20 Penises

www.catherinebuchanan.com

Several years ago, a friend and I went to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.  As you probably know, San Francisco is sex-positive mecca, (or a den of debauchery, depending on your viewpoint), and the Folsom Street Fair is sort of our Kink Pride Day.

So off we went in full leathers, drinks in hand, weaving our way through thumping techno, writhing bodies, drag queens, leather daddies, damsels in distress,  and impossible heels. Among many, many other things. Mark my words, if you can think of it, someone has developed a fetish for it.

I love a good freak show. And Folsom Street Fair delivers. My eyes nearly popped at the imaginative costumery! I saw fabulous feathered headdresses, skin-tight leopard print and latex body suits, chain mail and patent leather platform boots, scantily clad women with pig noses, masters with slaves on leashes, spectacular tattoos, drag queens dressed as nuns -

“Penis,” said my compatriot.

“What?” said I.

“Penis. Didn’t you see it? It was right there.”

“Right here on the street? With all these people all over the place?” I said.

“Yep,” he said.

Some people are braver than I will ever be, I mused.

And on we went. We had lunch and listened to a band. We checked out various vendors. I saw men in top hats and nose rings, queer pirates with epically long beards, half naked Indian-pirates, bras made out of soda pop tabs, faces covered in glitter-

“Penis,” quoth my friend.

“Again?” said I. “How do I keep missing them?”

I decided I would make extra effort to see some penises. We continued on. I saw transgendered folks in bootie shorts, green hair and cat ears, impossible piercings, Hello Kitty underpants -

You guessed it:

“Penis”.

This happened at least 20 times. And I never saw one.

So then – several years later, there I was, reading a book on exploring our money mindset (“Get Rich, Lucky Bitch” by Denise Duffield Thomas, which at first peruse is a little too “Law of Attraction”-y for my tastes, but reviewers swear she’s got all kinds of practical exercises so I am giving it a chance)  and the author suggests we do an exercise where we write down all the ways we do bring in money. Every time money comes in, write it down. In this way, we see that we already are better at manifesting money than we realize.

And it popped into my head: “Just like the penises!”

We can be surrounded by abundance, whether it be penises or money or love or whatever, and if we are in our tapeloop of lack, we don’t even notice it. We filter things out ALL THE TIME. We can’t possibly process all the information our brains receive, so we develop selective attention. And we decide what we will let in based on what we expect to see.  So, if we have already decided “I’m always broke” we are not likely to notice the ways in which that isn’t true.  We end up seeing what we are already attuned to, constantly affirming all the ways in which we are broke, unloveable, unlucky, or whatever, and not even noticing the wealth, love, luck, or whatnot that is all around us.

This is why gratitude practice is so important! It helps us to tune into the parts of our lives that are glorious! Parts that we may well be taking for granted.

I went to the Folsom Street Faire expecting to see some fabulous drag. And boy did I! My friend, who was at the time exploring his attraction to men, saw a sea of penises.

The verdict is still out for me with this “Get Rich, Lucky Bitch” book. The Law of Attraction has issues, as far as I am concerned. But still. It isn’t total bullshit. (It is partial bullshit, which is the most deadly kind of bullshit, but that is another blog post). Remembering the penises helped me to remember that we really do see our lives through selective filters. “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves” Robert Anton Wilson always said. And it helped me remember how often we can improve our lives just by consciously taking note of the awesome that is already in them. And the more awesome we see, the more we attune ourselves to other opportunities for awesome. Instead of habitually seeing everything that sucks, and turning into a big curmudgeon that no one wants to hang out with, you start seeing opportunities for more of what you love. This is how the Law of Attraction makes sense to me. And this is why I am going to give Denise’s book a chance. Because maybe my judgements about the Law of Attraction are just that – judgements. Perhaps there is some value I can glean from it.

So what have we learned here? Start seeing that which we want more of in our lives. It may already be there more than we think.

Also – if we are seeing nothing but scuffed shoes, empty coffee cups, and gum on the cement, and our friends are seeing penises – maybe we need to set our sights a little higher.

 

The Quest for Enchantment

sunset-treesI haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to lately.

I think it’s because I feel I have to be brilliant somehow. To say something deep and insightful. But I don’t always have something deep and insightful to say.

All I have is my journey.

I want to reset my intention here.

I want to remind myself that the theme of this blog is the theme of my life, really. That my response to the world’s suffering is to create beauty. To re-enchant the world, or at least, the small corner of it that I can touch.

And since that is also the theme of my life, I can trust myself, here on this blog. I can trust myself to share what is honest for me, in the moment that I sit down to write, and that whatever I write from the heart will be on topic. I don’t need to try and write something useful, or inspiring, or insightful. I can just write what comes, where I am at in this moment on the quest for enchantment.

For truly, every waking moment for me is a quest for enchantment.

And enchantment is right there bristling through everything. We just get so easily distracted. We don’t see it. I don’t see it.

