Category Archives: Bardic

The Great House

A guest post from Christopher Blackwell

I have lived in The Great House almost all of my life since I was a young man and now I am very very old and will soon die. Another young man will inherit the house for that is how it has always been done though I have no idea whom it will be. It is not necessary for me to know. I have always had a thing for a odd house, in my case a medieval house that built at different levels, using different types of measurements in each room, and different building material, often with step between different rooms, various stairs that go oddly to unexpected to unknown levels.

A house that sprawls, and seem to go on and on. A house where inside, you never can quite determine where you are in the house, or how to get to where you would like to be. Consider it something like a A Four-Dimensional Maze. Yet unknowingly you could always get to wherever you wished to go, or somewhere much like it. Every type if room was repeated in other wings of the house, but designed uniquely different. But any dining room would have a full meal set out as needed. Any book that you could ever want to read would be easy to find in any of the libraries, even if you had just suddenly decided on a particular book. Wardrobe , closet, or set of drawers, would have whatever clothes that you needed at a time, always a perfect fit, storage always had what was needed at the time. There would be no servants or builders, but the house was always perfectly maintained, except for portions what would be in decay or near ruin, and new parts of the house continued to build, though the sound of construction was never heard.

Always when one owner died, usually at great age, and new young person would discover that they had just inherited the house, though they were never aware of being related to the last owner. All they had to do was live in the house for one year and their title of ownership was solid and legal. Of course leaving the house was never possible throughout their long life, nor did anyone ever turn down the chance to inherit The Great House. Somethings just had to be. with no reason or explanation.

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The Myomancer

The Tragic History Of Aisling Ó Rathaille

(Or The Myomancer)

By Aodhagán Ó Rathaille

 

Aisling was never a strange child – not when we considered the very many stranger people that dwell around here. She kept herself to herself but then who could blame her? And as dutifully protective parents we were needless to say delighted that she preferred her own company to that of the unquestionably sinister orphans with which this island is undoubtedly over populated.

When we moved into The House, I confess there were noises ; the wind moved through the pneumanated marrow of the place and the timbers gave it voice. That is what we assumed. And The House was so very beautiful back then, standing proud on a set of impressive rock arches near the cliff edge like a last bastion of sanity and hope erected by some bold and indomitable architect.

So very pretty. So very very sad.

Aisling loved The House. She even asked us to have built for her an ornate replica for her bedroom and she filled it with dolls and spent almost every hour playing happily with it. It was a task to get her to go to bed and even, on occasion, we would wake in the night to find her busy arranging the furniture there ‘just so.’

I say dolls. I think it was late October when we noticed they were puddle rats.

“I’d like you to play a game with me,” Aisling said. We were in the parlour after church, entertaining half the town as usual. Aisling hardly ever invited audience or participant to her private pastimes and so, as doting parents, we were naturally intrigued by this sudden change in temperament.  As were the children in the party for I believe they looked to Aisling as something of a paradigm, you know? Some Poetic Vision of childhood…

“I’m going to tell your fortunes,” Aisling said brightly. Everything about her was bright. Her black curls gleamed in the candleglow and her neat pleat skirts caught the radiance as it blistered over the grain like fire woven into the fabric. The afternoon had promised to be a dull one but now the winged thing’s mantra  thrummed through the heart of the little gathering and we fairly giggled and tweeted our way up the  simple white painted staircase to the nursery.

How I had failed to notice the changes that my daughter had wrought to her beloved dolls house I cannot say. Where she had found the time, the skill, and the mechanical components I am also at a loss to fathom.  Suffice to say each of the tiny intricate replica rooms was now a tiny intricate chamber of death.

We stared.

Parental duty no doubt dictates that if One’s child appears to have constructed a portable torture chamber worthy of the most depraved and fanciful minds of The Inquisition itself, One ought really to put One’s foot down and confiscate the damn thing at once.

Somewhere in the more primal recesses of my mind I am certain I acknowledged this wise course of action. But I did not act upon it. I simply stared. We all stared.

“You, Harriet. You may go first.”

