Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Elf King / Revisited.

How many times I have browsed the poetry of Elves and their ways, only to find the field littered with saccharine addled nonsence, or when I find something more serious ( and Im not thinking of Tolkien's tales in this case) they follow Goethe's terrible ElfKing. Goethe did seem to be a bit of a specialist in horrific tales as his famous Faust in which the unfortunate man sells his soul to the Devil does portray. Written in 1782 and published as 'Der Erlkönig', Goethe's ElfKing derives from a traditional Danish ballad Elveskud. In Goethe's poem a father and son are journeying homeward on horseback at night. The son who is ill with a fever believes he sees and hears the Erl-king. The father tells him that he sees only fog, that he hears only rustling leaves. Nonetheless, the Erl-king tempts the boy to come with him to Elf land. When they arrive home, the boy is dead.

From The Elf King

Not all versions precisely fit this model, for example in many Danish versions of the Elveskud, a character named 'Olav' dances with the elves, sometimes to his death. Vésteinn Ólason's summary of the Icelandic variants of the ballad is that 'Ólafur' rides along a rocky hillside, meets four Elf-maidens who invite him to drink or live with them. He refuses and would rather believe in Christ. One of the Elf-maidens then asks him for a kiss and when Ólafur bends down to kiss her, she thrusts a sword to his heart. Ólafur escapes home to his mother and thereupon dies.

Rulers such as Norway's Olaf Tryggvason attempted to impose Christianity on his subjects, only to see them rebel and overthrow him.
Clearly central to the legends and folk stories is the conflict of Christianity with the Elves who respresent the earlier gods and the spirits of nature. Also revealing is the refference to dancing, as this is an activity often frowned upon by Christian cultures in historical times, because of its very uncontrolability - dancing is an expression of the fundamental power of life and the joy of expressing that vitality.

Goethe's tale about a malevolent Elf king who stole away a child to kill him can only speak about the prevailing negative attitudes of the Christianised Germanic people to the spirits of nature at this time. Ólason's Icelandic account similalrly portrays the cultural conflict of faiths between the existing old  beliefs and the incoming new religion. It is true that many tales do tell of Elves stealing away children to keep as their own and of stealing men or women for lovers or slaves, but such tales have been told in Christianised cultures condenming the earlier ways. It always behoves the well informed reader to consider the source and its context - to find an objective balance if they can.

The Elves themselves have an honourable and long established tradition of being an acknowledged spiritual presence which, similarly as Christian forces, may both punish wrong doing or reward right behaviour. That either world view, one which includes Elves and nature spirits, or one which does not, should demonise and destroy the other is in todays more enlightened perspectives understood to be a step too far. The Elf King and his kin have suffered a bad press, for which reason it is time to rewrite 'The Elf King' in a more positive perspective.

Here then is the Elf King, revisited;

The Elf King

Look behind stars and inbetween skies,
On a windswept-night moonbeams dancing!
From ancient times as in your rhymes,
The far away people advancing....

If you have frowed and otherfolk cowed,
Perhaps too loud, or too cruel or too greedy -
From ElfKing flee before you he does see,
For the Spirits will not hear your entreaty.

Yet if your heart ring true,
The ElfKing will step through -
Bright brows and smiles, sing silver tongued whiles,
With the Wights of the way and the laughter beside you.

My friend and my foe, do you hear him or no,
What the ElfKing in his surety offers?
From Iceland to EngleLand and many more besides,
For leaf, branch and bough are his coffers.

Will you follow his thread,
Beyond realm of the dead and
Become Fairer than sun - be thou fouler than none,
As the LandSpirits revive and restore you?

My friend and my foe, do you not yet know,
Before the Old times were wrought and were woven?
Why is the sky blue, or what secrets wren knew,
And the magical language of morning...

A different race waits at this sacred space,
In goodwill cross the bridge of all knowing.
Come let us find a song for you there,
And dance to the Elf-horns they are blowing.

If in dread you have tumbled and trembled and fled,
As tales of dark terrors do deceive thee,
Listen instead to where the river's song led,
Let the enchantment of nature receive thee.

To the secret realms, both here and beyond,
Through the confusion of lifetimes of yearning.
The ElfKing of Old has returned as foretold,
Across numberless years of discerning.

Look behind starS and inbetween skies,
On a windswept-night moonbeams dancing!
From ancient times as in your rhymes,
The far away people advancing....

c Titus. L 2015

~ *** ~
~ * The Elf King * ~
This poem and my perspective on the Elves as supernatural but not necessarily physical beings, is formed by my apprehension of the elves at work in nature all bout me. It is also educed over the years from evidence in diverse sources such as songs, ballads, and folktales. Whilst few people can ever see the Elves, it is my belief that if you have a sensitive mind for spiritual vibrations, perhaps you are a seer, shaman or trance worker, you may see them. Of course if an Elf wished it, as they are masters of magic and manipulate matter easily, anybody could see them.

Dancing Elves - August Malstrom 1866
click on me for full view 

In regard of death being a possible entrance to Elfland, as mentioned in Goethe's poem and also in my own, whilst Goethe appears to have meant this literally, I mean it to be a figurative death. Death of the ego-self, to awaken with a newly revealed awareness of the spiritual immanence of all things - the death in the poem is a metaphorical doorway to a new perception.