The sufferings of the world are great. And sometimes I feel I must acknowledge these things. But really, I don’t know what do do about many of them, other than to try and hold space right here in my little corner for beauty. For kindness. For hope. For helping one another.

I am not an activist. I am more comfortable trying to live the changes I want to see in the world, and hopefully influence others by example. I’ve seen too many activists alienate people from the very cause they are fighting for. Too much “Us vs. Them”. I also know some skillful activists, but I don’t know that I could manage to avoid turning into an angry one. It just isn’t my superpower.

I sometimes feel bad about this.

I do not know how to make my government stop instigating war.

I always feel bad about this.

I am not a brilliant doctor who heals the sick. I am not a great innovator, creating new ways to serve the world. I am not a political pundit, with my finger on the pulse of our times.

What I am good at is seeing through the veneers of culture, news, and trends and into the timeless; the immediate, wild, beautiful grace that is the never-ending flow of life.  I know how to find the spirit of enchantment, and reflect it into the world through art. This is my superpower, and thus, it is from this place that my voice will sound most authentic.

Enchantment is a feeling I have quested after for as long as I can remember. Since childhood even.  My Dad had it, in his way, and it was one of the things I loved most about him. This quality has always felt like home to me.

Enchantment is an internal landscape, a mood that comes upon us, of wonder and delight. We feel the underlying rhythms of nature, and the whole world feels harmonious. Like music. We feel ourselves to be part of this rhythm. We may even feel ourselves to be in the presence of a God,  or Spirit. We sense the awareness, the presence of life itself. We feel a profound sense of belonging in these moments, that we are part of the soul of nature. We feel that we have a role to play in the unfolding destiny of life. Life feels brimming with purpose and meaning in these moments. In these moments, it seems we will prevail.

Of course, I don’t always feel this way. I am prone to depression. I feel outside of life sometimes. Separate and disconnected. So I do what I can to cultivate the conditions for enchantment, so that I can find my way back to this place relatively easily.

This blog is, ultimately, about that journey.

I believe that enchantment is our birthright.  I believe that delight and wonder, a sense of being a part of the miracle of life, the awareness that the magic that makes the plants grow is the magic that we are, is how we are meant to feel about life. Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten this.

And it’s no wonder. Nature is terrifying. And so we learned to protect ourselves from her. But we have lost something too. A sense of connection. A sense that we are a part of nature, and can not separate ourselves from her and thrive any more than we can cut a tree from its roots and expect it to thrive. I believe learning to live in harmony with nature is as relevant a quest as ever.

Finding a place of harmony in our world extends to finding it with each other, and within ourselves. To do this, we look for the music within us, and we wiggle around with it until it hits that sweet spot where magic is evoked. It is not a science, and it is not easy to talk about. It is more something that we intuit, and suddenly it comes upon us, the full moon cresting over the hill on a clear night, or a glint of melancholy in a stranger’s eye, and blam, we are enchanted.

We never know quite when it will touch us, but we do know that we can take steps to cultivate a spirit of openness. For truly, an open heart is essential.

So this is my hope, for this wee humble blog of mine. That as I wiggle around my own inner landscape in the quest for enchantment, that occasionally I strike a harmonic chord in you as well,  sparking a moment where magic happens, where the constructs of everyday life fall away, and we are in that timeless, miraculous place together. A place of gentle mist, a warm cup of tea, and a steaming bath waiting for you. A place of introspection and renewal.  A sanctuary that we share, and then carry with us out to the world.

For truly, the world needs enchantment.

World Domination Summit – Giving to the World, Being True to Ourselves.

Sign

Perhaps this red sign seems a bit ominous for my report on Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, which I attended July 4th weekend. And yet, when I came across this photo, it really cut to the core of what I got out of the Summit.

This world can be heartbreaking. We humans can indeed be very destructive and hurtful to one another. And yet, we can also be incredibly compassionate, inspired, caring, and creative.  This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending time with about 2800 other folks all gathered together in the hope of making the world a better place.

For two and a half days I mingled with creative entrepreneurs of all stripes, seeking to live on their own terms and create something truly remarkable with their lives. Every one of them approached life with a sense of artistry, and every one of them hopes to be a force for good in this world. That much concentrated optimism can be pretty potent!

Highlights for me were:

Danielle LaPorte. This woman has just got it. She came across so completely relaxed, in her slinky black dress and bare feet. And as she spoke, a light radiated out from the crown of her head and filled the room. Her words came from a place of such authenticity that it gave everyone in the room permission to be as true to themselves as they possibly can be. She reminded me that yes, we can be successful on our own terms, we don’t have to conform to anyone else’s mold. Which of course exemplifies the entire spirit of #WDS.

Chase Jarvis was also another truly inspiring force, with his lecture on creativity, and how our system dumbs people down and teaches us all to be good little robots, but what we actually need is a whole world of people taught to think creatively. Folks who know how to apply creativity to problem solving will be the ones who find solutions to the world’s many problems. We are hampered by both the style and cost of education. So he and a partner have launched a learning site, Creative Live, where you can take classes on just about anything, for free.

