Full Circle Remix

In Ranier, Washington, there lives a woman who makes beautiful and very fine pottery, and owns a piece of land that has, on and off, been a center for pagan community for years now. Off generally because of some life upheaval that prevented her from hosting much. The land has a character to it that is unique to my experience. It is the only place I have ever been able to see fae, the tiny ones, for one thing. There's a reason the first Craft name I took meant "blind one". Seeing properly is not my bag. I can't scry, either, though every few years I try again. But more, it... feels like home. Driving in feels like coming home to a place you've missed badly, no matter how long or short a time you've been away. This weekend, there was a house concert there. I went. It was my first major social outing in the circles I used to move in in four years or so. When I owned a restaurant, most of the time people came to me. I didn't have time or energy to go to other people. My entire social life existed there, or nearly so. When it closed, I was too depressed to try to rebuild one. Now I'm making new beginnings. And part of that is to rebuild my social life, to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. So I drove down this weekend, and came home. I got to see Betsy Tinney (who played music about mouse skeletons dancing and a whale being saved from from a fishing net), Bekah Kelso, SJ Tucker (a friend, and always amazing to listen to), and, as a surprise, Nathaniel Johnstone and Dogwood. Johnstone's band made the album The Antikythera Mechanism, which blends Greek myth with steampunk, and with which I am mildly obsessed. I missed seeing him live at Many Gods West last year, due to being in the middle of ritual prep, and was sadly disappointed. And, of course, despite him being local, not going out and not having any money means I haven't gotten to see him since. I was thrilled. And Dogwood! She's incredible! I have a new crush. Seriously, she's adorable offstage, but onstage... she has this incredible energy, moving constantly, singing with so much passion, whirling and mugging and... honestly, I want to say masking, although she wore no mask. She put on so many faces in the mini-set they did together that I can think of nothing else to call it. Only like about three times as intense, and about five times as goofy when they did Snugglefish. And just generally the whole thing has been amazing and wonderful and incredible. As I write, though I won't post this until Monday, I'm still here, early early in the morning on Sunday, having woken up and been unable to get back to sleep. Maybe now that I've gotten some of this experience down, I'll be able to sleep again. The name of the place is Sidhehaven, and the owner is Sherry Kirk of Sidhefire Arts. And here's the theme song, written by Tucker and Kelso, from the first Full Circle concert here, two years ago. It was so amazing they decided to do it again!...

Linkspam from Beyond the Grave

I used to do occasional linkspam posts. I think I'll take it up again. Maybe I'll start posting them Fridays, as weekend reading suggestions. Where There's a Will, There's a Ghost on Strange Company Animism at the Dinner Table from Sarah Anne Lawless Feeling Grief + Dreaming Another World at Woolgathering & Wildcrafting 8 ways white witches can support #BlackLivesMatter on Little Red Tarot 51 of the most important things you've ever fought about at Autostraddle Death & the Maidens at, well, Death and the Maiden, writing on a topic I'm also working on a piece about. Here's a waulking song Beth from Little Red Tarot shared. Waulking is a (sadly dying, if not already dead) traditional way of fulling newly woven cloth. The tweed or plaid would be taken off the loom, and all the women of the village would gather to help. Warm stale urine (wash) would be poured over the cloth as a way of scouring out any dirt, oils or foreign matter (this was before soap was readily available in the quantities needed), the cloth would be placed on a long table or board, and thumped against it rhythmically. The women would sing to keep time and amuse themselves. A waulking song with no waulking, no matter how lovely (and it is lovely) being done just doesn't seem right to me. At least put some nice thumpy thuddy percussion in. A video of waulking the tweed whilst singing a waulking song, which I think shows the need for that percussion, and some explanation of waulking: Although it's not stretching the cloth, it's fulling it. And finally, on a personal note, after nearly twenty years of threatening to shave my head in the summer, I've now mostly done it. Inspired by Holtzman in the new Ghostbusters movie, I've shaved the back and sides, leaving only the hair on my crown long. It's cool and comfortable, the clipped part is all velvety and nice to touch, and it looks fuckin' awesome! So here's an incredibly rare pic of me, just minutes after it was finished. ETA: Note to self: Going to give shorn hair to Hermes and Athena. Hermes, asked if I should hang it from a tree for birds, told me to wait before doing anything. Athena turned down a Woolly God image of her stuffed with it, but accepted jewelry made from it....

Pacific Northwest Music?

I had reason to listen to the song "Seminole Wind" recently, a country song about the destruction of the Everglades in Florida. It got me listening to and thinking about country music, which is what I grew up on. I've written here before about never having connected to the land here in Seattle the way I did in Florida. And some of that is that I didn't know how to put in work that had just sort of happened naturally being a kid growing up there and exploring the swamp and the piney woods, laying in the grass, swimming in the ocean and the rivers and the sinkholes. As a kid, that was just life; as an adult, that takes some effort. Especially when hiking is a lot harder than it used to be. But listening to that song, I remembered that one of the things I always loved about country music (before it was entirely taken over by jingoism and right wing mania) was the deep sense of place embedded in a lot of it. Not just Seminole Wing. Song of the South, Mountain Music, If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band), The Devil Went Down to Georgia, If Heaven Ain't a Lot Like Dixie. So much more. Most of it isn't about Florida, no, but many of them are about places I've been through in the South, that I can feel connected to, land my family has lived on, rivers we've swum. And I don't have that here. The only song I know that connects to this area in the same way is Emerald Green by Vixy and Tony. I love that song. But I really need a great long playlist of PNW music. Music of place, music about the land, music that could only take place here. Music of here. Anybody have a recommendation?...

