Friday’s Featured Fabulousness – HEXENFEST INDIEGOGO!

We’re doing it me loves! Our first music festival, and we’ve started an IndieGogo campaign to make sure we come out of the gate strong. Want to get advanced tickets, VIP tickets with extra perks, or just support the good cause of making sure there are more magickal music and arts festivals in the world?

If so, please give our campaign a peek, and contribute if you can.

And as always – thank you so much for being part of our world!

 

Friday’s Featured Fabulousness – $7 Song Sampler

Hello there my beauties!

Today my featured item is for folks new to my music. This is a song sampler from several different albums at a very friendly price. Only $7 gets you a download of 9 songs that highlight different phases of my career. A very economical way to begin exploring my particular brand of musical enchantment! Enjoy!

Awakening the Hero’s Heart

Last weekend I was a facilitator, along with T. Thorn Coyle and Morpheus Ravenna, at a weekend  intensive called Answering the Call; Battle Goddesses in Times of Change. The weekend was a sequence of ritual, self defense training, and discussions on how to become more resilient as a community.

A key theme of this work was Awakening the Hero’s Heart. The core question here was, “What if it were up to you?” This question has stayed with me all week and I find myself wanting to pass it on.

We often think of solving the problems of our world as something somebody else will do. Someone bigger, more powerful, more educated, more wealthy. Surely just little old us can’t solve the world’s problems.

The problem is, if we all assume that “somebody else” is going to change the world, well…. you can see where this is going.

I don’t think we stand a chance if we wait around for a “bigger, more qualified” hero to save the day.  Even Batman misses stuff, and frankly, he could use our help. I believe each and every one of us must pull the sword from the stone – or the sorting hat, as it were. We are all the chosen one, and we all have unique gifts to bring to this world. No one can do it all, but we can all do a little.

But how, when we are so weighed down with the details of our daily survival?

I believe world change must happen organically. If we can incorporate small changes into the lives we are already living, make choices that are in alignment with our values, this will go a long way toward reshaping the world. You don’t need to restructure your entire life to become an activist. Activists are crucial and I am so thankful there are people that feel activism is their calling, but ultimately it is the everyday changes that every one of us can do on an ongoing basis that will be the crux of real, lasting change.

Where we begin with this can be daunting, and I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers, but there are three pieces that I find helpful:

Courage, Awareness, Intention.

Courage: We can all summon our hero’s heart and look into the face of that which terrifies us. Let us remember, to have courage is not to be without fear, but to take action in the face of fear. Acknowledging our fear is the first step to understanding solutions. When we sweep these things under the carpet, we sweep a part of ourselves under the carpet. As long as we are in denial, there are pieces of us left sleeping, disempowered, disconnected. When we acknowledge our fear, look it in the face, and offer it our compassion, something powerful happens. We awaken. And we begin to see solutions within the problems. We find a small jewel that we can work with to make the situation a little bit better. Imagine if everyone on this planet were to take one action to make a situation a little bit better.

Awareness: This is part of awakening, and we can begin by spending a little bit of time each day checking in with ourselves. In meditation, in contemplation, we get present with ourselves, and follow our emotions as far as we can. In so doing, we come to a place where we realize what we truly feel. And that can be scary. But it also gets us in touch with what matters to us. When we are reminded what truly matters to us, we can begin making choices that support these values. And when we take action in accordance with our values, we shape the word in accordance with our values.

Intention: This is where we act. This is where we connect our awareness with our actions. This is where we have the opportunity to make decisions from a place of power. We can decide to shop at the farmer’s market. We can make holiday gifts instead of buy them. We can buy gifts on Etsy. We can consider the idea that buying something from a craftsperson may be more expensive, but it will also likely last a lot longer than cheap plastic crap made by slaves in Indonesia. We can get to know the people we do business with, so that we know we are supporting someone who will then spend the money we give them in conscientious ways. We can celebrate the steps we do take and not berate ourselves for the steps we haven’t taken yet. And we can keep taking steps. We can choose to craft our lives as the works of art they are, polishing these jewels of hope with the grit of our intention.

