The folk tradition offers a wealth of material that works very well in a Pagan setting. Yes, there is more out there than good old John Barleycorn! Folk songs speak of the dead – the heroic dead, the war dead, epic accidents and tragedies, mundane passings away, execution, and rather frequently, death by over consumption of alcohol. Death is a common theme in folk songs, it being the one bit of drama every single life can be relied upon to produce.
If you’re on the bardic path, then seasonal song is something you may be thinking about. However, the most famous folk song mentioning all hallows eve isn’t about the dead at all, but about faerie. Tam Lin is the story of a mortal man captured by faeries, (which allows him to spend his time seducing young ladies at no cost to himself). When he gets young Janet pregnant and tells her the faerie horde mean to sacrifice him to Satan at Halloween, she undertakes an epic rescue mission and wins his freedom. Our mediaeval ancestors invested a lot of time in figuring out how the faerie realms and the Christian representations of evil related to each other – a topic bound to give anyone headaches, and much less of an issue for the modern Pagan.
I don’t really celebrate all of the 8 standard festivals at the moment. I’ve always struggled to work up any kind of enthusiasm for the fleeting balance of the equinoxes. Imbolc and Lugnasadh don’t especially resonate with me either. Solstices, Samhain and Belatain I tend to quietly honour whether I’m part of a celebratory group or not. Having songs to sing as part of that, has always been important to me. And so I ended up writing this one, quite some years ago, and singing it at my folk club and at rituals. It’s one of the few songs I’ve written and not discarded. It’s recorded in my ‘home studio’ (ie the bedroom). Drumming is also me – it’s a small Turkish drum borrowed from my son, and the whole thing was laid down in one go. Partly because I have no mixing desk skills, partly because, being a folk person, I like that raw, one take approach to music.
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