The small child nodded in a small way and shuffled forward.

“Choose a Guide,” Aisling pointed to a birdcage by the window and if our jaws were not already hanging a little slack they now hit the floor in unison. The cage was crammed full of puddle rats, each dressed in a hideous array of silks, satins and lace. Each like a little animate doll. Why had we not noticed them before? Where was the stench that notoriously accompanied these rabid rodents? A faint perfume of heather and primrose hung about the room and as little Harriet cautiously approached the cage, the muttering began.

I have said before that we thought the old house plagued by vocal drafts, but as soon as I heard those lispering, whispering voices I knew these creatures had been living in our walls from the moment of our arrival.

What they were saying I cannot tell you but perhaps Harriet knew for she seemed obviously drawn to one particularly large female rat in a lavender skirt and poke bonnet.

Aisling smiled and withdrew the rat from the cage, sending the others into a wild frenzy of shrieks and howls. Carefully she placed the rat into the centre hallway of the house and then we all watched and waited and felt uncomfortable and hoped that someone else would intervene or voice the ethical objections we knew they must be feeling… but no one spoke or moved except the puddle rat.

It spent a theatrical amount of time sniffing the doors to each of the rooms and pondering the staircase before finally climbing it to the top floor and perishing with dignity in the bath full of acid.

Aisling turned to the traumatised Harriet and beamed “Tomorrow you will go tree climbing. You will fall and break your collar bone but if you dig under the place where you fell you will find a small casket buried there and inside it is an emerald brooch.”

Our guests erupted in ecstasy; the drama, the terror, the excitement … some demon had a clasp on their hearts for sure as they eagerly jostled and shoved to be next in line for The Game – for that was obviously what it was, a game, a fancy, a titillation to alleviate the boredom of another Hopelessly damp October afternoon and at length when each had had their turn we closed the door on the backs of a crowd whose bellies were full of nondescript vegetablish stew and whose souls were elevated by a tasteful mix of revulsion and whimsy.

The next day young Harriet went tree climbing, fell and broke her collar bone and, when her parents dug rabidly beneath the twisted tree she had fallen from, they discovered a casket that contained an emerald brooch.

Our lives were changed forever.

Day in, day out the door rang off its hinges with townsfolk wanting their fortunes told by our little Aisling, until in the end we took the damn thing down completely and let the queue of desperate bodies trail out down the garden path and along the street.

Aisling seemed to thrive on it all at first, at least we thought she did, looking back I suppose we simply failed to see what was happening. I said before she seemed bright that day back in October – everything about her seemed to shine. As the days and weeks and months went by this strange ethereal glow became increasingly intense until it were better likened to an unearthly luminescence. Her eyes no longer captured the gleam of light external but were lit from within by a feverish flame and seemed never to focus upon anything apart from her beloved puddle rats.

The rats kept coming. We never saw them appear but the cage was always full to bursting with them and the people kept on coming too. Everything seemed fine, after a fashion, and we certainly couldn’t complain about the gifts and gratitude lavished upon us by all those who had been assisted by Aisling’s predictions, but fate will notoriously turn …

It had apparently been a long and uncharacteristically clement summer, though we had seen none of it, and it was coming to a close when Aisling suddenly Took Ill. That was the story we put about. The doctor came but we sent him away with a nonchalant wave and a confident smile; she would be fine, just fine in a day or two, nothing to worry about, do call back on Thursday for tea…

Upstairs we drew the shutters as Aisling frothed and raved and foamed and screamed, her pupils like dinner plates and her whole body robed in some vile, pulsing, misamatic aura that reeked of heather and primroses. She didn’t speak, but when she opened her mouth the spittling, spattling voices of the puddle rats spoke through her – they were not happy, they wanted The House for a temple, they wanted the townsfolk for slaves, Aisling was their Oracle, their Priestess, their Queen and they would rule this island through her flesh…

The island of Hopeless was blighted, they said, and overrun with monsters, clergy and demons, but all was not lost if only we would listen to the puddle rats, who only desired to be our benevolent custodians and guides…

If we chose not to embrace our Salvation however, the Hopeless Situation would only become increasingly dire; we would be visited by the Plagues of Egypt, the Plague Of The Black Death, The Plague Of The Red Death, The Plague Of Justinian, The Plague of The Continent and The Common Cold, which of course no man  can endure.

