You know the feeling.
Maybe your coven/hearth/circle are bitching and in-fighting for the third time this month. Maybe you’ve just taken home what you thought was an uber-rare book on magick from a second-hand bookshop, only to discover that it was published by Llewellyn. Maybe, like me, you’ve been exposed to yet another bollocks, anti-witch Hollywood blockbuster and are feeling the inevitable feeling of exasperation at the masses that seems to be becoming the norm for educated pagans everywhere.
Whatever the reason, if you’re a pagan feeling blue, here is a collection of songs guaranteed (well, not really) to pick you up. These are entirely of my choosing… You will notice a fairly Australian flavour. I’d be keen to hear what you use to chase away the doldrums.
1. The Junction of the Two Rivers – Big Low
Something obscure to begin with, and it doesn’t get much more obscure than Dutch/Australian folk.
Nevertheless, this song captures the essence of not only living in the Australian landscape (without the corny Give Me a Home among the Gum Trees feel), but being an active participant in it and contributor to it:
“When I face upstream towards the wild country
I want you to be there with me
And to understand the man you’ve chosen
At the junction of the two rivers.
Well there’s a story here in the sand
We must dance for the good rain
I’ll take the embers into my body
At the junction of the two rivers.”
2. The Lord of the Dance – Coyote Run
This is a reimagining of the popular hymn by now defunct kilt rock band Coyote Run. Out of interest, I played it to a Christian friend of mine, who I knew was a fan of the original hymn. He thought for a while, and said, “Well, I suppose we’ve stolen a lot from pagans over the years… It’s probably time you stole something back?”
And stolen it they have. The Coyote Run version is now an ode to the Celtic Wheel of the Year.
“I danced at a Beltane with the pole standing tall,
And the ribbons flowing round the dancers all.
I danced in the sunlight at the Midsummer Feast
as the day dawned pink in the summer’s East.
Dance, dance wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.
When the harvest arrived and the fields shone gold,
And the air was tinged with a touch of frosty cold,
I danced round the balefire, late at night,
and turned the wheel against all fright.”
Author’s note – the above YouTube video doesn’t do this song much justice. There’s a great version of Lord of the Dance on this album.
3. Green and Grey – Damh the Bard
Say what you will, I do love a bit of Damh. Green and Grey tells the story of a priest who comes across a horned man in the forest. It sets out to explain, without malice, name-calling or belittlement, the misconceptions some non-pagans have about the Horned God. As well as being a beautiful song, it provides an inoffensive introduction to the uninitiated and quells one of the biggest misconceptions about paganism in general.
4. Magick – Spiral Dance
I’ve loved Spiral Dance for years now, despite some of the fans at the live shows I’ve been to being somewhat Hillsong-esque at times. Magick is neat because it is written as something of an invocation in itself:
“Come stand within the circle that you and I have cast
within the boundary of this time we’ll take the knowing path
hail to the elements, four quarters we command
freely we are here and between the worlds we’ll stand
Power of the Earth I call you from the South
from the East the air come I call you now
the North to send in fire illuminate the night
water from the West bring power to this rite.”
5. Summerisle (The Maypole Song) – The Mediaeval Baebes
This song was made famous by The Wicker Man, but it is likely you already knew that. With its folksy songs and idyllic pagan island, The Wicker Man is a favourite among pagans. I’ve always found it interesting that pagans have taken such an ownership of a horror movie. But then, ownership and integration into culture is what fandom is all about!
I had the privilege of hearing this song sang during an actual maypole dance. It was wonderful.
6. Holly Boy and Ivy Girl – Matt Chapman
Ok, ok. Another obscure one here. But this song by Castlemaine-born Matt Chapman really is worth digging out. It’s from his album Down Aisle Three or Oak Tree, which contains many songs that speak to both city and country pagan-inclined folk.
Holly Boy and Ivy Girl puts one in mind of a Beltane dance with its upbeat, jigging whistles and drums. I really recommend it to anyone feeling disillusioned with some of the mass-produced “folk” music that’s around at the moment.
7. The Origin of Love – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
“When the earth was still flat,
And the clouds made of fire,
And mountains stretched up to the sky,
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs.
They had two sets of arms.
They had two sets of legs.
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked; while they read.
And they never knew nothing of love.
It was before the origin of love.”
While the transsexual rock opera that this song is taken from may not be everyone’s cup of tea, The Origin of Love – a retelling of the Greek creation myth from Plato’s Symposium – has some very strong pagan themes, as well as themes of love and equality.
Do not listen to this after a breakup!
8. Peace Will Come (According to Plan) – Melanie Safka
“There’s a chance peace will come in your life, please buy one.”
This one line, often overlooked, is pointing out the ridiculousness of those people who try to “buy” their inner peace – be it with a bible, some prayer flags, overpriced magickal tools… whatever.
Even though she was a very popular singer in the late sixties and early seventies, Melanie was also a very intelligent and very spiritual person. This comes through in this song’s beautiful lyrics, which were inspired by nature and our part within it.
9. Weaving the Summer – Spiral Dance
I am yet to find a song that so easily captures the feeling of Beltane. Adrienne and friends provide some beautiful harmonies, and the verses tell of traditional English celebrations:
“Down west in Padstow the wee ‘oss spins round and round
fired by the teaser who’s calling him on
the rhythm of the drums in the hills up above the town
brings out the people for dancing and song
In the old town of Hastings the streets lie in wait today
garlands of ivy and flowers are seen
we’ll look for the man who wears a green leafy coat
release the summer please Jack In the Green”
This has been sung at many of the Mount Franklin Beltane events I’ve been to, and it has always seemed like a great way to top off a great weekend. I have a lot of respect for Spiral Dance, as many of their songs have transcended the something to listen to in the car arena and have become modern pagan anthems.
10. Oak and Ash and Thorn – Coyote Run
Have I mentioned I love Kilt Rock? Oh, I have?
Kilt Rock (aka Celtic Rock) is a great example of the Celtic Diaspora not necessarily meaning the end of Celtic roots. In Canada especially, many people celebrate their Celtic roots, and they do it so well. They apply their own knowledge and interests to traditional English, Irish and Scottish folk songs to create something new while celebrating the old. Oak and Ash and Thorn is a prime example of this.
11. Season of the Witch – Donovan
Yes, yes. I can hear your groan from here. But I challenge you to listen to this while driving to a Samhain event and not feel just a little bit badass…
12. The Spirit of Albion – Damh the Bard
“The Crane, the wolf,
the bear and the boar,
No longer dwell upon these shores,
You say that the Goddess and God
Well I tell you they live on!
For in the cities and hills,
And in circles of stone,
The voices of the Old Ways,
The Spirit of Albion is calling you home!”
Regardless of what you think of the movie of the same name, there’s no denying that this song is an anthem, a call to arms. You need to see it played live with a hundred other pagans for the full effect, but before you do, be warned: it will have you singing all the way home, and possibly even taking out a second mortgage to travel to the UK!