You can play it on the site or download it. I always download podcasts and shuffle them onto and off of my iPhone, because I do not always listen in sequence and I don’t want the petty tyranny of some app saying, “Do you still want … Continue reading
I tell three stories of “time slips” that happened when I was much younger — just making a start as a journalist, just married . . .
The third, closest to home, happened when I was gathering the stories that went into a little book called Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek.The cover photo was taken from a house owned by the famous astrologer Linda Goodman, for what that is worth.
And then jump forward to 2019, when M. and I were mushrooming, and, it would appear, Someone decided to teach me to be a little more respectful. Or something.
I did not see Anyone, but I did see “the ravine that was not there,” and for a moment almost entered it. The thought of doing that — and beckoning M. to join me — gives me chills even now three and a half years later.
And if my voice sounds a little scratchy, you can put that down to spring allergies.
I always download podcasts and shuffle them onto and off of my iPhone, because I do not always listen in sequence and I don’t want the petty tyranny of some app saying, “Do you still want to subscribe to Podcast X? You have not listened in three weeks!”
I like to listen to podcasts. Where were all these good ones when I had to drive an hour and a half each day, three days a week?
But I don’t have the time or desire to make my own. Being more of a behind-the-scenes guy these days, not a group spokesman or online influencer or (currently) having to book to promote, I don’t get asked to appear on them either.
There was one time last October, or “Pagan History Month” as you might call it, when I was contacted by a staffer for Alie Ward’sOologies podcast to talk about Paganism.
It did not go well. She seemed like a blank slate without even a list of questions for me. Judging from some of her other episodes (I tried to get a feel for the podcast), she wanted a fairly serious approach, so I start in discussing nature religion, polytheism, etc.
Then I discover that there was a chat room going all the while – which I could not see — and people were asking questions like “How do I start a coven?” Which is perfectly fine, and I would have been happy to come in on that level too. (I did co-found a coven, after all.)
The episode never aired, surprise, surprise. No one bothered to tell me it was shit-canned, but silence speaks volumes.
But I have hopes forStrange Familiars. This paranormal-focused podcast has been one of my top three faves since early 202o or whenever I discovered it. That’s the logo up above, the “Awoken Tree.”
If all goes well, I will be interviewed next week about three “time slip” experiences and one “fairy portal” experience. No actual members of the fair folk. Sorry. At least not that I saw. I seem to be fairy-adjacent, just like I am Bigf0ot-adjacent.
I’ve been writing notes all day, which leads into things like looking at drone videos of Irish villages that I visited before there were commercial drones or internets. Back when the “Celtic Tiger” was just a kitten.
“Tam Lin,” Child Ballad 39Click here for information on where in Scotland the different versions were collected. is a traditional song about a young man who takes up with the Queen of Faery and his mortal girlfriend, “fair Janet,” who fights for his return, intercepting the fairies’ ride on Halloween and pitting her love against their magic:
They’ll turn me in your arms, lady, Into an esk and adder;
But hold me fast, and fear me not, I am your bairn’s father.
They’ll turn me to a bear sae grim, And then a lion bold;
But hold me fast, and fear me not, As ye shall love your child.
Again they’ll turn me in your arms To a red het gaud of airn;
But hold me fast, and fear me not, I’ll do to you nae harm.
A Musical Interlude
Here is a stripped-down version from Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, performing in Toronto in 2013:
Here is the great German neofolk band Faun’s version, in German with English subtitles, featuring an actual hurdy-gurdy for that 16th-century “big band” sound.
You will hear their version of “Tam Lin” in the 1970 movie Tam Lin (also titled The Ballad of Tam Lin or in one version, The Devil’s Widow). It starred Ava Garder (47 or 48 at the time) as Michaela “Mickey” Cazaret”; Ian McShane, 27, as “Tom Lynn,” her current boy-toy — one of a very long series — and Stephanie Beacham, 22, as Janet.
Plus a large cast of long-haired bellbottoms-wearing young people as the equivalent of the Fairy Crew, both a pleasure-seeking “light” version and a more violent “dark” contingent. The director was Roddy McDowell, better-known for his roles in the Planet of the Apes series.
I will return the question of disparate ages later.
