Portals Featured Artist: Sonja Drakulich

Sonja Drakulich of Stellamara

This beautiful woman is Sonja Drakulich. She is one of my all time favorite singers; one of the best vocalists currently on the planet, as far as I am concerned. Her voice is pure and controlled, yet deeply evocative, able to elicit emotion with a command that few possess. I hold her in the the same regard as Lisa Gerrard or Loreena McKennitt.

And I’m not the only one. She is the most successful of the musicians we know, recently completing a lengthy stint touring with Faun. She is the only one of our musician friends who has performed in stadiums. As such, she has become somewhat of a folk heroine to those of us on the circuit.

The recognition she has gotten is well deserved. Aside from a rich talent and a stage presence that seems effortless, she is an incredibly nice person. You would expect someone like Sonja to be a diva, but she is remarkably down to earth and open. And she is supportive of other artists in a way that makes her the perfect Portals candidate.

Winter and I met Sonja through her musical collaborator, Gari Hegedus. Gari answered an ad on Craig’s List for Pandemonaeon, and joined us for many years. He plays more instruments than I can count, and has been instrumental in developing Pandemonaeon’s sound. He is an outstanding musician and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he makes an appearance on Portals.

I don’t know what else I can say about Sonja that would be more powerful that just introducing you to her music. So without further ado, I link you to Stellamara’s most recent release on Bandcamp. You can stream the entire album and if you don’t fall in love with Sonja by the second song, I may believe you heart has turned to stone.

Suffice to say, Sonja, SJ Tucker, and I singing three part harmonies on Melusina = dream come true.

Also, here she is with Faun:  That is her singing lead!

You can learn more about Sonja here:

http://stellamara.com

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF PORTALS TODAY!

http://www.sharonknightportals.net

Portals Featured Artist: SJ Tucker

SJ Tucker. Photo by Earth to Steve.

This is the first in a series I will be writing on the artists we are featuring in the Portals Project. This is the essence of Portals; to strengthen our vibrant artists’ community by shining a light on one another’s talents. Throughout the campaign, I will introduce a Portals artist here and share a bit about why I love them. Starting with SJ Tucker!

SJ Tucker is a pint sized package of pixie-pirate awesomeness, with a heart of gold and a voice of pure magic. She is also a consummate show woman, with probably the best command of the stage I have ever seen. She is incredibly kind and open hearted, but also fierce as a lion.

I first met SJ at the Heartland Festival in Kansas 10 or 11 years ago. She was a wee wisp of a girl back then, and as we sat around the campfire, she announced to what was clearly a community she knew and loved that she was going to go for it; that September she was going to quit her job and try her hand as a full time musician. At the time, I was coming off “The Warner Brothers incident” and remember thinking to myself “Good luck with that, I hope it works out for you”, not feeling at all confident that making a living in music was even possible.

I think we can safely say, it has worked out for her!

She is one of the most well-loved performers in all the mythic-magic tour circuits we play, and for good reason. Her songs are filled with charm and whimsy. Her lyrics are clever and imaginative, weaving poetry and humor as she parts the veils to reveal fantastical worlds within. Her voice is honey and yearning, and her command of her instruments is masterful. Her stage presence is larger than life and utterly captivating. These things combined have won her a large and loyal following. I hope you get a chance to see her completely own the Neverworlds Stage at Faerieworlds! She and Tricky Pixie (all of whom are featured in Portals) do a great job on the main stage too, of course, but it’s as though the Neverworlds Stage was made just for her.

As Winter likes to say, SJ Tucker is a force of nature.

On a more personal note, she’s got a special place in my heart because she visited me in dream about 6 years ago, one of those vivid dreams that you wake from trembling, with the word “woah!” on your lips. In the dream she floated up out of nowhere and said, “You know, you really should be doing this”. Shortly thereafter, she showed up at Pantheacon, and asked me if I would play at her Strowler events. In many ways, I credit her with giving me the boost I needed to give music another try. And I am pleased to say, it is working out for me, as well!

To celebrate this dynamo, here is a sampling of some of my favorites of her work:

“Neptune”, from her Mischief album

A personal favorite, dark and haunting:

Showcasing her clever wit:

And her newest:

We are featuring SJ Tucker in Portals because we are sure you will love her as much as we do, and we know without a doubt that bringing her into the mix will help make a good project great!

 Learn more about SJ Tucker here!

Learn more about the Portals Project here!

NEW MUSIC!! – The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words

CoraRileyEP_Cover_Letter_BCWe have new music for you!