In this view, the Elven people would be more like an enlightened tribe or self chosen group perhaps, who rever nature and work with her in ways apparently supernatural and beyond the understanding of more materialy minded men. They might also be a mixture of both, spirits of nature and of nature atuned - earth honouring people.
There are of course other views of the Elves, suggesting that they are infact entirely the spirits or souls of the dead, as can be deduced by their ethereal nature, that they are said to sometime live in Elf hills or mounds under the ground, and often wear grey or grey silver attire.

According to The Lady of the Labyrinth, a Nordic writer on things mythological, ''The Dark Elves represent the souls of the dead that still reside in the world, albeit in the underworld, still able to communicate with the living. They may have been kept in the world by their descendants, who prayed to them and sacrificed to them for their wisdom, their guidance, their healing powers and their protection, exactly as it was said that people could pray to Freyr in his mound after his death...The Light Elves, on the other hand, may very well refer to the souls of the dead that have achieved immortality. Perhaps they have become shining bright and transparent through a descent (or ascent) in the Well of Origin – a feat achieved through spiritual training and initiation, leading to the transformation and the immortality of the soul?''...

In the Old Norse mythological sources, the two contrasting types of  Elves are characterised as follows; The Light Elves (Ljósálfar) who live in Alfheim next to Asgard in the Norse heavens. These are 'beautiful creatures' considered 'guardian angels' and their leader the god Freyr, is the ruler of Alfheim. The Light Elves are minor gods of nature and fertility; they can help or hinder humans with their knowledge of magical powers. They also often deliver inspiration to artists or musicians...
The Dark Elves (Dökkálfar) live in Svartalfheim, they hate the sun and therefore live underground. Since the Prose Edda describes the Dökkálfar as being subterranean dwellers, they may be Dwarves under another name in the opinion of a number of scholars such as John Lindow which would accord with other Germic accounts. Some scholars have also produced theories about the origin and implications of this dualistic concept of Elves. The sub-classification perhaps resulted from Christian influence, by way of importating the concept of good and evil and of angels of light and darkness.

Picture used with credit to the owners
Film frame THOR: THE DARK WORLD with the Dark Elves © 2013 MVLFFLLC © 2013 Marvel.

Good or bad, tales of Elf magic and mischief do abound in all of the regions where they are found. For examplethe Norwegians call the Elves music Huldraslaat: they say it is in the minor key, and of a dull and mournful sound. The mountaineers sometimes play it, and pretend they have learned it by listening to the underground people among the hills and rocks. There is also a tune called the Elf-king's tune, which several of the good fiddlers know, but they would never venture to play it, for as soon as it begins both old and young, and even inanimate objects, are impelled to dance, and the player cannot stop unless be can play the air backwards, or that some one comes behind him and cuts the strings of his fiddle. Despite this, Tolkien maintains that “Elvish singing is not a thing to miss, in June under the stars, not if you care for such things.”...

The Horns Of Elfland by Bernard Sleigh
click on me for full view


The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear, how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on field or hill or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Land spirits (Old Norse Landvættir) are possibly also Elves by another name, as these are the localized animating spirits of the land. Some scholars have suggested that landvættir are chthonic in nature, spirits of the dead, but others have interpreted them as nature spirits, since they sometimes live in land that has never been populated. Hilda Ellis Davidson argued that stories such as that of Goat-Björn imply that they were already there when the settlers arrived in Iceland. The distinction between gods and land spirits in the pre-Christian religion of the Norse and other Germanic peoples is not clear-cut.  Land spirits nevertheless wield considerable influence over the well-being of the land and all who depend on it. The pre-Christian Germanic peoples seem to have taken great care to maintain the Land spirits’ favor. For example, the first law code of Iceland (930 CE) instructed those entering the country by ship to remove the dragon-heads from their boats when they sighted land, lest they frighten the land spirits.

Viking 'Dragon Ships'

In Scandinavia and Iceland Elves often came to be known as the Huldufólk (Icelandic hidden people from huldu- "pertaining to secrecy" and fólk "people", "folk"). Building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to this day to prevent damaging the rocks where Elves or Huldufolk are believed to live. According to these Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk whom you may not see as they are mostly invisible as mentioned above. In Faroese folk tales, Huldufólk are said to be "large in build, their clothes are all grey, and their hair black. Their dwellings are in mounds, and they are specifically called Elves. They also dislike crosses, churches and electricity, the former two not surprising given the Christian Churches historical war of ideology against other faiths and of displacing the earlier pagan deities and traditions.Worship of the Elves or Land Spirits was often the hardest part of Paganism for Christians to try to destroy.

Angsalvor - Nils Blommer 1850 - Elfs/Faeries Dancing
click on me for full view 

Elves, Land Spirits and similar beings do not relate to the position accorded them by the earlier Christian theological context of the 'evil other' and have an existence entirely independant of and predating that perspective. Judged in their own context, Elves and such spirits are, whilst admitedly complex and unpredictable, nevertheless potentially benign, even good natured beings who will help a worthy cause. They will also punish a trouble maker as so many fairy tales atest - If you make the Elves' angry, perhaps by behaving cruelly, making too much noise, showing greed or malice, then these forces of nature could cast misfortune before you. Sounding a little like a karmic delivery system, the Elves can be seen then as guardians of right action - think Tolkien rather than Grimm brothers and their originally very dark folkstories/ fairytales which were never intended for children. The first edition of  'Grimm’s Fairy Tales' was scholarly in tone, with many footnotes and no illustrations. It was only after the Grimms had published two editions primarily for adults that they decided to editing and censoring a shorter edition for middle-class families. 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

