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]


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Excerpt – Cattle Raids – 1

EXCERPT From Keltria Journal - Issue #42

Book of the Valley: Story One -- “Cattle Raids”

— Caillean ap Gwynedd

Tales are woven of love and sorrow, of adventure and magic, a little truth and a little laughter. Great are the deeds done and many of them true, and many more which grow in the telling, and who now may say which is which? Listen, Cymry, and I will tell you tales from the Book of the Valley, tales of the first great Cattle Raid....

Photo of Ewes Lookat at Camera by Lisa Jarvis [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ewes looking at Camera

Long had the day stretched, and how long exactly is difficult to kin for time spent in the Valley passes not as time passes elsewhere in the world. Fleet had been the warriors and cunning the battles, and many the cattle won and lost and won again. More than cattle alone were traded that day, and upon that hinge will the door of this tale swing shortly. Twilight at last called the Celts to their Tribe fire, there to let the sweat dry from their bodies and the heat to cool from their weapons, and to watch the shadows wage timeless war of their own with the sunlight, winning night with the knowledge that the battle would be lost or won again come morning.

Logs thrown on the past night's embers startled sparks into the darkening skies like fiery bats loosed in hunt for lightning bugs, and the Cymry eagerly settled into their accustomed places to partake of the evening's entertainment. For it is truly spoken that no Celt loves aught so much as a well-crafted story, and so it is told in days past Aonghus Bleidd ap Fainne was beat about the ears by his wife for composing a lusty song celebrating their lovemaking ere the latest lovemaking was quite complete. Any road, the listeners in place and the míd horns full to brimming, the first of the tellers of tales rose to stand in the fire's light.

Iarwain this was, he who it is told was visited by one of the Lords of the far north who traveled from those storm gray lands on a task which is quite a tale in its own right, and who brought rain and thunder to the Valley one summer's afternoon (and other things as well....). And so the first tale was told of the Sun God's love for the Dark Lady, and how the very laws of the Universe were altered for one evening only so that the two (who travel each in hir own...

[Continued in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick - Issue #42.]

Keltria Journal #42 - Storytelling

Find out more on MagCloud)

Arthur’s Three Sons

by Virginia Chandler

[Originally published about 15 years ago in Mystic Journeys eZine, 
it is reprinted here by permission of the author.]

How Mordred was Slain by Arthur

”How Mordred was Slain by Arthur” Arthur Rackham 
[Public domain], 
via Wikimedia Commons

Most people know that King Arthur had a son named Mordred or Med0raut.  However, it is rarely discussed that Arthur, in fact, had other sons. Mordred makes a better drama and a better tale, so he's gotten the "spotlight" for centuries while Amhir and Loholt have, except by hard core Arthurian scholars, been forgotten.   Yet, their tales are fascinating, full of emotion and tragedy.

Llachau, Marvellous in Song

In the Welsh remembrances, this son is called Llacheu:

I have been where was slain Llacheu, son of Arthur marvellous in song, when ravens croaked over his blood.
(Rachel Bromwich (ed. and trans.) Trioedd Ynys Prydein. The Welsh Triads (University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1961) p.416)

It is Llacheu, not Arthur, that is "marvellous in song"; so he must have had courageous and noteworthy deeds for the bards to remember him this way.    This comes from the Black Book of Carmarthen, 10th or 11th century, and the poem Mi a Wum or The Dialogue of Gwyddneu Garanhir and Gwyn ap Nudd.  It is a listing of warrior heroes, and the poet claims to have been at each of their deaths.

In the poem Pa gur yv y porthaur we get a hint into Llacheu's life, and ultimately, his death:

Cai the fair and Llachau, / they performed battles / before the pain of of blue spears (ended the conflict).

(Lines 76-8; Sims-Williams 1991, p.43)

Llachau persevered  in Welsh folklore as one of the great warriors of Arthur's band, as likewise, did Cai.  In the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, (the Welsh Triads), Llachau has great prominence:

Three Well-Endowed Men of the Island of Britain:

Gwalchmai son of Gwyar, and Llachau son of Arthur, and Rhiwallawn Broom-Hair.

