On Snakes, Truth-Speakers, & St. Patrick

St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.5; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License. Photo editing by the author.
St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.5; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License. Photo editing by the author.

My latest article for A Sense Of Place on Patheos Pagan is up. Like my previous article on A Pagan Short History Of Valentine’s Day, it is a short analysis of a popular holiday in our culture.

I find it interesting that these two posts have been by far the most popular of my writings at Patheos thus far. For me, the Elemental Ethos series I have been doing (Earth, Air, and Water thus far) have far more meaning to me, in that they are a reflection of how I try to live, and contain useful, real world applications of what I perceive to be a useful pagan ethos. Yet these haven’t been nearly as popular as my admittedly snarky deconstructions of the two popular holidays. Ah well. I have said all along that I will write what I feel for Patheos, without regard to aiming for a particular hit count or targeting my posts to a particular audience or reaction. It’s just interesting to observe.

Some have commented that the notion of St. Patrick as The Great Oppressor Of Ireland Who Converted The Pagans/Druids With The Sword is historically inaccurate, and they are concerned that this myth just won’t seem to die. I agree completely, and I don’t want people to think this is my claim in this post. On the contrary, the meme is what it is, and it is not particularly accurate. I wanted to deconstruct the meme on its own merits, without regard to whether or not it is historically accurate. It self-deconstructs, in other words. My post just helped it along a bit; hopefully in due time it won’t have the widespread acceptance that it has today.

Elemental Ethos: Water, and caramelized honey

Collecting the best water on the planet, as a gift of the ecosystem. Despite the 3′ of snow on the ground, the water flows freely and is accessible. Photo by Morgan Lindenschmidt.
Collecting the best water on the planet, as a gift of the ecosystem. Despite the 3′ of snow on the ground, the water flows freely and is accessible. Photo by Morgan Lindenschmidt.

My latest post, Elemental Ethos: Water, at A Sense Of Place over on Patheos Pagan is live. It’s no secret that water is probably my favorite element in terms of the practices I employ around them. Going to the spring is one of my favorite activities, it is probably the closest thing I have to going to church, or on a short pilgrimage to holy ground.

There is lots of other exciting news a-brewing in my reality, but for now I will keep this under my vest. Yeah, I know, I’m a tease.

OK, one hint for one item: my meadmaking practice has slowed down a fair amount in the past year, year-and-a-half. But tonight I’m going to make my first bochet, which is mead made after cooking the honey to caramelize it, which darkens it and brings out the rich caramel flavors.

Carmelizing Honey for a batch of Bochet Mead. Details at BardicBrews.net.
Carmelizing Honey for a batch of Bochet Mead. Details at BardicBrews.net.

Turns out this batch was a bit of an ordeal, in the sense that it is very labor intensive. Also, it turns out that boiling honey splashing up onto the skin and sticking is painful. A gift for a gift. Details on Luna Bochet at BardicBrews.net.

Pagan is Latin for Redneck

My next piece for A Sense Of Place on Patheos Pagan is up. I have gotten a kick out of the title for years: Pagan is Latin for Redneck. Since Paganus is the Latin term for “country-dweller,” this post contains an analysis of what it means to dwell, and how dwelling is central to my conception of paganism. As I’ve said many times, for me, paganism is more an ethos than a theology. So far, pretty much all of my writing on A Sense Of Place reflects this.

My next piece will likely resume the Elemental Ethos series.

A Pagan Short History of Valentine’s Day

I gave myself a history lesson this week, doing a guest blog entry over on Agora, on Patheos. This article was called A Pagan Short History of Valentine’s Day. It might be interpreted as a bit of a rant. The piece ends with this:

Given this history of Valentine’s Day, I am a bit suspicious about it and don’t really participate in it. Of course, admitting so in public carries with it a stigma, the reaction is that I am not romantic or that I don’t love my wife or people in my community. On the contrary. I think that conflating a prescripted, commodified expression of romance with love is reductionist at the very least, and delusional at worst. Romantic bliss is not the only possible ontological state of a relationship, it is but one of many necessary for health and longevity of the relationship. Love is both a noun (something you feel) and a verb (something you do). It is co-created in relationship, and does not require dead trees, dead flowers, or chocolate.