German folklore, with which Goethe would have been familiar, has by contrast tended to the conflation of Elves with Dwarfs and also portrayed them as more consistently monstrous and harmful. This in itself is a curious condemnation as in Germanic mythology the Dwarf is portrayed as being who dwells in mountains and in the earth, but is variously associated with wisdom, smithing, mining, and crafting - all positive and productive traits. Dwarfs are often also described as short and ugly, although some scholars have questioned whether this is a later development stemming from comical portrayals of the beings. The negative associations continue as Germanic Elves were thought to give people nightmares and to steal children, leaving a changeling in its place, such children were called Oafs. Popular superstition claimed these oaf children were ugly and stupid.
Shakespeare even used the term spelling it “auf” in his plays. It became set as being spelled “oaf” in the 17th century and meant 'idiot child' or 'halfwit'.

In English literature of the Elizabethan era, Elves became conflated with the Fairies of Romance culture and assume a diminutive size, living mainly in forests but also underground in hills or rocks, as well as in wells and springs, traditional haunts for nature spirits and displaced pagan deities. Shakespeare's Elves, as in the Midsummer Nights Dream, were tiny, winged creatures that lived in, and playfully flitted around, forest and flowers. English male Elves were often described as looking like little old men, though Elf maidens were invariably young and beautiful. 19th-century Romanticism attempted to restore the Elves to full stature and from there the Elves entered the 20th-century awareness in the wake of the published work of Tolkien. Tolkien's fantasy Elves as depicted in  the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are slender, human-sized, and beautiful, with fine, almost angelic features drawn largely from his research into Scandinavian folklore...

For more on the English context of Elves,
see my post on The Elf Knight & The Faerie Queene here.

With a view to the contemorary reality of Elves, I can do no better than recommend Serena Roney-Dougal's book 'The Faery Faith'. Serena Roney-Dougal who has a PhD in Parapsychology (the exploration of psychic phenomena; telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis etc) presents her accounts which incorporate the latest views of quantum science, which identifies that our own cognition is a causative effect influencing the outcome of physical events, with the earlier magickal traditions which by various means sought to interact and cooperate with these energies at an elemental level and beyond. She also succinctly and simply portrays an enlightening insight into how the myths and legends of yore present an insight into other levels and realms of existence coexisting with our own reality and goes on to provide many inspiring accounts of how the same Fae and Elven energies of earth and beyond are now resurgent in more modern myths and experiences of Fairy and Elven visitations, ghostly presences and Ufo abductions.
I particularly liked this quote that she included which describes a 'place' outside of physical space ''Faeryland exists as a super-normal state of consciousness into which people may enter in dreams, trance, ecstatic condition or for an indefinite period at death...it can have no other limits than that of the universe itself' (Lady Gregory 1979).''

As to wether the Elves really exist, or still exist, or are just the product of an imaginative mankind projecting a frame of reference onto the wildness of nature, you will have to decide for yourself. Personally however, as I believe that mobile phones use rare minerals which have invisible electromagnetic properties, as quantum theory postulates that we create the world as we envison it and as quantum entanglement shows that objects infintely seperated can influence one another instantaeneously - so to is there room in this earthly realm for more than meere mortal philosophy. Open that door to perception and take a look.....

The Elf King dancing to mourn the passing of summer and to celebrate the arrival of autumn....

May the Good Elves be with you!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Gymnopedie No 1

Elegant and slightly dark, the simplicity of Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No 1 is both light and touching. Here the Elf King dances to mourn the passing of summer and to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

In all the Gymnopédies, there’s a wonderful sense of musical distillation: no note is extraneous; nothing is rushed; and it’s almost impossible to hear them and not feel relaxed afterwards. An almost meditative piece of music, the gentle notes and heart felt harmonies of Gymnopedies No 1 draw you outside of space and time to a place where you can feel the essence of things...

Éric  Satie (French: [eʁik sati]; 1866–1925) was a French composer and pianist in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Satie is one of the most famous Impressionist artists.

Satie's simplicity, innovative harmonies, freedom of form and mastery of musical understatement made a strong impression on composers like Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and later younger composers such as Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud and John Cage. His strange sparse scores, often written without bar lines in red ink are peppered with whimsical instructions : "Light as an egg", "Here comes the lantern", "Open your head", "Muffle the sound", "With astonishment", "Work it out yourself", etc......

Satie had attended the Paris Conservatoire twice, once as a musician, and the second time as a composer, but he was told that his work and playing was insignificant and worthless, by his teachers. He joined the army, but was discharged within a few, because he deliberately infected himself with bronchitis. He then moved to his father’s house in Montmartre, Northern Paris and composed “Trois Gymnopédies” at this important cross-road of his life. “Trois Gymnopédies” was his first published piece, after he began mixing with the different kind of artistic crowd that lived in northern Paris, away from the Paris Conservatoire.

