The below is the introduction for the event Dreaming Bread and Skyrie Stanes on the 11th of November 2018. I thought I’d share it on the website for folk who can’t make the day. I’m also nervous about public speaking tomorrow, so if it all goes tits up you know what I was going to say :)
I live near a river. The Jed water. It flows right at the bottom of my garden enclosed on all sides by walls. Before it reaches us, it flows past ancient ruins and forest as old as Scotland. Some of the last remaining ancient Oaks line its banks. The Jed begins from a spring birthed from a munro named “Carlin’s tooth” then flows into The Ravens Burn and onwards turning into the Jedwater. The Jed eventually joins the Tweed. Where they meet is a sacred piece of land. They flow together and meet the sea just up from Lindisfarne – Holy Island.
I hope to walk the length of this river from birth to sea some time. Some say this might be a journey from sacred to profane. From Carlin to Saint. Some might argue its the other way round.
The river is many things to many things. At times, at day break and sunset, it’s the Heron’s River. It’s harsh guttural cry can be heard echoing off the nearby trees as it’s follows the rivers course. At times it’s the Dogs River as they dive in to the water to fetch whatever is there. It’s also Trout and Salmon’s River. The Jed is home to so much life, both seen and unseen.
Sometimes it’s Couples River. Be they same gender or otherwise. The hushed conversation and longing looks punctuated by the sound of the river winding past the tall cliff edge surrounds. Other times it is Canoeist’s River. The agile boat twisting against currents unseen by Dog, Heron and Human but all too familiar to Trout and Salmon and Goose.
Then there’s the Artists, Photographers, Poets, Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Witches, Environmentalists, Herbalists, Folk Practitioners and late night revellers et al. Each sees a distinct form and shape in the river. A reflection of their own. Giving comfort, inspiration and a hideout in equal but different measure.
The Artist sees something the Herbalist does not. We might never experience the river like Heron does. After all, perception is not what we look at, but what we see and we seldom experience the world as our neighbour does.
Does this mean Heron is wrong ? Does this mean Herbalist or Artist is wrong ? No. We have different experiences of the same thing. Neither wins.
For folk with only a memory of water it can become problematic. You’re at risk of the “bad tour guide” or gatekeepers with fancy titles who charge by the hour. Keep off the grass. Danger deep water. This is not the way.
Animism that threads through Scottish Folklore and Folk Magic is like this river – We each, be it Human, Heron, Dog, Fish and Boat, experience it differently, but this thread and flow brings us together.
Folk magic and folklore is for everyone. It’s Community magic and not for the high and pretentiously minded. It’s inclusive by its very nature. It is our common ground, our shared experience, which creates our community. A community is built from human and non human reciprocal relationships. This is the way of the Animistic approach.
It is this idea of community, to me, that needs to be celebrated and held sacred and why we are here today. It’s this community that made today possible. So thank you!
The river will always (hopefully) be there. Just as the roots of folk magic and folklore will always be there. All we need to do is go dip our toes. Revive our memory of water – of tradition and build a community which helps and supports us all through our shared interest in both this world and the other.
So, go ahead and take off your hat to the new moon. Turn a silver penny in your pocket. Light a candle for your ancestors. Some might call you superstitious but I think we know better than that.