For those interested in Pagan and Pagan-friendly music, Woven Wheat Whispers (a legal folk music downloading service) and Cold Spring Records have recently released a groundbreaking compilation of darker folk music that explores the mythic past of the British Isles entitled “John Barleycorn Reborn”.
“We are keen to highlight the authentic, stark aspects of the folk tradition, uncensored by Victorian sensibilities, allowing the harshness of our earlier existence and the rawness of our traditional stories to be expressed. Through this we hope to reveal some of our early history from the pre-Roman era and the archetypes of belief that still resonate today. The existence of the working people in the past was harsh, their toil hard and respite short. Their imaginations were fired by the aural tradition that merged foundation myths, morality tales, historical lore and seasonal celebration. Woven into the pre-Puritan church and the folk celebrations were unexplained traces of primitive British belief that continues today through the folk arts.”
While the compilation outright states that it is “totally unrelated” to modern Paganism or occultism, the thematic elements of the songs are right up the alleys of Pagan music connoisseurs.
“…is about evoking the mystery of our ancient past, the strangeness of their beliefs and the remnants of this carrying down the centuries. Folk music is full of seasonal veneration, fertilising sacrifice, symbolic murder, nefarious crime, false accusations of witchcraft, extreme poverty, early death and injustice for the common people. It is interwoven with the myths and iconography of Arthur, Gawain, Beowulf, Druids, Robin Goodfellow, the Green Man, Jack In The Green, animal guising and John Barleycorn.”
In addition, the three-disc lineup includes Pagan songwriter Damh the Bard and a variety of Pagan-friendly artists that have seen play on my “A Darker Shade of Pagan” podcast (including Cunnan, Peter Ulrich. and Sieben). To hear samples from the set, check out the MySpace page created for the compilation, or check out the FolkCast interview with curator Mark Coyle which also features songs from “John Barleycorn Reborn”. While I haven’t gotten a copy for myself yet, it seems like a perfect Samhain gift for the music-loving Witch, Druid, Heathen, or fan of “The Wicker Man” soundtrack in your family.