The “Gymnopaedia” were dances performed at festivals in Ancient Greece by naked young men and this has given rise to some contention over his intention. However It is probable that Satie did not even know the historical meaning of “Gymnopedies.” The word was in a musical dictionary he had at home, and the given definition therein was “An event at a greek festival wherein maidens danced in the nude.”We have very little historical evidence to actually understand what those festivals actually were about. This is the composer who later said that the sensuous and violent “Salommbo” a blood thirsty novel by Gustave Flaubert. set in Carthage during the 3rd century BC, inspired these quiet Gymnopedies, and who named other pieces “Pear Shaped” and “Desiccated Embryos.” Satie was an 'Absurdist' to the core, and I don’t think there’s too much to read in his titles. If anything, they were more to joke at the high-flung archaic-themed works of the German Romanticists he was musically rebelling against.

The Gymnopedie pieces are then delicate and understated in emotional terms, and implicitly a critique of the overstated and bombastic style of the romantics, especially in Germany with the likes of Wagner and the poetry of Goethe. In further contrast The Elf King in my animation is not a villain as portrayed in Goethe's Der ErlKonig or The Elf King, but rather a guardian of the forest and a traveller between the realms of life and beyond - for this is what it mean to be an Elf.

Satie's early interest in Mediaeval music shows in the simple plainsong like harmonies of his famous 'Gymnopédies' and 'Gnossiennes'. In the 1890s he became interested in, and the official composer for, the religio-mystic-occult sect of Rosicrusianism which also had a strong Mediaeval leaning.

He was a close friend of Claude Debussy, and during World War 1 also befriended Cocteau, Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso. This association with the Cubists resulted in the ballet 'Parade' which he wrote in collaboration with Cocteau and Picasso. An eccentric and humorist, he was not well accepted by the general public of his time, despite efforts by Debussy and Ravel to promote his works. During the past 20 years his work has received worldwide appreciation and the recognition of his importance he so truly deserves.

Erik Satie

Friday, 6 November 2015

Nordic Noir In The Hall of the Mountain King

An animated interpretation of Edvard Grieg's music In The Hall of the Mountain King. I suppose in these highly charged and discordant times, it could be an allegory for this, a metaphor for that, a cautionary tale or a message with a moral, but the sweeping music and simple fairytale of Norwegain Trolls and a young mans adventure that it tells, for me this is the Original Nordic Noir.

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) enjoyed telling the Folk stories of Norway in his music. Grieg was a leading composer of the Romantic era and brought the music and folk legends of Norway to an international audience. In The Hall Of The Mountain King is from a bigger piece of music, the Peer Gynt Suite, which tells the story of a boy called Peer Gynt who falls in love with a girl that he is not allowed to marry. Very upset he runs away to the mountains but he gets caught by trolls who take him to their king. He tries to escape in the middle of the night but the trolls hear him and chase him through the mountain corridors. Finally Peer escapes.....

The Story Behind Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) wrote his five-act allegorical drama Peer Gynt in 1867 while living in Italy. It tells the story of the downfall and subsequent redemption of a Norwegian peasant anti-hero. Unlike Ibsen’s previous dramas, it was written in verse and wasn’t originally intended for stage performance.  Ibsen wrote many plays which have been performed around the world, including A Doll's House -significant for its critical attitude toward 19th-century marriage traditions, Hedda - a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre and world drama and An Enemy of the People - written in response to the public outcry against his play Ghosts, which at that time was considered scandalous. Ghosts had challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality.

However, in 1874, Ibsen changed his mind and wrote to his friend and compatriot Edvard Grieg to ask if he would compose the music for a production of the play. Flattered to have received the invitation, Grieg agreed at once, but doubt soon set in.
Much as he admired the drama as a literary work, Grieg found composing for it a difficult task.
“Peer Gynt progresses slowly,” he wrote to a friend in August 1874, “and there is no possibility of having it finished by autumn. It is a terribly unmanageable subject.”
As work continued, Grieg began to be drawn into the drama and, as his wife noted, “the more he saturated his mind with the powerful poem, the more clearly he saw that he was the right man for a work of such witchery and so permeated with the Norwegian spirit”.
The music was completed in the autumn of 1875, and the play’s lavishly staged premiere took place on February 24, 1876 in the Mollergaden Theatre, Christiania (now Oslo), with the orchestra conducted by Grieg himself. (source)

What is Nordic Noir?

Whilst many of the legends and lore of the North and of Norway do have a fairly dark and bleak aspect to them, this can be seen to arise as a consequence of the environment and its weathers, as well as the cultural developments that earlier led Norwegian people to become Vikings and voyagers.
The subsequent emergence Nordic Noir as an artistic theme and cultural influence has its origins in these earlier times and has been more recently refreshed by the cultural critiscism of Norwegian writers such as Ibsen, the music of Grieg, and artists such as Edvard Munch and Theodor Kittelsen.
Ibsen wrote many plays carrying an indepth criticicism of the culture f his times, including A Doll's House -significant for its critique of 19th-century marriage traditions, Hedda - a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre and world drama and An Enemy of the People - written in response to the public outcry against his play Ghosts, which had challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality and was considered scandalous.
Edvard Munch (1863– 944) another Noirish Norwegian, was a painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century, you have probably seen his painting the 'Scream'... 
Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914) illustrates the Noir aspect in its Natural and supernatural combined - famous for his nature paintings, as well as for his illustrations of fairy tales and legends, especially of trolls. (more here) 
John Bauer ( 1882-1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator best known for his illustrations of Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls).