I believe that, by activating courage, awareness, and intention, the tendrils of our hearts curl out like vines and wrap around every aspect of our lives, and from these tendrils the flowers of our ideals may bloom.

So rise up, for you are my hero. And you. And you. And you. And you…….

 

 

Tuscany!

The view from our window at Monteriggioni, Siena, Italy

Oh, my darlings! I recently had the opportunity to visit Tuscany, and I am in love! What a beautiful, romantic, enchanted part of the world! If you are looking for old world charm in a travel experience, Tuscany is your place.

I was there for 8 days.  I flew into Rome, and while I did spend an afternoon among the ruins
in old Rome, this was not my favorite part. (By the time people are hustling you with dancing stuffed animals and opportunities to photograph grandma with soldiers in plastic gladiator outfits, the party’s over as far as I’m concerned).  For me, the magic of Tuscany lay in its countryside, the castles on every hill, the little villages that surround them, and the winding cobbled streets too narrow for cars.

The preservation of Medieval village life fascinated me. When I say there are castles on every hill, I mean that literally. The castles themselves are often converted into the town center, such as in Lucignano, filled with little shops, markets, and business offices. The residences extend out in a circular pattern to the surrounding area. Although in the case of Monteriggioni the castle is the entire village. People live here, right inside the castle walls, and there are also several merchants – a cobbler, a few wine shops, a hand-loom weaver, restaurants, and a few B&B’s – which meant we got to stay right there inside the castle. Imagine my glee! And it wasn’t even expensive – our room was 80 Euros per night. The rooms here were not gloriously appointed, but hey, we got to sleep in a castle! I loved going out exploring for the day and then coming home to the castle.

Castelletto di Montebenichi

If you do have some money to spend and you want to have the full-on gloriously appointed “I am royalty” experience, I recommend the Castelletto di Montebenichi.  This Castle is located in Bucine, in the province of Arezzo, and is, to date, my favorite place in the entire world. The decor is flawless – or at least, exactly in keeping with my tastes. Extremely beautiful and regal, yet very comfortable. The owner, Marco, refers to it as a museum, and indeed it is absolutely packed with artifacts and collectibles, not behind glass cases but integrated into every room. You are welcome to touch everything. There is a bar which you can help yourself to, and Marco will join you for happy hour and regale you with tales. A delicious breakfast is also included in the cost. Marco strives to create a very relaxed atmosphere so you can truly feel at home, and he succeeds admirably. Lest one get too carried away with fantasies of princesses and fairy tales, however, there were at least two paintings featuring severed heads to help us remember the more grim aspects of castle culture. I find severed heads so relaxing, don’t you?

This place is spendy to be sure – rooms range from 280 – 330 Euros. Also they don’t allow children – which is probably wise considering all the antiques that are out and about. But if you are looking to rekindle your poetic soul or breathe new fire into a romance, this place exemplifies “Romantique” more than any other I have encountered.

I could write a book on Tuscany but I think I will stop with the verbiage and let pictures speak for themselves.

Castelletto di Montebenichi

Castelletto di Montebenichi courtyard

Castelletto di Montebenichi library #1

Castelletto di Montebenichi - living room #1

Casteletto di Montebenichi - living room #2

Montebenichi - our room on second floor - complete with a pile of our stuff to give it that modern touch!

Montebenichi village home

Montebenichi village home

Monteriggioni - "Home to the castle!"

Monteriggioni from a balloon - I didn't take this pic but it really gives you the full effect.

Monteriggioni from a balloon - I didn't take this pic but it really gives you the full effect.

Lucignano archway

Lucignano

Quaint Lucignano

Outskirts of Siena

Siena marketplace

Siena


Damn, that took forever! Well I hope you’ve enjoyed these – I am an amateur photographer at best but thought you might like to see some of what I thought photo-worthy. May these images carry you off to a place of romance and wonder, and inspire your own travel plans. Tuscany gets the “Neofolk Romantique” seal of approval for sure!