I had a chance to meet Pace and Kyelie, of the Edgewalker Academy, and felt immediately at home. I’ve been admiring their work for years. And bonus – Dyana Valentine was dining with them, so I got to meet her as well.

I could go on and on, but if I had to declare just one takeaway  from WDS, it would be this: I already have all I need, right now. I have a strong sense of identity and mission. While I will always be a seeker, I know what I want to bring to this world, and am already well on my way to doing it. I want to re-enchant the world. I want to be a living representative for what the world can become if we strive to delight each other. To create beauty and wonder and magic for each other. To be kind to one another, and to lift each other up. And I want to sing this from the rooftops, both for you and with you. My mission is clear. My passion is strong. I just need to get the word out about it better than I do.

And that feeling? It made me feel like I belonged there. With these people. With the creative world changers. To be in a giant theater of awesome and feel like I truly belonged there? That rocked.

Neofolk Romantique – It isn’t just for music anymore.

IMG_3641

Beveled bottle seeks exotic liqueur for mutual fulfillment.

Hello friends! I have an announcement to make!

This year has entailed a lot of soul searching as far as how to do my sweet little music career in a way that keeps it fun and creative, so that I don’t burn out. None of us can do our best work when burned out, and it has always been important to me that I craft my career on my own terms, not just for me, but for you. You guys deserve the best music I can make, not music that is rushed because I need to make rent.

At the core of my musical mission is the desire to rekindle a sense of enchantment in our world. The music I make comes from this place, and as such needs to be nurtured in this way. I need to be rested, rejuvenated, and inspired to create music that conveys this enchantment to you. I need to take time with a new song or idea, roll it around in my mind for awhile and let it ripen and take shape organically. For songs to reach their full potential, they must be allowed to reveal themselves slowly, as a lover would. I can’t give this process the respect it deserves when I am trying to slam out product as quickly as possible. Assembly-line music is not what I am here for.

For a while now, I’ve made money only when on tour. Which makes for a stressful time indeed when I am taking time off the road to create new music. As I’m sure you know, stress isn’t all that conducive to creativity either!

So I’ve spent a significant amount of time this year developing arms of my business that can sustain me while I write and record new music. In February, I unveiled the Ring of Enchantment, which in the fall will launch as a full fledged school.

Today I reveal to you the third – and final – arm of my master plan:

The Neofolk Romantique Etsy Store!

Why an Etsy store? One of the things that keeps my creative juices flowing is to approach creativity from a completely different angle every so often. I have been known to make my own clothes, draw, and meander aimlessly exploring new things. One of the things I have become enamored of lately is the vintage world. Over the years I have collected, crafted, or otherwise created a collection of goodies that fit the Neofolk Romantique style. And now I offer them to you.

This serves the dual purpose of keeping my own imagination kindled so I can write better songs, and also gives me the means to earn an income when not touring, so that I can develop new songs in a relaxed manner.

In my Etsy store you will find clothing, home accents, art pieces, and vintage treasures all handcrafted, upcycled, or found by me, and that represent the Neofolk Romantique style. A FREE song is included with each purchase.

What is the Neofolk Romantique style, you might ask?

Old world charm with a feisty dash of whimsy and romance. A quirky-sexy love of nature, and a flair for adventure. While we, the Neofolk Romantique of the world, may indeed dress in white lace, it is not without  grass stains on our knees. We are quite content to have high tea in the garden, but we are more than ready to brandish our blades at the first hint of danger. If Pippi Longstocking were to breakfast with Wendy and the Lost Boys, the scene might well be appointed with several items from the Neofolk Romantique Shoppe. Belly dancers with daggers, pirates in eyeliner, eccentric old ladies, brave explorers, epic love, fairy tales and fetish boots, circus acts and re-imagined history; if it seems like something the characters in my songs would have, it will be represented in the shop.

Care to step a little more into the world of Neofolk Romantique?

Then come for a visit!

PS – all proceeds from the shoppe go toward the care and feeding of your very own Neofolk Romantique musicians as we complete recording of the formal release of  our “Neofolk Romantique” album, slated for release at Faerieworlds 2013.

UPDATE: I found a little widget to display stuff right here:

Musings on Magic

Witches-and Pagans-cover-better-colorI have been featured on the cover of Witches and Pagans magazine!

This is exciting for me, as visibilty is the name of the game for us musicianly types, so thanks Witches and Pagans!

For those of you who didn’t already know, yes, I count myself among the Witches and Pagans of the world, being deeply inspired by a spirituality that promotes interconnectedness with all life, views nature as worthy of worship, and sees the divine and natural worlds as one. Also, I desire a spirituality that values experience over doctrine, which much of modern Paganism gives me.