Water Sprite - Theodor Kittelsen

More recently, Nordic Noir has developed as a type of Scandinavian crime fiction and television drama that typically features dark storylines and bleak urban settings, renowned for its simple prose, dramatic plots, and social criticism. Swedish and Norwegian writers have transformed the murder mystery into a vehicle to critique contemporary Europe. The novels of Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo are primarily page-turners, but display a social conscience which was non-existent in the genre 20 years ago. Mankell, who created murder detective Kurt Wallander, describes his goal as ‘making your books be about something – and have something pertinent to say about the societies we live in’. (source)

“In this place things can come out of nowhere,” says hotel receptionist/furtive temptress Elena, “Monsters. You can’t see them until they have you in their teeth.” She’s not joking – Fortitude (which won out over Grim Existence and Secrets Aboundberg when the naming committee was in town) is a subzero former mining town where polar bears outnumber people three to one, and there’s a legal requirement to carry a rifle lest one of them decides to make you its tender little afternoon snack.(source)

Jordskott adds a supernatural Norse element to the dark crime formula previously laid out by Wallander, The Killing and The Bridge. A chilly draught, the faint sound of a crying child and a mounting sense of dread as  child goes missing and a gifted but conflicted cop becomes obsessed with finding her. The cop is Eva Thörnblad and the child is her daughter Josefine, missing for seven years when we join the show. From here on, Jordskott draws heavily on the deep, dark tradition of Norse mythology.  Like all changelings, its true character isn’t detectable at first. But, as the weeks go by and the forest setting becomes a character in its own right, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder-mystery weekend. The results are chilling. Ancient myths persist because of their universality and their ability to tap into our primal fears and desires. And Nordic noir creates a modern mythology where heroic loners with terrible social skills do battle with depraved abusers, incompetent policing and a corrupt establishment...

And then theres River, Abi Morgan brings Nordic noir to London in this new crime drama with Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård. Here we meet and are swept along by Stellan's portrayal of the erratic detective John River in the throes of a psychotic breakdown, he wanders around talking to thin air and 'manifests' or as we might say, ghosts. The main 'manifest' of the series is River's former but now incorporeal detective partner Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson,...

And of course TrollHunter, a 2010 Norwegian dark fantasy film, made in the form of a found footage mockumentary. Trollhunter contains many references toNorwegian culture and folktales in particular. Among those are the belief that there are different species of trolls, for example the woodland and mountain trolls, which as in the film can be further categorised into subspecies. The most well-known is probably the Mountain King which is mentioned in the play Peer Gynt and its music by Edvard Grieg. The Norwegian name for Mountain King, Dovregubbe, is a compound word and the first part is the same word used in the mountain range Dovrefjell, which is also where the characters meet the final troll.

The recent literary and televisual development of Nordic and now also Brit Noir, brings us full circle to writers like Ibsen and composers such as Grieg, being both forefathers of Nordic Noir and descendants of its earlier existential Nordic outlook on life. With a mixture of straight forward style, humanist criticism of contemporary society and a sometimes heavy dash of the supernatural, Nordic Noir exploring the often dark, romantic complexities of life - the North has it!

Edvard Grieg 1843 - 1907.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Music - The Song Of Life

Oh Viola -

Vast as the midnight sky of a lark,
You set free the many varied song in me.
For you are the voice of my heart.
Soft as the dark cello - sultry you start,
Sweet as violin, but ne'er so sharp,
Poetry without words you beget me..

And a soul -
Your spirit revives the dance without end,
As you lead the harmonies or change them.
As melodies rise and melancholia sighs,
Your spiccato vibrato is breathless.
Symphonic sounds and folk skip arounds,
You give my day life new meaning.

You sing -
As dark falls before dawn to your vibrance i'm drawn,
And all nature is joyful beside us.
Of horse hair and resin we ride the bow,
Across bridge chase the music - both the high and the low.
Seasoned spruce, summers maple, willow for blocks,
You bloom in eternities field - beyond all worldly clocks.

Let's go -
A path I can follow is the one that you lead,
As together we intone our delight.
Unravelling sense - scaling dreams, hopes and joys,
Descending to passions from these to arise.
You are my very special friend,
Lets stay together and the world ammend.

C Titus.L 201

I wish that everybody had the opportunity to learn and play a musical instrument,  because with a creative and expressive element to our lives such as music/art/poetry, our lives are so much richer. Not least that the arts are known to be restorative,  that they provide a space for people to recharge their spirits, they are also an invaluable aspect of every culture both exploring it's themes and celebrating them.

Truly, without the arts a culture could hardly be called civilised at all and I in no way mean this in any pretentious way,  pop arts,  folk arts -  all forms are equally valid. Art for arts sake is the cure our modern society needs to guide hearts and souls away from a grim relentless drive for the dollar or pound which devalues anything not commercial -  our lives, our sorrows and joy's are priceless and to celebrate this with music, song and the arts is practically a spiritual heritage of humanity.

With a song in our hearts to lift us, with music we really can change our quality of life, change our priorities of what matters on life,  change our communities and society -  with music we can change the world.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Danse Macabre

The Danse Macabre is a medieval allegory of the universal nature of death. According to the legend, the Grim Reaper calls the spirits of the dead across the realms of beyond life every year on All Hallows’ Eve / Halloween, to lead them in a dance of merriment and joy, from the strike of midnight until the break of dawn.
This legend represents the medieval and christian ammelioration of an even older pagan tradition of the dead spirits visiting their earthly kin at this time.

