“The words didn’t really fit what I believed:” New seasonal music release reclaims Pagan roots

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – As winter fast approaches and those in the Northern Hemisphere prepare for her embrace, it is once again time to adorn the hearths with evergreen, hold loved ones close, and remind us that there is light at the end of that cold and darkened tunnel.

Nina D’Angier and Adrianne Blanks – Image credit: Dani Howard – Once Upon A Photo Studios

Like the evergreen, the song The Holly and The Ivy has stood strong throughout the centuries. Though thought to be originally written as a Christmas carol in the Middle Ages, artist Adrianne Blanks is returning it to its Pagan roots using Norman Iles’ interpretation of the song.

From opera to Paganism

To many Pagans from all walks of life, winter is celebrated by adorning their homes with evergreens such as the Yule Tree, garland, pinecones, mistletoe, and holly. The evergreen symbolizes a variety of things, from fertility, longevity, the eternal but most importantly, hope–that life continues even in the harshest of times.

Adrianne Blanks, singer-songwriter currently residing in Asheville, North Carolina via Chicago, Illinois, released her version of The Holly and The Ivy in early December, just in time for the Yule celebration. Blanks began her music career in opera, attending the Boston Conservatory for her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, and then received her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Adrianne Blanks – Image credit: Dani Howard – Once Upon A Photo Studios

As Blanks transitioned from opera into professional caroling in 2017, she realized that she was a Witch with more naturalistic and Pagan leanings.

Blanks stated, “In this line of work, you work with a lot of churches, and I slowly started to realize that the words didn’t really fit what I believed.”

That realization began Blanks’ journey into the Pagan world leading her to create an online subscription group, Manifesting by the Moon, which features new moon circles, a Witches book club, and sabbat events. The group also holds monthly tarot readings, events, and a place to commune with fellow Witches.

When she is not in the studio or communing with others via new moon circles and book clubs, Blanks currently provides voice and piano lessons in the Asheville area.

Ritual and music brought to life on film

The music video, shot by videographer Tom Farr of Asheville, includes more than fourteen collaborators consisting of mostly queer/femme and non-binary participants, from the actors, set design, costume design, and jewelry.

“Femme is a word that encompasses the group,” Blanks told TWH. “I don’t always identify as a woman, so femme is just a word we feel comfortable with.”

The video reflects an overall sense of inclusion as the Yule celebration is being held in the company of friends, drink and merriment surrounded by nature, aesthetically themed by Blanks and Kristin Marie Green, actor and Artistic Director for the shoot.

Kristen Marie Green – Image credit: Dani Howard – Once Upon A Photo Studios

Blanks emphasized the feeling of inclusion as she referred to the “Solstice Carole” as an inspiration for the video, specifically a line in the song which states, “all who need comfort, are welcome by here.”

Blanks’ rendition leans more towards Celtic origins than the usual English version does, which creates a more ethereal feel to song. “The Holly King [ruler of the dark half of the year in some Pagan lore] and Old Mother Winter were also an inspiration for the video,” according to Blanks.

“I wanted to also leave space so that the video could somewhat create itself,” said Blanks. “Everything just came together perfectly,” she continued, “From the costumes provided by Mountain Flower Fantasies and The Costume Shop, to the tablescapes provided by Picnic Popup Asheville, we even had Tutu the snake, the vendors, volunteers, and actors came together incredibly well.”

The group of artisans performed the Yule ceremony in its entirety while the video was being filmed and were adorned with Pagan jewelry from Trollbinde Jewelry, based outside of Asheville.

Blanks’ music, including the recent release of The Holly and The Ivy can be found on a variety of music streaming platforms.

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