I believe in magic because I experience it every day. Magic infuses every song I write. We can train our minds to see magic –  the undercurrent of creation that flows through every aspect of life – and know ourselves to be part of it by clearing the mind of conditioned thinking and allowing it to return to its natural state. This is something I have practiced for nearly 30 years, and it has become an essential part of who I am.

If you would like a glimpse into my magical worldview, check out this issue of Witches and Pagans!

If you’d like to delve more deeply into the world of magic, and get support for your practice with music-driven meditations and rituals custom crafted by me, I invite you to join The Ring of Enchantment.

 

 

 

On Waking Dead, Mad, or a Poet

Cadair Idris

There is a mountain in Northern Wales called Cadair Idris, which means “The Chair of Idris”. Idris is a giant from Welsh mythology, although the name may also refer to a famous Welsh warrior-prince of the 7th century, who once defeated the Irish atop this mountain.

But that is not what interests me about this mountain. What I find fascinating are the legends surrounding it.  It is said that anyone who spends a night beneath this mountain will wake dead, mad, or a poet. So naturally, all aspiring poets are compelled to test their fate at the mountain’s foot.

As you might imagine, this is a theme near and dear to my heart. I was captivated by this tale when I first heard it many years ago in the skillfully woven yarns of modern-day bard Robin Williamson.  The quest for inspiration has always been the single most driving force in my life,  and I could well understand the desire to risk all for poetic gifts.

So naturally I had to write a song about it. :+)

I have been writing this song, in one way or another,  for several years. In some ways, all my songs are this song.  But, after several iterations, a song specifically about this quest has emerged, which we are calling “Fire in the Head”.

I am telling you about this because this blog’s purpose is to chronicle moments of magic. And in the last few days, this song has been a portal for the very magic it speaks of.

Winter and I have spent the last few days in our studio, taking our “Neofolk Romantique” album from “Pre-release” to “Done”.  We plan to have the formal album completed by Faerieworlds. Now sometimes, when you are in the studio, it’s just work. Fun work, but nothing particularly special happens. You just prepare, perform your parts as passionately and skillfully as you can, play them several times and choose the best take. If you are reasonably professional and committed to your craft, you will end up with an album that people enjoy. And it’s all good.

But sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes it seems that a portal opens up and something “other” sweeps in and takes over, a kind of spirit permeating your work and making the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The song flows out effortlessly then, as if it is writing itself and you just stand back, its humble servant.

These are the moments that every artist lives for.

To be able to share these moments with my partner is a gift I cherish above all. It is incredibly bonding, powerful, and humbling, all at the same time.

This was the recording experience Winter and I had these last few days.

Everything you hear about studio magic – and that you hope happens in your own projects – happened on this song. New parts revealed themselves effortlessly, as if they’d been lying in wait all along. A playful creativity permeated each day, and Winter and I  got into that “mind reading” zone that musicians sometimes get when completely in sync –  having the same ideas at once, finishing each other’s sentences, giving each other chills and making each other weep; all that was there.

It felt so magical to me to have this kind of experience while recording a song specifically about the quest for the poetic gift; as if, in that moment, the song was fulfilling itself through us.

These are the moments that make all the sacrifices worthwhile.  The path of indie musician is not the most well charted territory, and really does feel like exploring the Wild West at times. There are few rules, and whoever figures out how to do it and survive, wins. We forego comfort,  security, and stability; we spend long hours on the road, often missing out on community-building opportunities at home; we spend long hours in the studio while others are hosting parties or going to the beach. We hear the word “no” more times than you’d think was humanly possible. We spend years floundering in obscurity striving to hone our craft, with no guarantee that our efforts will ever be recognized. We do all this in the pursuit of inspiration.

We risk our lives for poetry.

And when it comes, it is utterly worth it.

The screaming hag that rides the wind
Will rip the soul right from your skin
The hollow hills will swallow you
And flay apart your mind
To win the kiss of the Gifted Ones
we risk our lives on the mountain front
There’s some wake mad, and some wake dead, 
And some will rise with a Fire in the Head
- Sharon Knight, Fire in the Head

Coming soon on an updated Neofolk Romantique CD near you. 

Got an inspiration story of your own? Care to share it?

 

Sometimes, You Just Need To Go In The Blanket Fort

Blanket-FortYou know. I am just going to say it. This week, I hit a wall. I have been feeling frustrated and discouraged as to how to move my grand mission forward. It all feels like it’s growing too slowly, yet screaming louder doesn’t seem an effective solution.  I’ve been feeling stuck, invisible, and not sure what to try next.

And so – I am trying nothing. I am temporarily abandoning all my “Goals”.  I am just doing what I damn well feel like, and that has been creating art. I laughed so hard when I saw this picture of the blanket fort, because that is how I have spent the last several days. Snuggled under my covers, drawing and painting and watching Photoshop tutorials. (Well okay, no actual painting went on under my covers, that happened at the dining room table. I am hoping to stay married, after all).