The veil between the world of life and the realms of death is at it’s thinnest between the hours of 12 midnight and 3am which has become known as 'The Witching Hour’ and it becomes even thinner at Beltane and Samhain.... Many pagans believe in a non physical place or state of being called the 'Summerlands' - a place  to go after life, which is like a waiting room for the spirit to contemplate ones life and loved ones on Earth. The spirits here are transformed into the energies of the universe most suited to the energies they have manifested in life, thus changed they brin new life and adventures into existence in the endless spirtual wheel of creation....

Death itself then holds no fear for people of a pagan perspective as we understand that death and birth are intertwined. In this view,  death itself and all goddesses and gods represent aspects of the cycle of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. Just as every good gardener knows that fertility is born out of decay, every fallen leaf feeds the roots of growing trees - so each spirit that passes to the Summerlands or beyond enriches the hearts and lives of their family and friends along the way. 
The Danse Macabre was written by French composer Camille Saint-Saens in 1874, is the most famous of the many musical representations of Death leading the spirits of the dead in dance on Halloween. Although this piece can be played on the piano, it was actually written for a full orchestra. The piece starts with the twelve strokes of midnight. As the church-tower rings the last bell of midnight, Death enters a graveyard, tapping and knocking on all the gravestones, to rouse the dead from their slumber. The wavering, continuous melody throughout the majority of the piece (in orchestral arrangements, performed by a solo violin), represents the personification of Death dancing through the churchyard, playing his violin, with the ghosts and skeletons of the dead dancing around after him.

The piece ends several minutes later, with the gradual rising of the sun, the rooster’s crowing, and the souls and skeletons of the dead crawling back into their graves, to await the Halloween dance of the next year.''

As leaves do fall so shall we all, but our spirits shall transcend us.
If we remember now those who before us go - 
our hearts shall be ever shinning.
If we remember now those who beside us are - 
our lives shall fill with gladness.
if we remember now those who will follow on - 
our legacy shall be only kindness ~

Thursday, 15 October 2015

''Man'' - an environmental poem for our times.

Photograph co Laurence Winram
In the style of Ted Hughes 'Crow'
An environmental poem for our times.

Man - Blacker Than Ever

When Man turned towards earth,
He saw everything on it,
All the creatures alive now and alive no longer,
The dying and dead were expanding,
Eveything was falling apart,
And man was disgusted with man.

But Man nailed everything together.
He made the words which said everthing was alright,
He made countless pictures which showed the rightness of the everythings,
He made many museums and great galeries where he displayed the bones, skulls and skins of things,
The things he had killed and eaten.
Nailing heaven and earth together.

And so man declared himself a great thing.
The greatest of everything,
All other things should fall before his greatness,
And they did.

Then earth cried out...
With one voice from every tongue,
From every mouth of all the everythings that still remained,
Proclaiming the actual horror of man,
A horror beyond redemption.

Man did not listen - he was already the great thing, and heeded nomore.

Yet man could not be man without the earth and the many things,
Without the myriad millions of other people and species,
Man too would be finished.

Earth's agony
Crying: “This is my Creation,”
Flying the empty flag of himself.

c. Titus L 2015.

Remember the ancestors and the ones who have gone before,
Fallen to mankind by climate change and more -
Increasing with speed the tide of fallen begins to roar,
Here are a few of the most recent and there are many more....
Golden Toad (1989),
Zanzibar Leopard (1996)
Po'ouli bird(2004)
Madeiran Large White Butterfly)(2007)
Tecopa Pupfish (1982)
Pyrenean Ibex (2000)
West African Black Rhino (2006)
Javan Tiger (1979)
Spix's Macaw (2004)
Round Island Burrowing Boa (1975)
Dutch Alcomn Blue Butterfly (1979)
Pinta Island Tortoise (2012)
Baiji River Dolphin (2006)
Tasmanian Tiger ( 1936)
Caribbean Monk Seal (1952)
Christmas Island Pipistrelle (2009)
Yangtze River Dolphin (2006)
Chinese Paddlefish (2007)

These Animals Have All Gone Extinct In The Last 100 Years, look here...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Welcome to The New Pangea

The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (1780-1849)
Pangea or Pangaea, was in early geologic time a supercontinent that incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth, with an ensuing acessibility of all species to each other that had a direct impact on the evolution of exisiting life forms. As the continents drifted apart over vast periods of time, diverse, unique and in their own ways quite fragile eco systems and species have evolved.

In her book The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert points out there is an evolutionary arms race in which each species develops defences against their predators in order to survive - which is not news. A species correspondingly has no defense whatsoever if it encounters a new fungus, virus, bacterium or preadatory creature that did not previously feature in its biological evolution - such as invasive species introduced by various means from other land masess and continents. Such invasions can be extremely deadly, as occurred in the case of American bats killed by the psycrophilic fungus Geomyces destructans. Another example of this occurred in the eighteen hundreds. The American chestnut was the dominant deciduous tree in the eastern forests. Then, a fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) started to cause chestnut blight. It was nearly 100% lethal. The fungus was unintentionally imported to the U.S.

In the Uk we can more recently consider Dutch Elm disease which destroyed most of our ancient Elm trees, the New Zealand Flatworm - which devours the English Earthworm( with all the consequences that loss will have for earth integrity and soil drainage and crop growth), the Grey Squirrel which has virtually displaced our indigenous Red Squirrel - there are countless more .....

