Review: Avalon is Risen by Leslie Fish

Avalon is Risen by Leslie Fish

Music Review by Valerie Voigt


After many years, I have a new favorite Pagan album.  It’s Leslie Fish’s new CD, titled AVALON IS RISEN, featuring some of Leslie’s best compositions plus a few gems by other Pagan elders.

For those who don’t know already, Leslie Fish is a longtime Bard, famous among West Coast Pagans.  She used to direct Manzanita Choir, which performed for rituals in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This album is deeply rooted in her several decades of Pagan Bardic magical practice, and reflects not only her experiences but her very personal approach to myth and lore.

The title track, written by the late elder Druid, Isaac Bonewits, is an anthem:  it announces the triumphant return of the Old Ways and of the life-affirming values they embody.  This song celebrates the many Pagan paths, calling to the different branches of Indo-European Pagan priesthoods and joyfully inviting the rest of the world to throw off slavery and join with us in equal fellowship.  Using just this song as the basic text, one could teach a semester-long class in the history and lore of the Old Religions.

Some of the songs explore aspects of Pagan life and identity seldom found in either books or music.  For example, “Berserker”:  most of us have heard of these “bear-shirt” Norse warriors and their battle frenzy; this song considers what a Berserker’s life might be like, and the discipline that must be required of such a person today.   Likewise,
“Mount Tam” is about making difficult choices in an emergency situation.  Leslie, longtime Bard and warrior also, shares with us her personal choices, and invites us to consider our own.

On the other hand, her great sense of fun shines through, too.  “The Gods Aren’t Crazy” is a lighthearted—and theologically tenable!—explanation of Fortean phenomena (rains of frogs, UFOs, and similar unexplained occurrences).

The album’s production values are top-notch.  The sound engineering is professional-quality, and the arrangements are rich and varied:  there is none of the unfortunate sameness from which many “genre” type albums suffer.  The back-up musicians include such well-known and virtuoso performers as Kristoph Klover and Margaret Davis, and no
synthesized music is used:  it’s all done on traditional instruments.  Bodhran and French horn, mandolin and fiddle, harpsichord and oboe, all are played with skill, precision, and flair.

The gorgeous album cover, with its profuse Celtic and Norse-style knotwork, makes many visual references to Celtic and Norse myth.  The lyric booklet included with the CD includes liner notes with valuable supplementary information about the songs and about Pagan lore and history—and a little in-joke or two, here and there, for those who know how to see them.

A fun and thought-provoking work that will be appreciated more and more each year as the listener’s own study and knowledge of Pagan lore deepens.

Avalon Is Risen” is available for purchase and free Internet streaming from Prometheus Music's website. Also available from Amazon.Com.

[This review was originally published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #42, which is available from MagCloud. -ed]


[amazon_enhanced asin="B008CP6MP2" /]

Ancestors Chant

Ancestors Chant

by “A chorus of Karl’s”

Photo of Karl Schlotterbeck

Karl Schlotterbeck

Archdruid Karl, bard extraordinary put together a fresh Ancestor’s Chant.  The words are simple, and there is a drone of “ancestors” in the background.  You’ll love it.

  • Ancestor spirits, here with us today
  • Waters of blessing, inspire us on our way

The music is available to download or listen. Hear:  Ancestor Chant by Karl Schlotterbeck

The Lyke-Wake Dirge, A Druid version

(Lyrics adapted by Phil Hutchens)

Phil Hutchens

Hear the words of our Gods,
Enter Tir na Nog
Love is the hand that turns the wheel,
and round the wheel doth turn.

Know that you must from this life pass,
Enter Tir na Nog
Beneath the Earth to seek your rest,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the First great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Shoes you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Second great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Staff you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Third great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Sickle you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Fourth great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your cords you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Fifth great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Robe you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Sixth great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Sigil you must lay down at last,
and round the wheel doth turn.

When the Seventh great gate is passed,
Enter Tir na Nog
Your Fears you must lay down at last, and round the wheel doth turn.

The Dark Mother will be waiting there,
Enter Tir na Nog
With Her dark lover, the Comforter,
and round the wheel doth turn.

They sit upon an ebon throne,
Enter Tir na Nog
Her crown is ice and His is stone,
and round the wheel doth turn.

Their love brings forth both fruit and death,
Enter Tir na Nog
There is no other way to life,
and round the wheel doth turn.

For life is death and death is life,
Enter Tir na Nog
And love is the greatest mystery,
and round the wheel doth turn.

Hear the words of our Gods,
Enter Tir na Nog
Love is the hand that turns the wheel,
and round the wheel doth turn.

Note:  Wiccans also have a reclaimed version. Some believe the song should only to be sung to completion when magically intended, so as to not have its magic diminished when used as a Rite of Passage.  When teaching or learning this song, I suggest that the last stanza be omitted.

The Christian version was first collected by John Aubrey in 1686, who also recorded that it was being sung in 1616, but it is believed to be much older. To hear the some, a midi file is at http://www.canasg.com/midi/lyke.mid.


Editor Notes:

Sheet music is available at: Traditional Music Library.
[amazon_link id="B00007KK91" target="_blank" ]Present: The Very Best of Steeleye Span[/amazon_link] contains their version of Lyke-Wake Dirge.  Also it is available for mp3 download from several sources including:

[amazon_image id="B0026GVMAI" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Parson's Tale: the Lyke-Wake Dirge[/amazon_image]