We nodded sagely, we soothed, we simpered, we cringed, we cowered, we begged, we eventually took the matter to the town elders. My wife and I have always been law abiding citizens, when it comes down to it, and we both agreed that, doting parents or not, when we signed the Birth Certificate it said nothing about ‘Duty Of Care In The Event Of Sinister Rodent Possession’.

The overwhelming consensus of our fellow townsfolk was that we did not, really, all things considered, wish to be ruled over by vermin – who does?  And so we did what every other town in human history has done, and I hope will continue to do, when faced with a den of rats attempting to lord power over them ; with no piper in sight, we set flame to our torches, sharpened our pitch forks  and, in the depths of night, we marched upon The House.

I cannot say if the creatures sensed the intention of our Midnight Court or heard our lusty cries of “Tie an anchor of brandy to her, To give a dram to the seals! ” and so forth,  if mayhap the unseen Fates chose to intervene for their own amusement , or if what happened next was mere coincidence …  as we crossed the scrap of heath towards the cliffs, the links between the rock arches on which The House stood, began to crumble into the pulsing waves below.

If you are a Student of Geography , a Celtic Bard or a fanatic of Bostonian Gothic Fiction you will have seen that coming from the outset, but we did not and so the entire town simply stood, impotent  weapons in hand, watching as the bridge between ourselves and our demons came crashing down into the sea.

It is decades now since those events took place. The House still stands upon its rock stack, so covered with lichen, moss and fungi that it seems to have grown up out of the landscape rather than having been built upon it. Whether or not the creature that was once my daughter still resides within I cannot say but every now and then, when a family becomes desperate and no other course of action can be found, a lone rowing boat may be seen, late in the evening or under a shining sliver of yellow moon, making its way across the foam towards the stack.

And this night it is my turn to set oar to rowlock and brave the surf, I am not much longer for this world and my conscience is resolved to make certain the fate of my beautiful daughter before the devils come and claim my soul for good – for how else will I be able to claim the epitaph  ‘Father Of The Aisling’ upon my tombstone?

 

Written by Lou Pulford, set in Hopeless, Maine.


Book excerpt – The Bed

Today, an excerpt from Laura Perry’s Novel, The Bed, which I have previously reviewed on this blog – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/witchlit-and-spiral-nature/

“I don’t know,” Liz said in a tired voice as she ran her fingers along the rim of the trunk. “I guess I was hoping for something more exciting. You know, secret treasure.” She looked around at the mess that filled her small living room. “I guess we should clean up now.”

She hefted a stack of books and rose up into a half-squat to put them back into the trunk, but her fatigued body refused to cooperate. She lost her balance and ended up flinging the pile roughly into the trunk as she fell sideways onto the floor.

“You need food,” Olivia intoned. “We should stop for lunch. It’s past noon.”

Liz nodded in agreement, glad for the opportunity to distance herself from the bizarre books and papers and the uncomfortable feelings that went with them, if only for a few minutes. But as she heaved herself up off the floor to head for the kitchen, she glanced into the trunk and stopped short. The stack of books she had thrown in now sat askew in the container, pressing down on one end of the trunk floor while the other end stuck up at an angle.

“Oh shit, I broke it.” She stooped to examine the damage and saw that the base of the trunk was, in fact, unharmed. When the books slammed into the trunk, they tilted a false floor that revealed a hidden compartment beneath. “Would you look at this!”

Olivia pressed next to her and leaned over the trunk. “And you were complaining that you hadn’t found anything exciting.” She elbowed her friend then began to lift out the tattered volumes Liz had just tossed in, setting them on the floor nearby.

With renewed energy, Liz knelt next to the trunk and pulled the false bottom out. The two women sucked air. Filling the no-longer-hidden compartment was a collection of small items of many different shapes and sizes, all neatly wrapped in white fabric.