And it is a bit off the beaten path from what we usually do. These three songs are based on an urban fantasy novel written by upcoming author Ellie DiJulio, and combines the feel of my solo work with the harder rock of Pandemonaeon, with a hint of Tori Amos vibe thrown in for seasoning.

The story goes that Cora Riley arrives at her 30th birthday wondering what the hell happened. How did she end up here? Had she just been sleepwalking through her life this whole time? She can’t shake the feeling that there must be something more to this world, something more to her life.

She finds it, alright!

The story continues, chronicling her adventures as she stumbles into the Underworld, and comes to find that all is not well there. In her quest to get back home, she must draw on resources she never knew she had. In so doing, she finds the life she was meant for.

It is a fun read, and one that our tribe will likely resonate with.

Ellie-DiJulioI first met Ellie DiJulio in an online group, where I was struck by her clever writing style and her commitment to her craft.

So, I was delighted when she asked me if I would like to collaborate by creating a music collection to go with the book.

Winter and I wrote three songs, inspired by three characters in the book; Cora Riley herself, a mysterious secret agent who holds the key to Cora’s destiny, and the self-appointed Queen of the Underworld.

Winter and I are proud to offer these songs along with the book!

You also get a supplemental PDF with song lyrics, character insights, and details about Ellie and I, your devoted creatrices.

This project is offered as a bundle called The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words. It can be yours for $8.00!

Yep you get:

  • 3 Original Songs by Sharon Knight and Winter.
  • The Full eBook of the novel “The Transmigration of Cora Riley” in both .epub and .mobi formats.
  • A supplemental PDF with song lyrics and other details about the book and it’s authors.

For Eight Bucks. 

You can check it out right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-music-and-words

 Want to learn more about Ellie ?

You can visit her here: http://elliedi.com

Just want the songs and the PDF without the story? That is also available for $5, right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-original-ep

I hope you enjoy our latest offerings much as we enjoyed making it!

May life be ever more full of magic!

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?

 

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).

Faerieworlds Review

One of the many enchanting creatures to be found at Faerieworlds.

You Guys.

Faerieworlds was freaking epic. Seriously. It was the coolest festival I have ever been to.  It combined the best elements of California neotribal/hippie festivals with Rennaissance Faire and mythology.

I should say, I personally am not all that moved by standard hippie-fests. Too much techno and pretense. Not enough real substance. But the mythic element at FW really brought tradition and folklore into play in a way that deepened the whole experience for me. Certainly not in keeping with any sort of historical accuracy, but it’s not about that. It’s about dipping into our collective unconscious, and drawing forth our myths and legends to inspire and imagine our current world into being. And at that, Faerieworlds succeeded spectacularly.

Perhaps I am biased, because I want to live in a world full of pixies and pirates. But so be it. I got to, and therefore I will wax poetic for the rest of this post. :+)

Things I loved

Warming Up - Faerieworlds 2012

Playing on the main stage!
The sound was good, the audience was appreciative and fantastically dressed, we played well and were well received, and it set a lovely tone for the rest of the day. We performed early, which was nice because then we got a full day to play, unfettered by the need to be “on”.

Tricky Pixie

The bands –
Tricky Pixie are always a favorite of mine. They are all three of them fantastic people as well as consummate performers- SJ Tucker, Alexander James Adams, and Besty Tinney. They play a whimsical yet gutsy style of folk rock that they call “Myth-Punk” and are one of the more original bands in existence today. I frankly adore them.

Donovan
played as well, which I enjoyed. I have been seeing some less than stellar reviews of his show around the internet, and at 66 years of age I suppose it could be said he wasn’t really in his prime, but considering I’ve been listening to him since discovering my dad’s folk albums as a kid, and that he was my first introduction to any sort of fairytale folk music, I enjoyed him for the legacy he represents. (View the complete line-up).

(Side note: when I am 66 I fully intend to still be in my musical prime, touring around and playing all the time. Just so’s you know. I’ll be the eccentric old Pirate Queen.)

Zero Waste Policy –
The FW crew were really on top of recycling. They had recycling bins as well as compost bins all over the site. You couldn’t walk 25 feet without finding another one, it seems. As someone who spends several months a year traveling around to these things, I can say that Faerieworlds blew most of them out of the water in this regard. I hope this is a policy that will be widely adopted by events producers everywhere. (Learn more).

Phoenix Rising Designs

The artisans and their wares– There were truly some spectacular goodies! I always go right for the clothes, and there were all manner of ways to dress as a mythical creature! Such as this: >>>

Want to see some more cool FW vendors? Click here. 