What If?

What if we stopped second guessing ourselves?

What if we stopped saying I’m too old/young/fat/skinny/ shy/uneducated/over-educated/sickly/etc. and JUST DID IT?

What if we let go of a grudge?

What if we let go of needing to be right?

What if we fed someone’s parking meter?

What if we paid the toll for the person behind us?

What if we didn’t forward the snarky Facebook post?

What if we stopped by a tree for a minute – or five – and considered it as a personal friend?

What if we decided we were a pirate queen for the day?

What if we stopped eating sugar?

What if we made a picnic for a friend, complete with table and linens out in a grassy meadow?

What if we wrote someone a love letter and mailed it with a stamp, old-school?

What if we smiled at a stranger?

What if we spent the evening with our homes lit only by candles?

What if we took a midnight hike with 6 friends at the full moon?

What if we decided to believe something impossible?

What if we burst into song right now?

What kind of a world would it be then?

Neofolk’s Divergent Ideals – What I am and What I am Not

Portals-Bindrune

May our families thrive!

(UPDATE: It has come to my attention that, as I had been using Wardruna’s album cover as the blog image for this article, it was unclear as to whether I was pointing a finger at them as a racist band. Let me clear that up. To my knowledge, Wardruna has no racist ties, and I personally adore their music. I posted their album cover as a representation of Heathen magic, which I am deeply inspired by. I have replaced it with a Bindrune of my own creation.)

Greetings friends –

A variety of events have converged in the past few weeks that compel me to veer off topic a bit for this post. I normally strive to keep my focus here on cultivating a sense of beauty and poetry, retraining our perceptions to bring a sense of magic and wonder – enchantment, if you will – into our lives.

But today I am going to delve into darker territory and explore the topic of racism. After all, part of shaping a world that amplifies beauty is  addressing those things that mar the lovely face of beauty. And racism is definitely one of those things for me.

This morning I read a blog post from a writer in my local community, Jo Crawford of Crafting the Sacred. As Samhain approaches, she was exploring her relationship to her ancestors, both the elements that made her proud and the elements that made her not so proud. (Being a European woman raised in South Africa.) This really struck a chord with me, as I had recently been engaged in two dialogs which involved racism. One was on the Asatru Assembly and White Nationalism  (over on The Wild Hunt) which stirred up a lot of feelings for me about the delicate line that must be walked as a European seeking to keep her ancestral folk traditions alive. The other was an incident on Facebook, where I had accepted a friend request from someone I didn’t know, and they then proceeded to post the most offensively racist crap imaginable.

Needless to say this person was unfriended and blocked, but it left a very unsettled feeling in me. I feel called to address this, for the topic came up again today with a call from a friend who felt compelled to tell me that when purchasing my new album, she felt nauseated by my use of the term ‘Neofolk’.  To her mind, it was associated with neo-nazis.

This was devastating news. I have spent months searching for, mulling over, and contemplating the perfect genre description for my music. It is not easy. I have steered away from ‘Celtic’ because Celtic traditionalists have decried my (admittedly far from traditional) music as “Not Celtic” enough times for me to seek out a new genre.  After much consideration, Neofolk Romantique was the choice I returned to over and over. My music brings a new twist to the preservation of folk tradition  (Neofolk) and combines it with an air of romanticism and a love of antiquity (Romantique).

It was perfect. Until my friend confronted me with nazism.

I went into identity crisis mode. I didn’t rehearse. I didn’t book the tour I am working on lining up for the winter. I didn’t design new postcards that were going to have Neofolk Romantique plastered all over them. Instead I spent my day re-evaluating my identity.

I contemplated loads of different names – Mythic Folk. Pagan Folk. Folk Nouveau. (I do rather like that one). Neo-druidic. Sonic Alchemy Folk. Gypsy Folk. Folk Rock. Etc etc etc.