Liz reached for the objects then drew her hand back. With narrowed eyes she gazed around the room at the jumbled piles of books and papers, then looked at her friend. “Do you really think this stuff is black magic?”

Olivia folded her arms across her chest. “I can’t believe Liz Summons is scared of a bunch of old crap in a trunk. This thing belonged to a university professor, not some wild Voodoo priest. You’re supposed to be the adventurous one, remember?”

Without thinking, Liz glanced toward her bedroom then back at the trunk, twisting her ring all the while.

“You know,” Olivia said, her voice tense, “you could take that off if you want.”

Liz stiffened, let go of the ring, and turned back to the trunk. “Let’s see what this stuff is.”

It took them just a few moments to lift all the fabric-covered objects out of the trunk and set them side by side on the floor.

More information about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed


What’s the point of poetry?

A guest blog from Ziggy Dicks

In 2016 I started the Gloucester Poetry Society and sure enough there was an interest there but it was far from being what it is today; and still growing in scope.

I had a plan to unify people through words but wanted to create a forum that hadn’t been done before. I’d seen events, that had a small online presence and others with a strong online presence but little engagement. I saw a gap, so took the people I knew, introduced them to each other and created new working (and personal) friendships.

The way I did this was offering people opportunities to share, to perform and write. The aspects that didn’t draw interest I either discarded or waited for a more appropriate time to try, for example, workshops in the community which are now growing.

The trick was to focus on the positive and carry it in all activities but why poetry? Why not something else? Well frankly, I love poetry, know that it can enhance confidence through performance, can be used to assist people going through a difficult time and it’s entertaining too.

The point of poetry, is to show aspects of life that may be uncomfortable or wonderful or both. I wanted to reveal that all poetry is is a way of recording experience to be shared. All I’ve done is give people a place to share, whomever they are.

Is that the only point to poetry? Even if everything I write from this day in is drivel, which hopefully it won’t be, it has brought a community together, draws people to Gloucester.

It has been a great experience linking in with venues in Gloucester who have shown their belief in my project. It has enabled me to create a vast array of events including our Gloucester Poetry Festival in October.

All are welcome join us online in our Facebook group where we share work and ideas or you could join us at any of our events. Our attitude is ‘life is poetry’ so if there is something you would like to do with poetry and we can help, as a group, we will endeavour to help you.

We have our monthly Villanelles event at the Fountain Inn at West Gate Street Gloucester the last Thursday of the month. We have a generative workshop to start so even if you’ve never written before you can pick up some tips and after we have our poets performing, of which you could be if you wanted but there really is no pressure. We have many events throughout the year as well.

The Gloucester Poetry Festival in October and it is about hearing as many voices as possible (and having a good time) we’d love to see you there, It is a living art and is best experience first hand,

You can contact the team through our website
www.thegloucesterpoetrysociety.co.uk


Do not be seduced by Poets

If a poet courts you, he will bring

Bouquets of freshly gathered verses,

Dew drops still shining on the petals.

He will bring delicate confections

Sugar spun from devoted words.

He may speak of eternity, with grandiosity,

Bestow titles, announce virtues, describe

Hitherto unseen beauties. He might

Cherish and adore in rhyming couplets.

If he is truly serious, there may be

A sonnet.

Those linguistic displays of accomplishment

May persuade, lure or induce

And in the chocolate dipped satin of his words

You may miss the true meaning.

The poems are never about you.

The poems are expressions of his finer feelings.

He, the rare and precious one.

He, the miracle unfolding before you.

And you may be permitted to inspire him

A little.

And applaud him.

A lot.

Don’t ever imagine he was in love with you.

It was the passion for a well rounded line,

The ecstasy of a graceful metaphor.

He loved how he sounded when declaring

The timeless, boundless qualities of his love.

He loved the idea of being in love

With someone for whom he could write poems.

He was in love with the way those poems

So beautifully reflected his own glory.

You, my dear girl, were too real in the end.