It has been utterly therapeutic to take a few days away from my usual endeavor of “Growing a Music Career”, and all the hustle and strategizing and brainstorming and hard work that entails, let alone trying to find enough creativity to write new songs. I melted down and said “Fuck it, I’m not doing anything”. But I did end up doing something. And it  reminded me of how I used to go on Artist Dates, as part of the Artist’s Way program, and how rejuvenating that was for me.

I haven’t wanted to share this, I suppose because in some part of my goal-oriented Capricorn brain, I felt ashamed. Like I was giving up the good fight. Copping out somehow. But this morning I realized – this is part of the process. This is how I replenish the fountain. And I remembered – I have always had these periods, where exploring creativity from a completely different angle helps me to shake loose from a rut.

Sometimes you have to just stop hammering on stuff and go in the blanket fort. You know?

So – what do you guys do when you need to go in the blanket fort? What replenishes you?

Peace and Violins

Patrick-violin

Patrick McCollum and his handcrafted “World Peace Violin”

Greetings, and welcome to my second installment of “Inspiring Things That Happened at Pantheacon.” This one concerning a very magical violin.

Winter and I were settling in to our hotel room when a fellow I’ve met, but don’t know well, came by to say hello to our room mate. His name is Patrick McCollum, and some of you may know him better than I, for he has worked tirelessly on behalf of Pagan rights, indigenous cultures, and world peace.

We talked for a bit, and before departing he asked if he could leave his things in our room for the day, as he wasn’t staying at the hotel. We said yes, and asked what it was we’d be safekeeping, for the purpose of figuring out the best place to keep them. Along with a small bag of personal items, he was leaving us a violin.

But not just any violin. It was what he called “The World Peace Violin”.  As I asked him about it, a magnificent story unfolded. A story of how he made made this violin by hand, without any prior knowledge of how to make a musical instrument. And how every piece was chosen to have a symbolic intention, even though it may mean waiting years for just one element. And with the voices of many naysayers in his head, telling him it wasn’t possible. And how this came to echo the peace process in his  mind, and how, to demonstrate that yes, peace was possible, he mustn’t give up on the violin, no matter how difficult it became to create it. How he rebuilt it over and over, until it sounded beautiful.

I asked him if he would tell me the story in detail at some point during the weekend. He did. I recorded it. Here it is:

Patrick (paraphrased here and there for easier reading):

World-Peace-ViolinI decided I  wanted to make a magical violin to represent world peace. In the course of doing so, there were a series of requirements I put on myself. This violin wouldn’t necessarily be made from conventional materials – the right woods, etc. – but everything I received to do it would be made of materials that had to do with resolving conflict or war, or come from some sacred place.

I didn’t really know where to start, I was just sort of waiting around, and I was involved in negotiating and helping to mediate between two warring tribes in Africa who’d been fighting and killing each other for almost a thousand years. I told them about the violin idea and they gave me a block of wood from a sacred tree that only grows in their part of the world, a little known and isolated region of Ghana.

I used this wood for the body, and I just drew the shape of a violin on it and started carving it. I was kinda happy with what I had but that’s as far as it went. I had some pieces left over so I started carving the neck and a few other parts.

Later I was doing some work with some Native Americans, helping them fight to have access to their sacred sites and not have them bulldozed and turned into rest areas. They told me of a tree that had a voice. I had to wait for the tree to die before I could take wood from it, or something to happen with it. I decided to let it offer me a piece if it chose to do so. I brought it gifts and sang to it, so that it would know what music is. I prayed under this tree for 6 years before it surrendered a piece large enough for my purposes.

I knew the wood needed to be dried out. This wood was to be the top piece of the violin. (The face, with the sound holes). It took years. In the course of waiting for the wood to dry, the bottom  piece that I had carved for the body broke. The whole project was over, from my perspective, because I had this broken thing that I didn’t know how I would repair, and I couldn’t get another piece of wood as I was no longer working with these people in Africa.

World-Peace-Violin2Then I decided, well, I’ve started, I will find a way to fix it. And all of a sudden, it started sounding like a familiar story. Trying to make something a particular way, don’t know what I’m doing, but it sorta looks pretty good – and then it gets broken, and seems hopeless for a time, but then you start finding ways to fix it – which is a lot like the peace process. This is what we’ve been doing all along.

So I continued, and there were several contributions along the way, but the next big contribution, for me, was, I went to Brigid’s Well in Kildaire, Ireland. In my spiritual tradition we see Brigid’s well as a Chalice that links worlds, and the trees that grow there also grow in many worlds, so these trees represent a manifestation of the Divine in our world. There is a beautiful willow tree growing out of this well. I cut a piece from this tree and it wasn’t big enough to do anything significant but I carved some knotwork for an inlay to represent unity.