I’m still writing bi-weekly for A Sense Of Place. Look for my next entry there on the other side of this newest incoming snowstorm…. we are forecast to get another 1-2′ on top of the 3.5′ already on the ground.

Preiddeu Annwn

Preiddeu Annwn is an old middle-Welsh poem, attributed to the Bard Taliesin, that dates back (in written form) to the 9th century. It was originally included in the Book of Taliesin. Like all Celtic literature of this time, it is based on a much older oral tradition, gradually finding its way to written form.

Preiddeu Annwn — prounounced PRY-thee AHN-oon — translates as “the treasures of the Underworld.”

This poem is significant for many reasons. One of them is that it seems to be an early prototype of the Arthurian Grail Quest. It contains the refrain “Except seven, none returned,” despite the fact that the quest began with three ships (Prydwen, Arthur’s ship) full of men. The later Grail legends focused on the cup, only the water symbol. This early poem contains all 4 Hallows for each of the four elements, retrieved by Quest from the underworld.

There are a few translations (my favorite is the one by Caitlin and John Matthews) of this poem available, but I didn’t find any of them satisfying. Some of the translations better convey the meaning of the poem, but lose the gorgeous rhyme & rhythm of the Welsh. It’s stunning to hear:

As a result, I compiled my own version in English. I don’t read or speak Welsh so I can’t say this is my own translation. I do not vouch for anything remotely like accurate Welsh scholarship here — I did this merely for fun, as a creative exercise, to create something with some rhyme & rhythm in English, that might convey some of the original meaning.

With that said, here is my version of the poem, with the original Welsh on the left, and lots of creative license in my English rendering on the right.

Preiddeu Annwn

The Treasures of the Underworld


1. Golychaf wledic
pendeuic gwlat ri.

1. Hail!

2. [r]y ledas ypennaeth
dros traeth mundi.

2. Sovereignty!

3. bu kyweir
karchar gweir
ygkaer sidi.

3. Gweir’s prison was prepared in Caer Sidi,
the Fortress of the Mound

4. trwy ebostol pwyll

4. in the manner of Pwyll and Pryderi.

5. Neb kyn noc ef
nyt aeth idi.

5. None before Gweir went down,

6. yr gadwyn trom las
kywirwas ae ketwi.

6. into the heavy blue/gray chains
that bound the loyal youth.

7. Arac preideu annwfyn
tost yt geni.

7. And before the spoils of Annwn
he sang his bitter sound.

8. Ac yt urawt

8. Forevermore,
The bards will speak this Truth.

9. Tri lloneit prytwen
yd aetham ni idi.

9. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men
sailed to Annwn

10. nam seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer sidi.

10. Except seven
none returned from Caer Sidi,
the Fortress of the Mound.


11. Neut wyf glot geinmyn
cerd ochlywir.

11. The bard’s song sounded

12. ygkaer pedryuan
pedyr ychwelyt.
12. in the Four-Peaked Caer Pedyrvan,
forever turning.
13. yg kenneir
or peir
pan leferit.
13. And of its cauldron
was my first song sung
14. Oanadyl naw morwyn
14. Nine maidens kindled the cauldron
breathing it to life
15. Neu peir pen annwfyn
pwy y vynut.
15. What is the nature of
Lord Annwn’s cauldron?
16. gwrym am yoror
16. Enameled iridescence
and pearly white its rim.
17. Ny beirw bwyt llwfyr
ny rytyghit.
17. It will not cook a coward’s food;
its destiny sings a nobler hymn.
18. cledyf lluch lleawc
idaw rydyrchit.
18. The flashing sword of Lleawg
was thust into it.
19. Ac yn llaw leminawc
yd edewit.
19. And left in Lleminawc’s hand
20. Arac drws porth vffern
llugyrn lloscit.
20. Before the door of Hell
lamps burned grand.
21. Aphan aetham ni gan arthur
trafferth lechrit
21. And when we went with Arthur,
We struggled with The Great Work.
22. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer vedwit.

