Today's song is "Gallina
," performed by Telling the Bees at The Festival at the Edge in Shropshire. Telling the Bees, from Oxford, mix traditional folk tunes with original works rooted deeply in the folk tradition -- including songs with such magical, evocative names as "Saddle the Hare," "The Language of Birds," and "The Worship of Trees." They have two CDs: Untie the Wind
and An English Arcanum
(just released this month), both of which I recommend. As an added bonus, both CDs come beautifully packaged with delicate pencil illustrations by my Dartmoor neighbor Rima Staines. (Rima discusses the creative process behind these illustrations here
.) Visit the Telling the Bees website
and MySpace page
to hear more samples of their music.
It is an English folk custom (particularly prevalent here in Devon) to "tell the bees" about all significant events: births, marriages, divorces, house moves, deaths -- particularly the latter. To ignore the custom is to offend the bees, risking consequences ranging from bad luck to the loss of the local hive.
The tradition traveled across the ocean to America, where folklorists recorded the custom in practice throughout New England and the Appalachian region in the 18th and 19th centuries. The classic poem "Telling the Bees," by Quaker poet John Whittier (1807-1892), is believed to have been inspired by the bees on the Whittier family farm in Massachusetts.