Inspirations for Today

That is a mansion called Al Makkiah, the family home of architecht Sami Angawi. It's his own design, of course, and marries traditional Islamic elements and crafts with modern construction techniques. The large open central courtyard with pools and fountains is a classic way of cooling a building, of course, and is heightened by the many plants and the drip irrigation system for them, allowing minimal using of air conditioning even in the hot Saudi summers. Dr. Angawi himself is deeply impressive. He’s an historian as well as an architect, and has founded organizations to preserve and teach Islamic culture and history and to preserve traditional architecture. He’s an activist against the extremism he says is trying to hijack Islam. His home is a cultural center. He holds lectures, concerts and salons there, with guests and speakers from around the world. As his legacy, it will be part of an international institute offering degrees in Islamic history and science, and houses a collection of over one hundred thousand of his photos, drawings and writings about Islam and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Here’s a good post on him and his work. I hope that someday I can put a little of the flavor and color of that house into a piece. For now, I’ll just stash those here. My friend SJ Tucker has released her new album Stolen Season. Buy it or listen to it for free at the link. Dream of Mississippi had tears leaking from my eyes with a smile. Southern girl a long way away....

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

I've been engaged in a conversation in comments on another blog about the many and varied representations of the Christian Devil. Someone there linked to the McSweeney's piece Thirty-Nine Questions for Charlie Daniels Upon Hearing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" for the First Time in 25 Years. I have a longstanding hatred for that publication, and decided to take that particular list to pieces. Here you go: ~~~~~~~~ And that, right there, is a shining example of why I hate McSweeney's. The smug, condescending, ignorant elitist hipsterism. The "humor" in that is supposed to be "Nobody has really thought about this before, they all took it on face value, but I really listened to it, and actually it was stupid." (And please, nobody try to tell me that that's supposed to be an "ironic" attitude. That's just meaning it but trying for plausible deniability.) The problem is that every single one of those questions can be answered by having a passing familiarity with the body of folklore that "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" comes out of and is a part of. The hipster assumes that other people are missing something -- the stupidity of the song -- but instead it is the hipster who is missing something -- the context of the song. Rather than actually go do some research and understand what's going on in the story, the hipster decides it would be really funny to turn it into a piece for McSweeney's, where they love this shit. 1. The Devil won that fiddling contest, right? 2. Because isn’t that totally amazing fiddle feedback thing the Devil plays (which sounds like Hendrix gone bluegrass) a hundred times better than that high-school-band piece-of-crap tune Johnny plays? 3. I mean, come on, right? 4. And since the Devil is so clearly better, why does he lay the golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet? The intended audience of the song and its story has one important standard by which fiddle music is judged: that it makes you want to get up and dance to it, in the way they like to dance. Johnny's playing does exactly that, and very well -- and if this hipster shrimpdittle thinks Johnny's part is high-school-band crap, I invite him to fucking try it himself; that takes skill -- while the Devil's does not, even if Mx. My Taste Is Superior To Your Hipster likes it better. There is another important standard, although the first one trumps it -- fiddle music that doesn't make you want to dance is worthless -- and that's technical difficulty. The Devil's technique is actually obscured by his band of demons; he's filling in to cover up the fact that his fiddling won't stand on its own. He can't do the runs Johnny can at the speed Johnny can without mistakes. By the rules of the setting, Johnny is the winner. 5. What kind of one-sided bet was that anyway, your eternal soul for a fiddle? 6. Shouldn’t it have been something like Johnny’s soul or the eradication of Evil? 7. Or maybe a golden fiddle against some object Johnny placed great value upon? Um. If he just sold it as-is, the funds would set him and his entire extended family up for life as quite wealthy people. But more than that, in this folklore, a fiddle made of gold is a magical object. This is one of those people-can't-stop-dancing-while-you-play, your-music-can-drive-away-evil, the-sound-of-it-has-other-magical-effects type of fiddle here. Even a poor fiddler could make a fortune playing an instrument like that, and there are tales of them doing just that. A musician as good as Johnny could, again, set up his entire extended family for life on the fees he got playing out, and more, he would have fame and recognition, which he may or may not have on his own. The temptation isn't just money, it's an appeal to what most musicians want: for their music to have an effect on the people they play for, and to be recognized and loved for it. This is the shape of these stories: the temptation must be personal. To bring your beloved back from the grave, to give you a child, fame and fortune, power, great music, whatever your heart's desire might be. 8. If the Devil went down to Georgia ’cause he was looking for a soul to steal, why does he arrange what appears to be an honest competition? 9. Was there actually some hidden theft or scam going on here on the part of the Devil? 10. Then why not explain that, Mr. Daniels? The intended audience of this song already knows what's happening, so why the fuck should Charlie Daniels explain it to you, Mx. Hipster? Johnny is, apparently, a reasonably good man, one...