22. Except seven
none returned from Caer Vedwyd
Fortress of the Mead-Feast.


23. Neut wyf glot geinmyn
kerd glywanawr.

23. I Taliesin, first Herald of Glory;
my song sounded

24. ygkaer pedryfan
ynys pybyrdor

24. In Caer Rigor, the Fortress of Hardness
On the island Gate.
25. echwyd amuchyd
25. Where night and day
are one.
26. gwin gloyw eugwirawt
rac eu gorgord.
26. Bright wine was set
before the gathering.
27. Tri lloneit prytwen
yd aetham ni ar vor.
27. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men,
we furrowed the flood.
28. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer rigor.

28. Except seven
none returned from Caer Rigor,
The Fortress of Hardness.


29. Ny obrynafi lawyr
llen llywyadur

29. I merit more than scholars
mere scribes and clerks

30. tra chaer wydyr ny welsynt
wrhyt arthur.

30. Who know not Arthur’s valor
Beyond Caer Wydyr
the Glass Fortress

31. Tri vgeint canhwr
aseui ar y mur.

31. Six thousand men
stood high upon its wall.

32. oed anhawd
ymadrawd aegwylyadur

32. It was difficult
to speak with their watchman.

33. tri lloneit prytwen
yd aeth gan arthur.

33. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men
went with Arthur.

34. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer golud.

34. Except seven
none returned from Caer Golud
the Occult Fortress.


35. Ny obrynaf y lawyr
llaes eu kylchwy

35. I merit more than cowards,
their shields hanging limp.
36. ny wdant wy pydyd
peridyd pwy.
36. They know not which day
or who was created
37. py awr ymeindyd
y ganet cwy.
37. or what hour
Cwy was born.
38. Pwy gwnaeth
arnyt aeth
doleu defwy.
38. Who made him
who did not go
(to the) meadows of Defwy, the Court of Heaven?
39. ny wdant wy yrych brych
bras y penrwy.
39. They know not the starry ox,
40. Seith vgein kygwng
yny aerwy.
40. Seven-score links
in its fastening.
41. Aphan aetham ni gan arthur
auyrdwl gofwy.
41. And when we went with Arthur,
a sorrowed journey,
42. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer vandwy.

42. Except seven
none returned from Caer Vandwy,
the Fortress of God’s Peak.


43. Ny obrynafy lawyr
llaes eu gohen.

43. I merit more than weak clerics,
their wills gone slack.
44. ny wdant pydyd
peridyd pen.
44. Who do not know which day
our king was made,
45. Py awr ymeindyd
y ganet perchen.
45. what hour
he was born,

46. Py vil agatwant
aryant ypen.

46. nor of the silver-headed beast
they guard for him.
47. Pan aetham ni gan arthur
afyrdwl gynhen.
47. When we went with Arthur,
a sorrowed journey,
48. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer ochren.
48. Except seven
none returned from Caer Achren
the Fortress of Enclosedness.


49. Myneich dychnut
val cunin cor.

49. Monks throng together
like a pack of dogs
50. o gyfranc udyd
ae gwidanhor.
50. After an encounter with the wise
who know
51. Ae vn hynt gwynt
ae vn dwfyr mor.
51. whether the wind blows on one path?
whether the sea is one mass of water?
52. Ae vn vfel tan
twrwf diachor.
52. whether a single spark
will tinder a fierce fire?


53. Myneych dychnut
val bleidawr.
53. Monks throng together
like a pack of dogs
54. o gyfranc udyd
ae gwidyanhawr.
54. After an encounter with the wise
who know
55. ny wdant pan yscar
deweint agwawr.
55. When midnight
and dawn divide
56. neu wynt pwy hynt
pwy yrynnawd.
56. Where the wind wanders
until its current subsides
57. py va diua
py tir aplawd.
57. what sea it ravages,
what land it strikes.
58. bet sant
yn diuant
abet allawr.
58. How many ancestors
in the ground abide.
59. Golychaf y wledic
pendefic mawr.
59. Hail!
60. na bwyf trist
crist am gwadawl.
60. Sovereignty!

Elemental Ethos: Air

SnowAbsorptionMy next article is up at A Sense Of Place on Patheos. This one contains musings on Air: a bit each on the Sound of snow, Language as both sound in a space and text on a page, Breath, and The Commons, while recommending breathing lots of good air, filling a room with sound you love, and learning to maintain a blade.