Electronica temple – Not being a big electronica fan, these are usually in the “pretentious-yet-empty” category for me, but this one was really tasteful. The music they were playing was very down tempo and chill and actually…good. I did in fact feel like this was a good place to relax and do some yoga. It was nice that this was provided as a vignette one could visit without having it be the dominant theme of the fest.

Hang Player – speaking of vignettes, there was this hang player just sitting up on the Neverworlds stage round about midnight, just jamming away and creating the most delicately beautiful bell-like tones. It was utterly mesmerizing. Haven’t heard a hang? Here’s one.  Just imagine him under a grove of trees amidst a lush meadow under the full moon:

Freaking Amazing Light Show, with Jellyfish in the Sky – 
Blue lights radiating out from the stage, rippling across the expanse of sky in waves, accented with emerald circles creating a harmony of patterns, and papier mache jellyfish on tall sticks lit from within with colored lights, so that the entire sky looked like a great cosmic sea.  ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Have I mentioned the moon was almost full? Sadly, I have found no pictures to even remotely do this justice, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations. It was spectacular.

Pirate Tavern!
Yep, right there in the woods. Complete with Tricky Pixie as the house band, cutting loose with the bawdy songs and ribaldry. Many others shared songs as well, and I spent the majority of my evening there. Regrettably, I didn’t contribute much myself because, earlier in the evening, I had made other decisions as to the night’s recreation.  Now I know there’s a Pirate Tavern,  I will make more “lyric-remembering-friendly” decisions in the future. But I had a lovely time nonetheless, singing along to choruses and whatnot, and I don’t regret my earlier decision. There were jellyfish in the sky after all.

All in all, Faerieworlds was an utterly magickal awakening of the imagination on so many levels, levels that I deeply resonate with. If indeed festival culture exists to give people a chance to imagine a better world by living it for a weekend, as many claim, then Faerieworlds hit the nail on the head as far as the kind of  world I want to live in.  This is now my “can’t miss” summer festival, and I will be organizing all other touring around it. My own quirky brand of magick so belongs here!  Fans of myth and legend, this is your inner world come to life!

Song Magic – Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea

Heya cutie-pies!

Since some of you have asked about the lyrics to my songs, I have started this Song Magic series, where I feature a song, the lyrics, and bit about what inspired the song.

This time I am featuring Star of the Sea, off of Song of the Sea.

This song is about following one’s inspiration, dedicated to Venus, the star that guides the sailors, inspires poets, and drives lovers mad.  This song is an ode to  following that which compels us and brings beauty into or lives, that for which we would give all.  Enjoy!

 

Here she comes, soft as a whisper of wild things
Bringing her siren songs for me to sing
Her charms ensnare me, they capture my senses
As twilight unveils the secret that stirs the hearts of kings

What praises I wouldn’t sing
For the bright star of evening

While there’s a song in my soul that’s worth singing
While there is passion to quicken my blood
I will follow the star of the sea
Until all her songs are sung

I’ve dipped my toes in the madness of muses
Who spin their tunes with strands of their shining silver hair
Now I dance, untamed, drunk in the houses of God, yea,
Singing until my voice is raw

Delirium has me in thrall
Is it freedom or folly

While there’s a song in my soul that’s worth singing
While there is passion to quicken my blood
I will follow the star of the sea
Until all her songs are sung

I’ve kept my dreams frozen too long
Waiting to wake them with song
It’s a tune I have known all along

While there’s a song in my soul that’s worth singing
While there is passion to quicken my blood
I will follow the star of the sea
And I’ll rise up singing
Until all her songs are sung

Song Magic – Mistress of MacLyr

Storm at Sea, captured by Seraphina at Mister Jones

A much more tame and not even remotely adequate approximation of the storm I am about to tell you about.

Hi everyone!

Some of you have told me you’d like more song lyrics in my newsletter and on my blog, and also that you’d like to know how the music connects to my spirituality. So I  figured I’d explore both those topics here, in a series of posts I’ll call Song Magic.  I’ll share the lyrics, what inspired them, and ask you to participate with some questions about your own story at the end.