None of them have the ring to it that Neofolk Romantique has for me. And really, why should the Nazis get to own that description? ‘Neofolk’ by itself is a pretty broad term, one that would be fitting for any number of artists currently exploring a more modern expression of folk music. Faun, Stellamara, Heather Dale, SJ Tucker, Wendy Rule, could all be described as Neofolk.

So what is going to be my stance? To run from a description because it has some controversy? Or to stand by the genre and be one of the people who make it good?  Choice B is harder. But in my opinion it is also more noble.

I want to use the term Neofolk. I do not intend to let neo-nazis take this away from me any more than the Heathen community at large will allow nazis to sully their own mythic traditions. (Any more than they already have). May my declaration to use Neofolk in my genre description be one of defending something good. Let me show you what Neofolk can be.

I am Neofolk. I may not be the Neofolk you’ve heard of. Or expect. I am one new voice of folk music in a growing folk revival. And regardless of what other Neofolk artists declare – or don’t declare – let me say this clearly: I am not a neo-nazi, nor will I ever support white supremacy in any way.

I have fought for the word “Witch”, and I have fought for the word “Pagan”. And I will fight for my right to co-define Neofolk, rather than shrink from it in fear of guilt by association. Words and concepts evolve as people invest in them. I am investing in Neofolk. And thus do I claim my right to add to its definition. I do this because, if we allow the words with which we define ourselves to fall into disrepute without a fight, then we risk losing a piece of our identity.

In love and respect for all beings – Sharon

Danielle Laporte, SARK, and Me – Speaking at the World’s Biggest Summit!

I am delighted to say that I will be a speaker at the World’s Biggest Summit! I’ll be offering an introductory sampling of my Sonic Alchemy work. If you’d like to learn my version of a Triple Soul Alignment using vocal technique and tone to supercharge your energy fields for a zingy pick-me-up, check it out. There are loads of other teachers too and the whole thing is free. Here’s a blurb about it, below:

What would it be like to learn from 100+ of the world’s best teachers? For free? For a whole month?

This October, you can. Join the World’s Biggest Summit – a FREE online event where you can learn from 100 of the World’s best teachers in creativity, spirituality, business & health.

Other teachers at the free summit include best-selling authors Julia Cameron, Jennifer Louden, SARK, Lynn V Andrews & the Astro Twins. (Needless to say I feel honored to be in such fine company!)

Note: My 15-minute video presentation is currently scheduled for October 17th.

To grab your free ticket, head to www.worldsbiggestsummit.com

Here’s a fun little video about the Summit:

Travel Review – Staunton, Virginia

Since I am traveling so much, and since this is likely to continue, I have decided to keep a travel log of cool places I find,  helpful travel tips etc. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up in some of these places yourselves, and be glad of my (hopefully) useful insights.

So here it is,  my first one –  Staunton, Virginia.

I came here knowing nothing about the place, other than I needed to find a hotel for the night while performing at Blue Ridge Beltane. Cheap hotel, that was my only criteria. I found one, and the dread set in. Jesusland = the unenlightened, ergo I’ll be surrounded by folks who never question the status quo. Result – I’ll be trapped in this little greasy spoon of a town with nothing but Heart Attack souffle for dinner. (Better make sure I have apples).

Boy I was wrong! (Note to self – it is an option to research the town you’ll be staying in. Just saying.)

First off, let me say that Staunton really appeals to my love of antiquity. It’s got these great old style buildings, much older that what I’m used to seeing in California. Like this:

And this:

And this:

Downtown is very compact, so a lot of highlights are within walking distance.

A few highlights I thought were great:

The 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse — the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theatre. The product of years of research, this unique, historically accurate performance space provides the perfect backdrop for the ASC’s Elizabethan staging practices.

Gypsy Hill Park

Beautiful park on top of a hill right in the town.  Lakes, swings, a little train (which wasn’t really all that but small children may enjoy it). Geese. Lots of trees. Nice place for a stroll.