Kolbert points out that global trade and travel are creating a virtual "Pangaea", in which species of all kinds are being redistributed beyond historical geographic barriers and faster than evolutionary safeguards can be developed by nature to protect species biodiversity. Rapidly deployed invasive species which have travelled with mankind on ships and trains, more recently in planes across oceans and to far laying islands faster still, are a mechanism of species extinction.

Down from the verge of heavene, Richard Whincop

One of the artworks submitted for the theme of animals, called Bali Turner, Photograph by Joel Singer - The Guardian

It’s hard to say how much nature will change on our New Pangaea, but there is evidence that ecosystems also get more vulnerable to droughts and other calamities when they lose their ecological biodiversity. The network of connections that keeps ecosystems intact becomes simpler and thus easier to tear down, with resulting loss of species and the ability of nature to support them. New Pangaea may even affect the future of evolution itself. With less genetic variation, species are less likely to adapt to a change in the climate or some new predator....

Art featured at top of post, The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (1780-1849). Hicks meant the beasts to typify human traits in line with his view of contemporary Quaker politics: the lion symbolized power gained through wealth, the leopard a suave, threatening worldliness. Occasionally animals are in conflict. But even when they aren't, the assemblies have a jumbled, restive feeling. The ground beneath them is eroding; a fissure in the earth separates them from Penn's treaty with the indigenous native people behind.

In a more modern viewing, Hicks' inclusion of the varied animal species along with the invaders from Europe speaks more directly to the rising tides of ecological change, the biodiverse and cultural conflicts and extinctions that preceed the new Pangea....

Rather than a cause for panic and dismay over loss of species diversity and ecologies, an awareness of this situation places us in a position of power - whilst such processes are inevitable given the mobile state of species in the modern world, we might nevertheless at this late stage become guardians of our biological and ecological heritage. We might protect those species and ecologies that we still have and guide future developments of the biosphere for the well being of all.

Dodo skeleton cast and model based on modern research,
at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Monday, 5 October 2015

Animism and the Elves

Animism is the worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Animism can be said to be the experience of being part of the living biosphere (or even the whole "animate" universe)

A great book for apprehending an awareness of the residents of such a wider world is Serena Roney-Dougal's The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit; A book about the worldview of people who experience faery reality.
First of all be aware that its nothing to do with Tinker Bell and a Disneyesque commerce driven world populated by pocket sized saccharin coated child focused toy 'pixies and elfs'. 
Serena Roney-Dougal who has a PhD in Parapsychology (the exploration of psychic phenomena; telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis etc) presents her accounts which incorporate the latest views of quantum science, which identifies that our own cognition is a causative effect influencing the outcome of physical events, with the earlier magickal traditions which by various means sought to interact and cooperate with these energies at an elemental level and beyond, drawing on her scientific work with the pineal gland sometimes called the third eye...

painting by Otecki
Whilst Serena is a qualified researcher in parapsychology and does by the way provide relevant references in the extensive index of her book, she also succinctly and simply portrays an enlightening insight into how the myths and legends of yore present an insight into other levels and realms of existence coexisting with our own reality and goes on to provide many inspiring accounts of how the same Fae and elven energies of earth and beyond are now resurgent in more modern myths and experiences of fairy and elven visitations, ghostly presences and Ufo abductions.
I particularly liked this quote that she included which describes a 'place' outside of physical space 'Faeryland exists as a super-normal state of consciousness into which people may enter in dreams, trance, ecstatic condition or for an indefinite period at death...it can have no other limits than that of the universe itself' (Lady Gregory 1979).

art by nick mann
In my opinion Serena successfully portrays the result that the many ancient mythological and modern accounts as well as the scientifically studied psychic phenomena do demonstrate when considered together, that each of us is potentially aware at some level of the natural magic and interconnectedness of ourselves with the earth and infinite universe. ''I feel the faery faith today to be a resurgence in animism, a love of the earth, of nature, aware of spirit immanent in all matter, aware that my body is the temple of my soul, that I am spirit made manifest, that everything I do reverberates throughout the whole universe, that I am a part of the whole and contain the whole within me.... (&) the deities are understood in their abstract mythical form...'' (my review here )

I recommend this accessible book to everyone who has ever wondered,
and who is able to follow Fae reasoning as it skips into the new vistas of the para-normal.

Enchanted We Are & Blessed Be ~

Sunday, 4 October 2015

When the Wind Blows ~

Anyone remember 'When the Wind Blows (1986 film) '?

''Adapted by Raymond Briggs from his graphic novel, “When the Wind Blows” concerns an elderly English couple in rural Sussex. Warned that nuclear war is imminent, the moon-faced pensioners Jim and Hilda Bloggs (voices supplied by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) do their gently dithering best to follow government instructions, laying away supplies and building a rudimentary fallout shelter. 
Hilda is doubtful, but Jim is resolute: “Ours is not to reason why — we must do the correct thing,” he explains more than once.

When the Wind Blows” is more satirical than sentimental in evoking the traditional stiff-upper-lip stoicism of Britain’s salt of the earth. Mr. Murakami, a Japanese-American animator who worked largely in Britain, handles the bomb’s impact with impressive restraint — a delicately throbbing conflagration rendered in a monochromatic wash — and the onset of the Bloggses’ subsequent radiation sickness is quietly relentless. (Moral: There won’t always be an England.)
Mr. Murakami introduces elements of photographic reality into his animation — most subtly in his use of a miniature model for the Bloggses’ cottage. The presence of flat, animated characters in a three-dimensional set produces a subliminal neutron weapon effect. The rubble of their hitherto cozy lives appears more substantial than their increasingly ghostly presence.

