A Spell for Opening

Back to the Stone by Simon Blackbourn

A Spell for Opening 1

Autumn leaves

A Spell for Opening 2

Autumn leaves

A Spell for Opening

Autumn leaves

We've been speaking about the giving and receiving of gifts in previous posts, and of shifting our perception of art and life away from our culture's fixation on the the market economy as the primary arbitrator of value, to one of gift exchange, reciprocity, generosity and community.

LeafToday is my birthday, and I grew up in the tradition of receiving birthday presents each year  (I expect that you did too) -- but as a folklorist I'm aware that this old folk custom is not universal. In some cultures, children present gifts to their mothers, or to both parents, in gratitude for the gift of life. In others, a birthday marks the opportunity for a giveaway: food, flowers, or gifts ceremoniously distributed to everyone in the family or tribe. 

In the spirit of the latter, I want to gift you all with the poem/chant/prayer pictured above: "A Spell for Opening." It's from my little book Seven Little Tales, which is part of the Seven Doors in an Unyielding Stone series from Hedgespoken Press, curated by Tom Hirons and Rima Staines. The poem was inspired by the series' name; I loved the mystery of doors in stone. I pictured this particular door in one of my favourite places on the moor: Scorhill, a circle of standing stones. What would it take, I wondered, to find that door and open it up...?

Please accept this gift of words...and then pass on a gift of your own to someone, somewhere, some day.

Seven Little Tales by Terri Windling Hedgepoken Press

Dartmoor Hawthorn by Simon Blackbourn

The beautiful imagery in this post is by local artist Simon Blackbourn, photographer and co-founder of the excellent Dartmoor Collective. Simon has spent the last ten years immersed in the wilds of the moor, photographing its colours, shapes, textures and moods, its trees, rocks, bogs, rivers, wildlife, and weather. To see more of his work, please visit his Instagram page and the Dartmoor Collective Gallery

For more on the subject of gift exchange, I recommend Lewis Hyde's seminal book The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Informs the World, and Robin Wall Kimmerer's remarkable Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants.

Dartmoor Pony by Simon Blackbourn

The North Teign River by Simon Blackbourn

The photographs by Simon Blackbourn are: Back to the Stone (Scorhill), Dartmoor Hawthorn, Dartmoor Pony, and The North Teign River. All rights to the text and imagery above reserved by the author and artist. 


Speaking with animals

East of the Sun  West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen

Seven Little Tales

Seven Little Tales

Seven Little Tales

Brother and Sister by Edmund Dulac

"A Spell for Speaking With Animals" is one of seven little pieces of mine published in Seven Little Tales (Hedgespoken Press, 2018). For a look at the folklore behind the poem, see: "The Speech of Animals."

For general animal folklore, go here. For tales on marriage between animals and humans, go here. Or follow these links for rabbits and hares, wolves, pigs, foxes, cats, sheep, goats, bears, swans & cranes and other birds in folklore, myth, and mythic fiction.

The Lady and the Lion by Arthur Rackham

Seven Little Tales

Poor Little Bear by John Bauer

The art today is by four artists from the Golden Age of Book Illustration: East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen (Danish, 1886-1957), Brother and Sister by Edmund Dulac (French/British, 1882-1953), The Lady and the Lion by Arthur Rackham (British, 1867-1939), and Poor Little Bear by John Bauer (Swedish, 1882-1918). 


The Tree Tribe

Borderlands by Celia de Serra

The thing you need to know, child, is that trees do speak, they do tell tales, they sing when the've a mind to, they are gigglers, gossips, grumblers, cataloguing every ache and pain, and yet they hold no grudges, claim no debts, speak ill of no creature. They have their tempers, yes, tantrums of branches lashed in gusts and gales, but then they come to rest in stillness, spent, humming contentedly. You've heard them, just yesterday. You thought it was only the wind.

River Valley by Celia de Serra

The thing you need to know is that each morning every tree stands tall and chants its name, its history, its kinship web and lineage. You've heard them, dear, but thought it was the dawn chorus of birds.