The Gentry Doing Weird Things in the Big House
Isn’t that the favorite trope of British horror films? The action may start in the city, as does Tam Lin, but the real weirdness is at the country estate where the lord/lady of the manor is a secret Satanist, Pagan, sex magician, Reptilian, whatever. One of my favorites is The Lair of the White Worm (1988), but there are So Many Others.
In this movie, once Tam Lin is at the big house, events pretty well follow the ballad’s narrative, with new characters added. He meets Janet (the vicar’s daughter) at Carterhaugh. Sex ensues. She becomes pregnant. He wants to leave his older mistress — but she is not going to make it easy for him, not at all.
The “Carter” Confusion
As an American, I did not have a map of the Scottish Lowlands in my head. When I read the lyrics for the electric-folk band Steeleye Span’s version of “Tam Lin” (Steeleye Span was also in heavy rotation at the covenstead in those days.), they said,
Oh, I forbid you maidens all
That wear gold in your hair
To come or go by Carter Hall
For young Tam Lin is thereTam Lin here presented as a sort of young robber knight, but working for the Faeries.
But “Carter Hall”? To me, that was a brand of pipe tobacco that I saw on store shelves, named for a plantation in northern Virginia.For the record, my Clifton ancestors apparently got off the boat in Surry County Virginia, on the James River, and did not own anything that qualifies as a “hall.” That is in America, not Scotland, but maybe there was another? (Not according to Google.)
Some Scots speakers have a way of dropping final “L” sounds, so “ball” becomes “ba,” for example, and thus “Carter Hall” and “Carterhaugh” would sound about the same. So some English folksinger could hear “Carterhaugh” and think that “Carter Hall” was the “correct” wording. The so-called correction introduced a new scribal error. This happens more than you realize.
I read that as a kid and totally got it “wrong.” I wanted little Kai to live with the Snow Queen. She was magnetic and amazing, and who was pious little Greta coming to drag him away?
And Ava Gardner? In 1966, three years before she made Tam Lin, she tried for the part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, in which “a disillusioned college graduate [Dustin Hoffman] finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.”
Nevertheless, the message from pop culture, whether ballad or film, is the same: “Youth must triumph.” But older lovers have some power too, particularly if they are supernatural figures.
The Wisdom of Traditional Ballads
When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, I had a friend named Michael. A decade earlier, Michael had run a small speciality store downtown (before Pearl Street became a pedestrian mall) with another guy whom I will call W.
It seems that W. was in a relationship with an older woman. This woman had an 18-year-old daughter. W., being young and horny, went to bed with the daughter too.
When the mother found out, this did not turn into a porn-movie scenario. Oh no, this was real life.
In Michael’s words, the term “went ballistic” failed to describe the mother’s reaction.
It sounds like the closing verses of one version of the ballad “Tam Lin,” in fact:
Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
And an angry woman was she:
“Shame betide her ill-far’d face,
And an ill death may she die,
For she’s taen awa the bonniest knight
In a’ my companie.”
“But had I kend, Tam Lin,” she says,
‘What now this night I see,
I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
And put in twa een o tree.”
The Ley Hunter was a British zine devoted to “earth mysteries” (which could include such things as Fairy encounters as well as ley lines, etc.) published from 1965–1998. As Isaac Koi describes it,
Its website described it as “the longest running journal to cover the ‘earth mysteries’ complex of study areas (it invented the term over 20 years ago!)”, including “‘ley lines;, (earth tie geophysical) energies (studied from both a primary sensing – experiential – point of view and that of physical monitoring), folklore, traditional lifeways, archaeology, all aspects of geomancy or sacred geography, shamanism and other aspects of archaic consciousness, unexplained natural phenomena, and so on”.
Ecotourism often involves naturalist-guided tours of relatively wild areas, but also visits to small-scale agricultural producers, also called “agritourism.” Sometimes this operates in a B&B fashion. See, for example, the state of Vermont’s guide.
But never mind milking cows and picking berries. Suppose you could offer encounters with the Other Crowd?
A lot of people come here to see the fairies in this field and they get great experiences here.
“I have the porthole to the fairy world, where the blackthorn meets the whitethorn.”
Noone says that people come to the area and get great experiences of peace, joy, healings and some “find emotions here”.
