Pale Rays of Sun at the Winter Solstice

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Entrance to Bru na Boinne. Photo by Sue, 2009.

Today I awoke to a gray morning, but within an hour the pale December sun, low in the sky, asserted itself and softened the day.  This morning in Co. Meath, Ireland, people gathered in the dark passage at Newgrange to welcome the beam of sun down the shaft of the tomb.  The sun came out in time to illuminate the interior of the passage–for the first time since 2007.

The inside of the tomb is elegantly carved and constructed.  Recently I happened upon a high quality virtual tour of the interior. at Voices from the Dawn.  While I’ve visited the actual site twice, I’d recommend the virtual tour for a closer, leisurely gaze at the features of the interior.  Here it is.  Notice that there is a clickable link to either a regular or tablet version.  You might also enjoy a post from this blog entitled Winter Solstice in the House of the Dagda.

And now for a glorious concert by Ann and Charlie Heymann, performed at the Moore Institute at NIU Galway earlier this year, where Ann enjoyed a fellowship.  The title is:  Guth Binn agus Téada Oir: Bardic Voices, Horns & Medieval Harps.  Ann and Charlie perform a number of bardic pieces, some quite experimental.  The Donegal singer, Lillis O Laoire, performs with them.  This is a highly unique and rare opportunity to see Ann perform in concert, and it is well worth watching.

With warmest solstice good wishes,

–Sue

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Winter Solstice Musings, 2012

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The Trinity on Solstice day, 2012.

This has been a week of visiting friends, harping, sleep, walks outside on windy days, and of course, an opportunity to write and take stock of the year that has passed.

I am fortunate to be awash in music right now:  music that I want to sing, hope to play, and music that is moving through me all the time.  Something that has been slumbering has awoken, and I am the grateful beneficiary of the muses’ largesse.

A few summers ago I visited the Boyne river valley in Ireland, and walked around at Dowth, the lesser-known mound with a Winter Solstice alignment.  It’s within easy viewing distance of the more famous Newgrange.  Perhaps there will be recent photos added soon.

Settle down with some mulled cider and candlelight, and enjoy the following:

My friend and teacher, Simon Chadwick, plays a spare, beautiful Advent tune, Veni Emmanuel, from a 13th century French manuscript.

Vicente de la Camera Marino, who lives in the Canary Islands, recorded a piece entitled “Bid to Me,” by Lawes.  Here he is playing his handsome MacDonald clarsach.

A joyful solstice to you all, and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it.

–Sue

Samhain 2012

The ancestor altar is built, and so many familiar, beloved faces smile back at me from the altar space in the dining room.  This afternoon I sang to the ancestors as I prepared dinner, and

Samhain ancestor altar, 2012.

lit some candles in their honor.  Last night we attended Mistral’s Dark Harvest Ballads for either the 3rd or 4th time in the past several years.  We can’t quite remember how long we’ve been attending the band’s Samhain fundraiser. This year’s theme, “Fathom the Deep,” was a fundraiser for both a local food bank and for the Newport Fishermen’s Wives charity.

I grew up in northeastern Massachusetts, in a seaport community, and recall the history of shipwrecks on the Atlantic coast.  Not far from home was the famous Gloucester fisherman’s statue in honor of the hundreds lost at sea.  It is inscribed with the quotation from Psalms, “They that go down to the sea in ships.”  Last night’s music was a delicious and haunting assortment of bleak songs about the sea, from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald to Ship in Distress, and a version of the Twa Sisters.  I delight in Martin Carthy’s version of Ship in Distress, a haunting tale of near-starvation aboard a foundering ship, with shipmates who draw lots to choose a victim among them to die to feed the rest of the crew.  While I miss the old, spookier, crowded and dark location of the event at Hipbone Studio, there was more space and comfort in the new location.  Ian Clemons and Elizabeth Christina are two favorite musicians in Mistral, and Ian’s daughters performed a splendid shadow puppet production of the Greyling, a song about a selkie sung by Elizabeth Christina.  It was a good evening.

Trinity replica on the porch, Samhain 2012.

Last weekend we visited a farm on Sauvie Island and picked pumpkins for our annual display on the porch.  Here’s a photo of the new Trinity replica on a day when we still had sun last weekend.  Perhaps this photograph has become another annual tradition at Samhain.  Better yet, the Trinity sounds even better and richer this year than it did last year at this time.  Best of all, I am enjoying better health this Samhain, and I thank my patron gods and ancestors for that.

Wishing you all the ancestral blessings of Samhain,

–Sue

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