Perceived by some as propaganda for Britain’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, “When the Wind Blows” came in for a measure of political criticism — a smug film, one commentator wrote, made not for people like Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs but “radical yuppies” who took their children to peace marches''. ( Original article may be found here )


The Polar DEW 

( Distant Early Warning Line )
has just warned that
A nuclear rocket strike of
At least one thousand megatons
Has been launched by the enemy
Directly at our major cities.
This announcement will take
Two and a quarter minutes to make,
You therefore have a further
Eight and a quarter minutes
To comply with the shelter
Requirements published in the Civil
Defence Code - section Atomic Attack.
A specially shortened Mass
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement -
Protestant and Jewish services
Will begin simultaneously -
Select your wavelength immediately
According to instructions
In the Defence Code. Do not
Tale well-loved pets (including birds)
Into your shelter - they will consume
Fresh air. Leave the old and bed-
Ridden, you can do nothing for them.
Remember to press the sealing
Switch when everyone is in
The shelter. Set the radiation
Aerial, turn on the Geiger barometer.
Turn off your television now.
Turn off your radio immediately
The services end. At the same time
Secure explosion plugs in the ears
Of each member of your family. Take
Down your plasma flasks. Give your children
The pills marked one and two
In the C D green container, then put
Them to bed. Do not break
The inside airlock seals until
The radiation All Clear shows
(Watch for the cuckoo in your
Perspex panel), or your District
Touring Doctor rings your bell.
If before this your air becomes
Exhausted or if any of your family
Is critically injured, administer
The capsules marked 'Valley Forge'
(Red pocket in No 1 Survival Kit)
For painless death. (Catholics
Will have been instructed by their priests
What to do in this eventuality.)
This announcement is ending. Our President
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation - it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
All flags are flying fully dressed
On Government buildings - the sun is shining.
Death is the least we have to fear.
We are all in the hands of God,
Whatever happens happens by His will.
Now go quickly to your shelters.

Poem by Peter Porter 

 Arguments for nuclear abolition;

The humanitarian case;
The abolition of nuclear weapons is an urgent humanitarian necessity. Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences. No effective humanitarian response would be possible, and the effects of radiation on human beings would cause suffering and death many years after the initial explosion. Eliminating nuclear weapons – via a comprehensive treaty – is the only guarantee against their use.
Even if a nuclear weapon were never again exploded over a city, there are intolerable effects from the production, testing and deployment of nuclear arsenals that are experienced as an ongoing personal and community catastrophe by many people around the globe. This humanitarian harm too must inform and motivate efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.” – International Committee of the Red Cross, 2010

The security case;
Nuclear weapons pose a direct and constant threat to people everywhere. Far from keeping the peace, they breed fear and mistrust among nations. These ultimate instruments of terror and mass destruction have no legitimate military or strategic utility, and are useless in addressing any of today’s real security threats, such as terrorism, climate change, extreme poverty, overpopulation and disease.
While more than 40,000 nuclear weapons have been dismantled since the end of the cold war, the justifications for maintaining them remain largely unchanged. Nations still cling to the misguided idea of “nuclear deterrence”, when it is clear that nuclear weapons only cause national and global insecurity. There have been dozens of documented instances of the near-use of nuclear weapons as a result of miscalculation or accidents.

It’s OK for some countries to possess nuclear weapons. When it comes to nuclear weapons, there are no safe hands. So long as any country has these weapons, others will want them, and the world will be in a precarious state.
It’s unlikely that nuclear weapons will ever be used again. Unless we eliminate nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly be used again, either intentionally or by accident, and the consequences will be catastrophic.
Nuclear weapons provide a useful deterrent against attack. Nuclear weapons do not deter terrorists. Nuclear-armed nations are actually more vulnerable to pre-emptive strike and terrorist targeting than non-nuclear countries.
Nuclear weapons can be used legitimately in war. Any use of weapons would violate international humanitarian law because they would indiscriminately kill civilians and cause long-term environmental harm.

The environmental case;
Nuclear weapons are the only devices ever created that have the capacity to destroy all complex life forms on Earth. It would take less than 0.1% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal to bring about devastating agricultural collapse and widespread famine. The smoke and dust from fewer than 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear explosions would cause an abrupt drop in global temperatures and rainfall.

“Climate change may be the global policy issue that has captured most attention in the last decade, but the problem of nuclear weapons is at least its equal in terms of gravity – and much more immediate in its potential impact.” – International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2009

The economic case;
Nuclear weapons programmes divert public funds from health care, education, disaster relief and other vital services. The nine nuclear-armed nations spend in excess of US$105 billion each year maintaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals. The US alone spends more than US$60 billion annually, and the British government’s plans to replace its ageing fleet of nuclear-armed Trident submarines could cost taxpayers over £100 billion.
Despite renewed commitments by nations to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, all of the nuclear powers continue to invest exorbitant sums of money in their nuclear forces. Funding allocated to national disarmament efforts is minuscule by comparison, and the principal UN body responsible for advancing nuclear abolition has an annual budget of just over $10 million. It is time to redirect money towards meeting human needs.

This blog reposted from The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) page.
ICAN is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. 

 “Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight: withered hearts, or empty skulls?” 
 Honoré de Balzac.