passes mile, he tells the stories to his Grandson. It takes a little while to get going, but when it does it’s captivating, emotional, spiritual, a beautiful life-affirming film.
As I watched I couldn’t help but think about our own stories – the Bones of Albion, the Matter of Britain. Some years ago I travelled to Greece to play a concert there and took the opportunity to play the Pipes of Pan. A song about Pan sung right there in Arcadia. As I introduced the song I saw a few tear-filled eyes looking back at me from the audience and I found out why during the break. The Greek Orthodox Church has quite a hold in Greece and, particularly in the area I was playing, dictated what was taught in schools. The old myths and stories of Greece were not taught there. It took a travelling musician from Britain to help reconnect some of those Greek people with their own mythology! I was gobsmacked. But then I thought about our schools, and how the tales of our ancestors here are also not taught. Maybe in areas of Wales children are encouraged to explore the Mabinogi, but certainly not anywhere else, and these are tales of this island. Our days of the week are named after the Germanic Gods, but most people seem to learn their Norse mythology from Marvel’s recent movies.
When I go to Pagan gatherings there are many people who know these tales, but some don’t, and others even groan when a Bard stands to tell the tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin…again. But these are our tales! They are in the stone, the water, our blood, the land. I could hear that tale time and time again and read something new from it every time. Ok, I’m a Bard, I would love these stories, I get that, but to me our stories, poems and songs help us to know who we are, where we’ve come from. Even if you live in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, if your ancestors came from Britain these tales are your tales too.
Over a year on and this film still comes into my memory and awareness. It really moved me. I’ve found Dreamkeeper on YouTube. I don’t know how long it’ll be there but if you have an evening, watch it through and, hopefully, you too will feel the pull to explore the tales of the land land your ancestors.