As part of the Winter’s Last program, I will presenting poetry as well as teaching an online writing workshop on January 29th.
Ghost Missives: A Writing Workshop Exploring Ancestors and Place
The nights are long and the veil is thin. We tell tales of the dead in verse and song and they tell of us in the wind, rain, ice, and stone.
In this collaborative workshop, I will facilitate the writing of letters in prose poetry to and from the ancestors.The writing will be rooted the Scottish landscape. To set the tone, the session will begin with readings specific to the liminal landscape, and move on to collaborative work.I will guide the group as they work with prompts or “Wilding Cards” I will have made up.These will be exchanged by the group. After some dealing and discussion we will get down to write using the prompts we all have. Writers will be invited to play with voice, speaking from the point of view of our ancestors, ourselves or the land itself. In the final section of the workshop there will be opportunity for further collaboration between writers as well as time to read and share with the group.
Hello friends– this month’s new moon tale is inspired by a visit to Hoy I made many years ago to visit the 5,000 year old stone house/portal tomb called the Dwarvie Stane. On that visit, I happened upon the grave of Betty Corrigall. This was back before everything could be found on the internet, back before her grave had a brown tourist sign. The grave held a fascination to me–who was she? Now you can find online the answers to everything but this question. It was only recently I found that this grave has held an entirely different, ghoulish fascination for others. This tale is also inspired by an old fairy tale called the “Dwarvie Stane.” Become a subscriber to my Patreon to listen and read this tale now.
Every month I write a new fairy tale based on an old Scottish tale, and I share it with my Patrons on Patreon. This month’s New Moon tale is “The Bell that Never Rang” It is a fairytale laid over the psychogeography at the centre of Glasgow. I have always loved Glasgow. Tourists may visit Edinburgh—and it is a lovely place—but if I had to choose a city that is the heart and soul of Scotland, it would be Glasgow. “St. Enoch” is a name you see in the city, and I always assumed it was the name of some random, male Christian saint who converted the Picts. But Enoch is a woman—the first recorded rape victim in Scotland. In this tale, I’ve shifted the “facts” of the prism of her life to let the light through another facet.
Her sacred places were many in the city and they are all now lost, renamed and buried under shopping malls and roundabouts. She was the mother of the founder of Glasgow, Saint Mungo. His name is perhaps more famous now because of the Hospital for Magical Maladies in the Harry Potter books, which is named after him.
School children used this mnemonic device to remember his miracles, and I have used one of them to name this story:
Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam
The image of Saint Tenu in the collage above is taken from an icon in the Mull Monastery by Friar Serafim.
“On that cold night, the trows watched and waited. Everyone knows the veil is thin when a new soul comes into the world…”
This month’s New Moon Tale, “The Changelings,” is a version of a Shetlandic story called “Mind the Crooked Finger,” up at my Patreon. For the Seelie Court and Golden Fold subscription tiers, There is a PDF file to download and read at your leisure, and an mp3 sound file of me reading the story.
At each New Moon since the pandemic lockdown’s began, I’ve published a bedtime story based on a traditional Scottish folktale. This is the sixth in what I plan to be a series of 13.
Other good news–you can now subscribe to my Patreon in your own currency. Current subscribers can also change to their own currency, but the amount you pay will stay the same.
My piece “The Witch’s Skull: the Search for Lilias Adie’s Remains is published at Cunning Folk Magazine. You can read it here. The illustration for the piece is by the wonderful artist, Kaitlynn Copithorne.
My poem “Moth” about the folk belief that moths were perhaps witches in another form, will appear in the Superstition themed issue of Stonecoast Review, number 13, available from this online bookseller.
All islanders know the sea is coming for them, by inch and by foot.It will in time cover the world they know…
Last week I asked my Patrons on Patreon what they would like to see from me during these uncertain times. They asked for tales, and so I have continued to write them and read them aloud. This time I have also created a collaged illustration to go with the story. The second of the New Moon Tales, “The Wild Rigs” is inspired by an Orkney folk tale called “The Fine Field of Flax.” I have taken many liberties with this story, and you can listen to me reading it as well as read the downloadable the PDF available to all tiers who join my Patreon.
This story is about different kinds of abundance. May we all have enough.
I thought that given the current state of things, with all of us confined and waiting, It might be more useful to have a sort of bedtime story. During this time of uncertainty those of us who are self employed and who also have multiple chronic illnesses are really feeling the potential stress of the Stay at Home order. In response, I have written a fairy tale for my patrons based on the traditional Shetland tale, Jan and the Bear. You can hear me read this story and have a copy of it to read at your leisure by joining my Patreon here at any level.
There are many strange stories of bears in the North of Scotland where they are not native. These stories involve mostly polar bears captured and brought in on whaling ships and they are as disturbing as the witch trials. One story is as recent as the 70s. Locals in Banff, the village where I live, have told me about a man who would perform wrestling matches with a trained bear. He would even perform in local schools, and this is something those in their fifties remember seeing as children. In one version I have heard, the bear eats the man. In my imagination, these captive bears started to take on a certain kinship with the women I have been researching. Maybe this was the force driving this version of Jan and the Bear. I have changed it up, removing the animal cruelty and switching out the stubborn man Jan for an old woman. Her smeddum, or hard-headed common sense, is central to the tale.