I’m  enjoying writing this series. Fire and Water are left, and these might be my favorites, though I love all the elements.

On Audiogeekery

I happily embrace the germ audiogeek as a big descriptor of my life. I thought it would therefore be prudent to explain what I mean by it.

First, I align myself with the geek tradition of reclaiming the word geek. No longer, for me, does it signify a nerdy person in school with thick glasses, pocket protectors, and aberrant social skills. In the ascent of information technology from the 70s through the present, technologists have embraced the term “geek” to signify an expert enthusiast, who gets things done.

In this vein, the term audiogeek is applicable to my life. I have been fascinated by audio since I was a child. I remember hanging a microphone, hooked up to my portable cassette recorder, over my Fisher-Price record player to make mix tapes, complete with imitation radio announcer voices. The process of acquiring blank cassettes was enormously exciting for me…. what would I fill them with?

I became interested in recording music as well, learning that tape changes the sound, and the harder you hit the tape (ie, the louder the signal going to the tapeheads), the more it distorts. When you find the sweet spot, it distorts in a dynamic, pleasing way that can add a vibe or a tone to the music it is capturing. This sort of thing is what most people miss when they lament the decline of analog recording technology, such as the resurgence of vinyl and tube amplifiers in both the pro recording world and the audiophile world.

I understand this nostalgia, but personally I’ll take a modern digital setup over an old analog setup any day. The maintenance is better (except once every few years when you have to build a new computer and install all the software, configuring everything to work properly). I don’t have to align or clean tape heads regularly. Perhaps more importantly, with digital I get back exactly what I put into it. I use plugins to replace the missing distortion where applicable, and it sound sounds good to my ear.

And while digital recording opens up a myriad of production possibilities (drums to the grid, Autotune, etc), I remain Old School in the sense that nothing beats skilled musicians grooving together in a room. I love capturing these moments and adding some spit & polish with microphone choices, placements, and room acoustics.

For the past decade I have also begun to help people with room acoustics, designing their spaces to make music in. I do this every day with RealTraps.

As an audiogeek, my job is to help improve people’s experience with music, whether I am recording their music or helping them create musical space for recording or listening.

Elemental Ethos: Earth

I posted my next article on A Sense of Place, continuing a series on the ethos of living with the elements. For this one I focused on Earth. Give it a read if you wish.

One of my aims is to elaborate on own sense of what it means to be spiritual. For me, spirituality is grounded in experience, in the natural world and the ecosystem I am in.

I was reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame, and early on he is talking about his grounding of an entire philosophical and ethical system based on water, on air. The elements. This triggered my brain, and kicked my philosophical instincts into overdrive, realizing that it was in harmony with these articles I am writing.

More soon….

Elements of Nature

snowandiceI posted a new piece, The Elements Of Nature, over at the A Sense of Place blog on Patheos. This is my second piece for it, the first one having been By Way Of Introduction. I expect to be writing something every couple of weeks.

Writing about paganism is a tough one for me. I have identified with the term paganism for a long time now, but as time goes on I am less and less comfortable with it. I think one of my motivations for doing the column is so I can better articulate my own conception of what paganism means.

Kobo Touch: First Impressions

I finally received the Kobo Touch today. I thought I’d write up some first impressions.

First, this unit is a definite upgrade in heft over the Amazon Kindle. It is much sturdier and just feels more solidly built. This is a touch screen unit, whereas my old kindle used buttons on the side for page turning. I have to say I’m not a huge fan of touchscreens in general, I find they get matted up and worn looking from all the skin contact. I’d probably rather have a clean screen for a device like this.

One con is that the unit could not be activated until it ran the Official Kobo Software(tm), which of course only runs on Windows or Mac. Linux users are out of luck. I tried to install the Kobo software under Wine but it didn’t work. So I booted over to Windows, and initialized the software.

As soon as that was done, I came back to Linux and to my eBook collection I maintain using Calibre. I like Calibre a lot, though it is a bit clunky. I was then able to disable auto-syncing on the Kobo and upload my book collection.

So…. yay! I have an ebook reader again, and it isn’t a kindle. Both of these are wonderful things.