It took years gathering these basic pieces but finally I saw that I had all the pieces I needed. Once I realized I was in the home stretch I was eager to put it all together, so I was in a rush. I cut some corners. It wasn’t varnished or sanded or finished in any way, but I just wanted to see what it would be like as a finished thing. So I put it all together, put strings on it, and it sounded like shit.

Which is what everybody told me would happen. Violin makers had been telling me, “It’s the wrong wood, it’s the wrong shape, it’s not the right length”, etc. They gave me all these reasons why it wouldn’t work. “You’re not a violin maker so you cannot possibly make a violin that would sound halfway decent anyway, so you should just quit”. And I started thinking “That just sounds a lot more like the peace process” because that is what’s constantly happening. Everybody who’s working on it knows that everybody else is sitting back thinking “This is ridiculous, these guys are going to kill each other, they’re going to blow up the world and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

So I decided to  ignore them and keep pushing forward.

Then I decided, I didn’t care if it sounded like crap, I would finish it and make it something beautiful to hang on the wall. So I took a lot of time to finalize it, I put inlays in the top, and each little thing I put on it was  something sacred I had collected. I went to Merlin’s cave at Tintagel in Cornwall where the Aurthurian legends originated and got small bits of wood for the inlays there. I got it to where it looked pretty nice, and I wanted to put a finish on it. It still sounded like crap, so it wasn’t at a good place, but it looked pretty nice. For the first time during this process, I decided to do a little bit of research. And what I found out was, nobody has a clue what to use for a finish. Folks would say “Use all the best varnish, however the real masters made their own secret varnishes with magic and shells and animal parts, bones and insects”, and nobody has any record of what these formulas actually were. There wasn’t even a consistent base that they used to create out of.  So I started thinking, in my tradition we have passed down a recipe for what we call “Sacred Oil”, made of several different herbs such as belladonna, wolf’s bane etc. so I set this as a base and added other things to it. I added horsetail, as I had learned that Native Americans would polish flutes that they had made with it. It has a natural silica that can be used as a fine sandpaper.

Winter with the violin.

Winter with the violin.

One of the things that I had read about the masters making the secret varnish was, researchers think they added substances such as sand or larger particles that would get stuck in the wood of the violin, which would make it kind of glassy and give the sound a ringing quality. So I decided, horsetail may accomplish a similar thing.

So I sanded the whole thing with horsetail,  put the varnish on and hung it up to dry. It took a long time, months and months, for this stuff to dry, because first of all it wasn’t real varnish, I just made this stuff, I didn’t know if it would ever dry. It did eventually dry, and when I played it, it did sound a little better, but still not great. So I just hung it on the wall, and thought that was very cool.

And then I got the idea that the violin couldn’t know how to make music if it couldn’t hear music. So I taped the violin to my speakers and played it violin music all day. I figured maybe this would help it understand what the right vibration is, and the funny thing is, it started sounding better. (This is a real thing. Wood instruments are known for their tone becoming richer and more resonant the longer they are played. Here’s a bit about it).

It still wasn’t a decent violin, but it was improving. Then, on Solstice, the Goddess spoke to me and said “You need to take the violin apart, and change it”. Now I had spent all this time getting it to the point were it’s really nice. I have no idea how to take it apart, it’s all glued together and everything, varnished, I had no idea what to do. I had put  years of time into this so far.

So I thought “Okay well, I have faith in the Goddess, it might just be my imagination, but I have to do this”. I was compelled. So I got a big butcher knife and just started hammering, ripped the top piece off and such. My friends were having a heart attack. It looked pretty nice, they said, and it wasn’t going to sound good anyway and I was just going to ruin it after putting in all these years.

It needed to be thinned out. So I sanded it down, from the inside so that I wouldn’t ruin my finish. I took it to a violin maker who told me that they  scrape them down with special tools a thousandth of an inch at a time, but I just used an electric sander. Folks who came to my house were horrified when they saw. But I glued the sucker back together and it sounded pretty good. So, I was happy!

Then I tried to teach myself to play, and I was pretty happy with the sound. But I got the same message – “No, it isn’t right.” This happened 4 times! I took it apart and rebuilt it. It would get smaller each time, and thinner. I’d break a piece and I’d have to glue it back together, it was getting dinged up and I was getting upset. It felt like I was going downhill, but each time it sounded a little better.

I came to realize something really important. The thing that is most missing from the peace process is our faith – in a higher power or anything – that it is even possible. No one  right now really believes peace is possible for the most part. People talk about it but in their minds they figure “How in the world are you going to get 7 billion people who have all these different ideas to get along together when they fight in their own house?” But I decided, it’s through that connection, that is the only way it’s ever going to happen. I decided that what I needed to do was surrender myself to the Goddess, and that I would surrender to her Will, whether the thing fell apart and got smashed, that I would accept that as a possibility and trust.

