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September 2020

August 2020

The end of summer

Earth and Water by Brian Froud

Here in the UK, it's the last day of a long holiday weekend marking the end of summer, and already there is a chill in the air, a presage of the turning seasons. Wherever in the world you are -- whether it's the end of summer or the end of winter -- and whether the movement through nature's cycles makes for dramatic or subtle change -- we stand on the threshold "betwixt and between," poised between the old season and the new.

Go West by Brian Froud

The old hedge-witches of the Devon countryside would tell you that this is a time for letting go of old troubles, old animosities, and out-dated ideas that no longer serve; it's also a time of renewal, revitalization, and travelling new paths in the days ahead. Carry acorns in your pocket for luck; yarrow for resilience; rosemary for protection of the spirit. Give the first blackberries back to the land, the first splash of cider to the apple trees. Leave milk out for the Good Folk, or a dram of whiskey, or a plate of beans. As we begin new jobs, new terms at school, new works of art or any other endeavors, we are counselled to take a moment on the threshold, pausing between the old and new to honour the magic of the in-between. Leave flowers or feathers, a poem or a prayer....

And then keep on walking.

Nattadon Commons gate

The art above is by my friend and neighbour Brian Froud. All rights reserved by the artist.

Some exciting news....

A House of Pomegranates by Jessie M King

Dr. Rob Maslen and Dr. Dimitra Fimi, the good people who run the Masters in Fantasy programme at the University of Glasgow, have successfully obtained funding to establish a new Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic -- which will be the first of its kind anywhere. They've already created an extraordinary community of scholars in Glasgow, and the new centre is wonderful news for our field.

And Lo the City Lay by Jessie M KingThey are launching the centre with a online lecture by my dear friend Ellen Kushner, which I have no doubt will be splendid. Ellen will be talking about her creative practice and her award-winning novel Thomas the Rhymer (based on Scottish balladry), followed by a question-and-answer session.

Afterwards, I'll be on a panel with two of the field's most brilliant scholars, Rob Maslen and Brian Attebery, discussing the future of fantasy.

The launch event is open to all, so please come join us. Tickets are free, but they're limited (due to space in the Zoom webinar room), and they're going fast. For more information, and to register for a ticket, please go here

I'm very excited about the new centre, and also about this online event. Thank heavens our phone wires and Internet have finally been fixed! Prior to this, stormy weather kept knocking me off-line, which disastrous for my last online event (a panel discussion for ReConvene). We're having stormy weather again as I write this post, and the line is now holding up just fine.

But I think I'd better leave a dish of butter out to appease the fairies of Dartmoor just in case...

Edited to add: Tickets to the event have now sold out -- but don't worry! The organizers are making plans to live-stream the event on YouTube at the same time. Those joining from YouTube won't be able to ask questions during Q & A, but otherwise you'll have the same experience. As soon as I have more information on where to view the YouTube live-stream, I'll post it here.


The Frog Prince by Jessie M King

Illustrations by Jessie M King

The paintings and drawings above are by Jessie M. King (1875-1949), who studied at the Glasgow School of Art. To see more of her work, go here.

Myth & Moor update

Tilly in the woods

I'm almost frightened to say this lest I jinx it, but we seem to have a working Internet connection again. After many engineer visits and replacing of phone lines and puzzled scratchings of heads, the last set of repairs seems to have changed something. It's still rural Internet and not super-fast, but it's usable (touch wood), and we're not getting kicked off of it every five minutes. We are back in the modern world at last, and now I just hope we can stay here.

I have a gazillion missed messages to catch up on, which I'll be focused on for the next few days -- and then I'll be back to a regular Myth & Moor schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 1 (after the three-day August holiday weekend here in the UK).

I hope you're all having a good end-of-summer, and staying safe. Tilly sends her love.

Reading in the woods

The poem glimpsed above is "Letter From a Far Country' by Welsh author Gillan Clarke

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Heard II by Adrian Arleo

From "The Value of Fantasy and Mythical Thinking" by Katherine Langrish:

"Karen Armstrong claims that religion is an art, and I agree with her. In her book A Short History of Myth she examines the modern expectation that all truths shall be factually based. This is what religious fundamentalists and scientists like Richard Dawkins have, oddly, in common. A religious fundamentalist refuses to accept the theory of evolution because it appears to him or her to disprove the truth of Genesis, when what Genesis actually offers is not a factual but an emotional truth: a way of accounting for the existence of the world and the place of people in it with all their griefs and joys and sorrows. It’s – in other words – a story, a fantasy, a myth. It’s not trying to explain the world, like a scientist. It’s trying to reconcile us with the world. Early people were not naïve. The truth that you get from a story is different from the truth of a proven scientific fact.

Heard I by Adrian Arleo

Sirens of Rutino & Artemis/Diana II by Adrian Arleo

"Any work of art is a symbolic act. Any work of fiction is per se, a fantasy. In the broadest sense, you can see this must be so. They are all make-belief. Tolstoy’s Prince André and Tolkien’s Aragorn are equal in their non-existence. Realism in fiction is an illusion -- just as representational art is a sleight of hand (and of the mind) that tricks us into believing lines and splashes of colour are ‘really’ horses or people or landscapes.

"The question shouldn’t be ‘Is it true?’, because no story provides truth in the narrow factual sense. The questions to ask about any work of art should be like these: ‘Does it move me? Does it express something I always felt but didn’t know how to say? Has it given me something I never even knew I needed?’ As Karen Armstrong says, 'Any powerful work of art invades our being and changes it forever.' If that happens, you will know it. It makes no sense at all to ask, ‘Is it true?’

Night by Adrian Arleo

Apparition by Adrian Arleo"Fantasy still deserves to be taken seriously -- read and written seriously -- because there are things humanity needs to say that can only be said in symbols. Here’s the last verse of Bob Dylan’s song ‘The Gates of Eden’ (from Bringing it All Back Home):

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true:
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden.

Consider by Adrian Arleo

The mythic imagery today is by Adrian Arleo, an American ceramic artist who lives and works outside Missoula, Montana. She studied Art and Anthropology at Pitzer College, received an M.F.A. in ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been Artist in Residence at Oregon College of Art and Craft and the Sitka Center For Art and Ecology. Her work is exhibited and collected around the world. 

"For over thirty years, my sculpture has combined human, animal and natural imagery to create a kind of emotional and poetic power," she writes. "Often there's a suggestion of a vital interconnection between the human and non-human realms; the imagery arises from associations, concerns and obsessions that are at once intimate and universal. The work frequently references mythology and archetypes in addressing our vulnerability amid changing personal, environmental and political realities. By focussing on older, more mysterious ways of seeing the world, edges of consciousness and deeper levels of awareness suggest themselves."

Please visit the artist's website to see more of her wonderful work.

Earth/Horse Teapot with Dog Lid by Adrian Arleo

Glade and Dormant Honey Comb Woman by Adrian Arleo

Matrimony by Adrian Arleo

Words: The Katherine Langrish passage quoted above is from"The Value of Fantasy and Mythical Thinking" (An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, October 17, 2009); all rights reserved by the author. You can read the full piece here. I also recommend Kath's excellent essays on folklore, fairy tales, and fantasy literature, which you can find on her blog, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, and in her book of the same name. The title of today's post, of course, is from an Emily Dickinson poem.

Pictures: Adrian Arleo's ceramic works above are Heard II, Heard I, Sirens of Rutino & Artemis/Diana II, Night, Apparition, Consider, Earth/Horse Teapot with Dog Lid, Glade & Dormant Honey Comb Woman, and Matrimony. All rights reserved by the artist.