Summer Nights by Celia de Serra

The thing you need to know is that the trees tell stories older than the oldest tales of humankind. By dusk, by night, by starlight, you have marked their midnight murmuring -- you told me so, but thought it was just water rushing through the stream.

Toward This Place Lightly by Celia de Serra

The thing you need to know, child, is that trees do speak, in their own language. They mutter in the crackle autumn leaves; they sigh as snow settles at their feet; they utter exquisite arboreal poems as each tender young leaf unfurls; they laugh in shivers of green and gold when tickled by a summer's breeze.

Still There by Celia de Serra

The thing you need to know, child, is that trees do speak, in the tree language. And yes, you will understand their speech one day, root child, sweet sapling.

Still Here Too by Celia de Serra

West Borders by Celia de Serra

The beautiful drawings today are by British artist Celia de Serra, who was born in Canterbury in 1973, received a BA in Fine Art and English Literature from Exeter University in 1995, and now exhibits her work extensively throughout the UK. De Serra is a founding member of The Arborealists, a group of contemporary artists dedicated to the subject of trees. Her art has appeared in Under the Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree and other publications.

"I live in the Welsh borders in the hills near Offa’s Dyke," she writes. "I spend a lot of time out and about walking and cycling armed with a Ordinance Survey Map, sketchbook and camera. I look for inspiring places and images that have something about them and an emotional hook. Light is particularly important to me -- the way in which it can transform something small, or illuminate a place in a curious or dramatic way. Always a painter, I returned to drawing several years ago and this has become my primary medium at the moment; I love the directness of drawing, the marks, the tonal variations and the capacity to build up layers and depth without the confusion that colour can sometimes bring to form."

To see more of de Serra's work, visit her website, her Instagram page, and The Arborealists site.

Flux by Celia de Serra

Seven Little Tales from Hedgespoken Press

Words: "The Tree Tribe" is one of seven little pieces of mine published in Seven Little Tales (Hedgespoken Press, 2018). 

Pictures: The drawings above are: Borderlands,  River Valley, Summer Nights, Towards This Place Lightly, Still There,  Still Here Too, West Borders, and Flux by Celia de Serra. All rights reserved by the artist.


Tales from the Hedge

Seven Doors in an Unyeilding Stone

Tom Hirons & Rima Staines

Earlier this year, I received an intriguing invitation from my friends Tom Hirons & Rima Staines -- storytellers, mythic wanderers, and proprietors of Hedgespoken Press. They were planning an unusual new project, and asked if I'd like to join in.

Drawing by Rima StainesThey envisioned a series of pocket-sized books designed and published by Hedgespoken. Seven authors. Seven beautiful books. Seven ways to approach the unapproachable and speak about the unspeakable.

"We picture," they said, "a small book found somewhere in the wilds or in some threshold place: a railway station or the waiting room of an undertaker or a nurse; the book is a flash of lightning, a searing experience, something initiatory. We imagine a reader finding a book unexpectedly, picking it up and being drawn in, to another world, leaving that world slightly stunned and perhaps a little changed."

What a marvelously mythic concept! And also, what a challenging one. I wondered what on earth I could write...but, of course, I said "yes" at once.

The seven small books are now complete, and will be available as of mid-November. There's a launch party at Dartington Village Hall on November 10th, and all are welcome -- so please come join us for stories and revelry if you happen to be in travelling distance of Dartmoor.

The ''Seven Doors'' series from Hedgespoken Press

Seven Little Tales

My own contribution to the series is a collection of seven tiny tales that fall somewhere between poetry and prose: mythic messages that you might find buried in ivy and leaves or under a mossy stone. Tom calls them "poems-prayers-chants," and that's as good a description as any. The other authors in the series are Jay Griffiths, Martin Shaw, Sylvia V. Linsteadt, and Joanna Hruby, plus Tom and Rima themselves. For more information, or to pre-order the books (either individually or as a boxed set), please visit the Hedgespoken Press site. And while you are there, please ramble through their other fine book and art offerings as well.

Leaves

Terri Windling & Rima Staines, 2011

Leaves

Seven Little Tales