Then I had a dream that I made it more round. So I did. About this time I walked the Sinai desert in Petra. There is a stone that is the oldest carving of the god and goddess in the world, and I was permitted to take a small shard from it to add to the varnish. I also added sand from the baptism site of Jesus, sacred plants, grains from a sacred stone given to me by Himalayan shamans…

(About this time people started arriving at my hotel room for an event, and I was unable to get details about the final phase).

Patrick wrapped up the interview by telling me that the entire process took at least 10-12 years. He doesn’t remember exactly and that isn’t what matters to him. What matters most to him was undertaking this journey as an expression of the peace process, and  how, because of this association it was imperative that he never give up. At the time that I saw and played the violin, it looked and sounded gorgeous, and had been valued at $25,000 by a violin appraiser.

This story moved me deeply, and has stayed with me ever since. This is how we do it, folks. This is how we make meaning in life, and how utterly crucial it is for us to do so! This is how magic is made – by creating symbols that touch us deeply, and give powerful ideas root in the  collective unconscious, ideas that may hitherto have seemed impossible. When impossible ideas begin to seem possible, a way to make that idea manifest begins to emerge.

We live in a society that expects everything to be handed to it on a silver platter, easily, cheaply, and right now. And in most cases, every whim we can think of is available to us easily, cheaply, and right now. And yet – has this made our lives better? I don’t see that it has. It is so easy to take everything for granted, easy come easy go, but when everything comes so easily it has no meaning. No life force, no story is attached to it, and we quickly lose interest, and look for the next thing to fill our void. Yet we never find the thing to fill our void, because what we are yearning for isn’t a thing. It is the story behind the thing. It is the meaning that we bring, the effort that we put in that gives life its purpose. Life matters when we live it as though it matters. We look for the meaning of life to no avail, for it is our task to bring it.

When we look at the things in our lives, what stories do they tell? Do they tell a tale of cheap meaningless nothing brought into the world on the tears of slave labor? All so we can have an empty thrill for 5 minutes? If we can somehow convince ourselves that this is okay, it is just how the world is, is it any wonder we find ourselves increasingly capable of shooting schoolyards full of children? I believe that the sickness in our society has its roots in this throwaway culture. We have allowed ourselves to accept this hollow shade of a life being sold to us. We have forgotten our duty to create the world.

But we can remember it, as Patrick has. We can make sure that our choices are intentional, that we are creating good stories. We can make of our lives an epic saga, worthy of being sung in the halls of heroes for years to come. This is how magic is made, how we etch our soul’s desire upon the fabric of all life. Let us take up the charge, and become heroes in the eyes of the next generations. Let us piece together our most fervent dreams for the world, and make music.

Song Magic

I recently returned from our annual gathering of the tribes and have spent the bulk of my day in a very inspired place.  There were two key events for me this year at Pantheacon: The first was encountering Patrick McCollum’s world peace violin and the subsequent talk we had about shaping the world by doing what others say is impossible, and imbuing our lives with meaning through symbolic action.

The other was lending vocal and drum support for the Morrigan devotional and then going right into my own performance with Pandemonaeon immediately afterward, still very much ignited by the fire of the ritual. This made for a potent experience, and got me thinking on song and magic. Both of these stories are worth telling, and I will tell each of them, but today I am going to focus on this latter.

The Morrigan devotional was beautiful and powerful. Kinship and sovereignty are both ideas that have been dear to my heart for many years. Also I have an affinity for the Morrigan. But more than that, this ritual really worked as a large clan ritual. Not all ritual themes are suited for large groups, but strengthening the bonds of kinship is among the best uses of large ritual, as far as I am concerned, and that was the key focus here. Also – magic happened, and these gates were still very much open in me when I took the stage.

Singing with the kiss of a God on one’s brow is powerful indeed, and has had me thinking all day today about song and magic, and how central to the practice of magic singing seems to have been to our forebears, based on what writings we have been able to find. It is said trained bards had the ability to raise boils on the face of an enemy, to raise one up to the ranks of the heroic with poetic praise, or to shatter a reputation with satire and scorn. There are tales of mythic creatures and witches alike who sing their hapless victims into an enchanted slumber, and tales of songs used to excite one to battle frenzy. Scandinavian and Germanic people have song magic in the form of galdr, wherein they sing the runes of their language as an invocation of magical will. Outside my own ancestral traditions,  history and lore are rife with tales of drumming for possessory trance, for healing, and for traveling between worlds.

Yet, for all the references to the magical power of singing, there is very little written on techniques for how to develop this. As with most of ancient Pagan tradition, we are left to rebuild with what few shards we can find. But after all, tapping the creative forces underlying the manifest world and wielding them to create something new is what we do as magic workers. We test and try, envision, experiment, and keep what works.