Not an ephemeral wonder conjured from air

And water after all.

Not merely an empty vessel to be filled

With the sound of his words.

He fell out of love with you for that,

And writes lengthy, free form pieces now

About how majestic he is in his grief.


The story war and poetic truth

We live in a post-truth world. We don’t know which experts are real experts or who has been bought off to lie to us. For every story we hear there will be another story that tells us just the opposite. Reality and trust become subjective. Opinion demands to be taken as seriously as fact. And who knows what the facts are anyway, right? A week ago, a young man told me confidently that everyone was as much in the dark as him. I found this odd, because I knew something of what I was talking about, but when you assume a level playing field in knowledge, you can dismiss anything anyone else knows that doesn’t fit your story.

You cannot argue in this context based on facts. Your facts will be disbelieved, or countered by other ‘facts’. You can’t quote statistics, or experts, or even blindingly obvious realities to people whose story says you are wrong. Those of us who are interested in truth and evidence have been losing on many fronts to people who are willing and able to assert simple stories and offer apparently simple solutions. It is easier to hear that there is no climate change, than to deal with it. It is easier to swallow a simple lie than to chew on a complicated truth, and most truth is complicated.

I wonder sometimes if we are fighting the third world war right now. The weapons are stories. The landscape we’re fighting over is the minds of people. You can see the damage, the bombed out sites, the shell holes. This war is fought to conquer the inner landscapes of people, and to rule those inner worlds, and change how we think. One side of this war believes in holding power over others, accumulating wealth, exploiting those too weak to resist and killing those who don’t fit the narrative. On the other side of this war there are people who are trying to fight back with truth and evidence, and sometimes they do make some ground, and sometimes they look a lot like Ewoks armed with spears trying to take on people with space technology.

(That wasn’t a casual metaphor, because of course the Ewoks win.)

When someone’s mind becomes a bombed out landscape full of hate and fear and resentment, we don’t save them from that with facts. Our facts fall on them like bombs. Every time we deny their truth, we feed their hatred and resentment. You do not restore a city or a landscape by bombing it. You do not restore a hate-damaged mind by truth-bombing it. No matter how much you want them to hear the truth.

This is where the poetic truth comes in. Poetic truth doesn’t deal with the literal and immediate. It deals with Ewoks fighting storm troopers, and with Celtic heroes dying for honour. Poetic truth doesn’t call for facts that can be denied, because it works to evoke feelings. The stories we are up against encourage us to see the worst in each other, to hate and fear and resent and take down and keep on raging and hurting each other until no good thing remains. A poetic truth doesn’t enter this warring landscape in the same way. Sometimes, a poetic truth can shelter a real world truth and get it safely into people’s minds. A story about something else is easier to swallow than a story that has too much to say about everything going on right now.

I know I’m writing this blog only for people who have the means to read it. It is an idea, and not the work itself. The work will involve finding and making small stories that can travel easily, and that can saunter through the trenches in people’s minds, and un-dig some of the holes.


Professor Elemental and Hopeless Maine

Here’s an exciting development! Right now on Professor Elemental’s bandcamp page there is an EP called Nervous, which you can buy. Every penny of revenue from this release will be donated to the YPC Counselling service. This is a youth service based in Brighton and their counselling offers vital, low cost help for young people, giving them a chance to talk about their lives and their problems. So, an excellent cause, which you can support by buying music. https://professorelemental.bandcamp.com/album/nervous-ep

On that EP is a track called Hopeless Maine. This is a song that the Prof has written in response to www.hopelessmaine.com – the graphic novel series (and soon to be many other things) that I’m involved with. It’s a great song, and my son James has been performing it as part of the Hopeless Maine song set for a while now. It’s wonderful to see it released into the world.

I’ve known Professor Elemental for a long time. He was reading Hopeless when not many people at all had even heard of it. He’s always been very supportive of us. We’ve contributed to his comic, and a few years ago there was a co-written novella, illustrated by Tom, called ‘Letters Between Gentlemen’. It’s always been a very fertile sort of relationship.