According to Noone, the members of the aos sí (fairy world) speak normal English to him, as it is the only language he has – but that they “will speak any language you want to speak”.
The fairy fort is a place where the fairies “live and congregate”.
I’ve seen the fairies here on a lot of occasions – playing music, having a drink and dancing.
“They look like the image of yourself – whatever height you are, they will be that height. They are the very same image as us, when they want to show themselves.
“A lot of the time they don’t show themselves and they have shown themselves to people that were here and didn’t show themselves to me.”
Pointing to the branches of the fairy tree in the field, Noone explains that a lot of people tie bits of material as a “thank you or a wish to the fairies”.
“I generally give them [visitors] pieces of rushes from now on; I don’t give them anymore cloths because the whole place was covered in cloths.”
Noone feels that he gets great inspiration when he goes to the field.
I go in here [wondering] about when to sell livestock and that’s only the farming end of it. Just to know when to sell and be ahead and thank God this year I obeyed them [fairies] – I’m well ahead before the lockdown.
“Of course I believe in it – it has helped me in farming a lot.”
I like that this article appeared on Agriland, “Ireland’s Largest Farming-News Portal.”
We are pleased to announce an extension to the CFP for our ‘”Ill met by moonlight”: Gothic encounters with enchantment and the Faerie realm in literature and culture’ Conference. You can now submit proposals up till to 31 January 2021. We hope this will allow people to participate who were concerned about travel restrictions. Anyone who is researching the interplay between fairies (in the widest sense; we are very interested in the global equivalents of these creatures) and the Gothic is welcome to submit a proposal, but please hurry! Please see the web page for full details of how to apply.
We have also extended the conference by one day so that it now runs from 8-11 April 2021. We will be adding further plenaries and activities.
Due to the current pandemic, we have now decided to hold this as an online conference using Zoom. It’s disappointing
that we’re unable to meet in person but it does mean we can have a much more global and diverse event. Further details of the programme will be announced in the future; please keep an eye on the website.
Earlier this summer, the fashion house of Dior produced a publicity video for their autumn-winter 2020–2021 haute couture collection that appeared — to my eyes — to be all about the the Other Crowd, so I blogged it as “Dior Dresses the Fair Folk.”
About that time I also wrote a post, “The Pizzica Video that Tore my Heart,” In it, a woman defiantly performs the traditional dance called pizzica in a lockdown-deserted piazza in the southern Italian city of Lecce, in the region of Salento, “the heel of the boot.”
So what did Dior do to introduce their 2020-2021 “cruise collection” but create their own spectacle in Lecce, including pizzica.
I found it a little spooky. Maybe I was infuenced by the earlier solo pizzica video in the deserted (seemingly de-populated) square.
The scene is dominated by musicians and dancers.
There was a dazzling set by feminist artist Marinella Senatore, in collaboration with Puglia-based light designers Fratelli Paris, where 30,000 coloured bulbs evoked the luminaire of local folk festivals and contained a number of the artist’s slogans; a rousing score by the Italian composer Paolo Buonvino, who conducted an 18-strong orchestra from Rome, alongside 21 local musicians; a performance by Italian rock musician Giuliano Sangiorgi, folk dancers, and, of course, a vast 90-look collection worn by a slew of the world’s top models. “An Ode to Puglia: How Dior’s Cruise Show Celebrates Italian Craftsmanship.”
Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has roots in the region. The clothing featured used local products: fabrics from “Le Costantine Foundation, which aims to preserve centuries-old textile arts in Puglia . . . lace embroiderer Marilena Sparasci; weavers Tessitura Calabrese, and more.”
The folded kerchiefs worn by some of the models were also a nod to local traditional costume.
I wanted to focus on the music and dancing, which made the silent models parading through the square seem like inter-dimensional beings. Interlopers. Visitors. Part of “the phenomeon.” That is perhaps not what Chiuri intended.
So —visitors from another dimension, ecstatic music, a certain feminist flavor, beauty, nighttime, tradition — does that add up to “Pagan-ish”?