There is a Gaelic phrase, Oran Mor, which translates to “the Great Music”. This is the closest thing to a Celtic creation myth that I have come across, and tells of the mighty song of creation, singing the world into existence in perpetuity, always changing but never dying out. This idea is not unique to the Celts, of course – many cultures have similar stories. This concept gives us a place to start when contemplating how we can use song as a magical force. If we think of magic as the creative force underlying all life, emanating first as a primordial consciousness and then taking various forms and shapes as individual qualities coalesce, we can easily see that tapping this great primordial music and giving it shape via Will and skillful projection of voice would be a potent act. If we seek to wield magic of a specific quality, such as the essence of a tree, we can sit with that tree, open ourselves to it in meditation, and let its song pour through us. If we do this often enough we begin to take on a harmonic resonance with the tree  - or rune, or Deity – and we begin to master wielding that specific force.

We can gain skill via traditional magical practices such as meditation, visualization, and concentration. Meditation is key, in that we must learn to get our thinking minds out of the way in order to perceive the essence of something outside ourselves well enough to really know it.

In song magic, we’d need to add the practice of training the voice, so that we can shape our sounds to resonate with the character of the force we seek to wield. There is a concept called “synchronism” where 2 or more sound-making objects oscillating at similar or harmonic rates will synch up and begin oscillating in unison. Most of us have probably seen how ringing a bell can cause another bell in close proximity to begin chiming. Here is an example of how it works with metronomes -

We can apply this same principle to song magic, by listening for the “song” of a thing, and striving to bring ourselves into synchronization with it through creating a harmonic resonance with our voices.

This is what I experienced Saturday night at Pantheacon. After the Morrigan devotional, I was open and attuned to her, and the sound that came through me was…more than myself. I had access to immense energy. I was riding a current that I don’t usually tap when performing, and was likewise feeding it with sound. The tone had been set in the room already, so that pitching my voice in harmony with a current that I already feel an affinity for came quite naturally, and made for an experience that felt (at least to me) like touching the epic.

This isn’t a new experience, per say – I always go into performance having taken a moment to get centered and present, so that I can bring as much of myself as possible to an audience. And I always aspire to hold windows open to the Divine.  But it isn’t often that I go into performance from a place of possessory trance. It was very different and quite powerful. It has got me thinking that a more thorough and ritualistic invocation of intent before performances would be a good practice to adopt. This is not always possible of course, but acknowledging its value can help in planning for it. Bringing an awareness of the realms of the heroic into live performance, and wielding this with voice, can only enhance the experience for all involved.

It has got me thinking about song magic and what that means – not merely bringing our full presence to a situation but tapping into the vast reservoir of beings, presences, and spaces, and bringing this through with focused application of voice. And how this can be used to heal. Or to smite one’s enemies. Or to open gates to other worlds. Or to keen for someone who is grieving and finding the burden too terrible to bear.

This is using sound as more than personal transformation, as I teach in Sonic Alchemy, wherein we shift our stuck places and gain mastery of our own energies. This is true witchcraft, wherein we ride currents beyond our own immediate energetics, and the possibilities for wielding this power for the benefit of our communities has ensnared my imagination in a most intriguing way.

I am looking forward to exploring this more thoroughly in the coming weeks, and find myself awash with gratitude that I am part of such an amazing community of people, people who are willing to envision – and act on that vision –  to create a better world for all.

(I welcome sharing of this post – and all posts you find inspiring here).

The Ring of Enchantment – coming February 1st

Ring-of-Enchantment-smHey there Clan -

It looks like I will be ready to lauch the Ring of Enchantment Feb. 1st.

So naturally I’d love to get a feel for who is interested!

Please come on over to the invitation page, read what I have to say, and if you’d like to be notified when registration is live, please click the “sign me up” button on the page and answer the questions.

This will give me a feel for how many folks I can expect, and also gives folks who sign up first priority, as I will only be accepting 50 folks. I want to keep it intimate.

You can do all that right here:

http://www.sharonknight.net/blog/the-ring-of-enchantment/

For those who may have missed it, this offering comes out of my desire to create a “culture of mutual support”. As an independent musician, I am always on the lookout for creative ways to continue making music, and always those ways revolve around fan support – you guys really do make everything happen! In exchange for your support, I want to support you in return. Seems fair, right? So I thought, why not offer my Sonic Alchemy work in a private membership forum? Sonic Alchemy uses song and sound, music and ritual to move energy, help us get unstuck, and restore the flow of creativity to life. In the Ring of Enchantment we tailor Sonic Alchemy to help rekindle a sense fo enchantmet in your life. You get beautiful music rituals custom-crafted to support you in this, and I get ongoing funding for my musical endeavors.

We will sing, we will move, we will breathe in sound and music and ride it’s energetic swells , we will share our dreams, goals and insights via a private online forum. If you love the sound of the music I make, and would like to experience it in a ritual context designed to shape your life in the image of your heart’s desire, shake loose the cobwebs in your psyche to work toward a dream or goal, or just want to feel a bit more magic in your life, you belong in the Ring of Enchantment!

Sound intriguing?

Come on over and check it out, and let me know if you’re in!

Thanks, and big giant gooey hugs!

http://www.sharonknight.net/blog/the-ring-of-enchantment/