One of the things that I’m really excited about with the whole Hopeless Maine project is the way it catches the imaginations of other people and causes them to want to jump in and do something. There’s all kinds of amazing things in the pipeline as a consequence of this. It’s awe inspiring, frequently humbling and I feel very fortunate indeed to be part of it.

 

Here’s the art Tom Brown did for the song – for those of you not familiar with anyone involved, that’s Hopeless Maine’s main character, Salamandra, rescuing Professor Elemental from a sea monster. He really does look like that, only usually without the monstery leg adornment…


Mapping the contours

 

 

Human bodies are much like landscapes.

We have our contours and crevices,

Signs of weathering, history written

Into soil and skin alike.

 

Some of us are flat land formations

Others are complex, curving hillscapes

Verdant forested or marble smooth.

Clay and bone and watercourse.

 

The paces we are inhabiting

Inhabit us in turn, as we move

These bodies through localities, as the

Shape of them shapes or motions.

 

Human bodies are much like landscapes

Revealing to the patient lover

Taking time to know and to season.

Growing into new pleasures.

 

Do we scrabble hastily over

Each other’s surfaces in search of

Something we don’t even know to name

Or are we slow explorers, willing

Make our Journey a caress of feet,

Know line and lane, hair and tree.

 

Are we climbing hills to conquer them

Or taking leisurely routes, here and

There for the pleasure of knowing

Present and unpossessing.

 

Human bodies are much like landscapes.

We should enter knowingly, aware,

With tender hearts and no assumptions,

More inclined to give than take.

 

To honour and cherish what we find,

And let the landscapes of ourselves be

Changed, softened, even redeemed for us

Through our encounters.


Audio fiction at the centre of the world

I am delighted to announce that my speculative novel – Fast Food at the Centre of the Wold – is now entirely up at bandcamp and you can start listening to it here – https://nimuebrown.bandcamp.com/track/fast-food-at-the-centre-of-the-world-part-one

This is a novel recorded by me in 22 episodes – each episode is about twenty minutes long. If you listen on bandcamp you can hear the whole thing for free, so far as I know. I encourage you to do that! (If you want to throw money at me, that’s lovely, but you definitely don’t have to.)

This is a story with a lot of magic in it. While the magic is considerably more dramatic than the kinds of experiences Pagans tend to report, I’ve tried to root it in ways that make sense. The most obvious sorcerer in the mix – Dunsany – is very much a will worker and comes from the kind of tradition that draws complex sigils on things and reads a lot of books. He’s also touched by otherworldly influences.

Some of the magic is wild, chaotic and instinctual. There’s also a lot of bardic magic here and I think that’s the most realistic part of the mix. I firmly believe in the power of song, poetry and story to act on people and radically change them. There’s a lot of that sort of thing in this story. And it is a story that has managed to cast a spell on at least one person – resulting in her now writing poetry. This is something I’m enormously proud of.

I’m pondering what the next audio project might be. Poetry? Chants? Short stories? Songs? Another novel? Obviously some of these things I can do more quickly than others. If there’s anything you’d particularly like me to do, please say.

And in the meantime, if you want to help me get more stuff out there free at the point of delivery (this blog, youtube videos, informal mentoring, etc) consider supporting me on Patreon if you want to make a monthly commitment (and get more of my creative stuffs). Or, if you want to do a one off thing, throw money in the ko-fi hat below (everything helps). Thank you!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


Essential table manners – flash fiction

I don’t tend to plan flash fictions. They just turn up…

One begins by delicately eating the garnish of the first course. For the second course, one will find a small and amusing dip to the left of the plate. That dip is specifically for your garnish. The third course does not feature a garnish – that would be vulgar. No one who is anyone eats the garnish that accompanies the fourth course. It is traditional to leave a longer gap between courses four and five than at other points in the meal, to facilitate the quiet removal of the ill-bred. Those who have not been taught the finer points of etiquette, poisoned by their own pretensions. The fifth course invariably has a celebratory tone to it, and from here it can be said that the evening truly begins.