Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Top Six Modern Pagan Folk Songs

This was a hard list.

Thanks to an explosion in pagan folk groups at home and abroad, and mainstream rock bands dabbling in folk sounding tracks, I could have easily done a top 20 or top 50.

I've limited myself to one track per artist, and disqualified Jethro Tull, Nightwish and the Waterboys for being technically rock not folk-rock, and have had to miss out Telling the Bees, Skyclad, Druidicca, The Dolmen, Mad Magdalen, The Moon and the Nightspirit, Jim Faupel, Wendy Rule, Cernunnos Rising, Seize the Day and Paul Gill (who's Whisper on the Breeze is the best song to come out of the 1990s road protest movement) and many more. Sorry guys.

But what I'm left with are six songs I really love. Curiously only half are by artists that describe themselves as Pagan, which just shows how the zeitgeist works.

You just can't stop a folky being pagan.

6. Hunting Song by Pentangle

You can debate exactly how pagan the Arthurian legends are, but this song about a magical hunting horn, written by John Renbourne, contains the sort of allusions that make the Arthurian tales so enchanting. It is also a fantastic song by one of the great pioneering folk acts at the height of their powers.

Bert Jansch, I hope you're strumming this now in the Otherworld.

5. Herne by Clannad

For some people Eroll Flynn is the only true Robin Hood, but I suspect for people of my age it's Michael Praed.

Well made, well acted and dark and pagan enough to enrage Mary Whitehouse, it was essential viewing for any teenager who played Dungeons and Dragons. This song, dedicated to Herne the Hunter, sums up the whole thing.

And Clannad's music was sublime. A band from Donegal steeped in Ireland's Trad. scene, at some point they stopped being folk, but it's not entirely clear when, so I'll count them as folk act.

Along the way they lost some of their creative spark and departing member Enya eventually eclipsed them with her own solo career, but they remained a terrific live act up until their eventual semi-retirement.

4. Maypole by Paul Giovanni

Saruman the White, alias Count Dooku, alias Christopher Lee thinks The Wicker Man had the best use of music of any film he knew. Not the best music, he qualifies himself, but the best use of it.

Certainly Paul Giovanni sets the tone of Summerisle perfectly. The best song is Gently Johnny, but as it's basically just about shagging its the Maypole song gets the nod for being slightly more pagan.

Really this soundtrack is what started the whole Pagan-folk thing in the first place, and if they'd gone with different music we may now all be Goths instead.

3. The Morrigan by Omnia

'cos they're Dutch I've never had any close connection with Omnia, who seem to be a bunch of heavy metal headbangers who've forgotten to plug their instruments in.

They certainly take the Pagan thing seriously - perhaps someone should tell them it's only a laugh really?

The only problem with putting them in this list is choosing a favourite track.

2. The Goddess and the Weaver by Spiral Dance

Just to show that the Old World doesn't have the monopoly on music for the Old Religion, at number two we have from the land of AC/DC, Spiral Dance.

They've been around for a while and, amongst other songs they have my favourite version of Burning Times - a historically inaccurate but quite catchy tune.

This is the best though, a rare foray into Greek myths.

1. Spirit of Albion by Damh the Bard

Well there could only be one winner couldn't there?

What can we say about our greatest living Pagan songsmith?

Well not a lot, but as I'm fairly sure it was him who woke me up one morning years ago at a PF mid-west bash by playing a medley of Fairport Convention songs when I was trying to sleep off a hangover, I suppose I should say I forgive him.

The only problem though, is what song to pick. Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood is the best pagan protest song of this century whilst Pagan Ways pretty much sums up why Romantics like me take up Wicca. Then there's Taliesin's Song, or Green and Grey or numerous others.

But whilst any of those would make a good runner up, there can only be one winner - the Pagan National Anthem, Spirit of Albion.

The six most pagan traditional folk songs


Celtic coral said...

Martin Porter said...

I like it. I see I'm going to have to do a top ten next!