We’ll start with a newer one, Mistress of MacLyr:

Tempestuous twilight, bring my love to me 
Whose froth-white horses come sweeping in from sea 
And carry my heart away from me 

Melancholy eyes, deep with dreams of starfish 
Eerie moonglow hair, soothing sand into surrender 
And operas of Seraphim singing of your splendor 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me 

Your salty kiss is on my tongue and tangled in my hair 
With shells between my toes, and yearning for more 
I dance the dance of wild night and conjure you to shore 

Your beauty pierces through me, Master of the Sea 
Courtship fierce and stormy, you made your claim on me 
Your foamy tendrils gripped my hair, and ravished me away 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me 

Carry me away to your jeweled and dewey deep 
Never will a mortal’s kiss stir my soul from sleep 
I am ravished utterly away 
Oh I am ravished utterly away 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me

This song comes from a mighty storm I witnessed at 4am while staying in Jenner, which is a small coastal community in Sonoma county where the Russian River flows into the sea, and also my favorite place on Earth. I was staying in the last house before the river meets the sea, so I was as close as I could get and still be by a warm fire. My companion stood out on the deck while I wrote by the fire, and eventually asked “It is supposed to be like this?” I went outside to see that the sea had completely engulfed the strand between it and the river, and was now crashing up on the riverbank not 20 feet from our back door. I had never seen it do that, and I had lived here for 2 years. It was breathtaking, and a little scary. The next morning, in town, we read the headlines “Record waves crest at 50 feet”.

The moon was full, and the clouds were billowing and fearsome, sometimes hiding and sometimes revealing her. Light prismed out from the moon the way the sunlight often does, creating an otherworldly array of pearlescent moonbeams that lit the sea. And there was lightning, great forks of it striking and clashing as if some epic battle waged amongst the Gods.

To this day, I think it was the single most beautiful and awe-inspiring display of nature I have ever seen. If I were to choose one example of why I am Pagan, this would be it. These are the things that compel me to worship – the majesty of nature brings me to my knees in utter astonishment.

As many of you know, Manannan MacLyr is God of the Sea in Irish myth. And I adore the sea beyond words. In this song I attempt to give voice to my love of the sea in all it’s beauty and power.

When has nature brought you to your knees?  What experience in your life has compelled you to worship, has shown you a glimpse of the Divine? Will you share an event in your life that has cracked you open, that has broken through cynicism and sorrow and brought you to a place of wonder and openness?

Please share your story in the comments if you are so moved. :+)

(Mistress of MacLyr is from the album Neofolk Romantique and can be listened to here)

(You can get the song for free by signing Sharon’s mailing list. You also get monthly free improvised song snippets called Mermaid Kisses).

Hexenfest Musings and the Power of Community – Yeah, You.

(Update: this was supposed to publish last Monday and I hit the wrong button. Sorry for the delay!)

Well, we did it. We hosted Hexenfest and it didn’t tank. Which, as you might imagine, is a huge relief.  There were 93 paid attendees (which amuses us, being Thelemically inclined), a modest start, but respectable. I am frankly blown away by how much support there was. It was easy to find enough volunteers. The Indiegogo campaign did well (really you guys produced this thing right along with us). There was support from the press. You guys came through for Hexenfest to the extent that I had no stress the night of the event and was able to enjoy myself right along with you. For that I am profoundly grateful.  Thank you!!  You have shown me the power of community yet again. Our community kicks ASS and I am so very honored to be in your company. There are people who spend their whole lives hoping to find what we have, and I don’t take it for granted. This is something I am grateful for every single day.

A few random notes: Some folks who bought in at the VIP level didn’t pick up their goodies.  Ideally we can arrange to meet so I can avoid paying postage. We made our nut, but just. 

Also – for those who follow my blog regularly, I have not forgotten the Song-A-Week challenge. I have indeed fallen behind (Hexenfest ate my life) but I have not dropped it and I will make up the time. I will report on this next week. 

Lastly – I had written a statement of intent for Hexenfest, and I post it here as well, in case you missed it.

HEXENFEST STATEMENT

Thank you for joining us for the first annual Hexenfest! To our knowledge, this is the first festival devoted specifically to the arts in the Neopagan revival. We feel this is important, because a culture’s art helps to shape the identity of its people. As we are still a young movement, striving to rebuild our ancestral traditions from the ashes of a forgotten era­, we grapple with shaping an identity that preserves our legacy in ways that are relevant for us today. The arts help us to further define ourselves, and bring this emerging identity into the manifest world.

We feel the Neopagan revival promotes a much-needed diversity amidst the trends of monoculture, monotheism, and monopoly currently dominating our word. We believe it is time to celebrate Paganism not just as a religious worldview, but as a cultural revolution. The preservation of cultural diversity, an abiding reverence for nature, the desire to honor our ancestors, and the will to take command of our own evolution are all aspects of Paganism that we find deeply relevant. It is our hope, in growing Hexenfest, that we can support these aspirations by promoting artists who move these ideals forward.

If you would like to become a part of this growing community and help us decide which bands and artists to feature in coming years, please join our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Hexenfest.