Dining:

Cranberry’s
Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery

Outstanding and STRONG cappuccino and fresh smoothies and veggie juice. A highlight for me was the Celtic Elixir – Carot juice, celery, and apple with a hint of beet and ginger. Delicous helathy food and old world country store charm the like of which I haven’t seen since Whole Foods took over. Check this out! Can you get dandelion and burdock soda at Whole Foods? I think not.


Zynodoa
http://www.zynodoa.com/

OMG this dinner! Sauteed prawns with leeks that looked and tasted like they pulled them from the ground right after I ordered. (The leeks, not the prawns. Mmm, ground prawns! NOT!) And twice fried potatoes = crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Excellent Malbec and the most epic chocolate torte with blueberry sauce I have ever had. A little pricey – I had an entree, a side of asparagus, 2 glasses of wine, the torte and a decaf coffee for $80 which included the tip. Actually that’s not bad for how awesome the dinner was.

Hopeless Romantic Bonus: cute waiter was positively oozing Southern charm.

Thing I Absolutely Wish I Did but Didn’t

Visit the Endless Caverns! Apparently about an hour outside Staunton there are miles of these underground caverns. The Endless Caverns are just some of them. There are also Luray Caverns and Shenandoah Caverns.  I only had a few days in Virginia so I figured I’d explore the town I was staying in, but I really wish I had made the time to check these out. Few things inspire me as much as grand displays of nature. There is loads of info on the internet about these bad boys so rather than provide links I suggest you just google them and find the links that work best for you.

(Guy in blue coat = should have been me)

Well there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed my very first travel review. I plan to do many more as I gypsy about the world singing songs for folks. (If you’d like me to come and sing songs for you in your town, contact me at sharon (at) sharonknight (dot) net. I’ll even write a song about your local folklore.)

Going to Virginia? Learn more about Staunton VA here

My Dad’s Suitcase – Ancestral lineage in the modern era

I always love getting ready for a trip. Despite all the stresses of what I might be forgetting, and whether I’ve left myself enough time, there remains an undercurrent of excitement that I am about to embark on a new adventure, filled with creative exchanges, meeting new people and seeing new sights.

This time I am headed to Delaware, where I will teach Sonic Alchemy, and then on to Virginia, where I will perform at Blue Ridge Beltane.

As I pack, I realize this is the first trip I am taking with my Dad’s suitcase. I didn’t inherit much from my Dad, but I did get his suitcase, and with it, his legacy of travel. This is important to me.

My Dad loved to travel.  He and my stepmother traveled as often as they could. They were both teachers and every summer they would make the most of their paid time off by exploring the world. They had friends in England, Scotland, Finland, and Thailand.

In Heathen folk tradition, there is a concept, “Hamingja”, loosely translated as the luck we inherit from our family line.  I feel that the lineage of travel is a boon I have inherited from my father. For this I am grateful. Even at an early age we traveled. We lived in Thailand for a year when I was a teenager, and it has always stuck with me. Experiencing different cultures was very important to my Dad. He felt that we learn most about people, about the world, by experiencing the traditions of others. This instilled a respect for otherness in me at an early age, and it is an aspect of my family heritage that I am proud of.

Now, with the inheriting of this suitcase, the first proper suitcase I have ever owned, with wheels so I don’t kill my back, and a strategically planned design so that I can fit half my life into it and still maneuver the thing – It’ s like a Weasley tent, it is! – I am reminded of Hamingja, and of ancestral inheritance, and I am honored to carry this part of my father’s life forward into my own.

What is remembered lives, and I remember you, Dad, and I am grateful for the wanderlust  you instilled in me. I am grateful for the yearning to experience this big ole world to the fullest, as you did. Thank you Dad! May I drink of life as deeply as you did, and keep those things alive that held meaning for you, as they now do for me.

May we meet again on the long road.