**"Well-Endowed" is thought to mean "men of substance" in this case.

Amr, son of Arthur

Map of Ergyng (c. 500)

Ergung (circa 500)

Amr presents an even greater mystery than does Llachau.  Nennius, a 9th century monk, tells us that Amr was killed by Arthur himself at Archenfield and that the grave, called Licat Amr, had the odd habit of changing size.

There is another wonder in the country called Ergyng* (Ercing). There is a tomb there by a spring, called Llygad Amr (Licat Amr); the name of the man who was buried in the tomb was Amr. He was the son of the warrior Arthur, and he killed him there and buried him. Men come to measure the tomb, and it is sometimes six feet long, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve, sometimes fifteen. At whatever measure you measure it on one occasion, you never find it again of the same measure, and I have tried it myself. (John Morris (ed. and trans.) Nennius: British History and The Welsh Annals

(Arthurian Period Sources vol. 8, Phillimore 1980) p.42, marvel no. 13)

Amr is called Amhar in The Mabinogion and is described as one of Arthur's four "chamberlains".   Beyond this, almost unbelievably, we know next to nothing of Amr.

Interesting to note, as far as we know, none of these sons were borne by Gwenhwyfar, lest it be Amr.  Both Mordred and Llachau were bastard sons, though it seems that both were acknowledged by Arthur AS his sons, just not as his heir.  If Amr was the son of Gwenhwyfar and Arthur, then he was killed by his father, and we can only guess as to why; what is more, we have no idea, beyond speculation, of how Gwenhwyfar reacted to Amr's death.


Virginia ChandlerLearn about her new book, The Green Knight’s Apprentice at: www.virginiachandler.com.

Edge of November

Edge of November

by Karl Schlotterbeck

[Archdruid Karl provides inspiration in a poem/song called “The Edge of November.”  There is an on-line version of the music at http://www.keltria.org/Sounds/The_Edge_of_November.mp3 where Karl provides both voice and accompaniment (guitar).] 

He’s things to do in his work-a-day world,
Entranced by computer screens.
Flat images show him another flat scene
But they are not what they seem.
So he says good night to his co-workers there -
For a moment he actually cares;

Then off he drives in his fashion machine.
He’s got places to go and be seen.
He makes his way home on the crowded flat road
Absorbed in his thoughts and dreams
Till he comes to his house and parks his car
And hears the whispering leaves say:

Chorus

Everything’s alive
And dressed in its disguise;
There’s light within the dark
And masks that hide the eyes.
Each one with a tale to tell:
Our friends and kin beyond the veil.

But he’s things to do and he turns away
And walks to his house alone.
Unlocks the door and checks his phone
Lights the pumpkin on the sill
He turns on the light to invite them all in
As something stirs within.

The children come, he shares their joy
His worries they all die.
He sees the shining light in their eyes
Behind the shadowy masks.
As he turns to the flickering light in the glass
The voices come and ask: Isn’t. . .

Chorus

{Bridge Spoken}

As the rays of the rising moon
Penetrate his lonely gloom
He surrenders to the voiceless choir
And once more feels that spirit’s fire.

He went next morning to his work-a-day world
On the first day of November.
He hummed a strange uncanny tune
And decided to remember:
He has friends in the fire and a light in the dark
And a sister in the Moon.

Chorus

[Ed note:  An audio of this song is available here.]

-------------


Books by Karl Schlotterbeck

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Song to the Young Son

Song to the Young Son

By Jenne Micale

Aonghus of the hidden birth
Aonghus of the flowering tree
Aonghus of the lovers doomed
to meet in the darkness secretly

Aonghus of the rising sap
Aonghus of the green of May
Aonghus of the soaring swan
and the sound of sparrows at the break of day

Aonghus of the land of dreams
Aonghus of the poet’s art
Aonghus of the searching eye
and the trickster’s promise that ensnares the heart

Aonghus of the honeyed wine
Aonghus of the fiery will
Aonghus of the secret sweet
that for nine months makes a single day stand still

Aonghus of the land of youth
Aonghus of the gentle friend
Aonghus with his unseen cloak
and the heat of the summer that never ends

Aonghus of the flowering tree
Aonghus of the green of May
Aonghus of the lovers’ dance
and the sound of sparrows at the break of day

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