Early in the twentieth century, the famous physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937), “the father of nuclear physics,” is supposed to have remarked snarkily that all science was either physics or “stamp-collecting.” Variations on the saying include “That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting” and “Physics is the only real science. The rest are … Continue reading
By “stamp-collecting,” I have always assumed he meant collecting and classifying, in that a geologist of his time might have been mainly occupied with classifying rocks and minerals or an entymologist concerned with classifying insects. (These disciplines — and others — now include much more.)
“Stamp-collecting” likewise describes a lot of paranormal studies. The famed Charles Fort (1874–1932 was the master of it.His life almost parallels Rutherford’s. Interesting. “As a young adult, Fort wanted to be a naturalist, collecting sea shells, minerals, and birds” (Wikipedia). The sheer size of his collections had an effect, however.
Fort is acknowledged by religious scholars such as Jeffrey J. Kripal and Joseph P. Laycock as a pioneering theorist of the paranormal who helped define “paranormal” as a discursive category and provided insight into its importance in human experience. Although Fort is consistently critical of the scientific study of abnormal phenomena, he remains relevant today for those who engage in such studies
Back in the the early 1690s — contemporanous with the Salem witch trials — the Rev. Robert KirkA minister in the then-large Scottish Episcopal Church was not afraid to theorize, producing a handwritten book on fairies that latter became The Secret Commonwealth. Maybe his MA at Edinburgh University prepared him.
His attempt to fit the fairies into a Great Chain of Being might not appeal to everyone, but at least it gave him a theoretical lens through which to consider them.
Kirk proposed that the reason that the fairies appeared to humanity was to convince us that an invisible realm exists, and that it’s not entirely out of reach. Their occasional interactions with humans served as both a “caution and warning” that we are not alone in the world, and that unseen, intelligent forces occasionally meddled in our affairs. Maybe these forces are still at work. (video transcript)
We still have people who are solely Bigfoot-hunters or UFO researchers or ghost-hunters or whatever, but thanks to Vallée, it is more and more common to see all of these as part of something bigger: “the phenomenon.”Some BIgfoot researchers still seek a flesh-and-blood “wood ape,” which might be less psychologically threatening than an interdimensional big hairy critter.
Variations on the saying include “That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting” and “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”
This time last year M. and I were picking mushrooms at higher elevations — and almost were trapped in a fairy portal. At least, that is what it seemed like. I might have provoked That Crowd by feeling a little too arrogant about my woodsmanship, but at least I saw the trap in time.
That event was August 6th. This year we returned to the same spot on July 29th, just to see if any mushrooms were coming up — there had been a few good rains up high — but there was nothing, edible or otherwise. It’s been a bad bad drought year, even in the high country (above 10,000 feet / 3,050 m).
But I had another purpose. Drought or not, I wanted to leave something for The Locals. The Other Crowd. Them. I did not know what protocol would work in “the mushroom grounds,” so I just brought some whiskey and a tobacco bundle, made from Nicotiana rustica that I had grown last year and dried, tied up in a scrap of old bandana.
I poured some bourbon into a natural “cup” formed by the stump, and I tied the tobacco bundle to a protruding spike of wood inside the hollow stump.
We went back up there on August 6th, a year after the “portal” event. Still not a mushroom in sight. But I strolled past that stump and the tobacco bundle was gone. Flat gone. This is not an area that gets many human visitors.
The lore is that if an offering disappears, it has been accepted. Now if we could have more rain. But that is a different ritual and a different story.
“Fairies and fashion” as a suggested topic? Someone must have seen my “Dior Dresses the Fair Folk” post! Seriously, there are some fascinating topics under potential consideration for this conference:
Call for papers: Gothic encounters with enchantment and the Faerie realm in literature and culture
University of Hertfordshire, 8–10 April 2021.
The Open Graves, Open Minds (OGOM) Project was launched in 2010 with the Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture conference.We have subsequently hosted symposia on Bram Stoker and John William Polidori, unearthing depictions of the vampire in literature, art, and other media, before embracing shapeshifting creatures and other supernatural beings and their worlds. The Company of Wolves, our ground-breaking werewolf and feral humans conference, took place in 2015. This was followed by The Urban Weird, a folkloric collaboration with Supernatural Cities in 2017. The OGOM Project now extends to all narratives of the fantastic, the folkloric, the fabulous, and the magical.